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Published: 2008-03-12 00:00:00

Bus passenger numbers in Hamilton continue to grow strongly, nudging towards 300,000 for last month.

There were 293,958 passenger trips in Hamilton in February compared to 237,218 in the same month last year, a jump of 23.9 per cent. Five percentage points of this increase can be attributed to February having an extra working day this year, still leaving an underlying increase of 18.9 per cent. The February increase also meant the financial year to date total is 25.3 per cent better at 2.13 million.

This compares to the exceptional annual increase of around 38 per cent last financial year, said land transport operations manager Russell Turnbull.

“We are still making very steady gains in Hamilton bus passenger numbers, showing that initiatives launched over the past few years are continuing to reap solid rewards in terms of providing transport alternatives in the city, reducing traffic congestion and cutting carbon emissions.”

Strongest growth in February was on the Rototuna service (+77 per cent), Hamilton East-University (+65 per cent), CBD Shuttle (+57 per cent), Northerner (+48 per cent) and the Orbiter (+40 per cent).

“High increases are occurring at peak times due to school student demands in particular,” said Mr Turnbull.

“Peak use was up 27 per cent and off-peak up 20 per cent last month. Saturday patronage was up 14 per cent, while over 60s use was up 15 per cent. It’s gratifying to see a range of people getting the benefit of expanded services.”

The council’s draft annual plan for next year is asking Hamilton ratepayers for their views on exactly how, where and how fast services should be further expanded. Three options have been put up for discussion.

“We encourage people to have their say so that the public’s views can be taken fully into account in our planning,” said Mr Turnbull.

Meanwhile, the boost in Hamilton meant total regional passenger trip numbers climbed 24.2 per cent to 315,753 for February, and were 24 per cent up for the year to date at 2.27 million.

Taupo patronage was up 78 per cent, while Paeroa (+32 per cent) and Huntly (+26 per cent) also recorded strong gains.