Comment

Every morning as I waste 15 to 20 minutes of my life driving 2.5km across the Hairini bridge, I think about how annoyed I am at the hash our authorities managed to make of our bus service.

I know I am not alone in thinking Tauranga's biggest problem is congestion, and that it's getting worse, not better.

Some say we need more, bigger roads; others say safer cycle lanes.

Advertisement

I say we need a first-class bus system - fast.

Roads take forever to build, and the funding environment seems like a mess.

It's not just the NZTA decision making delays well-canvassed in these pages.

Council staff also report that the business case requirements just to submit a project to the agency have become so complicated and expensive to develop that they almost just aren't worth it for the result.

Bureaucracy gone mad.

I want cyclists to be safe, but when it comes to cutting congestion, I think bus (T3) lanes should be the higher priority, especially where the available land in the roading corridor is limited.

It's not the great green multi-model dream, but it will do for a bit.

The congestion in Tauranga has reached a point where delaying action any further to pursue high-minded ideals is just plain irresponsible.

Advertisement

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council had a real opportunity to make an impact when in 2015 it started redesigning the bus network.

As the work progressed in the following years, it would have been clear the city's congestion was getting worse by orders of magnitude.

Cost, I think, was the primary concern. I think that because of the comments about NZ Bus' especially competitive tender and because the end result of the three-year network redesign was a slashed number of routes.

It's cheaper to have lots of short hops than longer, more direct routes.

Never mind that more people have to transfer. Transferring might look okay on paper and on a model - hop off one bus, hop on the next one. But in reality, that's not what happens.

The first bus is late and the second bus is early, and you're stuck at the stop for 15 extra minutes until the next one comes along. Who wants that kind of worry/risk first thing in the morning? Pass.

Transfers and the added time are the reason I don't take the bus in Tauranga, though I rode one nearly every day for two years in Wellington.

There's another fail - waiting to hook up many new subdivisions to bus routes until the new network came out.

I live in one and it is chocka with house price refugees from Auckland, Wellington and big international cities, who were already used to buses.

We wouldn't have needed to be dragged out of our cars; we were already sold on buses, we just needed the option. We have one now but it's too late.

I don't blame the staff and the planners, nor do I blame NZ Bus - that sideshow will die down soon. I blame the governance, the elected members.

Cost, while important, should not have been the top consideration.

Bolder leadership would have been a call for a first-class bus system that could sell New Zealand's most car-dependent city once and for all on public transport.

Until then, I can recommend some great podcasts to pass the time.