The Timaru Link bus will run its last loop in February next year, with Environment Canterbury announcing its permanent replacement with the successfully trialled on-demand public transport service.
General Manager Public Transport, Stewart Gibbon said Environment Canterbury had found the Timaru Link was no longer sustainable.
“The Link represents the end of an era, as Timaru’s last remaining fixed-route bus service. Our three other routes were replaced in June 2020 by the on-demand service,” said Mr Gibbon.
“Now, with our community accustomed to using on-demand public transport, so few people are using the Link that it is clearly no longer sustainable as a service,” he said.
“Depending on the arrival of our new vehicles, we expect that the Link’s last day will be in early February 2023. By this point, there will be increased capacity and more accessible vehicles in the MyWay fleet, to assist customers that would benefit from this as they switch from the Link.”
He said a new school service will also be introduced, following a similar path as the Link route.
Council undertook consultation with Link passengers in July to gain an understanding of how the Link service is used by current customers. Environment Canterbury found that 96 people use it regularly, with 20 of those people using it daily.
“Given the size of Timaru, with a population of 28,600, a very small number of people are still using the Timaru Link. We need to compare this to those using MyWay by Metro, which averages 600 boardings, or around 300 people, a day,” said Mr Gibbon.
“Of the 59 people that responded to the consultation, 20 people use it every weekday, 28 customers use it two or three times a week, and the remainder use the service sporadically.
“We asked Link customers whether they had tried the MyWay by Metro service. Seven currently use MyWay, and 17 had tried it but have not continued with it,” he said.
The remaining 33 customers said they had never tried MyWay by Metro.
Mr Gibbon said that all current customers have been offered information about the on-demand service, including vouchers to try the service for free, and were offered a personal travel planning tutorial to assist them to try MyWay.
“We are also working with community support agencies to make information available through their channels, including promotion of our booking on behalf services and the Total Mobility scheme for Timaru Link customers that would qualify for the programme,” he said.
By February next year, three new super low-floor MyWay vehicles will be added to the fleet, replacing two older vehicles. Council says the new vehicles will increase the capacity of the service and cater for passengers with mobility needs, pushchairs, or simply with extra shopping in hand. Customers can also request a low-floor vehicle when booking.
“We, of course, have a financial responsibility to Timaru’s ratepayers, and we simply can’t continue to operate the Timaru Link for around 30 daily customers, excluding school students, over the 26 trips run each week. We will regularly offer information sessions and will continue to improve the MyWay service to encourage everyone to give it a go,” said Mr Gibbon.
He said details of the new school route will be available on our Metro Timaru site before the beginning of the school year.