Posted by: Gregory | November 4, 2012

Frequent Airport Flyer

I first noticed the news of the changes to the Airport Flyer in an article that appeared in the DomPost. The article is very matter-of-fact – quite refreshing compared to the quote-laden GWRC and NZ Bus media releases. Beginning Jan 14, 2013, there will be a 10-minute frequency between the airport and the Wellington Railway Station as well as a 20-minute frequency between the airport and Hutt city centre. Direct service to Upper Hutt will be replaced by a connection with route 110 from Queensgate.

Achieving a high frequency service takes some trade-offs. In order to have enough buses, service to Upper Hutt will be sacrificed, as well as travel through the Rongotai Retail Park. The media release indicates that the bus will take Cobham Drive to the airport instead of Moa Point Road. This implies that Kilbirnie will be bypassed, but fails to state this clearly. This is my expectation for the route after January 14:

Route from Hataitai to Airport via SH1

Using route 30 as a model, we can expect the travel time from Courtenay Place to the airport to be approximately 13 minutes, making a total travel time from the railway station 25 minutes, down from 30 minutes currently seen at peak hour. It’s still longer travel time than in a taxi, but also much cheaper. Frequency is key, though. Every 10 minutes means that no matter when you’re ready to go, you’ll be there within 35 minutes.

Although the route is more direct, dropping Kilbirnie from the Airport Flyer route would be a disappointing shift, especially in light of the Wellington City Bus Review. The network is being redesigned with the idea that making connections will allow for more frequent services than our current direct-service model. As a core route, the Airport Flyer should be targeting the major connection points. Kilbirnie is a hub for the east and south-east  Although a direct route along SH1 may be faster for city passengers, a stop at Kilbirnie allows for much better connectivity. For the cost of around 2 minutes, I would rather see this:

Hataitai to airport via Kilbirnie and SH1

Access through Rongotai and to the retail park will be picked up by extending route 14. Normally, the 14 terminates at Kilbirnie, so an extension to the service is logistically easy. Timetables for the Airport Flyer indicate that it’s only a 2 minute extension to go as far as the retail park. Personally, I find that hard to believe, so I hope that Go Wellington factors in some extra time for its headway calculation. Although the 14 has several partial runs, the full route is run at half-hour intervals. This is less frequently than the current Airport Flyer, but probably adequate for the purpose. More importantly, passengers to Rongotai are treated to normal city bus fares instead of paying the much higher price of the airport service.

Overall, I think this is good news for the city. A high-frequency service through the city centre and to the parliament precinct should put bus service on near-equal footing with taxi services for business and tourist trips. The free WiFi on board is icing on the cake. I had initially expected that longer travel times for the 14 might lead to an adjustment of either the frequency or the staffing. Having looked at the current schedules, I think my fears are baseless. It appears that the extra few minutes of travel won’t substantially affect the running of the route. It appears to be a net win for Wellington.



  1. The Airport Flyer is a commercial operation run by Infratil not part of the public transport system as such. Considering the comment the Airport Flyer is now on par with taxi’s may be an insult to the industry considering Combined Taxi’s paid millions for the for the first rank at Wellington Airport.

    A corporate takeover would be more appropriate in our opinion, and considering Daran Ponter’s comments recently that the Golden Mile is suitable only for 120 buses per hour at peak time both ways. The council should impose penalties on the Airport Flyer’s increased pollution services by way of carbon credits for reasons mentioned below.

    Greater Wellington Regional Council plans to hold traffic emissions to 2001 levels by 2016 comes into question if not serious doubt while 250 buses per hour at peak time traverse a densely populated CBD. Traffic emissions pollute the city and compromise healthy living standards for the thousands of Central City apartment dwellers. Statistics show in the period between 1996 and 2006 population counts in Te Aro alone exploded by 74.6% while setting a trend.

    Every year 50 people die from complications caused by traffic emissions in the region, the young and the elderly are most at risk of cardio vascular disease and respiratory illness.

    The Bus Review which took 23 years to announce itself has failed to work in tandem with the Golden Mile Plan and saw PT slow particularly in the CBD causing more fumes from stationary vehicles in narrow precincts resulting in higher fuel consumption.

    • On the issue of pollution, I believe we are trading bus exhaust with that of taxi services over the same route. Even the hybrids have emissions. I’d like to see particulate surveys permanently installed along the corridor. Then we can stop guessing.

      Like you, I’m also generally concerned about the bus congestion through the Golden Mile. I believe we need it capped at 60 buses/hour, as recommended in the MRCagney review. The proposal included 4 buses/hour from the Airport Flyer. This takes it to 6. I’m concerned, the but not worried.

      I’ll disagree with your statement that route 91 is not public transport. It is part of the network and generates network benefits. You’re falling victim to the auditor approach that Jarrett Walker was talking about, just from a protest point of view.

  2. We asked Greater Wellington to monitor traffic emissions in the Willis/Taranaki Street precinct shortly after the new bus route opened on the 28th of November 2010. However they lack specialized equipment and rely instead on readings from the V station on the corner of Vivian and Victoria Street, not indicative of the narrow precinct clogged with heavy vehicles we want monitored.

    Thank you I rephrase; My reference was regarding the proposed route from the Airport to the Railway Station only, I am aware Infratil runs un-subsidized bus services during peak-time and travel the network adding value much like the Airport Flyer and makes it a commercial operation by a private company.

