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Published: 2007-05-08 00:00:00

It’s time for a free ride – as a thank you to ratepayers from Environment Waikato.

To help celebrate having more than two million passenger trips on Hamilton’s buses in a year, for the first time ever, all people using Hamilton buses this Saturday 12 May can ride for free. The free offer includes the Raglan and Huntly services.
The aim of the celebration is to say thank you to passengers for supporting Environment Waikato’s expanded bus service in Hamilton, which has increased transport options for the public, unclogged roads and reduced vehicle emissions.
In the last financial year to 30 June 2006, passengers used the buses for nearly two million journeys.  However, in the current financial year, the two million passenger journeys mark was hit in March and it is expected numbers will exceed at least 2.5 million for the full year, and could even go over 2.7  million.
“We’re extremely pleased at the way the expanded bus service is being used, and giving passengers a free ride for the day on 12 May this year acknowledges their role in our success,” said Environment Waikato chairman Jenni Vernon.
“The celebration is also designed to promote increased bus use in the city to help ease traffic congestion and reduce vehicle emissions,” said Cr Vernon.
Environment Waikato is this year paying for services provided by 58 buses, an increase of more than a third over last year.   Bus services in the city are paid for by a combination of rates, central government subsidies and fares. 
Extra services this year have included more Pukete to Hamilton buses, a Rototuna to Hamilton service, an improved Hamilton East service and the very popular Orbiter service which circles the city.
Spending on passenger transport in Hamilton has increased from  $7.4  million  last year to $10.4 million  this year. The Draft Annual Plan proposes ongoing improvements resulting in an $11.28 million investment in buses next year and $13.2 million the year after.
Within the council’s 2007/08 draft annual plan are details on how Environment Waikato proposes to make this increased investment in buses.  Over the next two years there will be more direct services from the city centre to suburbs such as Dinsdale, Hillcrest and Pukete, a new Sunday service and  extra hours of operation will go on to the popular Orbiter bus service .
“The car-based culture is a hard one to break, but we are making a real crack of it here in Hamilton.  Putting on more buses, and connecting more locations is providing a real choice for a greater number of Hamiltonians. We are in the business of providing sustainable travel options for the people of the region and these hugely improved passenger numbers show that the old adage is almost always true: build it and they will come.  We're building a reliable and comprehensive bus network for the city and region, and they are indeed coming.” said Cr Vernon.
“Environment Waikato encourages members of the public who have yet to use the buses to also climb aboard on Saturday May 12 to see how easy and how comfortable it is for themselves.”