Welling­ton los­ing in game of Bus Lotto

The Dominion Post - - Opinion - DAVE ARM­STRONG

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.