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Published: 2006-06-22 00:00:00

Bus patronage across the Waikato region continues to climb, with May 2006 passenger numbers a massive 21 per cent higher than May 2005.

People took 236,226 trips around the region last month – 40,571 more than they took last May.

“That’s a very healthy increase,” said Environment Waikato passenger transport spokesperson Paula Southgate.

Hamilton city services registered a similar rise, with patronage figures up 22 per cent this May compared with last May.

Hamilton City Council transport committee chairman Dave Macpherson said the results were particularly encouraging given the city’s focus on Access Hamilton strategies, which aim to get more people to trial alternative methods of transport.

“The CBD shuttle and Chartwell Direct Service have proved themselves to be exactly what the city was ready for and usage demonstrates a positive shift in perception towards public transport citywide. These services are no doubt made even more attractive given rising petrol costs.

“Around 7200 passengers used Hamilton’s new free CBD shuttle last month. However, it’s important to note that while the CBD shuttle and new Chartwell Direct service have contributed to the increase in overall numbers, even if we take them out of the equation, city services are showing a 12 per cent increase compared to the same month last year.”

The Chartwell Direct had its best month ever in May, with 5424 tickets sold. This service, which provides a rapid link for commuters travelling into and out of the city centre from the north-eastern suburbs, began operating in February.

“Almost all city services are up, with outstanding results from the Northener, up 17 per cent, Glenview, up 16 per cent and Nawton, up 10 per cent,” Councillor Macpherson said.

Services in the region outside of Hamilton have also registered strong growth of eight per cent for May and 10 per cent for the year to date.

“The biggest increases for the 2005/2006 year have been the Paeroa 22 commuter bus and the Taupo service,” Ms Southgate said.

Passenger numbers on the Paeroa 22, which stops in Paeroa, Te Aroha and Morrinsville, have grown by 29 per cent to 15,882. The Taupo service has registered 4800 trips for the year to date, an increase of 23 per cent over the previous financial year.

"It's great to see public transport growing in rural areas to complement the strong growth in Hamilton city," Ms Southgate said.

Please note: Figures in this press release are rounded to the nearest whole per cent.