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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

On the Buses

page 21

On the Buses

Wellington bus driver Peter Rendall writes on some of the thoughts he put forward in the Capital Plan's' discussion night on public transport.

If you use Wellington's big red buses, you have just experienced another increase in fares. Will it achieve anything?

Our elected representatives certainly don't think so, for along with the announcement that fares were to go up came the statement that even this increase would go no way towards correcting the deficit that Wellington's city transport will run up in the coming year.

Nasty thought.... could this be because fewer people use the buses at the new fares? Perhaps the steadily increasing fares and poorer service could be the reason why the number of passengers carried has dropped over the years.

Between 1962, when 35½ million people used the buses and trams, and 1974, the WCT lost some 11½ million passengers. In 1974 there were less than 24 million trips by bus. Why has the service so decreased in popularity, when the population of the Wellington area has steadily increased?

We can all think of reasons - there are many - but does the Council Transport Committee see any solutions to any of them?

They have suggested that some peak period services be driven by part-time drivers, a suggestion strongly resisted by the present drivers, who see their livelihoods threatened.

The other attempt to balance the books is by cutting services, a move I would suggest is about at futile as continually raising the fares.

The main bright spot on the horizon is the current investigation into differential rating, which means in effect that those organisations and enterprises that are grouped together in the inner city area will contribute somewhat more to the running of the city and its services than they do at present.

In other words, the employers who want their workers to arrive, and the shops who want customers, will help pay for the system that gets them there.

Reappraisal of Transport Needs

Even this, I suggest, will be futile unless there is a total re-appraisal of the transport needs of the city area and an honest attempt to meet them. What is needed is a system that meets the needs of the greatest numbers of people, gets them where they want to go, when they want to, in a relatively high degree of comfort and speed.

Some ways of achieving this are included in the next section, but few, if any of those proposals will be effective, unless we decide who or what is going to determine the shape of the centre of our city.

I do not believe that there is room for both an effective and efficient public transport system and private motor vehicles. What is required is a political decision by the people of Wellington and their elected representatives.

We must decide if our freedom includes the freedom to hinder great numbers of other people as they go about their daily work, or whether it means that the greatest good for the greatest number should prevail, in which case the buses win.

Some Suggested Solutions

Measures that can be taken to improve and popularize Wellington Public Transport, can be grouped under three main headings.

1.Improvements to roading and road utilization.
2.Improvements gained through changes in the Undertaking itself.
3.Operational improvements through the introduction of new services.

Each of these areas can be broken down into a number of specifics, and this I will now do, and attempt to illustrate my point with a Wellington example.

Improvements to roading utilization can be by means of the following:
a)Actual creating of new access routes e.g. Victoria Street extension.
b)The creation of specific channels for public transport e.g. Bus only lanes on Kent and Cambridge Terraces, Wakefield Street, Jervois and Waterloo Quays.
c)The actual exclusion of non essential motor vehicles from specific areas and streets. This is done in Singapore by charging $3.00 a day, or $60.00 a month for the privilege of bringing your car into the city area. Nottingham excludes cars by a system of traffic lights designed to give priority to buses, and to give minimum passage to other road vehicles. In Wellington we could completely exclude non essential vehicles from Courtenay Place, Manners Street, Willis Street, from Aro Street to Customhouse Quay, and the entire length of Lambton Quay.
d)The provision for priority, or special phases for public transport at traffic lights, eg. Courtenay Place/Kent and Cambridge Terrace intersection, Adelaide Road/Riddiford Street intersection.
e)The adoption of articles 15 of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which moves to give public transport vehicles right of way in all situations eg. leaving stops and entering the traffic strea, at intersections and changing lanes.
Improvements gained through internal changes in the Undertaking itself are as follows:
a)Simplification or abolition of the fare structure. A large amount of operator time is wasted issuing tickets and giving change. A single coin flat fare, or a two stage fare structure... the present city section free, outside that 20 cents, would step up journey times, and would enable savings to be made on the administrative staff side.
b)If suggestion (a) is unacceptable a reduction of fares could be effective. A reduction of fares on a tramway in Cleveland (USA) increased patronage by 27%, which situation can only be approved.
c)A greater degree of co-ordination between services, combined with a transfer facility for passengers who wish to proceed to a destination not served by their orginal vehicle. I feel that planning should be well advanced for a bus transfer point located perhaps near the hospital, where passengers from Kingston, Island Bay and other locations can transfer to buses for Kilbirnie, Miramar and Seatoun. If a worker in Island Bay wishes to get to the Miramar Industrial area he has to change buses at least twice, or walk quite a long way.'
d)The pairing of two Termini (through routing) should be introduced to a much greater degree than at present. There are two major advantages to this:
1)Fewer journeys through the inner city area.
2)Greater attraction for passengers to use the service, as there is perhaps less need to change buses en route.
e)One major area where hold ups occur at present is at stops. This become most obvious at peak periods where many passenger journeys are disrupted because the bus in front stops to uplift two or three people. A large part of this disruption could be avoided by the provision of seperate stops for each route, each stop to be provided with a loop in the overhead to enable following Trolley buses to overtake.

