Higher bus fares a concern

A proposed 25% increase in bus fares would discourage people from taking buses, submitters at yesterday's Otago Regional Council annual plan hearings warned.

With 20,000 students and about 3000 staff, the University of Otago was an important part of the public transport market, university property services director Barry Mackay said.

A recent travel plan investigation had shown the most important issues for the university were bus routes, timetables and connecting students living in residential areas to the university, he said.

However, there were concerns the proposed increase would drive down patronage, because there was not yet a huge cost saving in using a bus as opposed to a car.

A bus commuter pass, something used successfully in other universities throughout the world, would be significantly supported by university students and staff, Mr Mackay said.

How it would operate was unclear, but partnerships between bus transport providers and campuses had become important selling points overseas.

He believed the creation of a central bus stop "hub" on campus would be an advantage, as would bike racks on buses.

Transport Action Group (TAG) representative Justin Pollock said people were already struggling on low incomes so any fare rise would increase isolation for people with disabilities.

While the council was claiming to have 70% of its buses accessible, TAG believed that was not the case as some curb heights were unsuitable and rear loading on to buses was not ideal.

Also, access for people with guide dogs was not always easy and signage and information on buses and shelters was often too small for people to read, he said.


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