A massive boost for public transport infrastructure is part of a proposed $3 billion plan for land transport investment in the Bay of Plenty.
The Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) sets out how the region's land transport system will be developed over the next 30 years, co-funded by councils and through the National Land Transport Fund.
Just over $139 million has been set aside in the next six financial years for public transport infrastructure, according to the draft plan.
New or improved bus shelters are planned for Tauranga and Rotorua.
In Tauranga, funding towards potential new public transport facilities in the CBD, Arataki Greerton and at Tauranga Hospital were on the list along with park-and-ride investigations for growth suburbs in the east of the city.
Executive director of the Sustainable Bay of Plenty Charitable Trust Glen Crowther said he was pleased there was a good allocation of funding for public transport infrastructure.
"It's a massive shift this time. It's a completely different ballpark for how much they're going to put into the infrastructure side."
The last regional plan, from 2018, outlined about $144m for public transport, the bulk of which went to operational costs.
Infrastructure costs included $4.9m for priority lanes for buses, $1.2m for a new bus ticketing system, and $8m for bus shelter construction and trial bus services.
But Crowther was concerned the funding for public transport services in the new plan was not enough. About $133m had been earmarked for public transport services.
"There are still some significant improvements that could be made by investing a few million dollars extra into the bus services over the next year or two," he said.
"They seem to be stretching their resources to try to run a huge number of buses on a very tight schedule. If they had a little more money in the system, they might have more flexibility to offer a better service to more people and make it more reliable."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council's transport and urban planning manager James Llewellyn said the council could make better use of existing service investment before adding more buses into the system.
"[The] Long-term plan contains proposals to increase bus service frequencies over the next 10 years, but this can only be done when the existing network is running as efficiently as possible," he said.
Transport advocate and former Tauranga City councillor Heidi Hughes believed the RLTP was headed in the right direction but wanted a deep link between transport and housing.
"We need to clearly tie in our urban development pattern with our regional plan. If we continue to create low-density developments, we're not going to have success in getting people to mode-shift.
"That's what we're trying to achieve – to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles.
"Nothing in the RLTP shows we're going to be getting less congestion given our growth model."
Llewellyn said the regional council agreed with other council partners that it was "impossible to build our way out of congestion".
"It would be very irresponsible for the RLTP to promise to eradicate congestion, which is a result of most people travelling in single-occupancy private cars. Some people have no choice but to use their cars," Llewellyn said.
Llewellyn said lower emission methods of transport such as walking, cycling and catching the bus were viable options for many others, and acknowledged these facilities needed improvement.
"A key focus of the RLTP is to propose additional investment to encourage more people to leave the car at home, and do their bit for reducing congestion by choosing another mode of travel."
The 2021 RLTP reflected central government's commitment to building a modern transport network through investment in multi-modal transport systems and providing efficient alternative options, he said.
"Acknowledging urban design and good transport are critical elements for a successful and highly liveable region, which includes high-density development."
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is meeting today to adopt the RLTP on behalf of a joint transport committee involving the region's other city and district councils.
It will be submitted to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency by June 30 for final funding decisions.