Tauranga needs billions, not tens or hundreds of millions, in funding dollars to get its public transport network moving into the 21st century, says a coalition of local community groups.
Twenty groups have backed a $3 billion action plan for a congestion-free public transport network in Tauranga within the next decade.
The Tauranga Transport Alignment Project (TTAP) was developed by the Sustainable Business Network and other groups. It was modelled on the $28b Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP).
Free buses for all children, commuter ferries in the harbour, passenger rail, rapid transport buses, ridesharing and cycleways all feature in the plan, which has
a goal to make public transport faster and cheaper than cars at peak times for most people.
The groups have leaned on the Tauranga City Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to fast-track major public and alternative transport projects, urging them to apply for bigger shares of the transport funding offered by the coalition Government.
But as councils sit down to refine their transport priorities this month, some plan advocates were worried reactionary plans for quick congestion fixes would trump bold planning for future of the network as a whole.
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Plan spokesman Glen Crowther said the "demotion" of new Tauranga bus services to number 12 on the overall funding priority list in the Bay of Plenty Regional Land Transport Plan last week was concerning.
He believed it should be near the top of the list - which will inform central government funding decisions - alongside safety improvements to State Highway 2.
The council had received more than 800 pro-public transport submissions to back that up, he said.
More positive, he said, was the high placement of the Tauranga Cycle Action Plan at number 8 and a commitment to a study of the feasibility of passenger rail in Tauranga.
He said the city had a "golden opportunity" to get more government funding but councils seemed unprepared to make the most of it.
"Tauranga is the only city in NZ that can tap into rapid transit funding over the next six years as well as the Provincial Growth Fund".
Instead of the planned $12m funding request for bus infrastructure, the regional council should be asking for $190m in public transport funding, plus $220m from the new rapid transit fund for Tauranga.
Both proposed amounts were a population-based percentage share of the funding the Government has indicated will be available.
The TTAP also listed tolls and increased parking charges as additional funding options.
The 20 groups supporting the plan include the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Greater Tauranga, Tourism Bay of Plenty, Sport BOP, the BOP District Health Board and three local iwi.
Missing was Priority One, but chief executive Nigel Tutt said the economic development agency supported the plan in principle.
He said the agency wanted to make its own submissions to the council on transport - Tauranga's "biggest issue".
The first point in the TTAP plan proposed making public transport cheaper and faster than cars during peak hours along five corridors:
Central: Cameron Rd from the CBD to Barkes Corner
Eastern: CBD to Papamoa and Te Puke
Southern: 15th Ave from Cameron Rd to Hairini along SH29A
Northwestern: SH2 from the CBD to Omokoroa
Western: CBD to Tauriko.