'Bus buddies' help ease system change process

Volunteer "bus buddy'' Veronica Eastell speaks to Dunedin bus user Andrea Muggeridge yesterday...
Volunteer "bus buddy'' Veronica Eastell speaks to Dunedin bus user Andrea Muggeridge yesterday.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Five  volunteer "bus buddies'' pitched in to help more than 200 members of the public adapt to big changes in the Dunedin bus system which took effect yesterday.

It was the first day of a new system affecting several routes, with buses switching to simplified, more direct routes intended to make bus travel faster and more attractive.

The current daytime route changes mean about 40% of the city's overall public bus services have switched to faster routes.

The remaining 60% of changes are due to take place early next year.

Bus zones yesterday also shrank from seven to five, and the names ``City'' and surrounding ``Ring'' replace the former zone one and zones two to four, respectively.

Passengers transferring from one bus to another in the same zone, and within half-an-hour, can switch free.

One ``bus buddy'' helper, Veronica Eastell, said many of yesterday's queries from bus users had been about changes to the route numbers.

At one stage some people were waiting near the Octagon for a number 24 bus which would never arrive because that service, to Ocean Grove, had been replaced by the number 3 bus.

Someone else was waiting in vain for a number 40 to Calton Hill, replaced yesterday by the number 5 bus.

And some passengers were confused about the correct procedures for undertaking the free transfer.

Otago Regional Council services manager Gerard Collings was out of town yesterday but understood there had been only a relatively small number of ``teething problems'' with the new system.

Go Cards automatically allowed for free transfer, but bus users should still check their fare receipts to ensure the transfer had registered correctly, he said.

Mornington bus user Clare McQuin appreciated both the presence of ORC student ``ambassadors'' on the buses to explain the new arrangements, and the efforts of the ``buddy'' volunteers.

The bus buddies scheme was organised by bus users support group Bus Go Dunedin.

Group co-president Alex King said many people knew there had been changes to the bus route and free transfer systems, but it had been rewarding to help some people who remained confused by the changes.

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