    Essentially the ratepayers should be protesting about a network that unlike Wellington City Council’s promise for a faster bus service has in fact slowed down to 20kmp per hour and wasted in access of $ 12 million on a “Disney ride”.

    The City is Ours was incorporated with the objectives to promote Quality of Life and healthy living standards in the Central City and surrounding areas and why we disagree with/protest the current situation. The only victims in this are those hit by buses sustaining serious injuries or death and the young and the elderly who are most at risk from cardio vascular disease and/or respiratory illness while residing in the Central City.

    Unfortunately health and safety are not calculated into BCR’s (benifit cost ratio’s). Figures released by NZTA show that last year it cost the country $30 million (up $10 million) in relation to pedestrian accidents in Wellington alone .

  3. For those in the outlying areas (e.g. Upper Hutt) who would like to use the #91 to get to the airport, the offered #110 service connecting to the #91 at Queensgate is all very well, but requires two things that NZBus aren’t very good at – schedules that actually connect (or at least offer a reasonable wait of <5 minutes), and drivers who recognise that connections have been scheduled and are being relied upon by passengers. At present most (but not all, fortunately!) NZBus drivers seem to regard passengers as a bloody nuisance preventing them from doing their job of moving buses around the scenery according to timetables which must be adhered to at all costs.

    • I fully understand your concern. I connect two routes to get to work every day and I’ve missed my share of buses along the way. NZ Bus will have to learn to handle connections better, but GWRC also has some responsibility in writing timetables that are feasible. The best approach for either case is to register concerns and get those sorts of problems on record. It may seem like common sense, but it’s not an action item until it needs to be closed.

      • Agree with your comment about NZBus needing to get their act together on connections, however – I find that I’m using mostly “commercial” services which aren’t timetabled by GW AFAIK, specifically 91, 83, & 110, and connections between them are timetabled atrociously. The below isn’t helped by the fact that I live in Maoribank which is serviced by only every second outbound 110.

        Some examples;
        110 from Upper Hutt arrives at Queensgate 3 minutes after 91 leaves for airport – this is early morning peak timing.
        hourly 83 from town on Saturday evening goes through Petone/Lower Hutt 20 minutes after the hourly 110 leaves for Upper Hutt.

      • Thanks for providing the examples. If you haven’t already, can you file them as complaints with Metlink? Be sure to ask for a request number so you can follow up on it if you don’t get a suitable reply from either them or Valley Flyer.

      • At Gregory: Time to get your roller blades checked?

  4. At Peter Dawson; Well of course Peter how else do they get their $ 84 million worth of subsidies annually.

    • Maria, the 91 is a “commercial” service, and therefore attracts a GW subsidy of exactly $0.00 – thus NZBus schedule it only to make money, not for the benefit of the travelling public. Which explains why it doesn’t run for late night arrivals, nor does it run for early morning departures (the first morning service arrives as the 6:30am flight to AKL closes).

  5. I have just spoken to a senior bus driver and was told when the speed limit went down from 50kmp to 30kmp on the Golden Mile the schedules remained the same!!

    • That’s neither new information nor interesting. The lower speed limit was higher than the average bus speed along the much of the corridor.

      What we’re seeing now that RTI is in place is that GWRC is able to analyse real-world data and use it to plan new timetables. I expect that approximately a year after the new routes get implemented, we’ll see a set of timetable tweaks. If they don’t, I’d be asking why not.

  6. Thank you Peter yes of course. At Gregory: Except the RTI units (x15) for the CBD were never placed (don’t ask me how the one in Manners Mall got in) because of safety concerns along the route as identified by Statham and Beca. The Statham Safety Audit had general concerns about the route in June 2010 and recommended: “Existing vegetation, street furniture and signage should be removed particularly where traffic flows are proposed to change”. In addition the units are not in sink with bus arrivals according to a senior bus driver.

    Unlike the demands from the Land Transport Act where local and regional councils are required to implement road safety at planning of major/minor projects, this never happened for the Golden Mile and goodness knows where else. RIP Venessa.

    • Maria, pardon my rant, but you are very good at avoiding a topic and pulling out emotional bullshit. We are all aware that you are unhappy with the process taken, but I’m going to start deleting comments that veer away from topics to make your point.

      • Your forgiven; my point is and always has been public health and safety and the reason why the City is Ours Inc. exists. RIP Venessa.

  7. The following is my reply.Gregory,

    Maria has drawn my attention to this conversation and I seek you place the same reasoning on emotive debate into a reply to my comment. If you wish to reason safety, rather than emotion, your argument is disaffected by the facts of the Public Places bylaw and responsibilities in construction safety. .Venessa Green was killed on an unlawful and sub-standard road. Pretending this is not a legal fact will only wash for as long as those who comment are allowed to pretend their observations on the differences between objective and subjective principles are protected.


    Via Facebook group; Wellington loves Manners Mall

  8. […] Read the full article here –   Frequent Airport Flyer. […]

  9. Hey I know this is a bit old, but over recently started my own blog, and I’ve done a little analysis of the 91 route between Queensgate and the airport:

    • Thanks for that. I’ve been pushing GW to make it easier to access the RTI data. I’ve been told they’re looking at implementing GTFS-realtime with positions. Fingers crossed.

      • Dare I ask what GTFS means, or is an acronym for? This might add some enlightenment to your comments.

        Thank you for your help.

      • Stands for Google Transit Feed Specification. The real-time extension allows for continuous update and position information.

      • Cool! Thanks for that. It could be extremely useful for planning purposes.

        I’ve just bought “Human Transit” for light reading on the bus.

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