A bus in Wellington (Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton)
A bus in Wellington (Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton)

SocietyJuly 23, 2018

All the reasons to be happy about the Wellington bus system shitshow

A bus in Wellington (Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton)
A bus in Wellington (Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton)

What’s that sound? It’s the rumbling of every bus user in Wellington moaning. But Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes is trying to look on the bright side.

A few months back I got a letter encouraging me to give my feedback on some ideas for a new bus system being put in place in Wellington. I use the bus almost every day. So you’d think I would have spent some time looking at that letter and giving my feedback. I did not read it.

A few weeks ago I looked out my window and saw some workers putting up a bus stop. I was excited about this, because I am very lazy. I was quietly pleased that I hadn’t needed to read about the changes.

Last week, I went to catch the bus from town and found that my bus wasn’t on the bus stop list anymore. I looked it up on Metlink and their website told me which bus I needed to get. I climbed on and asked if the bus was heading to my Southern Wellington suburb. The friendly and tired-looking bus driver said she did not know. It’s the right number, I said. But it was true that all the other suburbs on the list weren’t near my suburb. I hopped off as a man in a suit screeched in fury at a pole hosting the phantom bus list.

I eventually found some of my bus buddies from the happy olden days of a month ago and found my bus at a different bus stop. The trip took half the time it did before. I was very happy.

The next day I caught the same bus and it took an hour. But I decided instead of getting annoyed, I’d try to find the benefits of this new system. After all, what right did I have to complain? Had I given feedback? And really, it’s 30 years since they upgraded the system – it was probably time. So here we go, your guide to enjoying the new disaster that is the Wellington bus system:

At least you’re not a bus driver

You think it’s bad being a commuter? Try working 14 hour days on a shitty wage and having assholes yell at you all day as you try to work out how to do your brand new job. Or imagine being a driver for years then being told you’re getting a pay cut and you have to work potentially unsafe hours. Stop your bitching and stand with bus drivers – this is all so much harder for them than it is for you. Be kind to them, say thank you, and stand with them while they strike.

New bus smell

What’s that smell? It’s not the fragrant smell of urine, B.O and feet. The new buses have that great new bus smell. All the seats are clean and so are the windows. What more could you want in a public transport system? Enjoy it while it lasts.

Space glorious space

You can comfortably fit a buggy in the left hand side with the seats up and people can still get past. Oh joy of joys! As someone who has repeatedly had her buggy stuck in the entrance to the aisle of the shitty old buses I absolutely LOVE the new buses. Finally, family friendly buses!

Cheaper buses thanks to complete system failure

Well, this is a short-time-only thing, but possibly due to buses not coming on time or going on the wrong routes, the Snapper system keeps failing. So everyone is getting free rides. Also, kids seem to be free now? Apparently there is a 50% discount for school students, as well as blind and disabled passengers. And a 25% discount will apply to off-peak travellers and full time tertiary students. So far, I have not been charged for my three and five-year-olds.

Waiting for the bus this morning. Photo: Emily Writes

Making new bus buddies through adversity

You’ll make friends easily when you ask the person next to you: “Do you know where the uh 23 E is? Ummm 24 E? Does it go to Southgate?” Complaining brings people together. Nothing unites us like local authority bungling. It is the great leveller. Also, you could be on a bus that usually take 20 minutes for over an hour – you can hear someone’s life story in that time!

You’re going to get fit

You don’t know if a bus is coming in five minutes or an hour, and when it comes you can’t be sure where it will go. So you’re going to need to walk. Chances are you’ll need to walk even if you know what bus you’re getting on because all of the stops have moved. Running in torrential rain and Wellington wind is great exercise.

Kids love it

While almost every adult is losing their mind, kids are losing their shit over the fact that we suddenly have double decker buses in our city. Out of nowhere. My son now begs me to take him on the bus, when before it was easier to get the kids to the dentist than it was to get them on their morning bus. All of the kids on the bus are just so happy, their joy is infectious and you can’t help but feel happy too.

It’s not as cold at bus stops anymore

This is the benefit of having 60 people huddled together waiting for a bus that never seems to come.

This is your chance to not be an asshole

The bus drivers are having a hard time. They’re new to the job and they’re being paid sweet fuck all. So instead of yelling at them and being a dipshit, this is your chance to not be an asshole. Be patient and treat someone who deserves to be paid more than you with kindness. Your beef should be with Greater Wellington Regional Council (but be nice to them too – they’re trying to give us a better public transport system).

The changes have mobilised community action

How quickly you find commonality with your neighbour when you’re both shitty about the same thing. Once the buses have come right you’ll be able to host block parties and petition for more playgrounds and public services. Yay!

You’re no longer a smug confident bus user

I used to feel confident on our bus system and now I have no idea what’s going on. The smugness has gone and been replaced with absolute confusion. Every day is an adventure as I try to figure out how to get home. What a gift from our regional council to put us out of our comfort zones and feel the fear and do it anyway. I mean, if you use public transport it’s generally not for fun and you have no other choice but HEY, let’s keep this column positive aye? Enjoy seeing parts of Wellington you’ve never seen before and never wanted to see before. Enjoy the new compulsory orienteering session you didn’t sign up for.

Everything is fine. It’ll all work out. And if not, well, at least you have good company.

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