30 May 2017

The importance of public transport to the Western Bay of Plenty has become undeniable, evidenced by the sheer number of passionate responses received in reply to the proposed bus network changes for mid-2018.

The public transport engagement process has been open for two weeks and seeks to find out what’s important to the Western Bay of Plenty community. 

Children’s safety, longer operating hours and the need for a more frequent Te Puke bus service have emerged as key themes so far during this process which has received an unprecedented number of responses. 

Of the nearly 1000 individual surveys completed, 60% of responses have been around the proposed public Bayhopper network.  The other 40% of feedback focuses on Schoolhopper.    

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Public Transport Committee Chair Lyall Thurston says it’s important to remember these changes are proposed only and staff will use this information to refine the network plan to present back to the committee for approval in late June.

“All public feedback is of great importance to us and we are hearing the messages around children’s safety and traffic congestion loud and clear,” Says Councillor Thurston.

The proposal to run hourly Bayhopper bus services between Te Puke and Bayfair has received the thumbs up from respondents.

The proposed changes for the Te Puke bus service will see an increase from the current three morning and three afternoon/evening trips between Tauranga/Bayfair and Te Puke and will include a loop of the town to allow passengers to access local shops and services.

Councillor Thurston says these proposed changes are about ensuring there is equity in the services provided for those living in our region.

“More people are living in the outer areas of Tauranga and in the surrounding towns and access to public transport services is limited, we want to make sure that as ratepayers they too have the opportunity to move around using public transport and help contribute to reducing the number of private vehicles on our roads.  

“It is our vision to build a stronger public transport system, that encourages more of our people to use it,” says Councillor Thurston.

Another theme emerging from the Drive Change surveys is the support for increased operating hours.

Under the proposed changes all Bayhopper buses on the Tauranga urban network will run between 6:00am and 7:00pm seven days per week,  providing more weekend travel options for bus users and longer hours to accommodate varying schedules and commitments.

“Results so far show that more people want our weekend services to run later and for weekday and weekend operating times to be consistent,” says Councillor Thurston.

The introduction of a new ticketing system allowing online top up and balance checks has already been confirmed for 2018.  Other features being requested on the new bus features survey at Drive Change include free Wi-Fi, bike racks and more space for prams.

Feedback at Drive Change is open until Tuesday 6 June.