Wellington losing in game of Bus Lotto
One of my favourite pop songs is by Wellington band Bill Lake and the Living Daylights. The African-inspired song is called Waiting for the Bus (That Never Comes) .I wonder if it the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) could consider adopting it as Wellington’s theme tune?
Southgate resident Johanna Knox lives on the Number 22 route with her two children and flatmates. The Southgate service isn’t as frequent as other routes, so if you miss a bus you might wait 40 minutes or more. Quite often Knox’s daughter and flatmate will be up early to travel to their respective schools and find that the bus simply doesn’t arrive. The 8.15am seems to be a frequent offender, and was recently cancelled twice in two days.
Though the hapless Southgate passengers arrive early and check their phones, they often find they are waiting for a bus that never comes. This game of Bus Lotto happens all over Wellington. Half an hour or so later a bus eventually turns up and, provided passengers don’t score PowerBus and miss two buses in a row because the second one is so crowded, they arrive at school late, to be chastised by teachers.
Because she is both articulate and furious about Bus Lotto, Knox writes to Metlink when buses don’t appear. She has lost count of the number of complaints she has made but sent me five emails as a ‘representative sample’.
The Metlink staff members are incredibly polite, apologise profusely, and promise to pass complaints on. But that doesn’t stop Bus Lotto continuing.
‘‘Unfortunately ... these services were cancelled due a shortage of drivers and buses,’’ said Metlink in a polite response to one of Knox’s complaints. ‘‘You may have noticed an increase in the number of services experiencing delays or being cancelled recently (especially at peak times). This is mainly due to traffic conditions and operational issues such as substantial staff and vehicle shortages.’’ No, this is not a satirical column.
‘‘More people are using our services due to loss of parking following earthquakes last year, which has made our bus services even busier.’’ So bus patronage is up and that is a problem? ‘‘Over time we’ve added additional buses ... but unfortunately adding more buses is no longer workable and a more substantial fix is required.’’
Aren’t buses essential services, relied upon daily by thousands of Wellingtonians? It gets worse. ‘‘We realise that this is making travel difficult ... so when we do need to cancel services, we’re trying not to inconvenience the same customers.’’ So Bus Lotto is as random as real Lotto.
I wonder if they use numbered balls to decide on which route to cancel buses. Perhaps Metlink could televise the Bus Lotto draw live so Wellingtonians can find out which routes have been affected and use their polluting, congesting cars instead.
‘‘Unfortunately we can’t guarantee that this service won’t be cancelled again.’’ Great, so the city that wants to be a world-class event, technology and tourism hub runs its bus service Lagosstyle and admits it. Shouldn’t, as Knox recently suggested, Metlink permanently cancel some services rather than randomly cancel services at the last minute?
Though this is an outrageous situation, I have some sympathy for operators Go Wellington. The ridiculous tendering process caused by council buses being privatised has seen Go Wellington, who pay their drivers relatively well, lose many routes when new contracts kick in next year. Why would they invest in new buses and drivers with only months of their contracts to go?
Recently, in response to one of my impudent columns, GWRC chairman Chris Laidlaw asserted that by 2021, Wellington will have ‘‘a modern, integrated public transport network – the best in the country – and one we can be proud to call our own’’.
Hurry up, Chris, because Bus Lotto makes we wonder if in 2017 we have an old-fashioned, badly integrated network – a national laughing stock – of which no Wellingtonian can be proud. Let’s hope our regional councillors show leadership over Bus Lotto, and if they don’t then perhaps our new transport ministers might consider central government intervening so that Wellingtonians don’t forever find themselves waiting for the bus that never comes.
Perhaps Metlink could televise the Bus Lotto draw live so Wellingtonians can find out which routes have been affected and use their . . . cars instead.
Typical - the bus is late and then three turn up. Wellington’s bus service is struggling to cope with a surge in passengers, meaning some services have been cancelled, leaving people in the lurch.