Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Porirua - Free rides offered in effort to save trial service

Tranzwatching in Porirua City, Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Wellington Regional Council's Metlink is offering residents of Porirua East the chance to ride a trial bus service free in order to attract enough patrons to assure survival of the service. The three trips mid-day service, started in February but will end on August 15th unless patronage increases. The service has a dial up facility allowing passengers to arrange for it to stop adjacent to their homes but this has not appeared to have boosted usage to required benchmarks.

Comment - These sorts of  social bus services - "middle of the day access the local shopping centre services" are often called for by resident groups, care giver organisations or local politicians but it is rare to see any of them do well. I remember years ago in Christchurch - when buses just ran as spokes without connecting to common peripheral points or outer shopping complexes - the politicians of the Paparoa County Council (which before amalgamation administered the western most areas of Christchurch) requested a shoppers bus between working class Hei Hei and local shopping hub Hornby. The service was abandoned after extremely low patronage (one afternoon trip recorded an average load of a third of a passenger per trip - bizarre image this one!). Yet later this same link was added to the tail end of the full time Hei Hei service and gets plenty of patronage, not least because Hornby Mall and adjacent shopping complexes have never stopped growing, with further expansion planned.

I suspect in low density populations like NZ bus routes really need to be structured around a whole range of functions and passenger traffic generator points to even get to basic level viability. The "social" role, so commonly played up by well paid politicians who never catch buses (intermittent use by shoppers, for visits to doctors, service hubs etc) is probably the least reliable patronage base.

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