City bus revamp proposed

Kings and Queens High School pupils board school buses in Bayview Rd, yesterday afternoon. Photo by Rebecca Fox.
Kings and Queens High School pupils board school buses in Bayview Rd, yesterday afternoon. Photo by Rebecca Fox.
Ambitious and wide-ranging changes are proposed for Dunedin bus services. Reporter David Loughrey outlines key elements of the draft Otago regional public transport plan.

Dunedin's bus service is set for sweeping changes that may lead to faster and more direct routes away from smaller residential streets.

The draft Otago regional public transport plan includes a central-city hub for a system set to cost more than $100 million in the next decade.

The changes will mean in Mosgiel, for instance, 15 different routes will be merged into just one.

Across the city, a seven-zone fare structure could be cut to three zones.

The plan has been developed this year by the Otago Regional Council, along with the Dunedin City Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Queenstown Lakes District Council and bus companies.

The draft plan covers the Otago area, but the bulk of the changes are in Dunedin.

That includes a new ''rapid network'' alongside the more regular network.

The rapid network will cover the central city, Dunedin and Wakari hospitals, the tertiary precinct, stadium and Botanic Garden.

The plan is expected to go out for public consultation this week.

It has attracted mostly positive reactions from companies and a bus users support group.

But the regional council says the changes will mean some people will have to walk further to their nearest bus stop.

And it plans to cut its eight school bus routes, though the new system is expected to be able to deliver pupils to their schools.

The change does not affect school bus routes run by other agencies.

The regional council has managed the city's public transport system since 1989, but is involved in discussions with the city council to hand over control.

Under government legislation, the regional council was required to put the plan together, so it could tender for new or replacement services.

Several contracts with bus companies expire in June next year and in June 2016.

The plan noted ''many shortcomings'' of the Dunedin network, which was ''extremely complex'' and slow.

One aspect of the draft plan was a central hub for all services. That would reduce the number of buses in the central city at any one time.

Mr Collings said the council was ''exploring options'' for a site, a discussion that would be held with the city council.

There were options, but he said it was too early to identify them.

The hub could include buildings, or be as simple as a bus stop area on the street.

The idea was to allow people to transfer from bus to bus.

Another aspect of the plan was using main roads more and residential streets less.

Mosgiel patrons would have to use a link service to get to the one route that would service the township.

Council support services manager Gerard Collings said people would have to decide on the effect of the proposed changes.

He said the purpose of the plan was to reduce the reliance on public subsidies for the system.

It was well known more direct services were used more often.

''It may mean some people have to walk a little bit further,'' he said.

But there would be more certainty about where the bus would go and travel times would be ''a lot better''.

Bus Go Dunedin chairman Peter Dowden said his bus users support group agreed routes should usually follow main roads rather than back streets.

''However, there will be some hardship, and Bus Go Dunedin will be vociferous in supporting any people who would end up isolated far from bus routes by this suggested change.''

Ritchies Otago regional manager Malcolm Budd said the changes would mean the same operator would run a route days, nights and weekends, rather than the old system where a route could be shared by two operators.

That had meant enticements like family passes could not be introduced, as they may not be honoured by another company.

The company was ''in full support'' of the plan.

The plan will go before the ORC tomorrow, with a recommendation it be endorsed for public consultation.


Dunedin bus patronage

2013-14              1,080,510 trips

2012-13              1,078,633 trips

Two service providers: Go Bus (formerly Dunedin Passenger Transport and Citibus) and Ritchies Transport.

North End parking

And further to my previous post, if it was up to me, all hospital services would be relocated to Wakari hospital with maybe the exception of a small E.D in the city.

Parking problems for all, including hospital visitors, would then be solved. 

Lack of North End parking

I will agree with you on that Lily. Why is there a lack? It's because University and hospital staff are using a lot of them. I know many that work at both of them and the museum and none travel there by bus. I worked for years in the central city and always drove to behind the railway station and walked in from there.

