Bus users rush to respond to survey

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 01/08/2014

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More frequent bus services on existing Palmerston North routes is the early leader in feedback on Horizons Regional Council proposals to improve the city's public transport system.

Two weeks into a consultation phase, 264 people have already filled in questionnaires, a response rate that has delighted passenger transport committee chairwoman Rachel Keedwell. Already, more feedback forms have been printed to keep up with demand.

So far, the favourite preferred by three out of 10 people was the enhanced status quo.

That option retains the current routes but with increased frequency, extended hours, late nights and better weekend services.

The second favourite, a few responses behind, was to retain the current service.

In third place is Lollipop A, a system of direct routes from the centre of the city to the edges. Buses would travel in the same direction every time around a small loop at the outer end of the routes.

It would be complemented by services to and from Ashhurst and Longburn, a service running between Palmerston North Hospital, the city centre and Massey University, and an circular route around the airport, hospital, Massey and several schools.

Among people voting with tokens at the Main St terminal, the grid system was an early favourite.

The most expensive option, it would provide high frequency services criss-crossing the city, allowing people to get from one location to another without having to detour through the centre of town. Keedwell said early indications were that regular bus users familiar with the system wanted to avoid significant change.

But she was particularly interested to know what would encourage people who did not use the buses at the moment to become regular passengers.

Transport manager Phil Hindrup said it was challenging for new users to understand the current routes, particularly with buses alternating the direction of their inbound and outbound travel. It made it hard for casual users to be sure which side of the street to wait on.

Keedwell said she saw improved public transport providing benefits at both individual and community levels. Encouraging more people out of cars and on to buses would reduce carbon emissions, reduce wear and tear on roads, and would fit with the city council's goals to get more people to consider walking, biking or catching the bus to work.

The improvements would cost more, with the highest frequency grid system, so far the least popular, likely to add about $200 to each ratepayer's bill.

But the benefit would be that households would be able to get rid of their cars, or at least one of them, and would save on registration and vehicle running costs.

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Consultation continues until Monday, September 1.

- Manawatu Standard

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