A 10-month review of Waikato's bus network has been completed and will inform route improvements being considered by Waikato Regional Council over the next year.
However, any decisions on the region's bus network will only be made following public consultation, which is expected to occur in 2014 as part of the next review of the regional public transport plan.
The strategic network review will help the regional council deliver the best services at an affordable cost to ratepayers and taxpayers, the council has recently heard.
The review, led Traffic Design Group (TDG), has included workshops with urban and rural community representatives, transport stakeholders and local councils to help form an investment and planning methodology that will shape the region’s future bus network.
Russell Turnbull from TDG advised the council that the level of public transport currently provided is not likely to be financially sustainable over the longer term.
The cost of running the region’s buses is partly covered by fares, with the remainder paid by the NZ Transport Agency and ratepayers.
Mr Turnbull said possible changes could include the straightening and merging of routes and modifications to timetables to take account of changing demographics and travel patterns.
The review also identified opportunities to ‘hub’ services at locations like Lynden Court at Chartwell, where passengers could transfer between services to complete a journey.
Mr Turnbull said the majority of improvements and efficiencies would be made on Hamilton routes, where there are three distinct user groups:
He said the region’s satellite services that come into Hamilton every day from towns such as Cambridge and Te Awamutu, perform reasonably well because they are point-to-point and therefore very efficient. These services are principally used by students and people travelling to work and recreational opportunities.
However, shuttle services could operate within each satellite town, he said, providing access to public transport within an easy walk of most residential homes.
Mr Turnbull said a shuttle would not only provide transport options within the towns, but would also connect to the core service travelling to and from Hamilton.
A timeframe for development of the new regional public transport plan has not yet been confirmed, however, work is due to get underway after the council and regional transport committee last month endorsed the process for its preparation.
It is expected the new regional public transport plan will be adopted in late 2014 to allow time for new bus contracts to be awarded.
Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/agendas to read the TDG report in September’s policy and strategy committee agenda.