Frequent bus users in Hamilton and the wider Waikato will be rewarded with greater value from using their Bee Card when a fare capping system kicks in from Monday, July 12.
Waikato Regional Council, which launched the new Bee Card ticketing system a year ago, describes it as the most significant improvements to bus fares in more than five years.
The Bee Card system started with temporary fare levels to help simplify the changes for passengers and to help support the Covid-19 recovery.
From Monday, these will be replaced with new standard fare levels, and the regional council will launch new fare products that it says will further simplify travel and deliver great value for passengers.
"We're rewarding frequent passengers by bringing in weekly fare capping, which will make bus travel more affordable and give individuals and families certainty when budgeting for their travel," said Waikato regional councillor and Regional Connections Committee chairwoman Angela Strange.
"On Bee Card, once you spend a certain amount each week, from Monday to Sunday, all further bus travel in that zone is free. In Hamilton this means the maximum an adult will pay per week is $18, and people 18 and under will pay no more than $15," she said.
Fare capping is also available across zones – for example, for people travelling through three zones, like Huntly/Cambridge/Te Awamutu/Morrinsville to Hamilton, the maximum weekly travel cost would be $36, and $30 for people 18 and under.
"This is a significant change and one we expect will make public transport a more appealing transport option," she said.
There will also be other changes following a month of consultation during January and February on changes that will have some bus fares become lower than pre-Covid-19 levels and others increase slightly.
"More than 260 people completed the survey, and it's fair to say we got clear direction on the changes we were proposing," said Strange.
The free transfers on Bee Card will stay – including between regional and Hamilton bus routes. Free transfers ensure people can connect between buses to complete their journey without needing to pay an additional fare. Free transfers will also apply when connecting between buses and the Te Huia passenger rail service.
To activate the free transfers, passengers tag on to the next bus within half an hour of tagging off on weekdays, or an hour on weekends and in the evenings.
A single low fare for all bus services will also stay. This means the Waikato will not have adult or child fares, just a single low fare for all passengers.
There will also be changes to Te Huia train fares. The Te Huia train service launched in April with introductory fares. On July 12, these will change to be in line with the new fare zones for the Waikato. Some fares, such as the Bee Card fare between Hamilton and Papakura, will reduce slightly to $12 while the Bee Card fare between Huntly and Papakura will increase slightly to $8. Most cash fares will increase.
We know a lot of families have been using Te Huia, said Cr Strange, so we're making it simpler. Child fares will be replaced with one-way Bee Card family passes, which also provide better value for money, with two adult and up to four youth 18 and under travelling between Hamilton and Papakura for $40, and between Huntly and Papakura for $30. There's also a family pass option for one adult and up to three youth.
Also from July 12, SuperGold Card concessions must be loaded onto Bee Cards to continue to receive free travel in off-peak hours. Concessions can be loaded online at beecard.co.nz, via 0800 205 305, or visiting the team at the Transport Centre