Hamilton's new on-demand late-night bus service Flex celebrated a successful first weekend with positive feedback from passengers.
The service was made a reality by Waikato Regional Council and had its first trial last weekend, but will do more free runs for the remainder of January on Fridays and Saturdays between 6pm and 4am.
From February, trips from anywhere within the Hamilton city boundary to the CBD will cost $2 each way. The Flex airport service is also waiting in the wings for its start in February getting people to and from Hamilton airport.
Last weekend, the rideshare service had 59 bookings over Saturday and Sunday night with lots of great feedback, the council says. People commented on the convenience, comfort and cleanliness of the vehicles, and friendliness of the drivers.
Waikato regional councillor and Regional Connections Committee Chair Angela Strange says: "For people wanting to get to and from the CBD, we're really excited to be able to provide an affordable option for people wanting a corner-to-corner service rather than only stopping at bus stops.
"The service will take people with a mobility impairment driveway-to-driveway – all you have to do is let us know when registering on the Flex app."
Compared with regular buses, the flex buses are smaller and can carry 13 passengers, or 10 people and a wheelchair user, and the seats are fitted with seatbelts. Bookings can be made up to a week before travel or just 15 minutes before you're ready to go. The buses are GPS tracked in real-time, so passengers can track their ride in the Flex app.
"This is a very different style of public transport and it's been a long time in the making. We had hoped to roll it out sooner, but as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, we delayed the launch," Strange says.
The Hamilton airport Flex service will cost $3 each way, operating from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm between the Hamilton Transport Centre and Hamilton Airport.
Hamilton Airport Chief Executive Mark Morgan says: "We're very supportive of making the airport more accessible to a wider range of our travelling public. So it's great to see another transport option available to get to and from the airport."
Waikato Regional Council is launching the Flex services in partnership with global ride services and transportation technology provider Via. The provider's Australian-Pacific Regional Manager Ben Hague says Via was proud to partner with the regional council to launch an efficient, sustainable, on-demand transportation system in Hamilton.
"As someone who grew up in Hamilton, I know first-hand that the new Flex service will be an incredible addition to the city, by making it convenient for residents and visitors to use public transport and ultimately rely less on private cars. Hamilton is a regional leader in innovative mobility, and we're excited to see how other communities in New Zealand adopt smart, on-demand transport."
Flex passengers are required to wear a face-covering and scan the QR codes on the buses. The app is free and available from the App Store and Google Play.
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