A petition calling for a free school bus trial to be extended to include the entire Bay of Plenty will be presented to Bay of Plenty Regional Council today.
The petition also calls for school-aged children to be able to travel free on buses at all times, including weekends. It will be presented to the regional council's Public Transport Committee by transport advocacy group Greater Tauranga.
Greater Tauranga drafted the petition last month seeking 200 signatures. As of last night, 860 people had signed.
Greater Tauranga's Heidi Hughes said the petition was important "because our bus system is failing and right now it is currently the only public transport system we have".
"We have an opportunity to make it a success story for our youth and for our large families while we work towards a better service ... The next generation will then help us to develop a better future service because they will be users of it."
The petition follows the Bay of Plenty Regional Council decision in June to extend a current Welcome Bay free school bus trial to the rest of Tauranga city from January.
Hughes said if the petition was successful and coupled with an excellent PR campaign that spoke to young people, it would make a significant difference.
"It will give a lot of large families an opportunity to get out and about and participate as a family. Many need two cars to get the whole family out together and they don't have two cars. Some don't have one."
Regional council chairman of the Public Transport Committee Lyall Thurston previously told the Bay of Plenty Times he welcomed the petition because "that's democracy".
"But at the end of the day, someone has to pay."
The regional council's June agenda stated the forecast net cost to the regional council of $174,000 for 2019/20 and $182,000 for 2020/21 for the upcoming trial.
Thurston said the upcoming trial was part one of a two-step process. The second part involved addressing potential to extend free-bus hours.
"Tauranga is unique because of the natures of typography access issues and infrastructure issues; this is why we have really gone to great lengths to see this trial take the pressure off infrastructure in Tauranga."