Whanganui's new voice for public transport says it needs to be an attractive option for everyone in the city - even those who own and use cars.
Musician Anthonie Tonnon has been appointed Whanganui's representative on Horizons Regional Council's passenger transport committee.
Tonnon says making change will require innovation, not just meetings.
Tonnon studied history at university and has a passion for public transport. He's taken his Rail Land show, which combines music and dialogue and begins and ends with a ride on public transport, to towns all over New Zealand.
He's been living in Whanganui for three years, and studied its public transport history. The town was built in the golden age of town planning for public service provision, he said.
From 1908 to 1989, public transport ran along corridors that became densely populated. Trams, buses and the Durie Hill Elevator worked together. Between 1958 and 1961 there were buses at 15 to 25 minute frequencies from 7am to either 8pm or 11pm.
• Premium - Let me entertain you: Anthonie Tonnon on the politics of performance
• Premium - Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land arrives home in Whanganui
• Anthonie Tonnon to play Ward Observatory
• Anthonie Tonnon: Songs of character
"When the regional council took over there was instantly a huge drop," he said.
Tonnon spoke to Whanganui district councillors at Tuesday's meeting about his new role.
He won't have voting rights, but has already started talking to Horizons councillor Nicola Patrick and the chair of the committee, new Horowhenua councillor Sam Ferguson. He went to one of its previous meetings with the council's last representative, councillor Graeme Young.
Leap in bus use during free Whanganui trial
Bus use declines - but option still important for users
Councillor Alan Taylor asked him whether frequent public transport was possible in a city of Whanganui's size.
He said those frequencies were possible in 1958 when its population was even smaller.
He'd like people to compare what happens now with what was possible then.
"A key difference is that we used to design public transport with everybody in mind - busy people, poor people, elderly people, school children. For the last 30 years only those who really have to will take it."
"We want to make public transport attractive to people who have cars, not just to people with no other option."
What was needed was a change in thinking, he said.
Tonnon believed there was potential for Whanganui's Tranzit bus fleet to do more as it was nearly as big as the privately owned Greyhound fleet of 1958.
Tranzit Coachlines has been asked for comment on this.
The previous chairwoman of Horizons' passenger transport committee chair of the regional council, Rachel Keedwell, said there had to be a trade-off for buses, between covering as much of the city as possible and having more frequent services.
But she was keen to hear what Tonnon had to say, because he was a big user of public transport.
She agreed there could be other ways to run it.
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall was also enthusiastic about Tonnon's appointment.
"It's absolutely fantastic to find somebody with such expertise within our community," he said.
Tonnon has never wanted to go into politics, and it "took some persuading" to get him to take the council role.
He has his first committee meeting on February 18. There are four a year, and he's hoping to increase that number.