Hamilton City Council wants to accelerate big improvements to the city's transport centre.
As part of its 2021-2031 Long-Term Plan, the council is proposing to spend $7.7 million to rejuvenate the centre, which opened in 2001. If the rejuvenation gets the green light, the proposed upgrade may begin later this year and be complete by late 2022.
The project is reliant on Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency agreeing to a 51per cent co-investment subsidy.
Infrastructure Committee chairwoman Angela O'Leary said the existing transport centre on the corner of Bryce and Anglesea streets was not meeting community expectations.
"There's insufficient outdoor seating and poor weather protection. The mix of, and potential conflict between, people, buses and other vehicles is a real risk so many users report feeling really unsafe," O'Leary said.
"And the existing facilities are certainly not meeting the needs of people with accessibility challenges because of narrow paths, obstructions, poor toilet facilities and no visual or audio aids.
"There's no doubt we need to make significant improvements and in my view we shouldn't wait another 10 years to do it."
Improvements would include widened platforms with a bigger canopy, an extension to the existing building, improvements to the parking area including secure parking for bikes and scooters, the removal of outdoor obstacles and improved signage and audio announcements.
There would also be major accessibility improvements including the building of fully accessible toilets as well as a full toilet upgrade, a 24-hour safe waiting area and improved ticketing facilities.
Mayor Paula Southgate said she supported the investment as part of wider efforts to encourage people on to public transport. She noted that improvements to the existing transport centre were first mooted in the 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan "so this proposal is not new".
"The difference is our city is now investing more than ever before in initiatives which provide accessible, safe and realistic alternatives to using private cars and that includes getting people on to buses," she said.
"But we need transport facilities that work for those who use them and those people who would like to use them, but can't. Right now, our transport centre is falling short, particularly for people in our community with mobility challenges."
During discussions in December, not all councillors supported the proposal but the majority agreed to put it in the draft budget. The proposal also needs endorsement from the Regional Connections Committee so a business case to secure co-investment from government can be submitted to Waka Kotahi. If the business case is unsuccessful, Southgate said the project would need to be scaled back "dramatically".
Final decisions on project timing and funding will be made once the total Long-Term Plan budget is locked down in June this year. Before then, the council is undertaking a comprehensive public engagement programme on what it is proposing to spend – and when – over the next decade.
Public engagement on the council's Long-Term Plan will run from March 5 to April 7. More information is available at futurehamilton.co.nz