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  • Dan Moskovitz

City Bus Service Blindspots: Ōwhiro Bay Residents Develop Killer Calves

Updated: Apr 30

Note: The Better Busses Ōwhiro Bay co-founders are friends of the author.


Ōwhiro Bay has been abandoned by the bus network, according to a new report. 

During off-peak times, it takes two buses and over 45 minutes to get from Ōwhiro Bay to the city centre. The suburb is disproportionately affected by bus cancellations. Its residents are fed up. Now, they’ve taken matters into their own hands, writing a twenty-thousand-word report to prove their own experience.  

Jack Graham and Arunan Noble are both Ōwhiro Bay residents and, in the spirit of full disclosure, friends of the author. They both live with their parents while studying at VUW. After many years of being disappointed by the bus system, hope was initially raised when Metlink announced incoming improvements at the start of 2024. 

Instead, what they got was a personal insult to Ōwhiro Bay. 

“Before the 2018 bus system reform, Ōwhiro Bay was serviced by the number 4 route, which ran at peak times,” says Graham. 

“It came every 15 minutes, and it was really useful for people who needed to commute to and from Ōwhiro Bay. It was the bee’s knees. It was beloved by everyone.” The number 4 is now back—but not in Ōwhiro Bay. (Re?)launched in 2024, it runs between Strathmore Park and Mairangi. 

“It just felt cold. So I decided to have a look into Ōwhiro Bay’s buses,” says Graham. “I thought I was going to write Metlink a rambly email telling them I hate them, and it turned out there was more in it than I thought.”

Graham got Noble involved, and together they co-founded Better Buses Ōwhiro Bay, where the report is officially published. Together, they wrote 20 thousand words, across 103 pages. Longer than your average rambly email. 

Ōwhiro Bay is currently serviced by the all-day 29 and the on-peak 39. Neither is great; the 29 has several services which terminate before reaching Ōwhiro Bay, while the 39 is far less frequent than the pre-2018 4. But crucially, there just aren’t enough of either bus. 

When compared to similar suburbs of a similar distance from the CBD, Ōwhiro Bay is far below the average number of hourly buses, averaging only 1.58 per hour going each way. This is 57% below the average for comparable suburbs. 

There’s a human cost to such a lack of public transport. 

Arunan Noble, Graham’s co-author, drives into Island Bay to catch the number 1 when he wants to get to uni.

He’s not alone. To get to the hospital at 9am on a Monday morning from Happy Valley Road—Ōwhiro Bay’s main street—Metlink’s fastest suggestions either involve a 25-minute walk from Mount Cook to the Hospital or a 25-minute walk to Island Bay, depending on what side of Happy Valley Road you are on. 

“We have a lot of hospital workers in Ōwhiro Bay, and it’s really hard to get there under the current network,” says Noble. “So often hospital workers here either have to spend an arm and a leg in Newtown to park close to where they work or park elsewhere—sometimes even as far away as Island Bay—and walk.”Graham and Noble’s work wasn’t limited to research; through surveys put on posts in Ōwhiro Bay as well as links on Facebook they also got a sense of the community’s feelings. With 207 responses—9% of Ōwhiro Bay—the survey was a hit.

One question asked survey-takers to rate their satisfaction with the bus network out of 10, mimicking a question Metlink asks in its yearly survey. Ōwhiro Bay’s average was 2.7. The 2023 Wellington average in Metlink’s survey was 6.7. 

To improve this, Graham and Noble have several recommendations, including more frequent and consistent 29s and 39s, and extending every second number 1 Ōwhiro Bay, amongst others. 

The number 1 currently terminates in Island Bay after originating from Wellington’s northern suburbs, however Noble and Graham (conservatively) estimate that such an addition would only add a total of 15 minutes of travel time. 

“The average number of buses in Ōwhiro Bay needs to at the minimum double. The number 29 coming every 30 minutes cannot do that,” said Graham. 

“Having an alternating schedule would provide these services. Mathematically, it works.”

Similar measures are already in place on other Metlink routes; the number 2, which is as high-frequency as the number 1, already alternates between finishing its services in either Seatoun or Miramar. 

Metlink has received Better Buses Ōwhiro Bay’s report, and appreciate the time that went into compiling it,” said Metlink acting group manager Bonnie Parfitt in a statement. 

“We are happy to receive the report as an early submission to the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP), which opens for consultation later this year.

“We always want to hear how our passengers believe services can be improved. Our Public Transport Advisory Group, comprising members of the community, regularly provides advice to the Council from a passenger perspective.”

Graph supplied by Better Buses Ōwhiro Bay. 


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