Gridlock
In February a year-long trial of free bus fares for school students started in Welcome Bay.

The $1.3 million project, jointly funded by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council, came in response to public pressure for action on worsening traffic.

It was hoped free fares would see more parents bussing their kids to school rather than driving them.

When the city council agreed to its part of the funding, Mayor Greg Brownless' message to parents was: "Use it or lose it".

So have people used it? And how's the traffic?

A trial of free bus fares for Welcome Bay school students appears to have had little impact on the suburb's notoriously bad congestion.

Parents, however, say the trial made a huge difference to their lives in other ways - especially financially.

The $1.3 million trial, jointly funded by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council, had a rocky start in February with a scramble to add more buses due to unexpectedly high uptake.

Things settled down by mid-term, with new bus operators helping to share NZ Bus' load while it struggled with a driver shortage.

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