A ratepayer opinion poll will be taken into account as part of the three-yearly review of Waikato’s regional transport system, says Environment Waikato passenger transport spokesperson Paula Southgate.
The review, currently underway, looks at ways of reducing congestion in Hamilton city and improving accessibility to services for rural communities.
“We’ve always said we want constructive discussion with Hamilton City and the review is the right forum to consider transportation issues,” Cr Southgate said.
“Deciding on what is an appropriate level of passenger transport service for the region is a good debate for ratepayers to have and we’re encouraging that through our passenger transport review.”
Cr Southgate said the poll of 790 people was interesting but would have been more useful if it had asked different questions.
“We’re interested in providing quality services at the right price and the questions in the poll don’t address those important issues.
“It’s not as simple as saying ‘Hamilton City should run the buses in the city’. According to an independent consultant, that option would be too costly for ratepayers, inefficient and would create unnecessary duplication.
“The real question is do Hamilton ratepayers want to take on responsibility for all passenger transport throughout the region – this includes bus services in Taupo, Mangakino and Tokoroa, registration of commercially operated transport services, such as taxis, and total mobility functions for the whole region?
“The other key question is around passenger satisfaction – we know from Environment Waikato’s annual passenger transport survey that more than 85% of people who actually use the buses rate the service as good or excellent.
“Over the past three years we have made real improvements to our bus services with the introduction of the Orbiter and Chartwell Direct. We’re getting excellent feedback on these services and continue to take on board feedback for improvements to the overall network.
“It’s important for Hamilton residents to know that simply putting on more buses more often is only part of the answer to reducing traffic congestion.
“The real answer lies in urban design. We applaud the city’s efforts to direct attention to adequate planning for buses in new retail complexes, new subdivisions, and where possible creating priority lanes for buses to make their use more attractive.”
Environment Waikato is responsible for planning and providing the region’s passenger transport network under the Transport Services Licensing Act, a responsibility it has held since 1989.
Over this time, Environment Waikato has developed specialist expertise in the area of transport planning and service delivery and built strong relationships with the other major funder, Land Transport New Zealand.
Working with 11 district councils and Hamilton City Council, Environment Waikato coordinates and integrates transport systems and services across the Waikato region.
Environment Waikato has introduced new and better bus services, increasing annual passenger numbers to more than two million for the first time earlier this year.
It has also worked collaboratively with councils to develop a strategy for managing passenger transport around special events, such as Balloons over Waikato Night Glow, rugby games, and the upcoming world rowing champs and the V8 Supercars.
How passenger transport is funded (2006/07)
Environment Waikato - approximately $3.8 million (37%)
Land Transport New Zealand – approximately $3.6 million (35%)
Hamilton City – approximately $800,000 (8%)
Fares – approximately $2.1 million (20%)
A regional passenger transport plan is a statutory requirement. It determines eligibility for central government funding. The public will be consulted on the regional passenger transport plan review.
The passenger transport network review feeds into the plan and focuses on the operational details such as public transport routes, timetables, bus stops and fares. It includes appropriate consultation with external stakeholders.
The passenger transport review will take into account progress toward achieving the recommendations of the Hamilton Alternatives to Roading Transportation Study (HARTS). The study was commissioned a year ago by Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council and Transit New Zealand to investigate and identify ways of reducing traffic congestion in Hamilton city.
This report found that the shape and density of Hamilton means that the car will be the main mode of transport, with walking, buses and cycling being the most effective alternatives (for the full report, please visit www.ew.govt.nz).
Independent consultant’s report in passenger transport
At the beginning of the year, Hamilton City Council applied through the Long-Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) process to take over responsibility for passenger transport in the region. Passenger transport includes bus services, responsibility for the Regional Passenger Transport Plan, registration of commercially operated transport services, such as taxis, and total mobility functions for the Waikato region. About 80% of the region’s bus services are provided in Hamilton.
In response to the city council’s request, Environment Waikato commissioned a review in August to provide options for the provision of passenger transport functions in Hamilton city and the wider region.
The three options in the report:
- Status quo – “make no structural changes but look to strengthen the delivery of service between EW and HCC. On paper this is a sensible option – it is legally compliant, it is the traditional model and it facilitates integrated transport policy and delivery”.
- Transfer Hamilton Passenger Transport Operations to Hamilton – “politically this might be an attractive proposal because it isolates the ‘problem’. It also strengthens financial accountability for passenger transport in Hamilton and it avoids Environment Waikato needing to levy a targeted rate in Hamilton city…. However, it jars with the coordination and alignment objectives of the NZTS and the LTMA; it is likely to cost more; it would require EW to retain PT skills for a very small operation; and potentially having PT responsibility sitting in two organizations creates public confusion”.
- Transfer Regional Passenger Transport functions to Hamilton – “under this option, all passenger transport functions (including responsibility for the Regional Passenger Transport Plan, registration, and total mobility functions for the Waikato region) are transferred to Hamilton City. This would leave EW with responsibility for the regional land transport strategy and regional road safety. This option is attractive because it keeps the whole PT operation together and it provides potential opportunity for improved transport outcomes in Hamilton. It potentially strengthens political accountability ….and it removes a point of tension between the city and the region. So long as EW can be persuaded that the interests of the non-Hamilton Waikato community can be protected then there appear to be few disadvantages.”
After consideration of the report and listening to Hamilton city’s comments, Environment Waikato voted to keep responsibility for regional passenger transport operations because it provided the best solution for planning and delivering passenger transport services for the Waikato region.