Bus travel is set to become easier for people in wheelchairs and with prams, with Hamilton’s bus network becoming fully accessible from next Monday, says Waikato Regional Council.
It’s one of only a few public transport networks in New Zealand which is fully wheelchair accessible, with the region’s fleet provided by Go Bus, Pavlovich, Turley Murphy and Waipawa Buses.
Go Bus is contracted by the regional council to operate Hamilton’s urban services and has spent $4 million adding 10 newly-built low-floor accessible buses to its fleet.
“We’re delighted to be able to extend our fleet in this way to make public transport more accessible for people in Hamilton,” said Go Bus commercial director, Craig Worth.
“It’s been a significant investment but one which we felt was worth making to enhance the positive experience for BUSIT passengers.”
The council’s acting public transport operations manager Ben Barlow said: “From next week all 26 bus routes in Hamilton will have air-conditioned buses, with space for wheelchairs and prams.
“This is a key milestone for the BUSIT network. It means people with mobility issues or in a wheelchair, and those with young children in prams, can be certain each Hamilton bus is accessible when they’re planning trips.”
Gerri Pomeroy from CCS Disability Action Waikato welcomed the move. “We’re really excited that all the buses will be wheelchair accessible. It makes journeys better and easier for people with a disability, especially if they don’t have independent access to a car.”
About 90 buses are operating in the city during peak travel times and while a survey of passengers last year revealed 95 per cent were satisfied with their trip, they asked the regional council to improve the ease of travel for wheelchair users and create more wheelchair and pram space on board.
Another survey targeting people who don’t travel by bus revealed that nine per cent of caregivers would use public transport if more pram-friendly buses were available.
“We listened to this feedback and have been working closely with Go Bus on making a fully accessible bus network a reality for the people of Hamilton,” Mr Barlow said.
The new buses have been built to meet New Zealand’s common standard for bus quality, which aim to improve the accessibility, comfort and usability of buses used in urban services.
The requirements for urban standards (RUB) have been developed by the NZ Transport Agency, Bus and Coach Association, public transport operators, bus builders and suppliers, Auckland Transport, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Environment Canterbury.
The Waikato has the fourth largest contracted public transport system in New Zealand, with more than five million passenger trips recorded in 2012/13. The majority of the passenger trips are on Hamilton’s bus network, which is contracted by the regional council to Go Bus and Pavlovich. Pavlovich operates the city’s Orbiter services.
The cost of running the region’s buses is covered by fares, with the remainder paid for by the Transport Agency and regional or district councils.