A 5 per cent increase in the cost of a bus ride for Tauranga students returning to school next year has disappointed educational authorities, with Boys' College principal Robert Mangan saying it was an additional burden on families that could least afford it.
Families will have to find nearly $1 a week extra in bus fares for each child who takes the bus to school, boosting the weekly bus bill to $16.
Mr Mangan said a number of families were already struggling to cope with paying for school-related costs like buses, uniforms, stationery and extra-curricular activities.
He said he had not received much feedback about the increase but adding a bit more to transport costs would make life more difficult for families.
Tauranga Intermediate's senior administrator and bus controller Mike Bibby said he was always disappointed with price increases and the impact on families. A family could easily have three children at intermediate and college at one time.
"The regional council needs to appreciate that these students are their future customers and it therefore needs to encourage them with an excellent service."
The rising fares could end up pushing parents into driving their children to school, particularly if it could be co-ordinated with going to work - adding to the peak time congestion on Tauranga's main roads.
Mr Bibby said bus contractors were doing the best they could but he was a bit sceptical about what the council was trying to achieve.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council transport policy manager Garry Maloney said the 5 per cent price increase was flagged in 2015 as part of the council's 10-year plan.
The increase was across all bus services in the Bay and was aimed at increasing the portion of costs recovered from bus users. Costs were currently split about a third each between users, ratepayers and the New Zealand Transport Agency, with the council wanting to boost the revenue from fares to 35 to 40 per cent of the equation.
He said all bus fares would go up in January because it was easier to communicate the message in one hit. The weekly cost to catch the bus for an adult smartride card user would rise $2 to $27.20.
Mr Maloney said they were into the second year of the School Hopper service, with lower fares in the first year because students were coming off the free service. However, it was not sustainable and fares were increased for the first term this year.
The council recognised that there was still a lot of work to be done to increase patronage because it could not be achieved by just putting up fares.
A couple of Bay schools had come back to the council saying the increase from first term next year was not a positive move. "We have to take that on the chin."
Bay Hopper fares had not increased since August 2015. Only 5 per cent of School Hopper fares were cash.
Impact of 5 per cent bus fare increase in Tauranga*
Child/student cash fare: $2 (up 10c)
Child/student Smartride card fare: $1.60 (up 9c)**
Adult cash fare: $3.40 (up 20c)
Adult Smartride card fare: $2.72 (up 20c)
Source - Bay of Plenty Regional Council
*May be slightly more when rounded up
**Smartride fare is 80 per cent of cash fare