Buses: beastly blues, or benign bother?

Did you get an email from Metlink today? Some of the Talk Wellington whānau did and it’s made us ponder.

Perhaps it was just because we’d sent formal complaints toGreater Wellington about public transport recently, but a few of us got an email evidently sent to their whole database of people.  Sent by Jane Dimmock at GWRC, it was ostensibly from Alan Seay, Principal Stakeholder Relations at Metlink.

Metlink seemed to think there was something worth apologising for, and saying “Bear with us folks… we love yaz… be patient!”

The papers have been making much of the bus disruption, distress and débacle. Social media has also been running hot around Wellington suburbs, and it’s fair to say there’s been both more than the usual council-bashing but also more reasons for it.

Ranging from the majors (school buses not showing up because Metlink can’t find a driver) to the short-lived but enraging whoopsies like this, there’s certainly been a lot to make people furious.

But while it’s always fun to put the boot into Council X, let’s take a deep breath and consider.

Yes lots of people are angry.  But I know how outraged I get when my train – perfectly on time, well signposted – happens to be at a different platform to its usual. “FFS!” I snarl. “Why can’t you just put it in the same place?!”  I grump about it to others on my train, who eye roll sympathetically.

All us humans like routine: it’s how we optimise our lives and spend more time doing stuff that’s important to us.   Any change is going to make us furious, or at least temporarily snotty.

And the bus system before had some serious problems. Remember the Wall of Bus on the Golden Mile? Karori people left behind as full buses passed them by?   Fifteen, twenty, thirty-minute delays pretty common?

If you’re going to fix a complicated system like buses, you’ll have to mess with a lot of people’s routine. That means angst.

If you’ve cleverly decided to re-contract those services at the same time and have a provider who’s keen to save costs on driver wages (or so it seems), there may well be lots more angst.

If by sheer chance your semi-integrated ticketing system malfunctions at the same time, there’ll be complementary associated angst (though this isn’t your fault).


But ultimately, how does one go about fixing a complicated system that affects lots of people?

You do your due diligence – lots of research, surveying, inquiry, modelling, calculation.

You find the best set of changes that you reasonably believe will get the best outcome. You get them signed off by your leadership, and you go about changing stuff.

How much angst, for too long, is too much angst? How much disruption and delay is a sign that something’s rotten at the core?  If we hang tight, and take a deep breath – as Metlink Alan asks us nicely to do – might it be alright in the end?





Image credit: Stuff

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