Tauranga’s school bus services are to be stopped at the end of 2014, forcing about 5200 students to find other ways of getting to school.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council senior transport planner Emlyn Hatch fears this will overwhelm the Bay Hopper bus service.
Greater pressure is going to be exerted on the Bay Hopper service when the Ministry of Education withdraws its subsidised school bus service in Tauranga.
He also fears it will worsen traffic congestion with more parents driving their children to school.
These concerns were raised in a report received but not discussed at a Tauranga City Council committee meeting on Monday.
The Ministry of Education has funded school buses in Tauranga since the mid 1980s.
The development of the Bay Hopper service since 2001 has placed most of the city suburbs within 500 metres of a bus stop, making almost every Tauranga student ineligible for any continuing government subsidy.
“The development of the public transport network has enabled the ministry to review its position with respect to providing transport assistance to Tauranga students, particularly given Tauranga is the only remaining large urban area in New Zealand where the ministry is doing so,” says Emlyn.
A preliminary analysis finds there is insufficient capacity in the current bus service to accommodate an additional large proportion of the ineligible students.
The ministry transports about 5200 students per day (equating to 10,400 trips) in and around Tauranga using about 85 buses.
By comparison, the 35 Bay Hopper buses, operating over the council’s 12 routes, carry about 4200 passengers per day.
It is estimated the Bay Hoppers will carry 1.6 million passengers for the 2010/11 year, compared with 2.08 million in the ministry’s school buses.
Withdrawal of school bus services in Tauranga is expected to add about 8000 to
9500 trips onto the road network during the morning peak period.
The total vehicle kilometres on the Tauranga road network is predicted to increase by between 22 per cent and 25 per cent, and total vehicle hours on the network are predicted to increase by between 74 per cent and 91 per cent.
The impact on Tauranga’s roading network is predicted to be particularly significant on State Highway 2, State Highway 29 and at Barkes Corner.
The regional council, which operates the Bay Hopper service, has a memorandum of understanding with the ministry, dating from 2008, stating the school buses will be gone by the end of the 2014 school year.
The regional council has commissioned Latitude Planning Services to prepare a scoping report, a draft of which will be placed before the next public transport subcommittee meeting on July 1 to workshop. It is expected to be referred back to council in August this year.
Until the scoping report is completed, staff will be unable to provide good financial estimates to the council as to what it may cost to grow its current contracted Tauranga bus network to cope with the withdrawal of ministry bus services, but the costs are expected to be substantial.