Fight for bus route begins
Pensioners and disabled residents have mobilised to protest changes to a Hamilton East bus route.
Threats of legal action and engaging deputy prime minister Winston Peters were made to Waikato Regional Council staff when 15 residents stepped off the bus to say their piece on Monday.
Staffers’ conciliatory returns largely fell on deaf ears.
Newell St resident George McCarthy, 78, rallied the group after being made aware of the council’s plan last week after seeing a council notice at a bus stop.
‘‘As ratepaying people we are entitled to a reasonable bus service ... many of the blind are used to their route, which they’ve trained to do.’’
As of January 27, the Hamilton East-Uni route 17 bus will no longer operate in off-peak times, between 9am and 2.30pm.
This poses a problem for McCarthy and fellow residents of Newall, Graham, Brookfield and Macfarlane streets, who use their SuperGold cards to ride for free during off-
‘‘As ratepaying people we are entitled to a reasonable bus service, many of the blind are used to their route, which they've trained to do.’’
peak hours - many into town and to the hospital.
‘‘It is extremely essential this bus gets reinstated ... They’re wiping us out completely, and they’ve wiped out the gold card.’’
Other bus route changes are supposed to fill the gap. Route number 10 will now travel Naylor St, one block north from the current route 17, every half an hour. For many residents, this stop may be closer. But it also requires a walk up the incline of Graham St, dubbed ‘‘cardiac hill’’ by those in attendance.
‘‘They can’t access the other routes because their disability prohibits them,’’ McCarthy said.
Waikato Regional Council public transport customer team leader Susi Marinkovich said the changes were first consulted and planned three years ago to serve the peak needs of bus users.
Staff began notifying of the changes to the route six weeks ago, and she was meeting with community groups such as the Blind Foundation in the coming week. The council’s policy was to have a bus route within 600 metres of every home, which this change allowed for these residents.
Marinkovich promised to consider the expressed needs of the group, and meet with them again on January 18 with any potential adjustments.