Surge in demand for buses

EMMA HORSLEY
Last updated 12:00 21/11/2012

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Commuters from Levin are taking to the bus in droves, giving the regional council the unusual headache of how to cope with the numbers.

Bus users from Horowhenua have doubled since 2010 and, at Horizons passenger transport committee meeting yesterday, transport planner Wayne Wallace said there may be a need for a second or larger bus to cope.

The bottom line is also breaking records, with a 60 per cent revenue recovery on the cards. Normally 40 per cent is the standard expected for a profitable service.

"The service is doing an exceptionally good job," Mr Wallace said.

Ideas of how to increase or improve the service were discussed, with suggested options including WiFi and air conditioning.

But committee members said it would be better to focus instead on ensuring the service met people's needs with its timetable, rather than niceties.

Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy said people were using the bus as a cheap alternative to their cars and he didn't think a fare increase to a $14 round trip from Levin to Palmerston North next year would make much difference. Student fares will be introduced in May.

Mr Wallace said introducing a second service would double the seat capacity and also give choice to passengers.

But he said it could mean seat numbers would be low on each service, which would affect costs until word got out.

Tranzit coachlines had suggested the bus leave Levin five minutes earlier in the morning so it could connect with Palmerston North's morning urban services and give greater options for passengers, he said.

"Currently the service arrives a few minutes late for the urban connections, which sometimes has a flow-on effect."

However an extended bus service is not yet on the cards for Palmerston North due to a lack of funding from NZTA.

Horizons Regional Council is $164,547 short of what it needs to provide more city buses, so the night-time bus service some had asked for will have to wait.

However, weekday services will be extended to 7.30pm on urban loops and there will be greater coverage in the city on Saturday.

Summerhill will also get a 40- minute service from the city to cater for commuters.

Committee chairman Vern Chettleburgh described the situation as being at a crossroads. "While we haven't got all we asked for, we have got a lot. We have to be wise about what we do but it's clear the late-night service is not a goer."

Bruce Gordon said the committee needed more money from NZTA and he was worried the committee would try and do more with less money.

"If we want to do that we need to go back to the community and consult and we can't do that until next year."

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- Manawatu Standard

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