An express bus service for Papamoa has been highlighted as part of a $1 million proposal to help alleviate Tauranga increasing traffic problems.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council and New Zealand Transport Agency announced in a statement today it was investigating fast-tracking proposed changes to public transport in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa to make the services more attractive.
At Thursday's Public Transport Committee meeting, councillors examined options presented in a $1m proposal, with the cost to potentially be spread across the three partners.
The potential fast-tracked improvements include introducing the express service, a Gold Line Service, and park and ride opportunities in March 2018.
The Gold Line Service will operate hourly from 9:30am to 4pm, or as can be accommodated with bus availability. It will provide access to the Mount Hot Pools and a sightseeing service for cruise passengers.
This is in addition to the extension to the bus lanes between Totara Street and the Tauranga Marina on Hewletts Road which allows buses to move more easily through the traffic, reducing delays for people who use public transport.
Committee chairman Cr Lyall Thurston said the improvements had already been identified as part of the Blueprint programme and were due to start in December 2018, but there was an opportunity to bring some of them forward.
"Ongoing growth in the region, as well as upcoming construction of the Bay Link project (SH2/29A Baypark to Bayfair) will see people looking for alternative options with less delays," Thurston said.
"Our approach to public transport is to ensure it is flexible to be able to adapt to the changing needs of the community and the operating environment – and this potential fast-track is a good example of that approach at work."
The regional council has received necessary approvals from the agency to proceed to tender for public transport services in the Western Bay. This will enable the introduction of environmentally friendly buses, customer service incentives for drivers and the ability to implement age-friendly features on the new bus contracts.
Thurston said feedback from a meeting of the city council's disabilities advisory committee was invaluable.
"We were told we needed to provide urban buses that could accommodate more than one wheelchair and our tender vehicle quality standards will reflect a requirement for at least two wheelchair spaces."
In September, the contracts for the Schoolhopper services were extended to December 2018 to allow the regional council and schools and parents to discuss proposed changes to routes and timetables.
"We hope to provide all schools with timetable information and finalised routes towards the end of Term One next year, with the new service to start January 2019."