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Thanks for posting this. I've been talking to people, online and face-to-face, about the proposals. I hear a lot from people about the trolleys and a lot from people about access and frequency in the suburbs. My impression is that people are scared of transfers/connections and of change in general.

I have a few concerns about the northern suburbs, but your report indicates quite clearly the sorts of problems the area poses. There aren't always easy answers.


Is there a link to a source article summarising the Green groups position?


Jarrett, Jarrett...

you got in trouble again pushing those buses :)...

Seriuously we know to little to comment on the issue; my istincts tell me that most of the objections are of political nature and have very little to do with the design of the system.

And hence are better addressed (and perhaps understood) by a politician...


"That's because they wanted... their trolley policy, to follow from the city's transport network rather than preceding and constraining it." This seems unwise to me. The benefits of trolleybuses are so great that it would often be better to run a trolleybus on a somewhat suboptimal route than a motorbus on a more optimal one. Thus any proposed routes or route changes should absolutely take into account the political and technical feasibility of operating the new routes with trolleybuses.


Some background from Wikipedia:
"Following a review of Wellington City bus services, Greater Wellington Regional Council revealed in February 2012 that it was proposing to close the Seatoun, Aro Street and Hataitai routes, and reduce the Lyall Bay route to peak hours only, on account of planned route changes not matching the existing trolley bus overhead wire network." (I.e. four of Wellington's nine trolleybus routes would lose their service.)

Dieselisation of existing trolleybus routes is a huge step backward and should not even be on the table. Any changes to trolleybus routes should be absolutely contingent on extending or relocating the wire network to allow the new routes to be operated with trolleybuses.


I often find myself arguing against the assertion that networks ought not to change because it will confuse those that are comfortable with the network as it is - which would, indeed, cause the network to never change, ever.

I'm particularly with you when you suggest that "careful information and travel training" is the answer here, with particular attention being paid to providing personal assistance to certain groups that may need it, such as older people or those with language barriers.

I'd add that often, where networks are presently incredibly confusing, failing to change it doesn't necessarily help those who have trouble taking in new information about the network. Rather, it constrains their travel horizons to routes and places that they already know, because figuring out where else they can go involves complex maps and schedules or instructions from trip planners.

We might assume that certain groups in society don't want a great deal of mobility, but perhaps it's partly that our transit network make city-wide mobility really difficult, which good network planning can ameliorate.

As just one small example, one that I was talking about earlier on my blog, suppose that Montreal were to replace its present three lines along Sherbooke with one frequent line clearly designated as the Sherbrooke bus. Suddenly just about everyone in Montreal knows what to do if they want to get somewhere along Sherbrooke.


Well the Newlands bus I used went from 30 minute frequency to 15 minutes. Which means I no longer had a 28 minute wait once the train came in for my bus. Which means I could have meaningfully caught the train and given up the car, and I had got sick of the drive, so I changed jobs.

A lot of the feedback I've seen on the Dominion Post was all negative, but as far as I could see all the changes were positive in that frequency over the buses I was likely to take was better. I also liked the Aro Valley being linked to the back of Kelburn and being able to transfer at Crofton Downs off the train.

And as for not using the trolley bus wires - string more up. Easily solved.

david vartanoff

you write "...also needs a review of fare policy addressing the connection issue. But if we did a plan that tried to deal with all those issues as well, it would be so huge..."
Umm, no, transfer surcharges are ipso facto redlining. They discourage travel to any place not a "one seat ride". While I am a pass buyer less affected by this issue, that has not always been the case. Eliminating inequitable/rider hostile fare policies is not something requiring much study.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

David. You misunderstand me. The technical and philosophical case
for free transfers is not in dispute. However, the change reduces
overall revenue and thus requires a plan to manage that. A small base
fare increase could be required. This is much more complicated in NZ
than in most places because operating companies keep fare revenue. No
disagreement in principle.


There seem to be two ways of expending one's energy as an environmental activist, faced with modifications to a bus network that reduce the number of routes that run entirely under trolley wire, and hence the number of routes that can be operated with trolleybuses.

