Some Cameron Rd business owners are alarmed by Tauranga City Council's move to look at using on-street parks for peak-hour bus clearways.
The council's Transport Committee has given staff its unanimous blessing to investigate the idea as a way to give buses priority on a key route and increase the attractiveness - "smug-factor", even - of the newly-redesigned bus network.
More than 400 parks may be affected just in the first phase of the proposed work, between the CBD and Tauranga Hospital, which could later be extended to Greerton.
Details such as what the peak hours would be, how side road intersections would be impacted, how to incorporate cycle lanes, and which street trees (not in the median) would have to be removed would be part of the assessment.
The decision came after representatives of both the Western Bay and Bay of Plenty Regional councils urged Tauranga's leaders to be bold and not allow urgently needed bus infrastructure, such as the clearways, to be further delayed by vocal minorities.
The clearway idea worried some long-time Cameron Rd retailers.
Howard Jones, owner of lawnmower shop Naismith and Jones for 26 years, said the idea would "kill businesses".
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that for empty buses they would get rid of our parks."
He was open from 7.30am and often had trailer-towing tradies stop in on their way to work - customers several businesses were concerned about losing.
Neighbour Gaylene Dovaston, whose business Industrial Footwear and Safety has been in her family for 38 years, said she rarely noticed congestion on their section of Cameron Rd between 10th and 11th avenues.
"If they take away our parking for even two hours a day I will not be happy about it."
Shelley Foster, owner for 32 years of skincare centre Jamele, in the same block, said the clearways would be "horrific" for her business, especially for afternoon and late night customers.
Her five off-street parks were always full and staff - up to 12 per shift - already struggled to find a spot. She said the buses should use existing traffic lanes.
Baywide Motorcycles owner Catherine Fleming said her customers, often wearing or carrying heavy gear, would be unwilling to walk far.
"If they can't park right in front of our business they won't come."
Pradeep Patel, owner of Talk of India restaurant, said the clearways could affect his winter business, when people tended to eat earlier, from 5pm.
Rachel Pinn, the regional council's programme leader for passenger transport, said 15 buses an hour were now travelling in each direction on Cameron Rd, with capacity for 885 passengers an hour.
Regional councillor Stuart Crosby said the average Tauranga ratepayer would pay $137 in rates for public transport this year, up from $62 last year.
The council was concerned "slippage" and delays in Tauranga's programme of bus infrastructure improvements were putting that increased investment, tied to the success of the new bus network, at risk.
Tauranga councillors agreed the bus network needed better infrastructure.
"The only way we will get people on buses is when they can smugly sit in the bus and travel past traffic that's stalled," said Larry Baldock.
While not all were convinced clearways were the answer, they were worth investigating.
Council infrastructure manager Christine Jones said clearways were among a suite of bus infrastructure projects staff were working on, also including bus lanes, technology to give buses priority at traffic lights, new interchanges and park-and-ride schemes.
She said the council had a "strong commitment to work together with the community" on the projects.
"But at the end of the day, our primary objective is about trying to move more people on the public transport network rather than provide parking for sole-occupancy cars."
Cameron Rd - by the numbers
- 25,000 cars per day between CBD and hospital
- 90 per cent of vehicles on the road are cars
- 1.1 people average occupancy per car
- 3 per cent traffic volume increase since 2013
- 43 serious injuries, two deaths in last decade
- 400-plus on-street parks between CBD and hospital.
Source: Tauranga City Council
Parking usage on Cameron Rd
AM peak: 42 per cent
Lunchtime: 71 per cent
School pickup: 67 per cent
PM peak: 33 per cent
Night time: 15 per cent
Weekend: 39 per cent
Source: Tauranga City Council