A healthy future for Wellington’s bus fleet

The Future of Wellington’s Bus Fleet is a new Centre for Sustainable Cities policy paper by Lucia Sobiecki and Ralph Chapman. It looks at a strategy for upgrading Wellington’s buses that is economical, environmentally sustainable, and healthy for people.

The future of Wellington’s bus fleet: The environmental and health implications of different upgrade options for Wellington’s bus fleet (pdf)

L Sobiecki, R Chapman
NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities policy paper
Victoria University of Wellington and New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities
May 2016


The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) aims to increase public transport patronage in Wellington, including through introducing a new bus network and Bus Rapid Transit in Wellington city and upgrading its bus fleet. The type of bus used will influence Wellington’s greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and noise levels, affecting the desirability of the city for living and working.

This report looks briefly at strategies and clean technologies adopted by leading international cities with ambitious plans to clean up their bus fleets. It then examines in some detail the range of technologies that could be used in Wellington – modern diesel, biofuel, hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, trolley and battery electric buses. The aim is to be very clear about the environmental and health implications of these technologies. There is a strong health and environmental case for Wellington to have a fully electric fleet in the future.

GWRC does not have a target date for Wellington’s bus fleet being fully electric. Of particular concern are plans to replace the oldest diesel buses and electric trolley buses with modern diesel buses, with the exception of 10 hybrid diesel-electric buses.  This could seriously affect Wellington’s air quality and climate mitigation targets.

This paper explores more ambitious strategies that GWRC is considering –  for example, using hybrid buses as replacements or trialing battery electric buses to adopt as soon as possible. Any transport strategy for a liveable, sustainable and progressive city needs to consider the impact of its bus fleet on the modern urban economy, on public health and on the environment.

A study funded by MBIE through the Resilient Urban Futures research programme, this report was presented to the Sustainable Transport Committee of GWRC on 11 May 2016.