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'Bad taste': Union boss rebuked in stoush over bus stop announcements

Publish Date
Fri, 17 May 2024, 9:45am
Announcements on Wellington buses alert passengers as to which stop is coming up. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Announcements on Wellington buses alert passengers as to which stop is coming up. Photo / Mark Mitchell

'Bad taste': Union boss rebuked in stoush over bus stop announcements

Publish Date
Fri, 17 May 2024, 9:45am

A union boss has been rebuked for going into a bus depot without permission amid a stoush over on-bus announcements. 

On Sunday night, Wellington Tramsway Union secretary Kevin O’Sullivan entered the Kilbirnie bus depot and put almost 2000 leaflets on bus seats. 

The leaflets asked passengers to call the Greater Wellington Regional Council if they thought the announcements, which alert travellers to which stops are coming up next, were “excessively loud and distracting”. 

He included a phone number belonging to transport chair Thomas Nash, who said he received more than 40 calls and text messages as a result, starting from about 6.30am. 

Passenger Tessa Moxey, who found the leaflet on her seat on Monday morning, thought it was in bad taste. 

“At first, I was a little bit sympathetic, and then after that I felt a little bit angry because the request sounded a bit ridiculous that we, as the public, needed to call in to get the volume to be lowered even though there was probably quite a good reason that the announcement was on the bus,” she said. 

On Tuesday, Nash wrote a letter to the Wellington Tramsway Union, co-signed by Blind Citizens NZ, which strongly backed the announcements. 

“It is totally normal and standard practice to have on-board announcements on buses,” he said. 

“It is an absolutely essential feature of an accessible public transport network, and I am 100 per cent committed, and the council is 100 per cent committed to making sure our public transport network - our buses, our trains, our ferries - are accessible for everybody. 

“We haven’t got there yet, but this is a step. 

“These on-board announcements are a step that is extremely important to getting closer to making our public transport the accessible network we want. 

“Accessibility is not merely a matter of convenience; it is a fundamental right.” 

Thomas Bryan, from Blind Citizens NZ, said blind people were dependent on the announcements to tell them when to get off the bus. 

“When you are on a bus, and it is full of passengers, and people are talking on their phones, or they are having conversations, and all of the drivers have the payment system, the heating system turned up full bore, you need to have a reasonable volume otherwise you can’t hear it. And if you can’t hear it, what is the point of having it?” he said. 

On Tuesday, bus operator Kinetic sent O’Sullivan an email which said he had entered the Kilbirnie barn area without permission, did not sign in, was not there to visit any members and had littered its bus fleet. 

“This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable,” general manager Ken Pearson told RNZ. 

He told O’Sullivan he had never refused access when requested, but O’Sullivan had placed himself at risk of injury and created cost to Kinetic by having to remove the litter he placed. 

Pearson said he would take action if it happened again. 

But O’Sullivan stood by his actions. 

“The whole world is going mad just because I went into the barn on Sunday night and put 1800 copies of those leaflets on every bus,” he said. 

“I thought the message was pretty good actually. 

“But the bus company had gone completely ballistic and threatened me with eternal damnation because I entered into the depot without telling anyone and so on.” 

O’Sullivan said he had driven buses for 45 years. 

“Blind people have been navigating their way around Wellington quite successfully without all this stuff. 

“But if the council want to put it in, it’s their prerogative, they just need to take into consideration other factors.” 

Nash said there had been extensive consultation with companies and drivers about the announcement system since 2019. 

“Prior to the system’s rollout, thorough testing was undertaken, and feedback was sought to ensure the volume was set to an appropriate level for both passengers and driver comfort,” he said. 

“Since then, we’ve made further adjustments including switching off the speaker above the driver’s seat and reducing the length of some messages from the announcements, like points of interest on routes, to reduce the amount of spoken text. 

“A decibel meter was also used to calibrate the announcements for each bus type and the volume adjusted for the different noise levels at peak and off-peak times.” 

- Pretoria Gordon, RNZ 

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