- Lobby against the changes to the network
- Lobby for the installation of additional trolley wire where it's needed.

The latter seems far more constructive.

Generally, while trolleybuses are brilliant (though depending partly on how electricity is generated where they are), their operation or otherwise isn't a dealbreaker for me within a plan that gets people out of cars, which are responsible for environmental degradation to a far greater extent than any buses.

Considering what should be the common enemy of private motoring, arguing against improved public transport on environmental grounds seems paradoxical.

Aaron Sills

I haven't been following this debate but I wonder if your response to item 3 is missing their point?

3. Concern that the infrastructure for the trolley buses will be immediately removed on the routes that will be superseded, before we know if the new proposed routes will be successful and permanent.

Aren't they just asking not to pull down the wires before the changes are proven successful - in case you want to change some part of the system back?

Andre Lot

@Zóltan: diesel combustion engines are far less efficiently, in thermodynamic terms, than any electric engine. Far less = 38% x 95%. Even a old coal-fired single-cycle powerplant will pollute less than a distributed fleet of internal combustion engine-base vehicles.

So expanding trolleybuses lines could be a good idea. But it is not merely about "relocating the wires".

Where I take a real issue with your argument is here: "Considering what should be the common enemy of private motoring".

As long as people keep talking of private cars and their drivers as "the enemy", me and probably millions of voters in the develop World will keep shutting down "pro-transit" candidates that are not interested in increasing mobility options and providing transportation infrastructure for a variety of modes and housing tipologies, but merely "waging war" on cars and their drivers, which are labeled "the enemy".

When one resorts to name-calling, the only reaction to expect is a fight back.


@Andre Lot:

I do believe that name-calling is wrong, since it alienates reasonable people; however some facts cannot be hidden by political correctness.

If one takes a little time to study the available data it is painfully clear that individual transportation by car is doomed; by progressive scarcity of resource for gas propelled vehicles and by the impossibility to scale beyond science fair project for alternative sources.

This is a very disturbing reality, but it is one that we should not hide; especially when we are dealing with infrastructures, i.e. stuff that is supposed to last 20 to 40 years at least.


You haven't discussed my major worry - how will operators ensure that buses run on time? Currently about 20-25% of buses in my area don't run to schedule (being more than 5 minutes late)so how can passengers have confidence in a transfer system that requires them to wait for a bus that may or may not turn up? I'd be happy if all trolleys are removed because they are so slow and often late.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Pam. Again, we can't solve every problem at once, but that one should
certainly be a priority


One priority for ensuring reliability in a network based upon tranfers is, rather than running a route from origin to terminus as quickly as possible before laying over for an extended period at the terminus, providing generous schedules and requiring early buses to wait at timepoints spread over the course of the route. This can be done at the expense of layover time, which is less necessary if buses can be expected to operate reliably (sometimes unions insist upon a certain proportion of a schedule being layover time; I'm not sure how much that's true in NZ).

Alan Robinson

Hi Jarrett,

Is it worthwhile posting a link to the plan, or will the link only be temporary?

Mike Mellor

Details of the plan are at http://www.gw.govt.nz/wellington-city-bus-review/ .

Andre Lot

@kantor: the internal combustion engine might be compromised, but there is a plethora of alternatives waiting to find the proper market conditions to flourish. From PRT like the Ultra to a combination of widespread electric infrastructure and self-driving cars (which can make them far less bulky and 2 orders of magnitude safer).

Nathanael Nerode

Politically, you need to do two things.

One: specify that it is preferable if as many of the frequent routes as possible are run by trolleybus. Make a strong statement that trolleybuses are better than diesel buses for frequent routes (it's true, anyway).

Why, for example, should the study show a requirement for fewer trolleybuses? It *shouldn't*: trolley wire should be expanded to use the full fleet of trolleybuses, while more shorter-lived, more-polluting diesel buses should be retired instead.

Two: specify that fare integration *must* happen for the restructuring to work. I get the impression you already said this but it wasn't clear enough.

