Tens of thousands of passengers have stopped catching Rotorua's buses since July's route changes. And it's getting worse.
Rotorua's CityRide bus passenger numbers have dropped dramatically with almost 50,000 fewer passengers in the July-September quarter compared to last year.
The drop has been blamed on a new inner city route and confusion over suburban route changes.
The statistics were revealed in an agenda report for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's public transport subcommittee, which met on Wednesday, and show in the three months to September 30 passenger numbers were down 49,800 compared to the same period last year, a drop in patronage of 18 per cent.
The numbers were even worse for October, down 19.6 per cent compared to last year - a drop of 16,614 passengers for the month.
Regional councillor for Rotorua and subcommittee chairman Lyall Thurston, along with Rotorua district councillor Glenys Searancke, who is the Rotorua Lakes Council's representative on the subcommittee, said they were shocked by the drop in numbers.
However, Rotorua Lakes Council Inner City Portfolio leader and councillor Karen Hunt said it was too early to panic just yet.
Earlier this year the district council petitioned the regional council to change bus routes through the central city in an effort to bring more people into town. From July 20, buses began travelling along a central city loop, which included Fenton, Arawa and Amohia streets and Rotorua Central Mall.
Changes were also made to suburban bus routes.
But the changes have backfired according to Mrs Searancke and Mr Thurston, who said the regional council would go back to the district council to try and sort the issue.
"Route changes were meant to bring more shoppers to town,"
Mrs Searancke said. "I'm really concerned about these numbers. It's around 4000 people less per week coming into town. We were gobsmacked. "I've had lots of complaints from users . . . it's not the regional council's fault because they changed the routes reluctantly due to pressure from Rotorua's council," she said.
Mr Thurston said before the routes were changed the regional council had received advice that the new routes would not be as efficient or easy to access and "we agreed to support the Rotorua Lakes Council's preferred routes, with some apprehension".
"The regional council is very concerned by the drop in patronage and need to work with the local council to fix the problems, especially route configuration and confusion," he said.
Ms Hunt said the statistics were concerning but it was important for people not to jump to conclusions too quickly.
"We knew there'd be a few teething problems and we will have to discuss how we can be included in the discussion going forward. "They are of concern and it's important to realise whether it's the transfer to the ring road or the change of routes in suburban areas."
She said more analysis was required.
"Has there been an increase in cycle use, or more cars? There are a number of factors at play here. Additional publicity may be required to help promote the new routes . . . but we are providing a service to the community, so it must be the one they want to use."
In his report to the subcommittee, the regional council's Transport Policy manager Garry Maloney said while patronage and revenue statistics were "somewhat sobering", the council had options to address the situation.
"These include such things as reducing expenditure through further route refinements - for example, removing the airport as a destination on route 10 - and reducing the frequency of some trips, and heavily promoting the service to build patronage.
By the numbers:
- Rotorua CityRide numbers
- Passenger numbers down 49,800 in three months to
September 30 (18 per cent down on 2014)
- 4150 fewer people going into town each week
- Revenue from bus fares down 12 per cent
- October down 16,614 passengers (19.6 per cent) on 2014
- Possible solutions
- Further route refinements (for example, removing the airport
as a destination on route 10)
- Reducing the frequency of some trips
- Heavily promoting the service to build patronage