One thing I will guarantee you is that any increase in the price of the  already over expensive bus service will be directly related to a loss in patronage.

Like I have stated, to reduce congestion in the city and have people utilise the bus service, we will need have a reason to do so. Any more than a buck to get on will result in most of us lazy motorists continue to take the car. Thats the reality of it. Just saying.

If the cost issue is not addressed, it will be just another lemon following close behind the stadium and cycle lane fiascoes. 

Excited for change

Many people drive to town and park so they can go to work. The two largest employers - the university and the hospital - are within a block of each other. There is no way there can be enough parks in that area. The main reason I don't take the bus is that the timetables are so ridiculous. Why would there be 3 buses on different routes passing through a stop within 5 minutes of each other, nothing for an hour, then three buses again? I am really excited to see the bus system refined. I have no idea why people assume the pricing won't change. The article clearly states 7 zones will be reduced to maybe 3. This whole plan is really fantastic and it will get more people using the bus, even if it's not free, because it will be easy and worth it!


And i stand by my comment that most won't use the bus system unless there is a benifit to the user. And for most, the inconvenience of it takes away any benefit until the financial side of things comes into play. For sure, there are minorities as you mentioned that actually have no choice or does fit in with their agenda. For most, it doesn't.

If I was planning a $100 million spend on public transport, I would want it utilised. If the fares are increased to offset the spend, fewer will use it. Patronage is trending down- see the article. How do you justify that huge spend with declining figures?

Maybe i am a bus hater - the only place I like to see one is in the rear view mirror. Being brutally honest, I'd be happy to see them all gone off the roads. Having said that, if it was a free service, most likely i would use it. You need to face the two main reasons that most don't use it and they are inconvenience and cost. Another thing you seem to forget is that Dunedin is a small place and it only takes most a short time to walk the trip to town. Surely, if your a bus user, you would prefer it to be free?

Last but not least, parking. I wouldn't know the cost of parking as I refuse to pay for it. I usually spend online, saving that cost and time and the frustration and anger at some moron damaging my vehicle. On the odd time I do have to go to town, i will take a motorcycle as parking is free or, if that's not a option, I will take car in early in the morning, park on a meter, run in and run out again and pay nothing. 

It's you that missed the point

Speedfreak - you said " What I was saying was that most will not use a bus service unless there is a good reason to do so" and I provided a list of what other people, including myself, consider to be good reasons. Just because your opinion is different doesn't mean other people's are wrong.
I think what you are saying is that you would only use the bus service if it was free - but then you have made a generalised statement applying that to the rest of the population. The "answers" to my points are also not broadly applicable. For example, not everyone can ride a motorcycle or feels comfortable doing so (my 86 year old grandmother?).
I used to really enjoy a hassle-free road rage free ride to work on the bus knowing I didn't have to worry about parking. And clearly, not everyone is in a postion to own a dog or have a hobby collecting vehicles. I also notice that people with vision-impairment, physical or mental disability, or taking medications were omitted from your explanation. As I stated before, but obviously not clearly enough, there are many small and large, grid and otherwise, cities in the world with excellent utilisation of their public transport. 

*Note - Dunedin street parking is some of the most expensive in NZ. Check ODT article comparing it when the new charges were implemented.

Missed the point

Lily: You missed my point, completely. What i was saying was that most will not use a bus service unless there is a good reason to do so. Making it a financial decision would be the only reason most of us would be interested utalising it.

To answer a few of your points:

- Enviromental reasons: Obviously, you have never been stuck behind one at 20kmh and struggling to get up the hill. Sometimes you struggle to view the rear of the bus for the cloud coming out the back. And still bitter re no leaded petrol anymore.
- Parking: It's going to be harder if cyclists get their way. Best you get a motorbike as parking is free and easy to find.
- Nice to be driven? Don't agree with that one either. Most drivers here are just awful. I feel safer whem im doing it myself.
- Excercise: Got a dog. Enough said.