Some of the other complaints are issues of genuine conflict (change = confusion vs. change = improvement, etc.), but several of these are simply worries that the study will be used as an excuse to NOT integrate fares, an excuse to get rid of trolleybuses, and generally not used for the purposes for which you did the study.

Worries that your study will be used as a Trojan horse are *legitimate worries*, since this sort of thing happens all the time, and it's important to make it clear that you would reject such actions.

If you were constrained by politicians to NOT make such recommendations ("frequent routes ought to be trolleybus routes", "fare integration is a prerequisite"), it indicates that your study IS going to be used as a Trojan horse and that the politicians planned to use it as such all along.

Nathanael Nerode

"A small base
fare increase could be required. This is much more complicated in NZ
than in most places because operating companies keep fare revenue. "

Another reason why "public private partnerships" are nothing but trouble in the transportation context.

Nathanael Nerode

I guess I'm saying, you can't say "that's as far as I was contracted to study" without getting deserved attacks, because it's exactly those limits which are used by irresponsible politicians to create trouble.

People care about "mode". At the end of your study, politically, it really ought to say something about desired mode for new routes, *particularly* when it's going to eliminate existing trolleybus routes. If the politicians don't want you to study that, *that says something about them*.

Daran Ponter (Greater Wellington Regional Councillor)

@ Nathanial

Whooah Nathanial, I would be one of those politicians.

The trolley buses were not a particular focus of this study because we asked the consultants to come up with a network design for public transport system as a whole. As much as I love the trolley buses them they can not be sacrosanct.

We cannot say, the network is now really efficient..... except for these few trolley routes over here......but that's okay they are trolley routes. For one thing the way in which public transport is funded in New Zealand will mean that the government would soon catch up with us and our funding would be under scrutiny.

In terms of the review the main route to become dieselised is the C route (now largely the No 11 bus). The challenge for the Greater Wellington Regional Council is to put in cabling for about 2 kms which would see the entire route in trolley service.

The study has very usefully highlighted potential efficiencies. It affects both trolley and diesel routes. According to the study the new network design does not affect the optimisation of the trolley buses on their current 5 day a week service (i.e. all buses will be fully utilised).

To better utilise the existing trolley bus fleet we need to tackle the costs of running the fleet seven days a week. That for me is the bigger and more worthwhile challenge here. It beggers belief that Wellington can run trolleys from Monday to Friday and call itself clean and green..... and then diesel it up n the weekends!

The trolley buses are the subject of a separate study which will be commencing soon.

TimG (Brisbane)

The main problems the Greens raise, as is quite typical of idealists, come from comparing the new situation with the 'best' situation. Aiming for best is a worthwhile goal, but it shouldn't stop you going halfway.

Jeff Hunt

I approve the proposal. It is a strong step in the right direction.
I have my doubts about trolley buses. They are slow and cumbersome, full of lead cell batteries that are replaced often. They cannot be run-on or off directly to and from terminals. They have to follow wires slowly all the time causing delays and extra congestion, including the cars behind them. And they are running on fossil fuel produced electricity.
Nor do I think we should be too shy about despising car drivers. Sure we all do it but it is horribly destructive and the alternate public approach could be heaven by comparison.
It wasn't so long ago people could leave dogs to bark and soil all over the place and breath killing addictive cigarette smoke at random. Habits can be changed and we need firmness with car drivers who are dangerous parasites on our lives. Public transport should be funded by petrol tax. That would actually be an advantage to car drivers who need cars as it would facilitate transport for everyone.


Your recommendations from the Wellington Bus Review have the consequence that 10% of commuters who currently have a direct journey will need to transfer.

Thanks for your comments about the need for free transfers in both in your report "Fare penalties for connections (getting off one bus or train and onto another) must be eliminated." and in your comments above.

