Hamilton is leading the way in alternative transport options, with a new Hamilton to Auckland commuter train on the way, Lime Scooters and car sharing services in the CBD, a new cycle friendly Claudelands Bridge, and possible water taxis on the way on the Waikato River.
The move to make Hamilton more transport friendly is a part of the Access Hamilton taskforce of city council, who work to improve the health and wellbeing of Hamiltonians by providing transport choices that connect people and places safely and enables sustainable economic growth.
While Lime Scooters, and trains have stolen the spotlight with an estimated 116,000 trips already for the electric scooters from August to November, and a number of ACC claims, the launch of the Loop car sharing service has been much quieter.
Despite the soft launch, the general manager the new self-drive car-sharing service, Jamie Russell, said more people were starting to get on board with the new concept.
"We're cheaper than Lime Scooters. It's my favourite statistic that you can hire a car for 25c a minute, or a scooter for 38c a minute," Mr Russell said.
While Lime Scooters offer you a quick get around the city, or maybe even a joyride around the lake, Mr Russell said at its core, Loop is a car rental service.
"We simply are doing it through a phone app, rather than going in to an office and signing a load of forms."
Loop currently has 18 cars around Hamilton, with two at Hamilton Airport, two at Innovation Park in Ruakura, and 14 in the CBD.
"There is a good amount of users who are using the cars already, and we are on track to meet our budget targets," Mr Russell said.
"This is Lime Scooters for grown-ups.
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"We are a car rental service at its core, except we do it through an app."
He said how it works is users will download the Loop app from the iphone or Android store. Once installed they register and then what happens in the set-up is the phone will scan your licence and also the user's via the phone's camera.
The scans will be sent off to be checked on a number of databases, such as NZTA, that will tell Loop whether the licence is valid, is the same person that was scanned is the one in the licence, and that they don't have a criminal record.
"Once that is all done we tick off the registration and from then they can start driving one of the Loop cars."
Mr Russell said the company tracks the car at all times, but there is no limit on where it can go in New Zealand.
"If you had a meeting in Auckland, you could hire a Loop car from here and drive it up to Auckland, park it and lock it up there, and then drive it back to Hamilton after the meeting.
"The whole time you are using it the clock is ticking, but it is up to a cap of $75 a day."
There is an extra 30c per km cost after travelling 150km in a 24 hour period.
"You can't end your trip until you are parked back in the same place you picked the car up from."
Mr Russell said the ride sharing service has been popular with businesses who have a small set of fleet cars and generally take short trips around town.
"They are seeing the benefits of using these vehicles rather than own a small fleet of cars that are losing value for every second they are not used."
He said currently there is no need to increase the fleet of cars in Hamilton as of yet, but in the future a broader range of vehicles could be added.
"If we found someone somewhere that said we have an opportunity for you, and have some parking spaces to spare, we would chuck more cars in tomorrow. In the future you could see utes and larger vehicles being added to the fleet to be used for moving houses."
While not confirming it, Mr Russell said it would make sense for Loop cars to be located at the new Rotokauri Transport Centre, which will soon have the Hamilton to Auckland train operating out of it, along with being a new hub for buses and a park and ride centre.
GIVING LOOP A GO
Hamilton News tested the Loop ride sharing service to see how easy it was to sign up and take one of the cars for a spin around the city, TOM ROWLAND reports.
Downloading the Loop App to my phone I read through the instructions to get ready to take the wheel of one of Loop's ride sharing cars in the CBD. After entering my basic details such as my name and phone number, I was prompted to add my debit card details as part of the sign-up. The instructions were clear and concise, and within two minutes I was into the final stages of the sign-up.
A text message was sent to my phone prompting me to a website that would scan both sides of my driver's license, and then my face. After five minutes of waiting I received an e-mail saying I was all ready to go.
Looking at the map for where the cars where located, I searched for a car slightly bigger than my own personal one. Loop has a number of Volkswagen Golfs around the city, but I made the 15 minute walk to pick up a Holden Trax on Alexandra Street.
Walking up to the car I simply selected it on the map and ticked the unlock button, allowing me to get into the vehicle and retrieve the keys from the glove compartment.
From then I was able to drive around the city with the clock running. I had $20 already loaded on my account which is required as part of the Loop sign-up process. I had travelled to The Base, picked up some food and travelled back to the same park on Alexandra Street within 50 minutes, leaving me with $6 of credit to spare.
You have to return the Loop to the designated car park you started from to end the trip, the Hamilton City Council has provided several in the city, while there are also spots at Hamilton Airport and Innovation Park.
I placed the key back in the glove compartment holder, which is needed to end the trip, I hopped out the vehicle and ended my trip on the app.
The app went through a checking process to make sure the keys were returned and the car was in the right spot, before it locked and allowing me to move on and take a Lime Scooter back to the office.