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Call for brakes to go on city bus routes review

Feb 29th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

CHANGES to Wellington city bus routes may be delayed after strong public reaction to the plans, and one councillor wants another study completed first.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is expecting 5000 to 10,000 responses to its review of the city bus system, after plans were compiled from 3500 responses to the two-year first stage.

Strong opposition to the plans from some residents as well as the volume of responses will delay the completion of the review.

Councillor Daran Ponter – of the Wellington city constituency and on the committee organising the review – thinks the review should be delayed anyway.

He wants to wait until the completion of the “Wellington Spine Study” being conducted by New Zealand Transport Agency, with help from Wellington City Council and Wellington Regional Council.

“I’m certainly of the view that we’ve got it the wrong way round and the spine study should be done first, but it’s an issue of when the government may be able to give the money [for the different studies].”

This separate study looks at various high quality public transport options for travel between the central train station and Wellington hospital, the “spine” of the city.

He says it is frustrating because people can see the spine study should be completed first.

Mr Ponter and fellow councillor Paul Bruce organised a number of community meetings this month to inform the public and encourage submissions.

“That piece of work informs what we’re doing with the bus review.”

The bus review has been in the works for over two years after similar reviews of the Porirua and Hutt Valley bus services.

It looks at the city’s bus routes and whether the 44 per cent subsidies per bus fare, paid through a combination of regional rates and national taxes, are being used effectively.

Mr Ponter says a proposed reduction in the number trolley bus services have been a hot topic at the meetings, though the plans intend to keep all 66 trolley buses running despite fewer trolley routes.

“But people are worried that it’s the beginning of the end of the trolley bus network.”

The fleet is getting to be 40 years or older with no new vehicles as the newer-looking buses are actually older machines with a new shell.

Diesel buses do work out to be cheaper for the council to run, but Mr Ponter says rising fuel costs may change this in future and cost is no reason to get rid of the iconic buses.

Another proposed change will add interchange hub areas, where commuters will have to transfer from smaller suburban bus routes to more frequent inner-city services.

Mt Cook resident Peter Cooke takes the bus every day and says he is not sure about some of the solutions the council is coming up with, but approves of the review itself.

“We like the general idea, to increase the number of people [catching the bus].”

He thinks a light rail system in Wellington is inevitable, and the council should look at this in its plans for buses.

However, he agrees with the interchanges and says it is a good idea to have lots of suburban buses to ferry people to one interchange.

Councillor Ponter says he will not vote for the review unless a number of conditions are fulfilled as a bottom line.

He says all-weather shelters with real-time information at all interchange stops, timetables that minimise waiting times and integrated ticketing systems which have a single fare for moving between buses or trains will be essential.

The public meetings were set up after councillors realised the review did not have enough public engagement, and have been providing useful perspectives on each individual area.

Some residents in the Wilton and Brooklyn areas are angry about the proposed reduction of service to their areas (read more HERE).

“At the regional council, we’re co-ordinating a regional transport network, but for them [the residents] it’s a personal transport service.”

“That [perspective] is really useful for us, even if that’s the one benefit we get from doing this.”

Even if the review is not accepted as a whole by the council, Mr Ponter says it is likely some of the individual recommendations will be put into practice once consultation is done.

There are five more community meetings planned, and submissions can be made to the council HERE

Meetings:

Wellington CBD: Greater Wellington Regional Council, 142 Wakefield Street, Ground floor, Meeting Rm 1. Tuesday 28 February 11am – 1pm, Wednesday 29 February 12-2pm

Karori: Karori Community Centre, 7 Beauchamp St. Saturday 3 March 10am – 12 noon, Monday 5 March 11am – 1pm

Johnsonville: Johnsonville Mall. Saturday 3 March 1- 3pm, Tuesday 6 March 11am – 1pm

Newtown: Newtown Hall, Cnr Daniell and Constable Sts. Wednesday 7 March 11am – 1pm, Saturday 10 March 1-3pm

Kilbirnie: Kilbirnie Community Centre, 56 – 58 Bay Rd. Thursday 8 March 11am-1pm, Saturday 10 March 10am – 12 noon

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