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Commuters packed Dunedin buses yesterday to take advantage of a free day of travel.
My first bus of the day, the No63 bus from Balaclava to Logan Park, rolled down High St 10 minutes late yesterday morning but commuters were not concerned.
We all had a free ticket to ride, and that, coupled with the smell of a new bus with comfy seats, a smiley driver and a blue-sky Dunedin day, showed communal travel was not only easy, but kind of fun.
Some commuters had to stand up on that first ride.
A group of Logan Park High School pupils offered the soundtrack for the journey, exchanging gossip in a way teenagers do best.
The driver farewelled everyone when they left the bus, appearing to delight in the fact he had given so many people a free start to their day.
On a bus travelling along George St, Kerry Horsnell accompanied her grandchildren Mikayla and Lucas on their first bus ride.
The free ride was an opportunity for Ms Horsnell, who did not normally use the bus, to take the children out for a fluffy.
The ride was "great" but she would probably still not use the bus often, she said.
Bus driver Ernie Cook, who was on a day off, was in a passenger seat on a bus to South Dunedin.
Like everyone else on the bus, Mr Cook said he travelled by bus often but the free day of travel was a nice incentive to leave the car at home.
Talk of the election and the quiet murmur of people as they got on and off the bus was the soundtrack for those heading to South Dunedin.
Ten minutes later, on a return to the city, Joanne Kebble watched car dealerships on Andersons Bay Rd whizz by.
The journey to her London St dentist was quick, she said, grimacing at the thought of swapping the comfort of her free seat for an expensive hour or two in the dentist’s chair.
She hoped to use the bus more often.
By the end of my sixth journey I had watched thousands of cars go by.
Not everyone hopped on a bus yesterday, but those who did certainly looked more relaxed than those struggling to parallel park on a busy street, dodging absent-minded pedestrians and, dare I say it, contributing to the world’s ever-growing emissions problem.
Otago Regional Council support services manager Gerard Collings said it was still too early to say how many people took the free buses yesterday, but feedback so far showed it had been popular with the Dunedin community.
He said a wide range of people used the bus, many of whom were getting out and trying alternative routes and familiarising themselves with them.
"We can’t give you an estimate of how many used the buses at the moment because that information won’t be through until next week.
"But certainly, anecdotally we’re hearing that there was a very pleasing uptake, and our drivers have been getting some really good and pleasant feedback."