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Councillors back Sunday bus services for Hamilton

Environment Waikato councillors are proposing to introduce Sunday bus services from September and a range of other new and improved bus services in Hamilton over the next three years.

The proposals are detailed in Environment Waikato’s 2008/09 Draft Annual Plan adopted at a special meeting in Hamilton yesterday.

Of three funding options for Hamilton’s bus services, the council prefers a steady programme of improvement that will see the introduction of Sunday services from September and the phased introduction of other services over three years.

Passenger transport committee chairman Norm Barker said councillors were keen to restrain spending but acknowledged the need to invest in new bus services to meet the needs of Hamilton city.

“We have taken into account what Hamilton people told us when we consulted with them on the Regional Passenger Transport Plan about six months ago – they told us very clearly they wanted Sunday bus services introduced as soon as possible.

“This view was reinforced by Hamilton City councillors earlier this week when we discussed our proposals with them.

“We have been persuaded that Hamilton needs a seven-day a week bus service.”

He acknowledged Hamilton City Council was keen to see a greater expansion of bus services introduced much more quickly.

“We consider our proposal meets Hamilton’s needs while taking a careful and measured approach to the introduction of new services.”

The public will now be asked to comment on the three options in the Draft Annual Plan.

The plan notes there have already been significant improvements to buses in Hamilton in recent years, with strong growth in passenger numbers. The improvements have included new and more regular bus services, and the extra buses have relieved congestion, cut air pollution and expanded the transport options available to those without cars.

The extra cost of expanding services in recent years has been met by all Hamilton ratepayers as fares account for about 22 per cent of costs – the balance is met 50-50 by ratepayers and Land Transport New Zealand.

The new services detailed in the Draft Annual Plan have arisen from the 2007 Regional Passenger Transport Plan (RPTP). Public response to the Draft Regional Passenger Transport Plan strongly supported further expansion of services in Hamilton, including the introduction of buses on Sunday, with Hamilton City Council placing a high priority on Sunday buses.

Bus service options

The option 1 scenario outlining the RPTP’s scheme has new services and $36.16 for every $100,000 of capital value or $108.48 for a $300,000 home. That represents a passenger transport rate rise of 15 percent in 2008-09 for Hamilton, to be followed by rises 11 and 10 per cent in the subsequent two years. Option 1 is not favoured by councillors because of cost. The cost of Sunday services would be just over $800,000 a year in 2008-09, while the other new services under this scenario would cost another $1.2 million over current spending.

Under councillors’ favoured option 2, Sunday and some new services would be introduced this year. Others, as proposed in the RPTP, would be delayed by 6 to 12 months. The 2008-09 passenger transport rate would increase 11 per cent to $34.91 for every $100,000 of capital value or $104.73 for a $300,000 home. This would be followed by 11 and 10 per cent increases in the subsequent two years. The draft annual plan says councillors will consider feedback on this position when they make their final decision. Under this scenario the extra cost of services in 2008-09 would be $1.1 million.

Under option 3 most new services would be delayed to 2009 and early 2010, while Sunday services would not come in till September 2010. That would see passenger transport rate increase 7 per cent to $33.86 for every $100,000 of capital value or $101.58 for a $300,000 home. There would be increases of 8 per cent and 10 per cent in the next two years. The extra cost of services in 2008-09 would be $640,000.

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