Bus switching part of big revamp

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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Passengers will have to start switching buses in a major revamp of Wellington's network.

The final version of a new bus network has been unveiled in a document that pulls together planned changes to the region's public transport network.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has made public today its draft public transport plan, which will go out for public consultation next month.

This includes a simpler bus network in Wellington and incorporates the $268 million bus rapid transit network between Wellington's CBD and Newtown and Kilbirnie that was agreed earlier this month.

Other key changes include ditching trolley buses, revamping the fare system, and also changing train timetables to include more frequent services on smaller trains, and express services from more distant stations.

Under the new plan, buses would branch out from two key spines: north-south and east-west.

Services would be more frequent, but would travel on fewer routes as unnecessary duplication was removed, councillor Paul Swain, the public transport portfolio leader, said.

The purpose of the plan was to encourage people out of their cars by focusing on reliability, frequency and affordability, he said.

"Some of these things are going to have to be aggressive."

One of the biggest changes is bringing bus routes closer to where people live. At present about 45 per cent of people live within a kilometre of a high-frequency route, and that will increase to 75 per cent.

Senior public transport planner Alex Campbell said big winners would include residents in low-demand areas such as Owhiro Bay, Kowhai Park and Houghton Bay. Passengers in Johnsonville would also be able to get directly to the hospital.

"That north-south spine is a big, quite exciting development."

But some services will go, including the Karori West shopper service and the Broadmeadows shopper service.

People may also have to change buses. There would be timetabling measures taken to reduce waiting times and the increased frequency should also help cut down wait times, he said.

"You have got a lot more flexibility . . . you don't have to depend on having that direct route."

Mr Swain said the focus was on improving the all-day frequency and supplementing that with peak services, rather than starting with peak and adding all-day services.

"This is a major step forward in the way that we're delivering public transport in Wellington."

NZ Bus chief executive Zane Fulljames was "very, very supportive" of the new network plan, although it had been "watered down" from the original draft, he said. The existing network had become convoluted over the years and this would help simplify it. However, he was concerned that there was no plan about how to introduce the changes, and said the city had to get on with it.

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THE SYSTEM HIGHLIGHTS

The Wellington bus network will be based around two spines: east-west from Karori to Seatoun and north-south from Johnsonville to Island Bay.

There will be more frequent services all day, but some people will have to change services at key hubs.

The network allows for a planned $268 million bus rapid transit network between Wellington's CBD and the suburbs of Newtown and Kilbirnie.

Most of the changes will be introduced in 2017. Trolley buses will also be stopped that year at the end of the current contract.

Fare capping will replace daily and monthly passes. Fares will be charged according to total journey, so there is no extra charge if you have to change bus.

Integrated ticketing across all modes will be introduced.

Trains will run more frequently but at smaller sizes, with express services from outlying areas such as Wairarapa, Upper Hutt and Kapiti, and network hubs at the busiest stations.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan 2014 will go before the Greater Wellington Regional Council for sign-off next week.

From there it will go out for public feedback from April 4 to May 9, alongside the council's draft Annual Plan.

There will be public hearings in May, before the plan is formally adopted at the end of June.

Work will then begin on planning how best to introduce the transport changes.

- The Dominion Post

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