Bus rejig yet to boost patronage

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 06:41 21/01/2014
bus stop
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
UNDERUSED: Despite a revamp of services, ECan is yet to see a rise in passenger numbers.
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POLL: Timaru people are not yet hopping on the bus in significant numbers, in spite of the major overhaul of the routes.

Figures provided to The Herald reveal there were 78,525 Timaru passenger trips from August 1 to December 31 - a 1.1 per cent increase on the same period in 2012.

However, Environment Canterbury southern region transport manager Tony Henderson said it was pleased with customer feedback.

"People are getting used to the new routes, but the feedback has been really positive so far," Mr Henderson said.

"The Timaru link has been a success, it's cut down on travel times for passengers."

In July, ECan launched its first major overhaul of Timaru's bus routes in 20 years.

It replaced Timaru's four previous routes - Gleniti, Grantlea, Marchwiel and South End - with the north, west and south routes, which run on weekdays only, and the Timaru link, which runs on Saturdays as well as weekdays.

ECan received more than 500 submissions on the proposed changes, which took about three years to implement.

"There were some delays due to the Christchurch earthquakes, but this allowed us to refine the routes a bit more, and get more feedback from the public," Mr Henderson said.

He said the 22 per cent passenger number increase for the first month of the new routes was mostly because ECan offered free passenger trips for the first two days of the new service.

"We knew the initial increase was unrealistic, but I think it will get better," Mr Henderson said.

"Timaru's demographics are changing, the ageing population means there is a greater need for public transport."

ECan increased bus fares region-wide in September, but he said this was an "unfortunate coincidence" and nothing to do with the new routes.

"The Government wants 50 per cent of bus services to be paid through fares by 2017. We're sitting about 30 per cent in Timaru, but we're not going to increase the fares again any time soon," he said.

"We do need to pick things up. There could be some new promotions in the new financial year."

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- The Timaru Herald

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