Tauranga City Council is looking at investing more money in buses and radically increasing bus services along key routes in order to fight the increasing peak hour traffic congestion.
The council's Transportation Committee is today expected to recommend the council endorse the Western Bay of Plenty Public Transport Blueprint – Programme Business Case (PT Blueprint) as adopted by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Public Transport Committee in February.
The plan involves boosting bus numbers along Cameron Road from the current 16 buses and hour to 26 buses an hour – or a bus every five minutes, by 2018.
The partners in the public transport blueprint; the regional council, NZTA, the district council and city council also want to investigate priority measures for buses - priority at lights, queue jump lanes, shared lanes and clearways for buses.
The proposals could be implemented incrementally, but if full bus lanes were installed, bus travel times along Cameron Road would nearly halve from around 27mins to about 15mins.
Reasons why central city commuters are not using buses at present include the journey time, buses are much slower than cars, and the fact that all day parking in the CBD is cheaper than a return bus fare.
Putting people on the buses will, according to the blueprint, cost the city council about $3.5 million in capital and construction costs for things like bus interchange sites.
The exact measures required and their costs will not be known until investigations triggered by the council adopting the committee recommendation, are completed.
At this stage the total cost estimate for the city council is $3.7 million. About $200,000 is investigation costs and $ 3.5 million capital/construction costs.
About $2.5 million of the $3.5 million will be spent on improving Cameron Road for buses. It's assumed the NZTA will match the council $3.5 million.
The investigations into Cameron Road are already planned for in the City council 2015-25 Long Term Plan (LTP) and are supported through the Network Operating Plan Process. Park and ride investigations for new growth areas will be addressed through structure planning processes for those areas.
The decision also commits the council to reviewing parking supply and pricing policies. While endorsing the Blueprint doesn't formally commit the city council to capital funding, if it doesn't pay up it will probably lose the NZTA 50 per cent and be faced with the full $7m cost estimate.
Committee members were taken through the business case at a public workshop on Friday.