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South Waikato's public transport trial, the Urban Connector, is now more than half-way through the six month trial period nearing its four month review, and so far the results are looking promising.
"Since we introduced the changes to the Urban Connector the numbers have been rapidly climbing," said Public Transport Steering Committee Chair, Akarere Henry, "Council and the Steering Committee made a great decision to make changes to the service early on in the trial, so it could work better for our community."
The changes that were introduced included: changing the start and end point from the South Waikato Health Centre to the Tokoroa i-SITE; new sections and stops were added to the Tokoroa Circuit to include both of the local supermarkets; increasing the frequency from three Tokoroa Circuits a day, to six; adding a new stop on Glenshea Street in Putāruru on the District Circuit; and more recently adding an 'on demand' stop at Lichfield.
The changes were implemented in late July and since then the number of passengers who use the Urban Connector on both the Tokoroa Circuit and District Circuit has more than doubled.
Council is glad to see the community making use of this service and really buying into the Urban Connector.
There are, however, some concerns with the number of people using the District Circuit service. The Urban Connector travels the District Circuit twice a day every weekday. The bus travels from Tokoroa to Tīrau and back again, with stops in Putāruru and Lichfield (on demand).
"We are pleased to see that the number of passengers using the District Circuit is building. We don't expect the bus fares to cover the cost of running the service however the number of people using the District Circuit isn't enough to justify the service currently. We need more usage," commented Mrs Henry.
Council recognises the great social service the District Circuit provides, and we encourage our residents to get on board.
"This is only a trial to indicate whether there is adequate need for each of the services so it is very possible that if the numbers do not increase for the District Circuit, Council would need to revaluate this service."The statistics for the Tokoroa Circuit continue to impress Council and it is proving to be of great value to our community.
So much so that Council has teamed up with Waiariki to provide an added service of an extra two loops on the Tokoroa Circuit at 7.45am and 3pm to help students get to and from their courses at the Braeside and Ashworth campuses.
"Waiariki continues to partner with Council on many initiatives and this is one we believe our students will get significant benefit from," Maree Kendrick, Waiariki Regional Development Manager.
This service is tailored towards Waiariki students, and includes a stop at the Braeside Campus on the 7.45am trip. The 3pm circuit departs from the Ashworth Campus and travels south to the Braeside Campus to collect students, then continues on the usual Tokoroa Circuit from the i-SITE.
"We've provided an extra bus for this added service so as not to interfere with the Tokoroa/Tīrau Circuit, which runs around the same time, and although these new times were put in place to assist Waiariki students, the public are more than welcome to use it too," said Amanda Hema, Council's Community Group Manager.
The Urban Connector will be heading into its four month review at the end of October, but already the Steering Committee is confident that it will extend to the full six months.
"Before the six month trial is complete we will put forward a business case to NZTA. If the trial goes well Council could decide to secure the Urban Connector as a permanent service in the South Waikato, funded partially, by Council, NZTA and users," said Mrs Henry.