Last month, Horizons Regional Council's passenger transport committee met to agree on the draft regional public transport plan (RPTP) for 2022-2032.
The RPTP sets the framework for how Horizons will plan and deliver public transport services and infrastructure over the next 10 years.
The passenger transport committee is made up of six regional councillors and advisory members from each of the region's city and district councils.
Horowhenua representative and committee chair Sam Ferguson said this was the first time a number of the members had been through such an extensive process as creating the RPTP.
"I'm thankful all the committee members were actively engaged in the process," Ferguson said, "and I'm looking forward to [getting feedback] from the community [about the plan]."
Horizons Regional Council believes public transport mobilises people from all walks of life by giving access to work, education and health services, and enables people to connect with friends and family.
The RPTP was last reviewed in 2014 and since then a number of initiatives in the current plan are either well advanced or completed, including the introduction of a new bus service from Levin to Waikanae and increased frequency of regional services.
Horizons has also funded a portion of the Capital Connection passenger rail service to keep it running while a long-term arrangement is developed.
Through Horizons' 2021-31 Long-term Plan, they have committed to spending $8-18 million per annum on passenger services over the next 10 years.
Rates are only a portion of the funding of public transport services, with the rest made up from passenger fares, SuperGold funding, advertising and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency subsidies.
The Total Mobility service (subsidised private transport options for people with disabilities) is funded 40 per cent by Horizons and 60 per cent by Waka Kotahi.
Horizons' vision for regional public transport for the next 10 years is to make changes to improve options, patronage levels and environmental impacts from its fleet.
"We do have a number of areas in our region which are severely under serviced [by public transport] to the point that [it] just isn't there," said Ferguson.
The primary objectives developed for the RPTP by the passenger transport committee are:
- Connected – making the services offered simple and convenient so more people choose to use them instead of private vehicles.
- Infrastructure and information – providing good quality information, branding, wayfinding and infrastructure, such as bus stops and shelters.
- Reduce emissions – By decarbonising the public transport fleet and by increasing the number of people using services so there are less private vehicles on the road.
- Accessible and equitable – making sure the public transport system caters for people of all ages and mobility, regardless of where they live in the region.
- Simple and affordable fares
- Procurement – contract and monitor public transport services to ensure that they are efficient and effective while providing good value for money.
Horizons have set some big targets to be achieved by the new RPTP over the coming decade:
- Mode share – at least 10 per cent of travel in the region to be by public transport.
- Carbon emissions – at least 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre travelled by public transport bus services.
- Patronage – at least 200 per cent increase.
- Customer and community satisfaction – 90 per cent of surveyed customers and community stakeholders are satisfied with the public transport service and Total Mobility scheme.
Ferguson is also pleased by the inter-regional perspective being considered for the new RPTP as well.
"We're looking wider than just regional boundaries," he said. "Our community travels across these boundaries to Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Kapiti ... [which means] our region is a centrepiece of these trips."
There is a list of top 10 proposed changes in the RPTP, which includes three that are specific to the Horowhenua community:
- Region-wide review of regional and inter-regional bus services.
- Investigate demand and feasibility for urban bus services in Levin.
- Explore demand and feasibility for bus services to/from Palmerston North and Linton, Longburn, Pohangina and Shannon.
The changes being proposed are in addition to the current services and in some cases will replace existing services or result in a new service being added to the network.
The public only has until Thursday, May 12 to make submissions in regards to the regional public transport plan.
This can be done by email to email@example.com or online at haveyoursay.horizons.govt.nz
The proposed hearing dates for submissions are June 9 and 10. Horizons Regional Council will then consider and respond to submissions during June and July 2022, with the plan due to be approved in August 2022.