Early days for new bus services

Support for the Otago Regional Council's new bus services is growing slowly, Cr Michael Deaker says.

Since November, the council has been implementing a range of new bus services - commuter runs, express and loop Mosgiel services, a Concord to University of Otago run and a campus circuit - as well as the GoCard integrated ticketing service.

A report to last week's policy and resource planning committee showed 8306 GoCards had been issued, with card-holders taking 42% of total trips made. Most (56%) trips were still paid for with cash.

Passengers made 372,650 trips on council-contracted routes in the three months since the GoCard's inception, but it was impossible to determine whether that represented a real increase in bus-users, the report said.

The new Concord-Kaikorai Valley-University route had been well patronised during the first month and was exceeding expectations, but numbers using the established Kenmure-Belleknowes run had declined slightly.

Mosgiel's loop service was also proving popular, especially between noon and 2pm, as was the recently-introduced campus circuit, where the number of passenger trips almost doubled from week one to week two, from 278 to 546.

However, numbers on that service needed to increase so staff were monitoring patronage fortnightly, it said.

The report suggested a lack of awareness was ‘‘likely to be impeding further patronage growth'' and suggested a marketing programme and greater availability of timetable information was needed. Those measures had been included for consultation in the annual plan.

Modelling indicated changes to frequency, routes and fare levels could generate a 75% increase in bus patronage with at least a 40% increase in commuter trips by bus.

‘‘For people to make the change in their daily travel decisions concrete, suitable alternatives must be available each time they want to travel. And people need to be aware of those alternatives.''

Cr Deaker said while there was a lack of data, early indications on the new services were positive ‘‘enough to feel at least some optimism''.

The council had made a major investment in services that people in general were looking for, so whether the system flew or not was in the hands of Dunedin's 130,000 residents.

‘‘Indications are it is fluttering its wings, not soaring yet.''

While people were buying GoCards, they also needed to put their ‘‘bottom on seats'' and there were ‘‘heaps of good reasons to do that'', he said.

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