A free bus trial for students in one Tauranga suburb is "pointless" and "set up to fail", some parents say.
The Welcome Bay school bus trial starts on January 30 with Aquinas and Bethlehem colleges to determine whether free student fares can help with Tauranga's traffic congestion.
Some parents believed the trial, which will run during the first school term for Welcome Bay students, should be trialled city-wide and for longer.
Others said there was more to consider, including the time students were now spending on buses, lack of safe bus stops and no parking at pick-up and drop-off points.
Concerned parent Lee-Ann Taylor said the trial should be rolled out across the city and continue for a minimum of six months to get a "true picture" of the issue.
"Two buses are not going to give a fair sample on how it will affect the whole city. The whole city is gridlocked," she said.
Allowing schoolchildren free fares would get more children on the buses and less traffic on the roads, Taylor said.
"It is such a simple solution to make them free for all."
Taylor, who was head of the Aquinas College Parent-Teacher Association, said there had been many buses removed, combined or added to in the new school bus routes for 2019 and meant some students would be on the buses for longer.
"People are going to be shocked by some of these new routes," she said.
"Instead of freeing up and helping it is going to put more pressure on parents and roads."
She encouraged people to voice their concerns to the council.
Poike resident Becky Wilde said her 13-year-old son would be using the new free school bus, but it was "pointless" if he had to spend an hour longer on the bus when he lived not far from his school.
Wilde's son Ethan caught the bus from Aquinas College to their home in Poike, which was about seven minutes from the college.
The bus no longer drove past their road and the new bus routes meant Ethan was on the last stop, changing the drop-off time from about 3.30pm to 4.30pm.
Her teenage boy had autism and she feared for his safety on the bus too long.
"It is not like we can teach him to ride his bike home," she said. "It is our only option."
Fellow Poike mother Kerry Abel believed the new free bus trial was set up to fail.
"I think the new bus trial is set up to fail as there are more variables involved such as the actual bus routes, time children are now spending on the bus and lack of safe bus stop options and no availability for parents to do pick-up and drop-off," she said.
Abel said her daughter would have to wait almost an extra two hours to get to her home just six minutes away on the new bus route.
Abel had resorted to picking up her daughter, who was Year 9 at Aquinas College this year, from school most days otherwise she would be late for her afterschool activities.
She also had concerns that students had to cross a busy highway to get to the bus stop near the Change Point Church on Poike Rd.
"It is dangerous," she said.
Regional council public transport committee chairman Lyall Thurston said the trial was aimed at taking the pressure off Tauranga's transport infrastructure.
"It is not to be confused with providing free school buses to Tauranga students," he said.
Thurston expected the majority of about 700 Welcome Bay students to use the free buses during the first school term.
He also expected the trial to be reviewed and possibly extended.
Thurston asked parents to be positive and give the trial a fair go.
Maleta Knight, of the Welcome Bay Transport Forum, said the trial was a step in the right direction to addressing the city's traffic woes.
"The biggest thing is we need to encourage people to use it," she said.
Knight believed it should be free for all schoolchildren to use the bus and hoped a successful trial would encourage the council to look at rolling out the trial across Tauranga.
Some of the new routes will have two buses running on them and students only need to be in school uniform to get access to the free service, no special passes or tickets are required.
For more information on the Welcome Bay free school bus trial, visit www.baybus.co.nz
Welcome Bay free school buses and start dates
704 – Aquinas College. Starts January 30
720 – Mount Maunganui College and Mount Maunganui Intermediate. Starts February 4
803 – Tauranga Intermediate, Tauranga Girls' College, Tauranga Boys' College and St Mary's. Starts February 4
804 – Tauranga Intermediate. Starts February 4
805 – Tauranga Intermediate. Starts February 4
811 – Bethlehem College. Starts January 30
901 – Tauranga Girls' College. Starts February 1
902 – Tauranga Boys' College. Starts February 7
904 – Otumoetai College and Otumoetai Intermediate. Starts February 4
What is different in 2019?
• All dedicated school routes are now operated by the same vehicles that operate urban routes
• The vehicles meet national standards for urban buses, including air conditioning and are now fully accessible
• There have been significant changes to school routes. For route details, visit www.baybus.co.nz/schools/school-bus-routes-2019
• All vehicles are fitted with CCTV and free passenger WiFi
Source: Bay of Plenty Regional Council