Every year fewer and fewer people are catching the bus and ratepayers are picking up a slice of the $1.9 million shortfall.
Figures from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council show bus fares in Rotorua generated $1m in 2017/18 with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Ministry of Social Development SuperGold subsidy making up the $2.9m paid to Reesby Rotorua for its service.
The number of passengers using bus services in Rotorua has dropped by nearly 180,000 over the past three years from 814,164 rides in 2015/16 to 636,820 in 2017/18.
Regional council figures also showed $1.4m was made in fares for 2015/16, $1.07m was made in 2016/17 and just $1m was made in 2017/18.
But this drop in passenger fares combined with an increasing contract payment means a $1.9m shortfall has been created.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Public Transport Committee chairman, councillor Lyall Thurston, said several changes were made to the inner city bus network in 2015 to support Rotorua Lakes Council's Inner City Revitalisation.
''Public transport is a critical component for contributing to a thriving region and Bay of Plenty Regional Council is committed to delivering this for the Bay of Plenty.''
Thurston said travelling by bus reduced traffic congestion, stress, and greenhouse gas emissions.
"We continue to review and evolve this bus service alongside stakeholders such as Rotorua Lakes Council in order to achieve the outcomes that we want.''
Ministry of Social Development community partnerships and programmes group general manager, Marama Edwards, said the SuperGold transport concessions were held in high regard by cardholders and were consistently mentioned as being the aspect that cardholders value most about the SuperGold programme.
''Access to transport plays a key role in enabling older people's active involvement in the community, their quality of life, sense of freedom and independence," she said.
A New Zealand Transport Agency spokeswoman said it did not directly provide public transport services.
It set policies and co-invested in services that were delivered by regional councils and had paid about 33 per cent of the bus contractor payment.
Reesby Rotorua did not want to comment.
Who is picking up the bus tab?
• One third is paid by Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
• One third is covered with fares.
• One third is paid by NZTA.
• There is also a SuperGold fare subsidy administered by Ministry of Social Development to fund free bus travel for seniors.
• If fare revenue is less than budget or expenditure more than budget, the council picks up the shortfall. Sometimes that shortfall may be partially off-set by NZTA.
-Source Bay of Plenty Regional Council