Just unbussable? Bus networks and Porirua

Train patronage is rising, but Porirua is driving more and more. What’s with the bus, then?

Porirua drives a lot, and it’s driving more.

Commuting is a very narrow measure of people’s travel habits, with huge differences even between men and women, but it’s one measure and it’s quite telling.

Between the last two censuses (well, the ones that worked), the proportion of people who drive to work fell, on average, region-wide. But in Porirua it grew 1.9%. It even fell in Lower Hutt (-1.9%), but it grew in Porirua.

Is driving extra nice in Porirua?

The peak-hour traffic in Porirua is known to be terrible.

At peak, key roads like Kenepuru Drive, Postgate Drive, State Highway 58 (Pauatahanui Inlet) are nose-to-tail, and the approach to the Paremata roundabout is a long skinny parking lots for kilometres (and necessitating a set of new lights on the roundabout so the evening non-commuter traffic didn’t massively stack up too.) There’s school gate congestion at every school. The residents’ associations (especially the decile 10 ones) are constantly calling for Porirua city council to “fix the congestion”.

There’s a pretty good train service running here, the Kāpiti line, and yes there are buses. So with this public transport and the horrible congestion, what’s going on?

Is it just unbussable?

Porirua’s urban form is 99.9% single-family homes. Is it that there just aren’t enough beating hearts per hectare to make a bus service viable?

The generally accepted international standard is that the ideal population density to support public transport needs to be at least 14 people per hectare. How does Porirua’s population density stack up?

A combination of obliging Greater Wellington staff with the excellent mapper / drone photographer / Talk Wellington Twitter friend Leigh Hunt got the population data within 400m (a 6-7 minute walk generally considered to be about doable*) of bus stops, and made this:

(For those interested, the data provenance is here)

Interestingly there are some areas of the Porirua that do have the level of density to run a decent bus service.

Why, then, with all the traffic, don’t Porirua people take the bus very much? We shall investigate this mystery further in the next exciting instalment.

If you have clues, we are taking anonymous tipoffs to our hotline –
AKA the comments box below!

Banner image credit: Flickr user Philip Capper

Check out Leigh’s drone videos of eastern Porirua here

*The 400m is as the crow flies, not a true walking catchment. But it gives you an idea.

5 comments on “Just unbussable? Bus networks and Porirua”

  • Mason says:

    Frer parking at Porirua station! Imagine of Air NZ started offering free flights to London, I imagine thatd be pretty popular too, theyd have to increase capacity to service the demand.

  • Jude Pointon says:

    My kids and I walk/ride to work as much as possible, but we all do so within 3 blocks of home. Many local school children walk/ride to school college and some even to tawa college from titahi bay.

    It would be worth looking at cities where public transport was cheaper/free. I believe I heard that seriously ups use. May not fort in with a black and white cost/benefit ratio though …May have to widen it to include health benefits and emission reduction/climate change slowing.

  • Betty-Ann Kelly says:

    We are a couple who live in Titahi Bay.

    My partner works in Wellington, and travels to the city by bus (stops very close to our house) and train. His regular train trip home fits nicely with a bus leaving on our route. However, if he leaves work later there is no such coordination between train and bus: if there is a long delay I may drive down to pick him up. And after 6.30pm buses are few. If he has an evening activity in the city, he generally prefers to come home from work, then drive into the city. Otherwise he needs to get a taxi from Porirua Station when coming home.

    I am retired, and will usually use bus/train if I need to go into Wellington during the day (not often). But for local appointments etc it is easier to use the car, to save being too early or late, as the bus runs only hourly. I should add that I do appreciate living so close to a bus stop because there have been periods where I was unable to drive for health reasons, and an hourly bus service is infinitely better than none.

    We appreciate that urban density influences the design of public transport, and bus routes and timetables will never suit everyone. And the increased frequency of trains plus the expansion of parking at Porirua station will have contributed to the number of cars at peak periods. More people parking means a reduction in cars on the motorway etc, though it is possible that population increase has meant no overall reduction.

  • Tom says:

    I can think of 3 reasons off the top of my head:

    1. The bus connections are not great. Everything is at the end of meandering bus route which is labyrinthine to figure out. The routes turn a 7-10 minute drive into a 30-40 minute trip. That adds another hour to the day for using the bus to commute to wellington via the train. And almost guarantee the bus arrives a the train is leaving.

    2. Porirua itself is dispersed. Using the bus to go to Porirua as a destination is not helpful, as Poriura is massively spread out. The key destinations that I would go to – the Mall, The Mega Centre, Bunnings, and the Pool/Library, are not really walk able or usable if one wanted to go to a combination of those.

    3. Ticketing is a hassle. Its hard to pay, and requires planning. Especially for occasional bus users. Apparently there is snapper now? Cool, I don’t have one of those… how does that work? Might be ok for dedicated users, but it a bit of a barrier for one off trips.

  • Andy Foster says:

    Good article.
    Urban Form is probably the most critical transport intervention – because it heavily influences transport choice. I think many of our transport conversations miss the point, and people passionate about transport, seem to not take the opportunities to participate in urban form discussions. For example when we are thinking about LGWM I have repeatedly asked about whether there will be any modelling of various regional urban form layouts. That hasn’t turned up yet.There is a lot of talk about induced traffic demand because of road building. Extra traffic demand could be in part because a road makes driving quicker and therefore more attractive. However I suspect large car dependent subdivisions in areas like Porirua have the potential to add far more cars to the road than the road would ‘induce’ in a steady population and urban form arrangement.

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