Your final report also rightly emphasises the importance of building good quality interchanges with statements such as:

"Relying on connections. The politically hardest part of a high-frequency network is the reliance on connections. Throughout this proposal, we suggest replacing some services that now run every 30-60 minutes with connections between two services that run every 15 minutes or better. The connection is a disincentive, but the alternative is usually self-competition, along with poor frequencies that are not attractive for travel between key destinations in the city. Strategic investment in interchange points is an important consequence of this proposal, discussed later in this report."
[bold added for emphasis]

Three questions. 1) Where is the discussion on interchange points that is stated to be "later in this report." ?
2) Can you describe, by way of example, the sort high quality of bus interchanges that are required to support your recommended nextwork ?
3) How much would one of these major bus interchanges be expected to cost ?



Sorry for that "broken link". All I can say is that I worked with city staff on conceptual plans for all the key interchanges and we all came away feeling that at least a workable interim facility, with weather protection, was possible.

People's sensitivity to interchanging varies a lot, so there's no consensus on what constitutes "high quality". If you set the bar too high, nothing ever gets done. But minimum necessary features for civilised interchange include (a) reliable bus paths not impeded by congestion, (b) weather protection at stops, (c) legible and direct pedestrian paths between stops as needed, (d) clear information at various levels of detail. Realtime info is obviously a big advantage but many interchange-based systems have run for decades without it.

Costs vary enormously but are mostly pretty low because we're talking about onstreet design. Costs are often political more than monetary, e.g. needs to remove a few car parking spaces or introduce a bit of bus lane.

It's great to have much more advanced facilities, like the great enclosed station that used to function in downtown Christchurch, but you don't have to have that to get a network in place.

Johnsonville is a bigger problem, because it now requires bus circulation through car parks. But it's already a problem, and our network plan isn't making it worse.


As someone who will have to spend a significant amount of my life at these proposed interchanges, I am dissappointed you cannot describe in them in detail or even point to an example of what you had in mind when the Wellington design was conceived.

This is a real concern as you are obviously aware of the challenges of Wellington, being the windiest town/city in New Zealand (we have a Wind Farm within the city boundaries !)

I will also call you on your Johnsonville comment that "our network plan isn't making it worse". Currently there is little interchange between buses during peak as most bus services travel on into the CBD. No-one tranfers to the train as that service is more slower, more costly and does not penetrate the CBD (as you have noted).

Your plan elimiates the majority of peak buses into the CBD forcing large numbers of commuters to transfer. So, in addition to large number of buses "circulation through car parks" your plan adds large numbers of pedestrian commuters walking from terminating buses onto either the H Route or the train, both of which leave from different places. It seems to me that significant safety and weather issues must be addressed if this approach is to succeed but there is little info on how (or even if) the regional council will resolve them :(


what is more green a trolley bus half full or a diesel bus fully loaded? Its the latter of course and you will only get that if the bus goes where you want when you want. Trolleys are not that great and they are not that green and they dont even run weekends. They have expensive overheads, each vehicle costs more than a latest euro5 bus and they cost more to run per km. Please i just cannot see am upside! Think if we got rid of them how many more bus services we could afford to run in the northern suburbs.


The thing is, as a frequent (2 times a day, 5 day a week user) of the current service, I'm not concerned with what you consider the greater achievements. I'm concerned that I will no longer have a usable service. I may be within a small minority of people for who the new bus service won't work at all, but why would you consider it acceptable to remove a very workable service and replace it with nothing for anyone? (And yes, I'm sure you think what you've proposed is "something", but it's so unreasonable as to be ludicrous.) I enjoy taking the bus. I don't want to have to take my car. But that's what I'll have to do if your proposal stands as is. FYI I am on the 22 route, to be replaced by the 29 route.


"The challenge for the Greater Wellington Regional Council is to put in cabling for about 2 kms which would see the entire route in trolley service."

So do it. Just commit to it already. It's 2 km? The wire will last for decades. Why are you even considering dieselization? Get a commercial loan if you have to, it'll pay for itself!


"It beggers belief that Wellington can run trolleys from Monday to Friday and call itself clean and green..... and then diesel it up n the weekends!"

I have to agree with you here.

I fear that attitudes towards trolleybuses have been driven by a history of cheap diesel in the past few decades. Well, that is OVER. Plan on rising diesel prices.

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