Satel­lite towns feed bus fleet

Waikato Times - - News - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN and TE AHUA MAIT­LAND

It’s 5am and Shel­don Aden is up and get­ting ready to catch the bus into Hamil­ton.

The 22-year-old Win­tec stu­dent lives in Te Aroha and catches the Mor­rinsville/Paeroa bus four times a week.

He’s used to the 75-minute jour­ney – for four years, it’s been his main form of trans­port to the polytech’s city cam­pus.

He catches two buses around peak times – one at 7am and one around 5pm.

He mainly sleeps on the morn­ing leg, and then winds down on the way home.

The com­mute can take its toll, but it beats liv­ing in Hamil­ton, he says.

‘‘Mostly be­cause it’s too ex­pen­sive to flat.

‘‘The dorms at Win­tec are ex­pen­sive and I don’t have any­one to flat with . . . and liv­ing at home is a lot cheaper.’’

Bus fares vary de­pend­ing on where you board, but for an adult pay­ing cash, it’s $5.90 from Mor­rinsville, $8.40 from Te Aroha and $11.80 from Paeroa. Prices are cheaper with a bus card.

Aden said he’s seen the numbers in­crease over the years and said once the bus leaves the Hamil­ton bus de­pot, it will fill up at the stops be­fore it leaves the city.

Pub­lic trans­port is gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as daily com­muters from out­side Hamil­ton fill seats in peak times.

While the num­ber of pas­sen­gers on city buses has dipped slightly, ru­ral trav­ellers have in­creased.

Pas­sen­ger numbers on the Mor­rinsville/Paeroa route have climbed more than 15 per cent in the past 12 months.

Other routes are up, too: Raglan-Hamil­ton in­creased 6 per cent, Cam­bridge-Hamil­ton 10 per cent and Te Awa­mutu-Hamil­ton 5 per cent.

Board­ings on Hamil­ton buses were 3.4 mil­lion – down 1 per cent on the same time last year.

Sara Roche catches the evening bus to Mor­rinsville once a week for work. She said it’s packed most evenings.

‘‘It’s crazy now. It used to be a small bus, but they had to get a huge one to make room for ev­ery­one else.’’

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil pub­lic trans­port man­ager Andrew Wil­son pre­sented a pub­lic trans­port up­date to the Hamil­ton City Coun­cil Growth and In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee meet­ing last week.

‘‘We’ve had re­ally good growth on ser­vices that con­nect to towns around Hamil­ton,’’ Wil­son said.

While the 12-month fig­ures show a slight de­crease, month on month there has been im­prove­ment.

‘‘A lot has hap­pened in the 12-month win­dow. Since Oc­to­ber, and in Jan­uary this year, we’ve im­ple­mented a lot of net­work changes and ser­vice im­prove­ments and we are see­ing pa­tron­age re­spond re­ally pos­i­tively to that. Since those changes, we’ve been track­ing at about 1.7 per cent.’’ That in­crease saw two new 87-seater dou­ble deck­ers put on the Or­biter ser­vice from the first week in April and two more are ex­pected for the Raglan and North­ern Con­nec­tor routes.

‘‘The first ser­vice we put the dou­ble decker bus on, the ve­hi­cle was fully loaded, so it was a re­ally good sign,’’ Wil­son said.

In the five months since new timeta­bles and routes were put in place for the Or­biter, there has been a 4.4 per cent in­crease in pas­sen­ger trips.

Wil­son said the city bus ser­vice is un­der pres­sure. Adult pas­sen­gers make up 48 per cent of all users, school­child­ren 28 per cent, se­niors 15 per cent and ter­tiary stu­dents 9 per cent.

‘‘Peak time ser­vices are un­der a lot of ca­pac­ity pres­sure at the mo­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘Half of all board­ing oc­cur dur­ing those peak pe­ri­ods and about half that off-peak pe­riod.’’

‘‘There is sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial to grow pa­tron­age in the shoul­der peaks as well.

‘‘There is a lot of em­pha­sis and fo­cus on that.’’

Plat­form pres­sure at The Base could be eased by a bus and rail sta­tion on Tas­man Road, where Hamil­ton City Coun­cil has al­ready se­cured land for a park-and-ride area, should com­muter rail to Auck­land go ahead.

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil and Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil are work­ing in con­junc­tion with Waikato District Coun­cil, Ki­wiRail, the Min­istry of Trans­port and Auck­land Trans­port. Re­gional coun­cil chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Mike Gar­rett said the strate­gic busi­ness case for an in­terim ser­vice will be de­liv­ered by the end of the month.

De­mand for the com­muter rail ser­vice is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, Gar­rett said, and a num­ber of busi­nesses have taken an in­ter­est.

‘‘We tar­geted a lot of large cor­po­rates like Fon­terra and the univer­sity, DHB and oth­ers to test in­ter­est at those or­gan­i­sa­tions,’’ Gar­rett said. ‘‘If you think of Fon­terra, they have a num­ber of staff who are com­mut­ing from Hamil­ton to Auck­land ev­ery day to meet­ings, so they are pro­vid­ing some ro­bust data on the po­ten­tial use they would have.’’

Hamil­ton city coun­cil­lor Martin Gal­lagher said while the im­me­di­ate work is be­ing done on the in­terim strat­egy, coun­cil needs to also think ahead.

‘‘We should stress that this in­terim rail ser­vice is but a be­gin­ning of a long-term strat­egy link­ing Auck­land to Hamil­ton and Waikato.’’

‘‘The dorms at Win­tec are ex­pen­sive . . . and liv­ing at home is a lot cheaper.’’

Shel­don Aden

‘‘It’s crazy now. It used to be a small bus, but they had to get a huge one to make room for ev­ery­one else.’’

Sara Roche

PHOTOS: DOMINICO ZA­P­ATA/STUFF

Bus driv­ers Eu­gene King, left, and Lyn­wood Peak­man next to Go Bus’s two new dou­bledecker buses.

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