27 Nov 2023

Public transport demand rises, but bus shortage worries officials

6:00 pm on 27 November 2023

By David Hill for Local Democracy Reporting

Cashless changes are proposed for the Greater Christchurch Metro Network. Supplied / Environment Canterbury

Bus services on the Greater Christchurch metro network are under pressure due to growing demand. Photo: Supplied / Environment Canterbury

More people are using public transport in Canterbury, but there are not enough buses to keep up with growing demand.

Environment Canterbury chairperson Peter Scott said bus use in the Greater Christchurch area grew significantly over the last year, placing services under pressure during peak times.

''We are going to need to make a lot of buses over the next 10 years to keep up with demand.''

The regional council last week voted to order five new electric buses so it could increase the frequency of a popular Christchurch route.

Buses will run every 10 minutes on Route 7, between Queenspark and Halswell, when the new buses arrive in six to 12 months.

Ecan Councillor, Peter Scott, stands by River Avon

Peter Scott Photo: ( RNZ / Philippa Tolley )

Bus patronage in Waimakariri, in the year to October, was up 21 percent on pre-Covid-19 levels (2018/19), while the Selwyn district saw a 25.27 percent increase, council's public transport strategy and planning manager Sonia Pollard said.

Environment Canterbury had no spare buses in the fleet, so any improvements were subject to funding being approved, Pollard said.

''This is why we are getting underway now with this for our Route 7 uplift, which we hope to implement next year.

''We are working with central government to identify ways we can respond to changes in demand, in particular areas where demand exceeds capacity which is focused on the peak times.''

Speaking at a recent council meeting, Scott called on the new government to help regional councils with the challenges.

There needed to be more consistency and the new government should "look at this with other regional councils''.

Environment Canterbury completed a Public Transport Futures Programme Business Case in 2019, which estimated an extra 100 buses would be needed over 10 years.

A new business case was being prepared in preparation for the 2024/34 Long Term Plan and for next year's National Land Transport Programme, which sets out priorities for transport spending.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon said he was pleased to see a significant increase in bus patronage from the district.

''A lot of the country's emissions come from transport so it is great to see that our improved services are working for people.

''I would say it is down to a combination of having the right services at the right time.''

Gordon said he often took the bus for meetings in Christchurch.

''Environment Canterbury and the council will need to look at how we can further improve this service to meet demand.''

He encouraged Environment Canterbury to meet with his council to discuss options for improving the service and how the councils could continue to work together.

Comment has been sought from incoming Associate Transport Minister Matt Doocey.

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