Changes on table in bus talks

Sarah Connolly
Sarah Connolly
The Dunedin City Council and Otago Regional Council will hold a high-level meeting next month to discuss the future of the city's public transport network.

Councillors from both organisations are expected to meet in late March to consider a business case study examining possible changes to the public transport network, council transportation planning manager Sarah Connolly said.

That would include the merits of any change in responsibility for the network from the ORC to the DCC, she said.

In October last year, then-DCC chief executive Paul Orders confirmed work on the study - being prepared by a consultant - was close to completion, and councillors would soon meet to discuss its findings.

The study would compare Dunedin's network with others, in New Zealand and overseas, and examine ways to improve the city's public transport network within existing funding levels.

It would also examine the costs, benefits and problems associated with a city council takeover of the network, as well as possible improvements, he said.

However, Ms Connolly said yesterday it had proven difficult, with local body elections, Christmas holidays and budget meetings, to find a meeting date that suited councillors from both sides.

A workshop was now scheduled for late March, at which councillors from both organisations would be able to receive the report and ask questions, she said.

A report would then be presented to city councillors, most likely at a meeting of the council's infrastructure services committee, and a copy of the study would be made public.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said last year he expected a recommendation for change would follow the completion of the study, as the public had made their views clear in submissions to past annual plan hearings.

''I think it would be fair to say that both councils recognise that it makes as much sense, or more sense, for the city council to be running the public transport system.''

Yesterday, Mr Cull said he had yet to see the report, but the council's intention ''hasn't changed''.

''My take on it would be that there is a will around the council table to progress that,'' he said.

The two councils' executive management teams had already held talks about the network but the ORC has also been making changes to some fares and routes.

Chairman Stephen Woodhead, also speaking in October, said the regional council remained ''open to having discussions about continuing the improvements to public transport in Dunedin''.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Transport costs

All modes of transport are both privately and publicly funded. Often this isn't noticed, except in the case of public transport where any public funding is often criticised and discounted simply by calling it a 'subsidy', a word which has come to mean giving money away for no good purpose and so something no public agency should do. Other people (like me) see public transport as a public good and so a legitimate and worthwhile object of public expenditure.

The DCC construction of a car park could be seen as a 'subsidy' for car users. Similarly, the DCC could have been criticised for 'subsidising' cyclists by constructing bike lanes. Better to drop the loaded word 'subsidy' altogether.

All communities will have to struggle to determine what constitutes a fair balance of private and public funding for various transport modes but it's important to keep in mind that all modes of transport (not just bus services - which here are currently 50% user pays) require some public cost for infrastructure and maintenance to function at all, let alone well.

Paragraph 4

Sorry Diane but it's ideas like you suggest in p4 (of you comment) that would be the exact reason why the council should have no part of it. If your suggestion were that passengers were dropped at the ends of town and left to negotiate the 300 yards that is our main street, under their own steam, I would be more accectable of the idea.

It's already a loss making venture propped up by ratepayers and spending a heap more on facilities as you suggest would not be of any benefit at all.

Strategic capacity for public transport

Regarding city (urban) bus services, the Dunedin City Council has existing proven relevant capabilities that the Regional Council doesn't have and is extremely unlikely to ever have.

DCC has great scale webmaps which could have bus routes and location of bus stops overlaid. The DCC has also got the computer expertise to readily join into the free Googe Maps online journey planner. The current bus timetables omit an enormous amount of useful, even critical, user information. This is hardly surprising since under the present system the contract holders are responsible for providing their individual route timetables. However, users, especially visitors to the city, need an easily understood picture of the whole system which no-one is currrently providing

Further, the DCC has a very effective customer service capability (plus the visitor information centre) which could give timetable information and accept and collate customer feedback or complaints. Complaints are currently supposed to be directed to the service providers/contract holders which is rather like getting the wolves to guard the sheep. Customer feedback is vital network improvement information, far better than any consultants could provide, but is currently pretty much lost.

The DCC could also integrate provision for user-friendly bus transfer stations into its city planing as a strategically important and central part of city infrastructure and transport planning. To prevent ever-increasing inner city congestion, eventually all those various buses routes will have to go out of George St and be replaced by a free central city shuttle. This means passengers will have to wait somewhere, ideally somewhere comfortable, with lockers, toilets etc, to the north and south of the central city.

