Capital's Council Calls for Fairer Deal on Fares

14 May 2014

Wellington City Council will continue to push for cheaper bus fares, faster development of a smart integrated ticketing system and the best possible low emission buses.

The high costs of maintaining and operating trolley buses and other issues such as resilience may mean they are probably not the best choice for a future service. A far more thorough analysis of the costs and options by the Greater Wellington Regional Council is necessary rather than premature exclusion.

It also wants the Regional Council to reconsider the bus fare rise planned later this year, particularly the  zone one fare, and invest any future cost savings in bringing public transport fares down.

Greater Wellington is suggesting future off-peak discounts of 25 percent. The City Council’s position is that Greater Wellington should be halving off-peak bus fares with the aim of increasing public transport patronage across the region by 10 percent, and peak fares should also be reduced.

The requests form part of the City Council’s submission to Greater Wellington on its draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan, which was considered by the city’s Transport and Urban Development Committee today.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says public transport patronage across the region is flat. “We want to see a fairer deal on fares to get more people using public transport. Cuts in fares could pay for themselves with increased patronage.”

In general, the Council thinks the new bus routes proposed are very good but will ask the Regional Council to re-examine a couple – Khandallah and the #18 servicing the universities.

The Committee today also considered the work that needs to be done next to develop a bus rapid transit network through the central city as far as the hospital and a second branch to Kilbirnie. The routes and rapid transit system were agreed following the completion of the two-year Public Transport Spine Study, which was jointly funded by the NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington and the City Council.

Council also agreed to protect a route from Newtown to Kilbirnie to future-proof the city for light rail one day.

Councillor Andy Foster, who chairs the Committee, says a joint project team involving all three organisations is now being set up to do detailed design and planning and in a way, the hard work is just beginning.

“We need to work out what a bus rapid transit system will look like in this city – what’s possible, how we fit it through the various streets, what any changes will cost, how they will be funded and what the trade-offs are,” he says.

“The next generation of vehicles must be high-quality, low-emission and preferably electric. We are keen to see some options trialled. Our immediate task is measuring exact curve radii and height restrictions to identify “choke” points so we establish maximum physical dimensions of the new vehicles.”

Cr Foster says the City Council strongly supports the need to reduce the number of buses using the Golden Mile to reduce the congestion and journey time delays, but doesn’t want buses stopping or having priority on alternative routes like Featherston Street or the Quays.

“That means using a smaller number of longer and higher vehicles. I’m told modern double-deckers should fit through most of our tunnels, these are the sorts of things we need to know for sure.

“We also need to look at where the buses should run on wider roads like Kent and Cambridge terraces and Adelaide Road – down the outside as they do at the moment or in the centre. We plan to significantly improve these areas but can’t get on with detailed design until these things are decided.”

Cr Foster says the Council also plans to work with NZTA and Greater Wellington to assess whether there is any real need or public transport gains to be had from developing future dedicated bus lanes on Ruahine Street. 

“As guardians of the Town Belt, we don’t want to see this road widened beyond its existing designation of four lanes.”