Wellington's transit situation

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This page will be updated with photographs and extra information as opportunity permits. To find out how we got to this situation - go to the History page.

Key facts

Regional population: 410,000; growth to 2021: 7%

Wellington City population: 135,000; growth to 2021: 13%

Automobile ownership growth rate: 0.3% pa

Automobile use: 64% of all journeys to work (2001)

Transit use: 14% of all regional journeys to work (2001); 30% of Wellington CBD journeys to work

Transit's role in Wellington

Public transport usage in Wellington is high by 'western' standards. This is partly because the region's geography squeezes all travel into a few narrowly defined corridors which support reasonably fast and frequent rail services, and partly because downtown Wellington City has limited land area, meaning that all-day parking can be difficult and expensive and the main highways into the CBD congest to a standstill during most weekday peaks. At the same time, a large proportion of the region's workforce works in the compact CBD.

For these reasons the region supports an extensive electric rail transit system which would not normally be found in an area of less than half a million population. And the system is planned for expansion and improvement - which is what WELL-TRACK is largely concerned with.

Another trend is that residential growth in central Wellington is very high due to a large volume of apartment construction, while the population of most of the rest of the region with the exception of the Kapiti Coast is static or declining.

Levels of traffic congestion in Wellington are just tolerable, but car use is increasing much faster than population growth. Gridlock for no apparent reason has started to appear, indicating that only a few percent traffic growth would be sufficient to cause a serious congestion situation.


Scheduled public transport services in Wellington are provided by private enterprise, namely:

The railroad track is currently owned by Tranz Rail, the land used is leased by Tranz Rail from the Government (for $1/year), an arrangement that has existed since privatisation in 1993. However, Tranz Rail is in a state for financial crisis and has signed an agreement whereby the Government will take back ownership of the track and lease the use of it to Tranz Rail. The Government has also entered into a similar agreement with an Australian company (Toll Holdings) making a takeover bid for Tranz Rail. Whichever deal prevails, the state ownership of the infrastructure is expected to make improvements to the suburban network considerably easier.

The Kelburn Cable Car and the overhead wire network for the trolleybuses is owned by a company - Wellington Cable Car Limited - which is owned by the Wellington City Council. There is a possibility that the overhead network could be transferred to Stagecoach or the Greater Wellington Regional Council.


Public transport services may be either commercial (provided without subsidy) or contracted (provided with subsidy). The overall farebox recovery is about 70%; the 30% subsidy is partly provided by central Government and partly by the Greater Wellington Regional Council from rates (property taxes). Fares range from $NZ1.00 ($US0.60) any time, for the intensively-used 'Golden Mile' bus corridor in the Wellington CBD, to $5.50 peak / $4.10 ($US3.30/2.46) for the typical rail journey such as to Upper Hutt (20 miles). There are many concessions and monthly passes available for both bus and rail, but no integrated ticketing or inter-mode transfer ticketing arrangements.

Trunk bus services operate 18 hours on weekdays and Saturdays, 15 hours on Sundays. Other bus services may be only weekday or peak periods only. Currently trolleybuses only operate Monday-Friday.

The main electric rail lines operate on a basic half-hourly headway 19 hours a day, 7 days a week, with extras and short workings during the peaks. The Melling Branch operates during peaks only, although this is under review.

Public transport is planned and co-ordinated by the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Passenger information, contract management and quality assurance is provided by the Council department known as Ridewell.

Links to detailed information

Detailed description of Tranz Metro, from tender documentation (pdf, 467 kb)

Greater Wellington Regional Council - Regional economy and regional outlook

Ridewell - details of routes and services

Wellington tourist information

Tranz Metro website

Stagecoach website

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© Brent Efford 15 December 2003