Every time Esther Woodbury catches the bus to work she feels anxious about finding a seat before the driver takes off again. If she falls, she won't be able to get back up on her own.
Woodbury has arthritis and uses an elbow crutch to get around.
A recent review into the Wellington Region's new bus network has raised issues around accessibility, including commuters not vacating seats, audible announcements not working, and poor driver attitudes.
Woodbury considers herself lucky there's a stop right outside her home in Berhampore for a bus that takes her into Wellington's CBD where she works.
The route has kneeling buses, but even when the vehicle is lowered the biggest challenge for Woodbury is getting off and on.
"It's still not easy for me to step onto the bus. I'm often holding a laptop that I have to take back and forward to work, I've got an elbow crutch, I'm trying to hold onto the door rail, it might be raining, which makes it really slippery and dangerous for me", she said.
A post implementation review into the regional experience of Wellington's new bus network has been made public by the Regional Council.
It didn't include Wellington City, which was so disastrous it got its own separate review in advance.
The review collected information from 800 people and found most of them were happy with the network.
But the document stated there was still room for improvement, especially for those with accessibility issues whose experiences of poor transport connections or service frequency was amplified.
Disabled participants also reported school children and adults sometimes showed a lack of respect by taking up specially designated seats and not offering them to those who needed them.
They believed bus drivers should make people move, but ignored the problem.
"Passengers with a disability are unsure whether this is because they have no power to ask people to move or if they really do not care", the review said.
Accessing the bus at several bus stops was also reported to be difficult because they were impeded by "thoughtless" positioning of street furniture like rubbish bins, electricity sub-stations, and telecom boxes.
There were also several complaints that screens and audio announcements were not working on buses, and were sometimes not visible from designated seating.
Participants said bus drivers' attitude and behaviour was variable, which has a large impact on the public transport experience for passengers with disabilities.
"A driver who appears not to care or is grumpy with the passenger increases their anxiety levels, leaves them fearful of falling, and fearful of asking for help."
Tramways Union Wellington secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said he hoped common sense would prevail on board.
"If someone is obviously disabled I think most drivers would accommodate them, having said that there's also the pressure of getting on with the job so there's a bit of a balance."
O'Sullivan said he wouldn't describe it as the drivers job to ensure designated seats were free when needed, but said polite dialogue between parties worked 99 per cent of the time.
Woodbury said most drivers on her route were "lovely" but there were some who she felt got frustrated with her moving slowly.
"I feel like there's a huge time pressure to hurry up and I've only got two hands and I'm using one of them for my crutch, so I feel very rushed to get seated quickly.
"If I fall over, I wouldn't be able to get up again and I could injure myself really badly, so there's a bit of anxiety getting on safely."
Greater Wellington Regional Council Chairman Daran Ponter said a reference group was established after the bustastrophe, which included several people from the disability sector.
"We're keen not to get ourselves into the pickle we've been in in the past where we have been accused of not engaging enough and not engaging across a broader sector of the community as we could have or should have."
He said it was not the role of bus drivers to be the police and access to seating came down to common courtesy.
Ponter said part of the lobbying for light rail on the city's mass rapid transit spine in the $6.4b Let's Get Wellington Moving project related to its accessibility.
It presented users with level boarding, multiple doors and easier riding, he said.
A business case for mass rapid transit is expected to be completed by early next year.
Wellington City Council disability portfolio leader Rebecca Matthews said everyone needed to take responsibility for improving the experience of those with accessibility issues.
"A lot of us need to learn to be aware that people might have a different need from you and be respectful of other users of public transport."