Bus use above pre-Covid levels

Photo: Environment Canterbury
Photo: Environment Canterbury
More people are taking the bus in Canterbury as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Environment Canterbury says it has seen a significant increase in bus patronage since it introduced its $2 and $1 fares trial last year, particularly in the Waimakariri and Selwyn districts.

Passenger numbers were now above pre-Covid levels and close to levels before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, acting chairperson Craig Pauling said.

The regional council launched the two-year flat fares trial, of a $2 standard fare and $1 for students, children and community service card holders, on July 1 last year.

Whether the trial will be continued will depend on funding from Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

Councillor Pauling said the council planned to continue the trial until June 30 next year, but could review it once it knew what funding was available.

Plans to increase the frequency for route 7 (Queenspark) had been delayed from July 1 to January, while reviews of other routes were on hold.

‘‘We have put our money in, but now we have to wait to see what funding we will get,’’ Cr Pauling said.

‘‘If we need to re-consult then we will. We weren’t going to preempt it (Waka Kotahi’s funding) by not funding it ourselves.’’

Cr Pauling said he had raised with Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop the possibility of the regional council obtaining a share of development contributions to fund transport planning.

‘‘The regional council needs to be included because when there is a new sub-division it may need to have public transport and we can’t just turn it on if we don’t have the funding.’’

He said the council will also look to protect a potential route for the proposed mass rapid transport (MRT) by designating the land.

‘‘We want to see MRT and public transport in general sorted because it is critical to how Greater Christchurch is going to go forward.

‘‘As we grow to 700,000 people over the next 30 years and then to one million over the next 50 years we need to have that in place.’’

Bus user and Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon said it was ‘‘pleasing’’ to see bus patronage improve across the region.

‘‘I don’t use it as often as I would like, but having used it extensively overseas I recognise the benefits of a good public transport service and we are keen to see improvements.

‘‘People really value the express buses (from Rangiora and Kaiapoi to the city) and I understand they are being well used.’’

Mr Gordon said his council had submitted to Environment Canterbury on extending services in the Waimakariri district to include the Rangiora western bypass route and local suburbs.

He would like to see a mini bus service, similar to Timaru’s MyWay service, introduced in Waimakariri.

‘‘But there is a consequence, which is the impact on ratepayers and it relies on the Government subsidy to keep it functioning.’’

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.