Buses, trains and time: what’s really happening

Earlier this week we did a shout-out to geeky types who sit on reference groups in the mid-water layer of the public transport ecosystem. This week: eye opening insight from geeky types who sit at home, parsing data on important issues like… Where are our buses and trains? Are they getting worse? If GWRC won’t be honest about performance, luckily we have our transport supergeek mates tracking what’s really going on. (Jump to the bottom for the analysis. Spoiler: Yes, it’s getting worse. A lot worse).

All hail, the Anorak Wearers

You and I owe a lot to geeky people who spend their leisure time indefatigably hunting down data, parsing and interpreting it, and producing insights – all in The Public Good.

Meet them at parties, and they may quickly make you wish you’d never mentioned buses (or light rail / cycling / national rail funding / footpaths / economic evaluation manuals).

And if you’ve ever worked for one of a public agency that’s the subject of their interest, you may’ve been tempted to put their photo on the office dartboard as a tiny petty revenge against the hours you’ve spent fulfilling their endless LGOIMA and OIA official information requests.

But it’s this super geek tribe who inevitably lead the charge when it comes to keeping the Establishment honest. This is typically because the rest of us simply don’t know whether the Establishment is telling us the truth. (Sure we could in theory find out for ourselves, but “ain’t nobody got time for that”. And mainstream media do their best, but in these straitened times it’s hard for them to keep abreast of all the nuts and bolts of every locally important issue – especially complex ones like transport and landuse.)

So where public officials’ or private companies’ communication about important issues is less than helpful, it’s often our geeky friends who come to the rescue with good information for us – the ignorant but interested public. Auckland’s Transportblog, now Greater Auckland, is a stellar example of the power of the independent subject-matter-experts who can cut through official comms and rose-tinting (or just silence), and call it like it is when we need to know.

Do you see ghost buses?

Fresh from Wellington transport supergeeks

We’re proud to present for you some crispy fresh statistics on our bus and train punctuality. Sadly, these haven’t been helpfully produced by Greater Wellington, committed to transparency and accountability. Maybe that will come in time.

The stats have been patiently analysed from the laptop on the kitchen bench, by longstanding progressive transport anorak Mike Mellor, who regularly dives in to the nitty gritty data of Metlink’s network performance figures (which it should be noted, is usually reported a month late and in a very non-user friendly format!)

They make sobering reading, especially in contrast with the official rendering.

(They’ve got this cynical writer speculating that but for scrutiny like this, Greater Wellington might have tried to show improved punctuality statistics from the cancellations from recent staff shortages – hey, a train or bus that’s cancelled can’t be late can it!)

Bus and train punctuality: stats don’t lie

Top 10 bus routes

Some conclusions:

  • The 10 most used bus services are becoming more reliable but the average reliability has yet to reach target levels
  • Average punctuality is getting worse
  • NZ Bus operations are more reliable than for Tranzurban, but Tranzurban’s are much more punctual
  • Routes 7, 24 and 22 are consistently unreliable
  • Routes 3 and 83 are consistently unpunctual, with route 2 close behind
  • The November timetable changes for routes 1, 7 and 24 did not appear to have had a great effect on performance
  • The performance of routes 1, 2, 7, 21, 22 and 30x are particularly important because they are scheduled to make connections, meaning that the effects of poor performance extend across the wider network

And, for the full and glorious spreadsheet experience, Mike’s analysis here [Excel 51KB] presents Metlink’s data on bus reliability and punctuality, and patronage, rail patronage, and all public transport patronage by mode (including ferry!) up to 27 January this year. (Open it in Excel and see the tabs).

And stay tuned for the next instalment in: Where’s the bus? Kei whea te pahi?

And let us know about your experience!
Have you seen more ghost buses? (And no the
Airport Flyer doesn’t count now.)
Have you found punctuality and reliability better, worse, different since 2019 rolled around?

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