Whanganui has launched a new high-frequency bus service - Te Ngaru The Tide.
The new service runs from Aramoho to Castlecliff every 20 minutes from 7am until 7pm, Monday through Thursday, and from 7am to midnight on Fridays.
Mayor Andrew Tripe said it’s “back to the future”, referring to the city’s once-busy public transport system.
“It’s a way of hopefully changing how people think about the use of transport and getting around town,” he said.
Tranzit Coachlines Central manager Connor Mear said the company had hired 22 staff and seven female drivers for the new service.
Whanganui owes this reimagined bus network to Anthonie Tonnon, an award-winning local musician and public transport enthusiast who served as the Whanganui District Council representative on the Horizons Regional Council’s passenger transport committee.
Rachel Keedwell, Horizons Council Chair, referred to Tonnon as “a star”.
“This was his idea. He conceived it, pushed it. He coaxed us and encouraged us to make sure that it would happen,” said Keedwell.
Tonnon’s knowledge of public transportation history in Whanganui influenced the design of Te Ngaru, which effectively reactivates some of Whanganui’s old tram routes.
“We built our city and housing along tram routes,” he said. “This bus route is a connection of two tram routes, the old Aramoho tram route and the old Gonville-Castlecliff tram route.”
Tonnon’s innovative approach to public transport could not have come at a better time, with recent weather events reminding us of the importance of reducing emissions by taking cars off the road.
“Even if you do have a car at home, it’ll be attractive to use this bus,” he said.
Tonnon says they are also looking into expanding the network with inter-urban services, enabling travel between Palmerston North to Whanganui, Whanganui to Foxton, and even Foxton to Taumaranui via Whanganui.
Te Ngaru The Tide drivers are already receiving praise for the service.