Tranzwatching in Tauranga, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand
The success of the Bay Hopper bus service in Tauranga has led to the Ministry of Education saying it will no longer subsidise school buses for children living with in the urban area beyond the end of 2014.
The Bay Hopper was established in 2001 and is as part of an attractive regional bus network established by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The urban service has now achieved its goal to bring most city residents within 500 metres of a bus stop in this rapidly growing city of 120,000 residents.
According to the senior transport planner with BoPRC, Emlyn Hatch, “The development of the public transport network has enabled the ministry to review its position with respect to providing transport assistance to Tauranga students, particularly given Tauranga is the only remaining large urban area in New Zealand where the ministry is doing so".
According to a new report on local news site SunLive.co it is estimated the Bay Hopper service, with 35 buses in operation, will carry 1.6 million passengers for the 2010/11 year, compared with 2.08 million in the ministry’s 85 school buses in the same period. If all children are taken to school by car the report indicates a significant increase in traffic.
Over the next two and half years BoPRC planners will be investigating ways to integrate significantly increasing the current patronage (plus other growth). In many ways an excellent opportunity for the city, a chance to lever up frequency and route directions on the basis of a more or less guaranteed patronage increase, and/or running parallel systems of fare paying school bus routes, such as operated by RedBus in Christchurch.
Should all school pupils in New Zealand pay a standard school bus fare?
NZ in Tranzit believes spreading costs and subsidies fairly is important in itself and also has potential to fund quality bus services for all residents in smaller towns areas throughout NZ.