Swipe cards could give bus service a big boost

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 25/07/2014

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Electronic swipe cards could become the norm for Nelson's public bus service, but passengers will have to wait until 2016 for the technology upgrade.

The Nelson City Council's works and infrastructure committee decided yesterday to join with other regional councils to try to secure funding and share the costs for a new swipe card system.

Otago, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Invercargill are already on board to jointly buy the system, and the NZ Transport Agency is working with them on the project.

While bus services in larger urban areas already have swipe card technology, it was thought to be too expensive for smaller areas, but provincial councils are asking the NZTA to help.

The agency will most likely act on behalf of them to obtain the new technology, with the cost shared between interested councils.

It is expected that the new system will increase the use of bus services, as passengers will not have to worry about keeping their paper tickets, finding the right change or queuing.

The system uses stored value cards that can be loaded for travel by a customer and swiped when he or she enters and exits the bus.

The new system will cost $147,234 over three years, 58 per cent of which could be covered by the NZTA, reducing the cost to the Nelson council to $61,000, with an ongoing annual cost of $50,000, funded 50-50 by the council and the agency.

The new system will also help to record details of how the bus service is used. This information will be collected by the NZTA to make sure the service is meeting its requirements to keep its $151,000 annual subsidy.

"Across New Zealand, it is recognised that manual ticketing systems, like that used by Nbus, are nearing the end of their technological life cycle," said the council's operations manager, Shane Davies, in his report to the committee.

Councillor Brian McGurk queried whether the swipe cards would be able to be used on different bus services throughout the country, to make it easier for visitors from Christchurch or Wellington to use Nelson's service.

Council staff said the finer details about the type of system had not been sorted out, but they would seek advice to answer McGurk's question.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said the council's recovery from fares for costs was too high compared to other cities. Nelson's was set at 80 per cent, while others were set at 50 per cent.

She said this needed to be reduced, and the NZTA needed to share the cost of running the system more.

Committee chairman Eric Davy said the Tasman District Council needed to come to the table with more funding for the Nbus service, which serves residents in both Richmond and Nelson. He said Tasman contributed only $10,000 to the $535,000 annual cost of running the service.

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- The Nelson Mail

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