The first step in a three-stage plan to significantly improve public transport in Waipā over the next 10 years has been given the green light.
Committee members at today's Service Delivery meeting endorsed the first stage of a Public Transportation Improvement Plan which will see more regular bus services offered seven days per week with expanded operating hours.
Waipā District Council transportation manager Bryan Hudson said the bus service had become increasingly popular with residents and improvements were needed to keep up with demand.
"Through the Cambridge Town Concept Plan Refresh and the Waipā Integrated Transport Strategy, residents told us improving public transport and creating more connected spaces was important," said Bryan.
"Improving the bus service will provide residents with greater transport choice, reduce car dependence and is environmentally more sustainable."
Currently there are two community bus services which operate in the Waipā district - Te Awamutu to/from Hamilton and Cambridge to/from Hamilton.
Eight services run per day from Cambridge to Hamilton and nine from Te Awamutu to Hamilton on weekdays, and four services from both centres on weekends and public holidays.
The changes proposed in stage one would see this increased to a target of 13 services per day on weekdays and a two-hourly weekend and holidays service from Cambridge and Te Awamutu.
It would also include an upgrade of the existing Te Awamutu route to include Kihikihi on all trips and an upgrade of the existing Cambridge route to include the east of Cambridge on all trips.
Bryan said that per annum, annual patronage had increased by 8-10 per cent on both services for the past two years.
"We have seen a sustained increase in the use of bus services and expect the demand will continue to increase as the population of Waipā grows.
"With these changes, we would expect to see patronage increase over time from approximately 140,000 to over 200,000 trips per annum."
Bryan said the changes would not, however, come into effect until 2022.
"The bus contract for the Waipā district in managed by Waikato Regional Council. Our current contract ends in mid-2021 but this is likely to extended to 2022 due to Covid-19 delaying procurement. This means we will have to wait until the contract is renewed to negotiate significant changes to the service."
The cost is around $45,000-$51,000 of additional ratepayer funding every year for the first three years for stage one improved services. The actual cost will depend on the new bus operating contract value and future patronage/fare recovery.
Funding for stage one will be considered in the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan (LTP). Stage two and three are anticipated as being at least four years away so will be determined in the next LTP.