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Published: 2008-04-22 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is patting Hamilton people and V8s event-goers on the back for making last week’s Hamilton 400 bus services a huge success.

Environment Waikato land transport operations manager Russell Turnbull says that preliminary figures show in the vicinity of 90,000 passengers used Hamilton bus services, which ran for free, from Thursday to Sunday.

That’s not counting the popular park and ride services, which took out-of-towners into the event from the city’s fringes and also carried hundreds of people," he said.

“We normally carry about 30,000 passengers over a three-day period from Thursday to Saturday, but last week we carried more than 70,000 over those three days. On Sunday, when we don't normally run any services, we carried 17,000 people."

Mr Turnbull thanked regular bus users for their patience in dealing with route and timetable changes needed for the event.

He said the bus, walk and bike message had worked well, making it easy for people to get around the city during the V8s.

“The event organisers must firstly be thanked for helping make the buses free. Free buses were part of the consent agreement and this played a critical role in boosting numbers over and above what we would have normally carried.

“Secondly, the success of the buses in moving the vast amount of passengers was in no small part due to an excellent traffic management plan, put together by the New Zealand Police, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council, Transit, Traffic Management NZ, the Hamilton 400 organisers and Environment Waikato.

“Bus-only access to key streets and bridges, points-people on at critical times, and low traffic levels made the timetable reliable and efficient,” he said.

“Nothing less than what was put in place this year would suffice for ensuring a reliable efficient bus services continues for events to come.”

Environment Waikato brought 18 extra buses into the city for the weekend, boosting the Hamilton fleet by 30 per cent, with every one needed at peak times.

“The work that Go Bus management and drivers put into making the event a success must be applauded, they did a superb job,” Mr Turnbull said.

In terms of identifying improvements, he said more buses through the middle of the day would be ideal for shoppers and sightseers, especially on Saturday.

“Extending the half-hourly service a little later into the evening before it turns hourly is another potential improvement,” he said.

“Because this was the first time the event had run there were a lot of unknowns, but we’re thrilled with the feedback we’ve had overall.

Potential improvements and tweaks will be discussed during a formal debrief investigating how the traffic management plan impacted on people’s movements around the city.

“We had a great first run and we’ll be striving to do things even better next time.”

Mr Turnbull hoped the V8s event had boosted the profile of buses in the city.

‘Anecdotally, many people who tried buses for the first time were keen to use them again to get to and from work or travel around the city. We are thrilled with this feedback as half the battle in growing bus use is to show people how easy and convenient it can be,” he said.

This was good not only from a traffic management point of view, but from an environmental perspective as well.

“Getting more people using buses and realising how easy they are to use and how good they are was something both Hamilton City Council and Environment Waikato were hoping to achieve with this event, so the positive feedback we’ve been getting from people is fantastic,” Mr Turnbull said.