Potential free school bus options to be explored

The Bay of Plenty Public Transport committee is recommending partnering with Tauranga City Council and NZTA to do further analysis on whether public bus services could be made free for Tauranga school students.

The Public Transport committee met in Tauranga on Friday, with the investigation of potential free transport for school students one of the topics on the agenda.

PT Chairman Cr Lyall Thurston says Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s school transport survey indicates that if students could travel for free on Tauranga buses, it would likely remove some cars from the morning peak period.

“Without more modelling, we don’t know whether those bus services would still be caught in traffic congestion, and therefore whether there is an even greater need for bus priority on some of our road networks. We will all need to work together to investigate this further,” Cr Thurston says.

“If school students could travel more quickly via public transport than in private cars, bus patronage would be much higher and the benefits to all road users would be much greater.

“The transport challenges in Western Bay of Plenty cannot be achieved by one single agency on its own.

“Transport is personal for everyone in the community and travel times and safety affect the economy, jobs and our quality of life. We need to ensure the Western Bay of Plenty keeps moving and this project will help us work out whether this is an option that might help us achieve that.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council will also fast-track an investigation into potential solutions for travel congestion issues being experienced by Welcome Bay students taking the bus to school.

He says while free-fares would lessen the financial burden on families of school students, the cost of the foregone fare revenue would be about $1.2 million per annum.

Current Tauranga student bus fares are $2.00, or $1.60 with a Smartride card.

The Public Transport Committee will recommend to Bay of Plenty Regional Council that $100,000 funding is provided to investigate the costs and benefits of the proposal.