Sunday, July 14, 2024

Future looks bright for Horizons bus network

Horizons Regional Council says the nation’s first fully electric bus network has significantly increased public transport use in Palmerston North and Ashhurst.

The new network, launched in March, replaced Palmy’s meandering, infrequent and confusing bus routes with fast, frequent and easy-to-understand lines, while also doubling the number of services each week.
 
Horizons Regional Council manager transport services, Mark Read says the first three months of the service have been extremely encouraging.
 
“March, April and May have all seen significant patronage increases when compared to the same months last year. April had 54% passenger growth and May saw 32% growth year-on-year,” he said.
 
“March growth – 8% – may appear small when using collected data. However, this is due to us running free fares, requiring drivers to manually press a button for every passenger who boarded. This resulted in a number of passengers not being counted, so actual patronage growth would have been much higher.
 
“When we launched Te Ngaru The Tide in Whanganui – a fast, frequent and direct service which has helped to double public transport use there – it took some time to see truly promising patronage figures. We expect to see a similar trend with Palmy’s new network.”
 
The busiest lines on the new network are the 101 Airport – Massey, 102 Maxwells Line – Roberts Line, and the 105 Summerhill – Milson, while there has been increased patronage across all age demographics, Mr Read said.
 
“We are seeing increased patronage every day of the week. Weekend patronage has significantly increased (up 92%) across the whole network, while Ashhurst patronage is up 309% on weekends and 62% overall. 
 
“Buses with ‘fully loaded’ signs, indicating they are unable to take more passengers due to being full, have been a daily occurrence since the network launched.
 
“People are giving positive feedback about the network. Users who have filled in our surveys have given an average star rating of 4.5 out of 5, with 5 being the most positive rating. People are also commenting positively via other channels about the comfort of the buses, how easy the routes are to understand, and the benefit of extended services each day.”
 
Horizons chair and Palmerston North-based Councillor, Rachel Keedwell says the early signs show the decision to move from the old network’s coverage model to the new network’s patronage model is proving successful.
 
“Patronage under the old network was declining, so patronage growth shows the new network is delivering what people want,” she said.
 
“With buses running every 30 minutes from 6.30am until 9pm daily, and as often as every 15 minutes at peak times, people now have vastly improved options for travelling across the city and a real alternative to private vehicles.
 
“New features to improve the network continue to be added, with real-time displays currently being installed at shelters across the city. The displays will enable people to know exactly how far away their bus is while they wait.”
 
Councillors, recognising the network change has impacted some people negatively, have committed money via Horizons’ Long-term Plan process to run the 108 trial service between Rugby St and Clyde Cres for another year, Cr Keedwell says.
 
“The 108, initially a six-month trial running four times each way on weekdays during off-peak hours, helps to meet the needs some people have for public transport to run along similar streets to the old network.”
 
“We are listening to feedback about the new network and can make changes, but the early signs show the new network is bedding in well and people are taking advantage of the improved level of service.
 
“The early success of the new Palmy network is helping us meet the objectives of Horizons’ Regional Public Transport Plan to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, all while decarbonising the public transport fleet.
 
“Horizons has a goal of reducing emissions from land transport by 30% by 2030.  The new network support Horizons and Palmerston North to achieve our goals of reducing transport emissions from transport while also reducing congestion,” she said.
 
Tranzit Coachlines area manager, Christopher Candy-Boland says since launching New Zealand’s first fully electric fleet, Tranzit’s buses has collectively travelled 809,605 kms across the various routes in Palmerston North and Ashurst, saving 267,169 litres of diesel and preventing 595 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 
 
“Furthermore, the new fleet has improved the travelling experience for drivers and passengers,” he said.
 
“The feedback we’ve received from our drivers is they have a real sense of pride in driving this 100% electric bus fleet from a sustainability perspective, as well enjoying the quieter and smoother experience the buses afford. 
 
“Our passengers have told us they’ve enjoyed travelling in a modern, clean and comfortable bus ,and are making the most of the increase in frequency of services.”
 
For more information about public transport in the Horizons Region, see horizons.govt.nz/buses-transport or follow Connect – Horizons Regional Transport on Instagram and Facebook.

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