Trans­port sys­tem up and run­ning

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By CAITLIN WAL­LACE By PET­RICE TAR­RANT

History has been made as the first South Waikato public dis­trictwide trans­port sys­tem hit the road this week.

The 22-pas­sen­ger Ur­ban Con­nec­tor bus be­gan its six month trial on June 22 which has pro­vided South Waikato res­i­dents with sev­eral public trans­port op­tions Mon­day to Fri­day each week.

The ser­vice in­cludes a cir­cuit around Toko­roa three times a day and a dis­trict route from Toko­roa to Ti­rau re­turn twice a day.

With bus stops erected around

There are a few things that An­drea Ma­son hasn’t done on horse­back, but rid­ing 100 miles ( 160km) on rugged, steep, Aus­tralian ter­rain is no longer one of them.

The 57-year-old Toko­roa horse rider has just re­turned from Syd- the dis­trict, the route around Toko­roa will range from no charge to $2 while the dis­trict route will be be­tween $1.50 and $8.

Sev­eral months of plan­ning has gone into it by the South Waikato Public Trans­port Steer­ing Group with a $ 200,000 start- up fund from the South Waikato Dis­trict Coun­cil.

Steer­ing group chair­woman Akarere Henry was stoked. ‘‘To say we’re par­tic­u­larly pleased is an un­der­state­ment.

‘‘It re­ally has been a strong col­lab­o­ra­tion.’’

The aim of the ser­vice is to ‘‘fill in the gaps’’, she said.

‘‘Cur­rently a num­ber of in­di­vid­ual or­gan­i­sa­tions and groups pro­vide trans­porta­tion in and around the dis­trict for their own spe­cific needs.

‘‘Some trans­port so­lu­tions are pro­vided on an ad hoc ba­sis, some with reg­u­lar in­ter re­gional ser­vices, some funded by health author­i­ties, sup­ple­mented by vol­un­teer and com­mu­nity groups, and all at­tempt­ing to sat­isfy de­mand.’’

And while the ini­tial fo­cus was on trans­porta­tion for med­i­cal ap­point­ments, Henry said it ap­peared it would be just as ef­fec­tive for other needs.

She’s al­ready heard of one Toko­roa grand­mother with lim­ited ac­cess to a car who would now be able to visit her great­grand­chil­dren across town.

‘‘That re­ally warmed my heart,’’ Henry said.

Now that the ser­vice has gained trac­tion, it’s all about rais­ing aware­ness over the next few months.

‘‘At this stage, we just want to sat­u­rate as much of the com­mu­nity to know about the ser­vice.’’

At four months in, the trial will be re­viewed and a de­ci­sion will be made whether to ex­tend it to the full six months, coun­cil deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Ben Smit said.

‘‘It is im­por­tant that the com­mu­nity un­der­stands this is a trial, if the num­bers don’t stack up, the ser­vice won’t con­tinue.’’

Once the trial pe­riod is com­plete, the steer­ing group will con­sider what changes are needed to meet the needs of the users.

If the mea­sures of suc­cess are met dur­ing the trial, the coun­cil could ex­tend this to be­come a per­ma­nent ser­vice with po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance.

In­for­ma­tion on all of the routes will be held at the Toko­roa and Ti­rau i-sites.

An­drea Ma­son’s love of

horse rid­ing saw her con­quer the Tom Quilty

En­durance Race in Aus­tralia, where she rode

100 miles one day.

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