Wellingtonians among Australasia's keenest public transport users but still keen to improve

DAMIAN GEORGE
Last updated 19:13 06/01/2017
FAIRFAX NZ

Wellingtonians are the second most regular users of public transport in Australasia when it comes to getting to work.

MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ
Wellington city councillor Sarah Free says cycling to and from work has increased in the past year, but more progress can be made by the city.
MONIQUE FORD/ FAIRFAX NZ
Bus user and walker Ronja Zweifel would not consider a car for her commute, as parking was not worth the hassle.
MONIQUE FORD/ Fairfax NZ
Simon Christiansen walks between his home in Mt Victoria and work in the Wellington CBD.
MONIQUE FORD/ Fairfax NZ
Cyclist Matt Greene has a car but prefers to get some exercise via his 15-minute commute.

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Wellington is second only to Sydney when it comes to Australasian cities embracing public transport on the commute to and from work.

But despite the promising figures, Wellington planners are not satisfied, and want the city to do even better.

The commuting figures come from the recently published Austroads Congestion and Reliability Review report, which looked at transport trends in 10 cities across Australia and New Zealand.

The figures showed 23 per cent of Wellingtonians walked, cycled or used public transport to get to work. That was second only to Sydney's 26 per cent, while Auckland came in last at 11 per cent.

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Buses were the most popular mode of transport used by Wellingtonians from 2011-15, followed by walking, trains, and bikes, according to data from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Wellington city councillor Sarah Free said she had noticed an increase in people cycling to work in the past year, including more women, but the city had a long way to go.

"We've got a little bit more infrastructure now, but we haven't made the progress I would have liked to see made. 

"I'm seeing more women, older cyclists, a few more schoolchildren, but that [group] is a big [target] area for us, I would like to see more of that.

"I'm hoping we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."

Free cycles to work once or twice a week, and felt it was now becoming a "legitimate mode of travel".

That had led to drivers being more courteous and aware of cyclists, and that made cycling safer, she said.

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While she was not surprised with Wellington's position among the Australasian cities analysed, the challenge for councillors was to "keep building on that".

"And that means that once these cycleways are established, we have to remember they are shared pathways [with pedestrians], and there needs to be better education about how to be courteous and share the pathway."

Wellington City Council approved a $37m cycleway plan last August, including a $7m seaside cycleway around the inner city's bays, from the Miramar cutting to Waitangi Park.

While cycling was down the list in terms of modes of transport used in the capital, regional and city council figures show overall numbers were healthy.

The total distance travelled by cyclists aged 5 and over in the greater Wellington region between 2010 and 2014 was 47 million kilometres a year, compared with just 25 million from 2007 to 2011, according to a Greater Wellington Regional Council report published last October.

The city council's latest Wellington City Profile showed 65 per cent of central city residents travelled to work by public transport, walking or cycling.

Train patronage in the Wellington region had also increased considerably in recent years, according to the latest Ministry of Transport figures on public transport volumes.

There were 12.13 million train passenger boardings in 2014-15, almost one million more than five years previously.

Bus passenger boardings had remained relatively stagnant in the same period.

But the regional council wants to increase public transport usage even further. It hopes to have increased boardings per capita from 73.9 in 2015-16 to 76 by 2025.

It also wants 50 per cent of people living within 500m of a core bus service or 1km of a railway station, up from the current 41.6 per cent.‚Äč

The other cities in the survey, along with Sydney and Auckland, were Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.

BY THE NUMBERS

23 per cent of Wellingtonians walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work

That puts the city 2nd in Australasia, behind Sydney

Buses (8 per cent) are the most popular mode of transport, followed by walking (7 per cent)

Wellingtonians cycled an average of 47 million kilometres a year between 2010 and 2014

Public transport boardings in 2014-15 were 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

HAPPY COMMUTERS

Matt Greene, 26, cyclist

A 15-minute commute each way from Lyall Bay to Wellington's CBD is the perfect excuse for Matt Greene to get out for a bike ride.

"It's mostly for fitness, and cost," he said of his decision to bike to work each day.

"Buses are way too expensive, and too slow."

Greene has a car but prefers to get out for some exercise each day instead, even if the cycleway infrastructure leaves a little to be desired.

"I don't notice many cycle lanes, and the Victoria Tunnel is a bit slow because it's shared with pedestrians, but it's all right."

Simon Christiansen, 42, walker

Simon Christiansen also has a 15-minute commute to and from work each day, on foot from Mt Victoria to the CBD.

He says walking is the most sensible option, given his location.

"I don't have a car, and work's so close. And I just walk along the waterfront, so it's an easy walk."

There is a bus stop outside Christiansen's house, but there is no point in catching it, he said.

"Even if it's raining, it's fine [to walk]."

Ronja Zweifel, 28, bus user/walker

Ronja Zweifel works as a reliever at day care centres, so her commute to work from Aro Valley can be anywhere from a 10-minute walk to a 45-minute bus ride.

Even for the longer distances, Zweifel would not consider using a car.

"A lot of times, parking is not worth it.

"And the cost of purchasing a car versus a bus pass is relatively inexpensive."

Other than along Willis St, the bus journey was relatively free-flowing, she said.

She spent up to $20 a week on bus fares.

- Stuff

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