Brittany Keogh is a reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Ghost bus: Only 95 people rode Auckland Transport shuttle over six month period, costing rate payers $50,237

Failed shuttle service carried less than one passenger a day one average — for six months. File photo / 123RF
Failed shuttle service carried less than one passenger a day one average — for six months. File photo / 123RF

It was meant to make it easier for commuters to get to work.

But a bus service which cost ratepayers just over $50,000 and ran up to 11 times a day had no passengers on most trips.

The service, which ran from March until September last year, travelled 3.5km from the carpark at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga to the marina at Half Moon Bay 1075 times during six months. That's 3762.5km in total and further than driving the length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

The marina has little carparking and the local board had requested Auckland Transport trial the service.

It started with five services every week day over the first three months - with only 23 passengers using it. March saw just four passengers for all of the month and in May, only one person used it during all 110 trips to and from the ferry.

But instead of scrapping the unsuccessful service, its frequency was increased to 11 times a day for the next three months, with only a further 72 using it.

That's 95 people in 131 days, making the average cost per user $528.21 - more than what you'd pay for return flights from Auckland to Sydney.

The bus was free for passengers during the first three months and then subsidised.

To make matters worse, the bus was often late, meaning passengers missed the ferry, former Bucklands Beach Yacht Club commodore Keith Ingram said.

He told the Herald on Sunday that the club, which is based at the marina, twice called him down there to take the stranded passengers back to the carpark, as he lives nearby.

"There was no co-ordination between the bus and the ferry. At times the bus would arrive [and] pull into the car park as the ferry was pulling out. People are suddenly at the ferry building, their car's back at Lloyd Elsmore Park, so they've then got to try to get back there again to pick up their cars."

However, Auckland Transport disputed that the bus wasn't punctual, saying it was late only twice in six months.

Ingram, who is also the Half Moon Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman said the officials who decided how public transport functioned were out of touch with the community.

"It's stupidity. Our town planners, our transport planners, have no idea. I don't know where they get their ideas from but they're not communicating with the community they're supposed to be trying to serve."

He was surprised at the cost of the shuttle and said the money would have been better spent on providing the marina with more parking.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said the Howick Local Board asked AT to trial the service.

But board chairman David Collings said the board wanted to "pull the plug" halfway through the trial because of the low usage.

"From a board point of view, we thought 'Let's not keep haemorrhaging money, let's put a hold on it'. But Auckland Transport wanted to march ahead [with it].

​"I thought it was a waste of money in the first place, but we had a board member on our board that was passionate about it so I agreed to the trial. But I certainly wanted it stopped when it proved to be pointless."

Auckland Transport was "disappointed" with the service's low usage, Hannan said.

"People were not willing to transfer from their car to a shuttle bus despite publicity in local media and advertising in the area. We tried something new but local people did not change their commuter habits."

He said Auckland Transport had no plans to retrial the bus service. Instead it would focus on working with rolling out a new public transport network.

- Herald on Sunday

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