Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency are investigating fast-tracking some proposed changes to public transport in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa to make the services more attractive.
At a recent Public Transport Committee meeting, councillors examined options presented in a $1 million proposal, with the cost to potentially be spread across the three partners.
The potential fast-tracked improvements include introducing a Papamoa Express Service, a Gold Line Service, and park and ride opportunities in March 2018.
The Gold Line Service will operate hourly from 9.30am to 4pm, or as can be accommodated with bus availability.
It provides access to the Mount Hot Pools and a site-seeing service for cruise passengers.
This is in addition to the extension to the bus lanes between Totara Street and the Tauranga Marina on Hewletts Road, which allows buses to move more easily through the traffic, reducing delays for people who use public transport.
Committee chair Lyall Thurston says the improvements had already been identified as part of the Blueprint programme and were due to start in December 2018, but there is an opportunity to bring some of them forward and give commuters a better choice in how they get around the city.
“Ongoing growth in the region, as well as upcoming construction of the Bay Link project will see people looking for alternative options with less delays,” says Lyall.
“Our approach to public transport is to ensure that it is flexible to be able to adapt to the changing needs of the community and the operating environment – and this potential fast-track is a good example of that approach at work.”
BOPRC have also received the necessary approvals from NZTA to proceed to tender for public transport services in the Western Bay.
The tender specification will enable the introduction of environmentally friendly buses, customer service incentives for drivers, and the ability to implement age-friendly features on the new bus contracts.
“Staff attended a meeting of Tauranga City Council's Disability Advisory Committee and the feedback was invaluable,” says Lyall.
“We are committed to supporting the needs of the Disability sector. We were told we needed to provide urban buses that could accommodate more than one wheelchair and our tender vehicle quality standards will reflect a requirement for at least two wheelchair spaces.”
In September, the contracts for the Schoolhopper services were extended to December 2018 to allow BOPRC and schools and parents to discuss proposed changes to routes and time tables.
Lyall says staff have met with both parents and administrators from each of the impacted schools where this has been requested.
“We hope to provide all schools with timetable information and finalised routes towards the end of Term One next year, with the new service to start January 2019.”