School bus services are being squeezed and a greater number of college students are expected to walk or cycle to school, as part of a number of recommendations approved by the Regional Council Public Transport Committee.
By reducing passengers from 1450 to 1160 and the number of school bus services from 45 to 24, the council expects to reduce service costs from the current $860,000 to $330,000.
The bus kilometres travelled daily come down from 1700 to 780 and the subsidy per passenger drops from $1200 to $370.
“It's called fare box recovery and its split three ways,” says committee chairman Lyall Thurston.
“The passenger makes a contribution, the NZTA makes a contribution and the council makes a contribution.
“In terms of ratepayers the Tauranga ratepayers are subsidising a lot of the public transport in Tauranga through their rates. When you get on a bus in Tauranga the fare is basically split about three ways. You are certainly not paying the full cost recovery of the trip.”
Under the new contract, now expected to roll out sometime in 2018, operating costs reduce from $2.6m to $1.1m, while fare revenue reduces by $300,000 from $1m to $700,000.
Additional costs arising from the new school bus programme include $30,000 allocated for crossing guards.
A number of schools have been identified as having students crossing major roads as an impediment to use of the public bus service and a safety risk for students.
A trial crossing guard proposal is being proposed that aims to put a trained individual in place to guide students, monitor and report adverse behaviours.
The regional council is also looking at putting $100,000 towards a Safe Travel Bus Programme to be run by the city council, looking at incorporating bus travel into a school's travel planning and providing education programmes for schools, particularly aimed at intermediate age children.
While the biggest savings have come from reducing the number of services and kilometres travelled by school. This means that buses are expected to be more crowded and that most students will have longer distances to walk to reach their nearest school bus stop.
The new services are intended to run as close to public bus routes as possible while providing good access to schools. An estimated 1450 students currently use School Hopper services and 1,160 will continue to have access to these services.
Of the 290 students likely to lose service 100 of these may be eligible for Ministry of Education transport assistance, 100 are from Tauranga Girls' and Boys' colleges, 40 from Otumoetai College and Intermediate, and the remainder are from the remaining schools.
The majority of students who will no longer have access to school services are located on a direct public bus route to their school with the remainder largely being served by the public bus network.