Posted by: senjmito | December 20, 2010

Do You Feel Safe Using Wellington Public Transport?

Greg Bodnar, a member of Sustainable Wellington Region Transport, writes:

A reader, recently returned from Sydney, offered some comments on transport safety.

“I am still adjusting after the awesome system in Sydney. Sydney (apparently) used to have a fairly substandard system but they have learned their lesson. The main one being that single women and families have to feel safe when they commute at whatever hour. If families, elderly etc feel safe, then they’ll use it a lot. So there is monitored CCTV everywhere, Emergency Help Points (press it and get immediate assistance), plus NSW police randomly ride the trains. There are also security people around busier platforms in the city at night. It’s not like they never have an incident but I felt very safe catching a train at 1.00am in the morning. I’d never do that here.”

When asked, she followed up with a few more comments, including the issue of cleanliness.

“The trains in Sydney did have a problem with graffiti. Although there weren’t always successful at removing it, they did try to make sure carriages were fairly clean (or at least smelled clean). In most cases the trains in Wellington would be a lot more pleasant to use if someone actually gave the interiors a proper clean! And by that, I mean wiping down the walls and maybe giving the seats a shampoo every so often. Some days the carriages can be vile,although I haven’t noticed it too much since getting back – then again it’s summer and all the windows are open.”

Naturally, a transport system can only be effective if people are willing to use the service, which makes perceived safety a critical factor. This seems like a great topic to put forward to our readers. We would love to hear what people have to say about the matter. Please use the comments to let us know what you think.

  • Do Wellington commuters feel safe taking the trains, buses and ferries?
  • Is there a difference in perceived safety between each of the public transport modes?
  • Is Wellington public transport more or less safe than other cities?
  • Is there anything that could be done to make passengers feel more safe?


  1. Sydney is a fine example.

    It should be a standard thing that bus drivers have to take supplementary safety classes annually including passing intermittent proficiency testing.

    Further, we might consider camera installations to track bus red light violations.

    I could probably come up with a few more… but most important is that we don’t accept “bad” as acceptable.

  2. A real safety weakness in our system is the stops and stations. And the best way to make them safe is to have them surrounded by activity. I still remember the difference made when the Courtenay Place stops were moved to be beside all the new restaurants, rather than being off on their own in the middle of the street. But our cities seem to be actively turning their backs on our railway stations. Porirua station should be a part of the CBD/mall complex. And so should Paraparaumu. Instead they are separated from the shops by roads and carparks that are uninviting and hard to cross. Plimmerton shows what can be done if we treat our stations as assets instead of ignoring them.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Greg Bodnar and Tim Jones. Tim Jones said: RT @sustwelltrans: Do you feel safe using public transport? What would make you feel safer? Tell us at […]

  4. A report by Jan Gehl to the Wellington City Council in 2005 dumped for the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan in 2008 favouring Infratil NZBus and the Airport driven by the Snapper card wanting to gain access into the retail industry in order to compete with banks at point of sale has left safety standing in the cold like a second class citizen. Wellington as a result has missed out on becoming an even more pedestrian friendly City not promoting the cycling communites neglected by this plan. The WCC 2008 Walking and Cycling policies both were not applied to the Golden Mile Improvements as revealed in the Environment Court proceedings. This is what Wellington looks like according to Professor in Urban Design Jan Gehl. Do it once do it right!

  5. Oh yeah, Sydney has a population of 4.504.469 how can we compare?

  6. I regularly use the trains to commute between Wellington and Waterloo, often either early morning or later evening (i.e. outside of the main commuter hours). I have never felt unsafe on those journeys – yes, the trains may be a bit old and rickety, and there have been the occasional traveller worse for wear (particularly on the evening journey!), but I haven’t ever felt threatened.

    However, it is a different story on the few occasions where I have had to travel outside of the main hub stations. Over the winter, I was regularly travelling between Waterloo and Wingate to play hockey in the evenings. I felt increasingly unsafe, and the same for the times I had to wait at Trentham on my own (which was less regular; four or five times over the winter). They are poorly lit, with the seating area away from view of passers by (whilst the one at Trentham is near a main road and a pub, the actual shelter has its back to the road and the car park). Given that both areas are a place where people go to drink (probably because of the same ‘out of the way’ feel) just adds to the unpleasant nature of the stations.

    The rail replacement service to both has been shocking, with the bus not showing up once (at Trentham) and going straight past the loop at Wingate rather than stopping – this happened to me twice. I eventually got told by one of the bus drivers not to wait at the designated bus stop, but to stand on the main road at the Moore Wilson, as they would then stop for me there! Given that at that time of night, the buses were only running once an hour, and there wasn’t a ‘regular’ bus service that I could have caught instead, this was not a fun experience.