The Regional Council has no legal powers to do this kind of infrastructure planning even if they wanted to. They are currently so restricted by legislation and limited funding that it is hard to see how they could do much better than they already do.

 

Outrageous prices to match

The structure & pricing of the Dunedin bus services is crazy! What I don't understand is why the ORC has established the same bus passes for both Dunedin and Queenstown - and yet the weekly/daily passes which make Queenstown travel affordable is not available in Dunedin. A quick 2 day trip to Dunedin, where I had to use the buses to get around, ended up costing me more than the $35 week pass available for 7 days in Queenstown. What annoyed me even more was I was using the exact same bus card with the 7 day pass on it! If there were multiple use options available, where it will save commuters then many more people will use it. If a service is not affordable, the community will not utilize it, ending up in a viable service being run into negatives. Queenstown is smart getting both locals & tourists to use a local service such as buses.

Congestion

The bigest cause of city congestion are the buses and councils the world over bend over backwards at any cost to promote buses. Here in Adelaide we have too many buses on the road, three & four lane roads have been reduced to provide bus lanes causing greater congestion, some streets you can see nothing but buses that they actually start to clog their own routes. It is absolutely ridiculous, we have bus stops running parallel with tram stops right through town and during peak traffic the arterial routes are again clogged with buses continual stopping creating flow on congestion as they hold up traffic.

Councils are hell bent on removing cars from the CBD, if this is their objective why don't they just close the roads? Public transport should be to collect passengers from the suburbs then deposit them to train / tram stops outside the CBD to then travel into the CBD, leave the roads free for the public who have paid for them, private traffic flows great during the regular bus strikes so the point has been proven.

They've got to be joking

Any talk of the DCC resuming ownership and responsiblity of the city bus system is a calculated madness. With the ORC handling it the costs are spread further than just to the Dunedin ratepayers. As well, the ORC enjoys the ownership of Port Otago, which produces revenue of substance. You just have to look at how quickly the ORC have digested the $37.5million invested in the Stadium. Waiting for a consultant's report scares me. There is only one consultant with the real experience of our city running a transport system and that is the 'ghost' of Jean McLean.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Mayor Cull doesn't say why the DCC should run the buses in Dunedin. As bad as people think things are now, with the DCC in charge, I think things would be much worse. The DCC has a terrible history of making decisions and running its businesses. They also appear committed to the political/religious ideology of car-hate. This is the reason for all the bicycle worshiping and the continuing removal of car parks. This is also the reason that the DCC should be kept well-away from having any influence on the city's buses. Their car-hating obsession means that the DCC is very likely to increase the subsidies as a way of promoting more bus use if they have the opportunity.

The NZ Deprivation Index includes "People with no access to a car" as a factor in measuring deprivation. Car ownership is a vastly superior transport option compared to buses and bicycles. The DCC knows that this is true because they see the statistics showing that 84% of commuters choose to take the car (2006; including motorcycle, van, truck). Both bicycle and bus use are becoming less popular (1991 to 2006). The DCC councilors and staff should abandon their ideological approach to the city's transport. Their new Transport Strategy needs to be replaced and they need to loose the religious crusader attitude.[Abridged]

Council workshops exclude the public

It will be claimed that these 'workshops' are not 'meetings of the council' so that the requirements of the Local Government Meetings and Official Information Act 1987 can be evaded i.e. the public will be excluded.

If they are not meetings of the council where council business is being discussed then I don't know what they are instead! 

I know that many other councils also hold public- excluded 'workshops' (which make a farce of the fact that the Local Government  Act has a whole section on planning, decision making and accountability) but evasion and trickery is still what this 'workshop' ploy amounts to. Here's an opportunity for the DCC to set a good example to other local bodies. Read more

 

Priorities

Mr Cull states " that it makes as much sense, or more sense, for the city council to be running the public transport system.''

I would have thought it more important that the council retained the running of the water contract but no, it was given to an outfit in Christchurch. I suggest the council has nothing to do with the dead loss that is Dunedin public transport. I will only support the council taking control if they ensure users will pay the full cost of running it.

Otherwise, you can just get that stinking bus out of my way. 

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