Bus overhaul boosts numbers

OREN OAARIKI
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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An overhaul of the Citylink bus service has helped increase the number of Taranaki people who use public transport.

There were 556,000 trips made by commuters using the bus service over the past year, up 12 per cent compared with 497,000 in 2010, when the overhaul occurred.

Changes made then included re-directing bus routes to make them more efficient and implementing a smart card system for payments.

In addition to new routes, improvements have been made to bus shelters in the city and all central New Plymouth bus stops have moved to Ariki St.

Taranaki Regional Council transport services manager Chris Clarke said the increase in trips showed the changes were having a positive impact.

"We're providing and promoting an alternative to cars," Mr Clarke said. "We're now providing services for not only school kids but also the wider population."

The service is funded jointly by ratepayers and the NZ Transport Agency.

Ratepayer funding for the bus services was inflation-linked and had increased 4 per cent over the past three years.

Mr Clarke said any changes would have to be based on a cost-to-value ratio.

"If we increase services then there's is an increase in cost so it's up to the districts' ratepayers if they want a better service.

"It also has to be balanced with national funding from the NZ Transport Agency because they need to see value in any changes that we make."

In 2013 only 22 per cent of bus fares were paid for in cash while the remainder were paid using the smart card system which gave the user significantly cheaper bus fares.

The council rolled out the smart card in 2008 and now had 5200 users registered.

Mr Clarke said the cheaper rates for smart card users was an incentive for customers to reduce cash transactions in order to speed up loading times on buses.

Students, beneficiaries, senior citizens and people with disabilities who did not use the smart card system also received discounts comparable to smart card prices.

The Citylink bus service runs five different routes throughout New Plymouth as well as several once-a-week services to Stratford, Inglewood and an on-demand service to Parihaka Pa.

The Opunake route enabled the Parihaka community access to services along the route through to New Plymouth.

"Our focus for the future is to continue to improve the reliability of our services and improve the quality and accessibility to service information," Mr Clarke said.

Oren Oaariki is a Whitireia Journalism School student

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