The regional council has put its controversial plans to change the Bay's bus network on hold for six months to reflect on the public's response to the proposal.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Public Transport Committee meeting yesterday decided to extend the current BayHopper and SchoolHopper contracts.
Public Transport Committee chairman Lyall Thurston said the council would have more time to refine the proposed network and work with schools to find solutions.
"We expect this may involve some school-led initiatives."
Concerned parents presented a petition against council's proposal to get rid of most school buses and instead put students on public buses. The petition had 1785 signatures
The plan was part of proposed improvements to the BayHopper service, which included making them faster and more frequent - but would also cut 45 school buses down to 11.
Council received more than 1470 individual pieces of feedback via www.drivechange.co.nz as well as at community events and via phone and email.
Support for faster journeys, more direct services and a higher frequency of buses were emerging as key themes.
Mr Thurston said the council was delighted with the public response.
"This whole process is about finding a community-led solution; we've been listening and will continue to listen to what the public has to say."
In total, 61 per cent of feedback received related to the BayHopper network, operating hours and bus features, while 39 per cent commented specifically on school buses.
Those concerned with the proposed reduction in school bus services for Aquinas College, Bethlehem College and Tauranga Intermediate provided the majority of the school responses.
Mr Thurston said it was important to work collaboratively on solutions despite only a minority of schools opposing the plan.
Regional council staff would continue to work closely with New Zealand Transport Agency, Ministry of Education, Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council on improving the network.
A key focus was looking to pilot the introduction of electric buses.
Further recommendations would be presented to the full council in September, after meetings with schools and stakeholder groups.
Head of Aquinas College Parent-Teacher Association Lee-Ann Taylor attended the meeting along with students from St Mary's Catholic School, Aquinas College and other concerned parents and grandparents.
Mrs Taylor was pleased council had extended the contracts, but she was not fully convinced.
"We still have not had any word that they have stopped their plan.
"They have only extended the time for the contract for the buses, what we really need is the voice of the people to be heard.
"The next step would be a protest if they do not start listening to us."
Mrs Taylor said the tone of the meeting was positive.
"I think everyone was open to listening."
"What we cannot understand with such an outpour of emotion and feeling from the community that they just have not said 'stop'."
She said parents attending the meeting agreed with architect Mark Wassung's future plans for transport in Tauranga.
"We totally agreed with what they had to say."
Mr Wassung was working with Max Lewis to propose a driver-less bus system. He said it was a master plan that was flexible, agile and embraced technology.
The plan was based on a six to eight-seater French design.
"But we are looking at a design to do something that was more appropriate for the city," he said.
"We are looking at a 12 to 16-seater that has more space for our senior citizens and having a cycle and age-friendly bus."
Mr Wassung also talked about several other bold plans to stop congested roads and long queues of traffic in Tauranga.
He supported the current SchoolHopper service and thought the service should be made free.