It's nothing to do with my many vehicles. That's my hobby. You can't compare Dunedin with Christchurch as the latter is a lot larger, a lot more people and better set out street-wise. Most likely, its a lot more expensive for central city all day parking too. The only way to get people to use it is to make it free as  otherwise, most won't because of the inconvenience of it all.

How much is a bus service worth?

The article said the cost was to be $102 million over ten years, that is $10,200,000 per year.  It also reported number of bus trips in 2013/2014 to be 1,080,000. So every time someone gets on a bus it costs someone somewhere  $9.44!

There must be a point when the cost of subsidy outweighs the benefit provided to a small number of people.

Again the issue is too few people, or rather users, to pay the requisite amount in order for the operation to be sustainable.  Just like aeroplanes, just like empty shops, empty offices, empty industrial buildings there are too few paying people to fill them.

Sober up Dunedin.  Our plight is not the bus service, it is lack of new enterprise and the inertia that a fading economy exhibits.

Many reasons for public transport

Speedfreak - many people use public transport for other reasons, such as environmental considerations, avoiding the search for a car park and the cost of parking, avoiding the frustration of driving (it's nice to sit back and be driven) and the exercise at either end of the ride. You are also forgetting all the people who cannot drive - either they are not of age, cannot afford a reliable vehicle and the costs of maintaining it, are visually impaired or have some of other kind of disability. Not everyone has the (extreme) luxury of 5 vehicles to choose from. 

There are many cities in the world where people pay to travel on public transport and it is very successful. Christchurch was one - everyone used to take the bus there, it was totally normal and the 'cool' thing to do (pre-EQ).

You want it used? It will need to be free

I have lived in my current house for ten years. It has a bus stop at the gate. I havn't been on a bus since 1988 and why would I when i have the choice of 1 of 2 motorcycles, 1 of 2 cars or my ute?

If it was free, I may consider getting on one but would have to take into consideration my destination and the inconvenience of it all.

Like I've said before, you want to reduce congestion in the city and get people to patronise a bus service. It needs to be free.

Dont you just love...

How people throw out figures like "$100 million in the next decade" like it was nothing? $10 million a year! All that and no mention of upgrading the fleet? The buses we ride here are giant poluting dinosaurs. I propose we give a few unemployed people here a chance and replace the "Management" with them. Get it done for a total cost of $5 million. We need fresh blood. Heck, we could even advertise the positions here in Dunedin not overseas like for those in the DVML. I know! Mind blowing stuff!

Overly expensive

The Dunedin bus service is not going to improve or be used by more passengers unless the costs are lower. There is absolutely no reason why the Dunedin bus system does not use the weekly pass option ($37 per week, unlimited rides) like Queenstown - especially where bus towns use the exact same Go card.

It cost me more to travel on the bus in Dunedin for a day than it did for a week in LA.


Cost is horrendous

The Bus service is fast becoming a luxury it appears.  My daughter has a part time job and has to get from Mosgiel to Port Chalmers.  That is $22 a day.  Whats the point in working??

Its about time we actually had a "service".


Welcome to the new milennium, Dunedin! 

Have been desperate for a progressive bus system ever since I went to Christchurch about 10 years ago. The best thing I saw on that holiday was the Bus Exchange - amazing compared to what we had here. How sad is that? 

Bus fares

The biggest problem with the bus service in Dunedin is the outrageous prices. I live in Broad Bay and it costs me far less to drive my car than to catch the bus. This means the majority of people that use the bus are forced to because they have no transport of their own. Why does the council have no problems throwing money at a stupid stadium that rarley gets used when they could improve the quality of life for the whole city by subsidising the buses so they are affordable? Spending more to ride a bus than to drive my own car is frankly unbelievable.
Why not do something to make our city more liveable like free buses, which would have the effect of getting people out of their cars, make us attractive to outside business groups and put Dunedin on the map as a progressive city and not some out of touch idealess place? After the stadium I half expect some jackass to want to waste money on a convention centre next. We are better than that, and bus fares that are higher than driving your own car are outrageous.

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