    There has also been a very poor communication regarding the rail replacement buses – the signs saying that the trains have been replaced are often not showing – I was told (by one of the guards on the bus replacement) that, rather than the ticket inspector on the last train to travel the line before it becomes buses ‘dropping’ the signs, there is a separate security guard, who drives all the lines, and therefore doesn’t necessarily get round them all until gone 11pm! (this was then evinced by the signs still being up at both Ngauranga and Petone when the trains were actually running!) In addition, for someone who is new to the Wellington area, there is no communication at the station (barring Waterloo and Wellington) as to where the buses leave from. Whilst this may be available on the train website, that is a fat lot of good when you are standing at the station wondering where you are supposed to go!

    The station at Ngauranga deserves a dissertation all of its own on a lack of safety and general unpleasantness to use. I was astounded the first time I used it to learn that this was a regular commuter station, given that there isn’t even a safe point to cross the road to get to the bus stop and business park on the other side of the road! You can cross the road at the traffic lights, but there isn’t any point to tell you that the traffic, which comes from four different directions, has actually completely stopped. The rail replacement bus stop is even worse, particularly at night. The station, again, is in the middle of nowhere, with poor lighting and a shelter which could easily hide someone if they wanted to attack.

    I have also been using the bus service to get to areas without a rail link (Newlands and Kelson being the main two, travelling to one of these at least once a month). These stop at a very early hour (particularly the ones going to/from Kelson), and we have had to either get lifts back to the station (Newlands), or walk home (Kelson -> Waterloo – it takes about an hour). Whilst I don’t mind doing this with my husband, I’d never do it on my own! (The safety issue here isn’t directly attributable to the public transport, but is more to do with a *lack* of it!)

    We have spent a year in Lower Hutt being reliant on public transport and, despite my rants above, I have generally been very happy with it, particularly as as a means of getting to the Wellington CBD for work. Having said that, we are looking to buy a car in the near future, and I will definitely be using it to travel around in the evenings unless there is a major shakeup in the nature and the timings of the service (which, on an economic level), I can’t see happening in the near future.

    With regards to the question about whether the transport is more or less safe than other cities, even with the issues I have highlighted, I feel far more safe here than I ever did (even in the main rush hour) when living and working in Bristol (UK). A good chunk of this is down to the friendliness of the people of Wellington – making eye contact and smiling helps a lot!

    So – solutions to the issues above…
    * Improved lighting and CCTV at all stations (with notices stating that there are cameras)
    * More transparent shelters for those stations where the ‘backs’ face on to the main road – you don’t necessarily need to replace the main brick shelters, but put in place additional perspex ones which are clearly visible from the main road That way, when it rains, you can at least shelter without worrying that you could be attacked and no-one would know.
    * Regular patrols (again, with notices informing people that they will be patrolled), at the very least at stations which are not next to a main road (such as Wingate and Ngauranga), but preferably at all stations. When I say ‘regular’, I don’t mean once a night, but at least once an hour, timed to co-incide with the ‘mid point’ between the trains running in either direction.
    * Better communication at all stations (and all bus stops) stating when the next train is due to arrive (or been replaced by a bus and when *that* is due to arrive) – these should be live links, and not the next timetabled train (as appears to be the case even at Wellington station – there is no notification on the travel board that a train has been delayed!)

    • Thank you for your comments, Jo. These are the sort of personal experiences and reactions that we’re hoping to capture with this post. I’ve informed Metlink (via twitter @metlinkwgtn) and hopefully your comments and suggestions will be taken to heart.

  7. Thanks again for sending this link for this through, I’ve circulated it to the Metlink Public Transport Group.

    Safety is a priority for us and we appreciate how important it is for our customers.

    For anyone who’s interested in further safety information it’s discussed in our Annual Public Transport Satisfaction Monitor 2010 Report

  8. In the review of the new Matangi trains in the Dom Post, there is mention of internal and external security cameras:

    I was once on a late-night bus coming out of the Hataitai bus tunnel when a beer bottle came through the side window, leaving 3 people with minor cuts – myself included. I think a big part of safety is dealing with drunk people, both on and off the bus/train. Security cameras are a start, but there needs to be some amount of enforcement to back it up, or people just learn that they will get away with it.

  9. I grew up not far from NYC and there’s only one thing that scares me about Wellington’s public transport system: The bus drivers.

    Aside from the way they recklessly operate the buses, too many of them make me appreciate how courteous, polite and professional the drivers in EVERY OTHER CITY are.

    Some of the trains and buses smell like a moldy old dishrag, which is further encouragement for me to get on my bike.

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