Changes to the region's bus network will be phased in over the next two years following today’s adoption of a new public transport plan for the Waikato.
Last November, Waikato Regional Council released a draft regional public transport plan for feedback, with almost 100 submissions being received and 32 people presenting in person during the hearings in February.
The majority of changes signalled in the plan will take place on Hamilton routes and be phased in as contracts with bus operators are awarded over the next two financial years.
The extension of existing services to Hamilton’s northern suburbs will be among the first changes the council will look to introduce. Some interim services are being investigated for potential rollout later this year, ahead of full service implementation planned for January 2018.
Councillor Lois Livingston, chair of the public transport plan development committee, said there had been strong collaboration during the review with territorial authorities, the NZ Transport Agency, bus operators and community interest groups.
“It’s taken 18 months to review the policy which sets out how public transport will be delivered in the region over the next 10 years. Input from key stakeholders has been crucial to the success of this review and the development of a robust policy for the region.
“It was fantastic to have so many people submit on the draft plan and share with us their ideas for how public transport could be made even better,” Cr Livingston said.
“A number of submitters asked the council to look at introducing other fare options, including a discounted tertiary student fare. We haven’t done this through the plan because there is a separate review of fares which is already underway. Any fare changes though are unlikely to come into effect until a new ticketing system is in place next year.”
A number of people in regional communities requested increased levels of public transport, including for growth areas in north Waikato, she said.
“We intend to get underway with work to develop a business case in conjunction with Waikato District Council and Auckland Transport to determine the most appropriate transport solutions for people in these north Waikato communities,” said Cr Livingston.
A number of disability groups also asked for improvements to be made to bus stops, curbing and footpaths to enable easier access to bus services. “Local councils are responsible for this infrastructure and we will continue to work closely with them to address these issues,” she said.
“The new plan signals a change for public transport in the region, moving towards a greater demand-led and customer-focused network. This is great news for people, because we’re able to provide enhanced bus services within the existing budget,” said Cr Livingston.
The Waikato Regional Public Transport Plan 2015-2025 adopted by the council today will take effect from Tuesday 28 April 2015. The plan will be available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/rptp.