Huge increase in Otago residents taking the bus

The wheels on the buses keep going round and round in the Otago region.

Between July and September this year more than 850,000 passengers took the bus in Dunedin, Otago Regional Council figures show.

This was a 31% rise in passenger numbers compared with the same period pre-Covid.

It was a similar story in Queenstown, where passenger numbers rose 32% on the same period pre-Covid to more than 454,000.

The figures look just as rosy when compared with the corresponding period last year, Dunedin recording a 28% increase and Queenstown up 57%. Full timetables were reintroduced to the resort town in June this year.

The overall percentage gains for the Otago region compared with the same period last year were 36.5% , nearly double the national average of 19.7% and ahead of all regions barring Nelson-Tasman.

ORC public transport committee co-chairman Cr Andrew Noone said people were finally getting over the Covid-19 hangover.

"Covid-19 really made things difficult, but I think generally speaking, there has been a gradual culture shift," he said.

The increasing cost of petrol, difficulties in finding parking spaces in town and a greater concern for the environment were among the reasons more people were hopping on the buses, Cr Noone said.

"But the main reason is down to the improved service.

"We’ve got the buses running well again, and the Mosgiel to city services, which came in September, have been absolutely chocker," he said.

Over the past couple of years, the council had noticed an "incremental shift" in attitudes towards public transport, Cr Noone said.

"There will always be a love affair with the car, but I think we’re on the right trajectory."

He would like to see similar increases over the next few months, Cr Noone said.

ORC patronage data showed additional trips on the Mosgiel to city services introduced in early September generated a 30% increase in bus patronage on some days.

The improvements, part of the Shaping Future Dunedin Strategy, included three morning express Mosgiel to city services and six afternoon express city to Mosgiel services, as well as seven additional all-stop services across morning and afternoon peaks.