Free central-city bus loop and subsidised fares win support

Cr Aaron Hawkins
Cr Aaron Hawkins
Plans to progress a central-city bus loop, and the use of rates to subsidise fares across the city, have won support from most Dunedin city councillors.

Councillors at yesterday's annual plan deliberations voted to support a trial of a free, low-carbon central-city bus loop service.

They also backed using rates to offset bus fares across the wider network, and including $150,000 in the 2019-20 budget to progress both initiatives.

The vote came after council transport group manager Richard Saunders told the meeting he was keen to see the 12-month trial of the bus loop begin ''as soon as practical''.

Both pieces of work would also feed into the Otago Regional Council's wider review of its Regional Public Transport Plan, and progress reports on the initiatives would come to next year's DCC annual plan hearings.

Cr Aaron Hawkins pushed the initiatives, arguing bus fares were still too expensive and ''out of reach'' for many residents and a rates subsidy had public support.

The initiatives would also help ease the pressures of peak traffic and parking demands in the city, while lowering the city's carbon footprint as its population grew.

Other councillors to back the initiatives included Cr Christine Garey, who said the loop service was a missing ''piece of the puzzle'' needed to encourage people out of their cars and respond to climate change concerns.

Cr David Benson-Pope said central-city traffic patterns were already changing, and more disruption was on the way as major projects loomed.

New transport options were needed, and the trial loop service would be ''hugely supported'', he predicted.

Cr Lee Vandervis opposed the ideas, arguing the continuing evolution of personal electric vehicles options - from scooters to cars - meant buses were increasingly a ''dinosaur'' transport option.

Cr Marie Laufiso disagreed, saying people who could not afford a bus fare would never be able to afford an electric vehicle, and the council needed to show leadership.

Cr Andrew Whiley supported the bus loop, but opposed a rates subsidy for fares while technology for customers lagged behind public demand, while Cr Mike Lord argued a rates subsidy would be unfair on rural residents.

That drew a scornful response from Cr Hawkins, who said a failure to introduce the systemic changes needed to move the city on to a low-carbon track would amount to ''intergenerational theft''.

Councillors voted 10-3 to support the initiatives, opposed only by Crs Vandervis, Lord and Whiley.

Comments

This is refreshing! Dunedin is progressing, starting to look more in line with most other modern cities! To see buses move form being mostly empty to actually having passengers will be a welcome sight. I agree, the majority of those who struggle with meeting bus fares and are not using buses, are not driving electric vehicles or transporting families/elderly around on scooters! This may also attract those Into the cbd for shopping etc who otherwise don’t so to avoid lack of parking over one hour slots and/or expensive parking meter fees. Free City loop is fantastic. The other general fares will need to decrease by at least 50% for this to have a significant impact so please don’t half heartedly approach this! Listen to the target group re fees!!!