Posted by: senjmito | January 10, 2011

My Public Transport: Kerry Wood

<em>From time to time we plan to post Sustwelltrans members’ own experiences of using public transport. Here is the first such post, from Kerry Wood.</em>

This post is on how public transport works, and doesn’t work, for a retired couple in Ngaio. We are 50 metres from a stop on bus routes 43 and 44, and 800 metres from Simla Crescent station. We have Gold Cards and can generally avoid peak services — so our experience of timekeeping might be optimistic.

Ideally a service should be ‘clock-face’ to make the timetable easy to remember: buses or trains leave each stop at fixed times past each hour. If the service is every half hour, starting at say seven minutes past the hour, then the next should be at 37 minutes past. Peak hours could be at 7, 22, 27 and 52 minutes past the hour, or more frequent services could be managed the same way. A thirty/fifteen minute service should need only four departure times for each stop, plus another four for the other direction. In practice the two routes share 35 minutes-past-the-hour departure at the railway station, most of them in one direction (don’t ask).

The trains are rarely more than 5 minute late. They run the same clock-face timetable every day, apart from peak hours and some variations in evening frequency and last-train times. The peaks are trickier: a train every 13 minutes with every fourth train missing. Perhaps the Matangis will get around this.

Bus timekeeping is bad. In the last couple of months one bus has been on time (it was four minutes into the first run of the day). Others have been generally two to eight minutes late, a few up to 15 minutes and four over fifteen minutes. The worst was at least 31 minutes late — I caught the bus for the other direction. Another I missed because it was late: I assumed it had gone and walked to keep warm.

(Do these times explain complaints that bus drivers go too fast?)

The bus timetables are quite a story.

  • The two routes are the same between Strathmore and the railway station, but the Khandallah end is a loop. Should the timetable show the route as end-to-end or round-and-round? Metlink’s answer shows buses terminating at a couple of minor stops when in fact they loop back to the city.
  • On weekdays the inter-peak service is clock-face, the evening is clock-face on a different clock and the peaks are every which way.
  • Saturdays are largely clock-face, with some similarities to weekdays, but the two routes swap times. The Khandallah-bound bus 43 leaves the railway station just after the half-hour, instead of just after the hour on weekdays.
  • Sundays are also largely clock-face but on another clock entirely: is the interpeak 21 minutes later than weekdays or 9 minutes earlier than Saturdays?
  • On Sundays there is a normal service to Strathmore but no northbound 44s to Khandallah and no southbound 43s from Khandallah. Really.
  • The secret is the virtual terminus at Homebush Road: on Sundays it really is a terminus. Fortunately the buses make a small loop up Onslow Road rather than attempting a three-point turn, although not all drivers are told this.
  • There is no attempt to integrate bus and train times. The bus home to Ngaio is quicker than rail if it is on time but if you wait to find out you miss the train.

Faced with such confusion, it’s little wonder many people choose to take the car instead.



  1. According to the Tramways Union GoWellington is around 50-60 bus drivers short. When we consider the bus time tables and buses running late has anyone ever considered scheduled buses don’t depart for lack of a driver? What the public perceives as buses running late could in fact translate into a scheduled bus not running at all. NZBus the company contracted by Greater Wellington and depending on their contractual obligations could be in breach of meeting the daily requirements set out by the agreement. While the bus company receives a substantial subsidy annually to run the service, if they can’t meet the scheduled services are we the ratepayers indeed overpaying this contractor?

    • CORRECTION:The Tramways Union Secretary has asked to advise they are not the authors of such information about GoWellington being 50 drivers short.

  2. As Kerry says, Wellington bus timetables are a mess. His example of the mixed-up nature of clock-face timetables is unfortunately not limited to the 43/44s: for instance, route 18 buses from Miramar are basically half-hourly throughout the day, but in the mornings they leave at 12 and 42 past the hour, the afternoons at 05 and 35, and late afternoon at 08 and 38. How are passengers supposed to remember that? (Many other routes are similar).

    And bus route timetables are not integrated with each other, let alone with trains. For instance, on Sunday evenings the three routes to the Miramar Peninsula are all hourly, leaving Wellington station at 5, 10 and 20 minutes past the hour, leaving a 45-minute gap every hour.

    And I hope Kerry reoprted all the late running to Metlink – though don’t expect too much: I think the GWRC/NZ Bus definition of “on time” means within 10 minutes of the advertised time, which is pretty meaningless as a measure of service performance.


  4. The vote is in, Auckland is to go ahead with 20 year plan favouring pedestrians and cyclists taking recommendations from Danish urban design proffesor Jan Gehl.

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