From this week, Waipā residents are paying half the previous fare to catch a bus from Cambridge, Te Awamutu or Ōhaupō to Hamilton as a new bus ticketing system is introduced.
On Monday, Waikato Regional Council launched the new Bee Card system to replace the BUSIT card. While it is rolled out over the next six months, fares will be significantly reduced.
Catching the bus from Cambridge and Te Awamutu now costs $2.70 with a Bee Card, down from $5.65 with a BUSIT card.
Without a card, the cash fare is $5. Ōhaupō to Hamilton is lowered to $2.20.
The Cambridge to Leamington fare drops to $1 and Kihikihi to Te Awamutu also $1 with a Bee Card.
Waipā District Council transportation manager Bryan Hudson said the new system not only provides immediate benefits to passengers but also improves the service long-term.
"We know public transport is something many of our residents consider vital to improving our towns and making them better places to live.
"We hope the change to fares and improved card system will encourage more residents to test out using the bus to see if it works for them.
"As with anything, if there is enough demand for it, we've got more scope to make changes and improvements in the future."
Free transfers will be available across all services, including Hamilton buses, for Bee Card holders allowing bus users to take a second bus within half an hour of tagging off the first at no extra cost.
For example, Waipā residents could take the bus from Te Awamutu to Hamilton and could then transfer onto the Comet bus to get to The Base all for $2.70.
Concession types will also be temporarily merged meaning no separate child, University of Waikato, or Wintec discount.
SuperGold card holders, however, will still receive free travel in off-peak hours.
These concession types and normal fares will be reinstated later this year.
Bee Cards can be collected from the Cambridge and Te Awamutu i-Sites for free and can also be topped up there, online, over the phone or at the Transport Centre.
Bee Cards can also be ordered from beecard.co.nz or via 0800 205 305.
The Bee Card introductory prices mean a Hamilton bus fare is $1.70 for all Bee Card users, instead of the previous $2.40 adult BUSIT card fare. Without a card, the cash fare will be $3.
Hamilton's CBD Shuttle has been replaced with a $1 central city fare zone, exclusive for Bee Card holders, from the motels on Ulster St through to the hospital.
The city council says that to begin with, there won't be separate child, University of Waikato, Wintec or 60+ discounted fares – just use your Bee Card to take advantage of the lower prices.
Reinstatement of normal fares and concession types, including the youth concession, will be reviewed over coming months.
SuperGold Card holders will still receive free travel in off-peak hours and accessibility concession holders receive free travel at all times with their Bee Card.
The public transport operations manager for Waikato Regional Council, Andrew Wilson, says:
"The tag on/tag off system will also be beneficial in providing useful data going forward to help us to improve the bus network for everyone."
Over the next few weeks, existing BUSIT card holders will be able to swap their BUSIT cards and transfer balances to their new Bee Cards.
City transportation manager for Hamilton City Council, Jason Harrison, says: "We're all about supporting public transport initiatives that make travel easier and smarter for all Hamiltonians, as well as encouraging people to look at alternative ways of travel – this new prepay bus card is a great example of this."
For more information go to https://busit.co.nz/about-us/bee.