City needs bet­ter cen­tral bus ex­change

The Tribune (NZ) - - OPINION - CHRIS­TINE CHEYNE, CY­CLE AWARE MANAWATU

When did you last use one of our ur­ban bus ser­vices or a longdis­tance bus ser­vice? If you have seen the in­side of the new dou­bledecker buses that pass through Palmer­ston North you might be ex­cused for think­ing you were on a Euro­pean or UK in­ter­city train.

OK, they may lack a mo­bile re­fresh­ments ser­vice, but with low price fares there’s still plenty of rea­son to con­sider tak­ing the bus rather than a car for your next in­ter­city trip. Free wifi, spa­cious in­te­ri­ors, com­fort­able seat­ing and ta­bles are signs of the quiet rev­o­lu­tion un­der way in pas­sen­ger trans­port.

Ur­ban bus ser­vices have re­cently ex­panded with more fre­quent Sum­mer­hill and Ash­hurst ser­vices. The Univer­sal Ac­cess scheme en­joyed by Massey and UCOL staff and stu­dents has been a strong fac­tor in mar­ket­ing the Manawatu cam­pus, but pa­tron­age could be much higher. High-qual­ity ter­mi­nal fa­cil­i­ties at Main Street are crit­i­cal for at­tract­ing more pas­sen­gers.

An up­grade of the Main St ter­mi­nal is planned to deal with growth of ur­ban ser­vices. This is a vi­tal op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide for longer dis­tance pas­sen­gers. Re­gional bus ser­vices con­nect­ing Palmer­ston North, Feild­ing, Mar­ton and Levin have ex­pe­ri­enced strong growth in pa­tron­age.

For com­muters, shop­pers and the grow­ing num­bers of in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic vis­i­tors pass­ing through the city on in­ter­re­gional buses, there is lim­ited shel­ter from the el­e­ments. Smoke­free signs are widely ig­nored. Many com­ments over­heard about Palmer­ston North are not com­pli­men­tary.

A pur­pose-built, high-qual­ity trans­port fa­cil­ity for both short dis­tance in­tra-ur­ban and in­ter­re­gional bus ser­vices is a key el­e­ment in CBD re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion and pro­mot­ing pub­lic trans­port as an at­trac­tive op­tion. Pre-earth­quake the Cen­tral Bus Ex­change in Christchurch was pop­u­lar with bus pa­tron­age in­creas­ing sub­stan­tially af­ter it opened. Within a few years of the 2011 earth­quakes, Christchurch re­built its Cen­tral Bus Ex­change. We have none of the ob­sta­cles that Christchurch has faced so why is progress so glacial?

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

A pas­sen­ger em­barks on an open air bus em­barka­tion on The Square out­side iSite.

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