A major overhaul of Timaru's bus routes, including an "orbiter" service, could be running by January. Past Times looks at the beginning of the town's bus services and history of changes to the routes.
Timaru Herald - May 18 1905
The Timaru Motor Bus Company is at least within measurable distance of being registered, as between 1500 and 1600 shares have been applied for. Two brokers had had the matter in hand, but had given up the attempt of disposing of the minimum number of shares (*1500) on which the provisional directors could proceed to allocation. Mr A. C. Thompson decided to try his luck, and in two days succeeded in placing about 300 shares, thus getting over the difficulty. The provisional directors met on Tuesday, and authorised the secretary, Mr C. W. Raymond, to register the company. It is desired, however, to get off sufficient shares to cover the cost of two buses (which will run into about £1200 each), and in order that the company may make a start clear of debt, it is hoped that another 1000 shares will be taken up by the public.
Geraldine Guardian - January 14 1904
Timaru is about to have a motor bus running in its streets, Mr A. C. Thompson during his recent visit to Scotland having purchased a Sterling Car at a cost of £1000. The car will hold 16 persons. The expert Mr Thompson engaged to drive the bus reached Timaru last week, and the car is expected in a few days.
Timaru Herald - October 30 1907
MOTOR BUS COMPANY
The annual general meeting of the Timaru Motor Omnibus Company was held in the Sophia Street Hall last evening, Mr James Craigie, chairman of directors, occupying the chair. The attendance was small, only about a dozen persons being present.
The report and balance-sheet were on the proposal of Mr J. P. Newman taken as read.
The director's report regretted that the balance-sheet showed a considerable deficit. They expected some loss at the inception of the undertaking, but a series of unforseen breakages had unduly swollen the expenditure. The buses were very well patronised during the summer, but in the cold season it was deemed advisable to run but one. The number of passengers carried was 76,741, so that the buses were evidently filling a requirement of the town, and, incidentally, there was no doubt that the value of suburban sections had considerably increased as a result. A very considerable rise in the price of petrol (the cost now being nearly double what it was 18 months ago) had been a source of anxiety, and any further rise would compel them at any hazard to seek power elsewhere. Fifteen per cent had been written off plant, and 20 per cent off preliminary expenses. Regret was recorded for the loss of Mr W. Gunn from the directorate.
Star - July 24 1982
Promotion of buses explained
Cut-price fares, free scenic trips and displays featuring buses are part of a scheme to encourage patrons to support Timaru's sagging bus services.
It is estimated that the service will be run at a loss of $278,000 this year.
A special promotion to be held during the August school holidays was outlined to the Timaru City Council's trading undertakings committee.
The council's transport manager (Mr B. J. D. Stringer) said advertising would cover much of the cost of the promotion estimated at $3000.
The amount included local revenue of $2200 if fares are reduced to 20c for adults and 10c for children.
He said many other promotional ideas would be reported to the council in due course.
South Canterbury Museum
The decade before the First World War saw municipal bodies becoming increasingly involved in producing services other than the basic wants of roads, water and light. Many embraced public transport. "Municipalisation" was a cry not to be ignored by local body politicians.
Timaru had a motor-bus service, begun by the Timaru Bus Company in 1906. Roads were rough, hard, dusty and rutted in summer, and muddy in winter, so the bus company had great difficulty in keeping its vehicles serviceable.
In 1913 the Borough Council went in to the bus business. It bought two double-decker buses, then a third, becoming the first municipality in the country to own such vehicles. The main routes were to North Street, Highfield and Waima-taitai. Revenue on the town routes was supplemented by charters for sports clubs and picnic groups.
Timaru Herald - August 16 1906
Shortly after 2pm yesterday a trial run was made with the two newly imported motor buses, when a party of half a dozen people made the trip. The route taken was from Latter street, where the cars are temporarily housed, to Wai-iti road vis North street and Otipua road, and then to main North road; then right through Stafford street, and finally to where they started from. This route, of considerably more than five miles, included typical Timaru grades of every description, and was covered in about half an hour, actual travelling time.
The machines have four adjustable gearings and on none of the grades manipulated was it necessary to use the lowest gear; and in this respect the result of the trial was held to be satisfactory.
Today the car will be used on other roads, and in all probability it may be found taking passengers to the Athletic Grounds. If it is used for this purpose the starting point will be the Bank of New Zealand corner, but the route has not as yet been determined upon, as Church street was not visited yesterday.
- The Timaru Herald