New bus contracts to help move western Bay

More frequent bus services, new bus routes and the introduction and trial of five, state-of-the-art hybrid buses will form part of western Bay of Plenty’s future public transport network, following a Bay of Plenty Regional Council decision this week to tender for new contracts in 2018.

The new bus contracts will take effect from December 2018 for urban and rural bus services, and January 2019 for Tauranga school services.

The decision to go to tender follows extensive public engagement this year on the western Bay of Plenty Public Transport Blueprint, which has been developed to address some of the public transport challenges in the western Bay of Plenty.

The Council is also proposing to increase its investment in western Bay bus services from the current $13million a year, to $18.2million a year in 2019/20.

Regional councillor, Lyall Thurston, says the tender and contract process will allow flexibility to support an evolving public transport system that meets the growing needs of the western Bay of Plenty’s population.

“Public transport is a critical component for transporting people and contributing to a thriving region and Bay of Plenty Regional Council is committed to delivering this vision for the Bay of Plenty – as we have done since 2001.

“We have a strong public transport network across the region, providing services to rural and urban communities, and supporting the one in five people in the Bay of Plenty who have a disability that impacts on their daily life.

“However, the effective delivery of a public transport network is complex, challenging and constantly changing, and it requires significant capacity, capability and resources.

“Like many other regions around New Zealand, the Bay of Plenty is facing a number of transport challenges, including rapid population growth, congestion, increasing demand for public transport, environmental considerations – and an increasing level of investment in order to deliver public transport.

“Bay of Plenty Regional Council is equipped to manage and deliver an effective public transport service for the Bay of Plenty region, but our community will need to make some important decisions about what it wants and needs from public transport, and how that might be funded over the next ten years.

“Public transport is fundamental for society to survive, and we will continue to work with our stakeholders and the community, particularly the aged and people with disabilities, to ensure our public transport network is the best fit for our growing region and its changing needs.”

Cr Thurston says much of this discussion will take place through BOPRC’s Long Term Planning process, which will commence in February/March next year.

Some of the key bus network improvements that will be incorporated in the new bus contracts include:

  • A 20 minute frequency for the majority of services
  • A new City Loop linking Mt Maunganui, Bayfair, the CBD and the Hospital, and extending to Greerton in the second year
  • A new eastern Cross Town Connector linking Greerton and Bayfair
  • A new off-peak Gold Line service linking Mt Maunganui, Bayfair and Pāpāmoa
  • Five hybrid buses, which will reduce carbon emissions by 200 tonnes a year

The new bus contracts will also incorporate proposed changes to the school bus network. Bay of Plenty Regional Council has been working with schools to develop school-led solutions for their public transport requirements, with solutions now agreed for ten schools.

“Bay of Plenty Regional Council is continuing to work with the remaining schools to finalise those school-led solutions.

“Discussions with schools have been extremely productive and are ongoing.”