The introduction of new services should be a high priority in any campaign to get people back on the buses. These services should, I feel, provide cross-town links on the one hand, and, on the other, faster journeys to the inner city area.

These needs tend to be mutually exclusive but are needed at different times of the day. The peak periods, both morning and evening, require fast if not highly frequent services to suburbs on the edges of the city. To achieve this there should be buses with limited stops in the city area, running non stop to specific suburbs. There could be perhaps a bus to Scorching Bay departing the station, stopping at the Town Hall and Courtenay Place, and then no stopping before the Seatoun Shops. There should also be provision for people residing in the Brooklyn-Kingston area to get to Kilbirnie and points east without having to go down into the town. To this end my suggestion of a transport interchange at Newtown would serve as node for persons wishing to move south and east without going through the centre of the city.

A further new service that could be investigated is the running of buses to Happy Valley and Ohiro Bay via the Brooklyn Hill and Ohiro Road, which has recently been considerably upgraded. This would also reduce the number of buses travelling through Newtown at peak periods, while providing a service for an area at present not served by public transport.

There are many areas where new or speedier services could perhaps attract new passengers, but they must be at least investigated before we start to cut the services we already have.

It surprises me that so many people are willing to spend 40 or so minutes coming in from Seatoun in the morning peak periods, when a car can do the trip in 15 to 20. There must be an improvement to journey times if one can hope to attract more passengers back on the buses.

This can be achieved by limiting the number of stops at each end of the journey, and running the buses non stop between them. The faster running has another important feature in that it enables each vehicle to complete more journeys in the given period of time, which in turn increases the carrying capacity.

The State of the Big Reds

Wellington operates a mixed diesel and trolley bus fleet, which has one major problem. The newest diesel buses are some ten years old, and the oldest is a 8pritely 28. The trolleys aren't much better, the newest being some 12 years old and the oldest approaching 26. The problem is that city buses are usually given a life span of 12 to 15 years, after which point the running costs tend to escalate, and mechanical reliability tends to decline.

That we need new buses even the council realises, but the problem now is cost, we can't afford them, and there seems to be little prospect of the transport service ever earning enough to finance their own replacements.

Sidestepping that problem for a moment, do our present buses provide a suitable substitute for the private car, are they what the customer wants? I won't attempt to answer that one, we all have our own views on the subject, but I will list some of the features that' commuters in Brisbane said they wanted in their passenger transport.

1.Air conditioning combined with effective insulation, to reduce noise, and minimise temperature extremes.
2.Light pastel interior colour schemes.
3.Quiet operation, with reduced interior noises, including the elimination of all squeaks and rattles.
4.Comfortable, divided seating providing more space for each passenger.
5.Smooth, fast stopping and starting. (Quite high rates of acceleration were acceptable).
6.Large windows with tinted glass to reduce glare.
7.Effective daily cleaning, both interior and exterior.
8.Provision of waist height hand holds for standing passengers. These could be pillars or bars.
9.Space for passenger luggage.... either overhead racks, or an area behind the driver (which involves a sacrifice of seating space, though the area could be adaptable.)

The provision of vehicles to meet these demands would be somewhat expensive, but could be met by modem automatic or semi-automatic diesels, or modem trolley buses. In the first case Mercedes Benz, Leyland Nationals, Britos REL's and any number of other makes could fit the bill, while in the case of Trolley buses, any number of continental makes could fit the bill, though if we wanted to buy British, Leyland have just produced an electric version of the National, which is running on the Runcorn Busway in Lancashire.

The case for the improvement of public transport in Wellington requires a political solution. It requires the implementation of broad-based overall scheme for public transport to take priority over the private and non-essential commercial motor vehicles, and only when this occurs will there be the faintest gleam of hope for the centre of our city.

Photo of a bus