Bus passengers throughout the Bay of Plenty will reap the benefits of a new ticketing system being introduced in mid-2018.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is one of nine New Zealand councils that worked together to secure the new system.
Lyall Thurston, Bay of Plenty Regional councillor and chairman of the Public Transport Committee, said ease of use, flexibility and the need to extract data were key requirements for the councils in choosing the system, and as well as the cost savings involved, the inter-council approach means bus users will be able to use the same card on public transport across the nine regions.
"It was important for Bay of Plenty Regional Council to take a leadership role in acquiring a new ticketing system, as we realised our ageing system could be seen as a barrier to bus use, which in turn contributes to traffic congestion," he said.
"The system will also come with an online top-up facility, which should make it much easier for families to manage their Smartride card use."
Fiona McTavish, the regional council's general manager of strategy and science, said another important feature of the new ticketing system was the access it provided to detailed journey information.
"There are limitations to the reporting capabilities of the current system but from 2018 we'll be able to find out more about how passengers are travelling, meaning we can work even harder to provide services that meet the needs of our communities," she said.
"This really is a milestone in the delivery of improved public transport for the Bay of Plenty."
The new system will be provided by INIT, an international transport technology provider with more than 30 years' experience.
The system will be in place in the nine regions for five years while a longer-term solution is developed by all councils with public transport responsibilities, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.
The nine participating councils are:
Northland Regional Council
Waikato Regional Council
Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Horizons Regional Council
Hawkes Bay Regional Council
Taranaki Regional Council
Nelson City Council
Otago Regional Council
Invercargill City Council