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Reduced bus fare for Tauranga students

Reduced bus fare for Tauranga students

18 February 2014

Tauranga students affected by the Ministry of Education’s withdrawal of out of policy school bus services from the start of next year will have to pay a fare, but it will be at a reduced rate.

Councillors at Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Public Transport Sub-Committee meeting on Friday agreed in principle to implementing a reduced fare for BayHopper services for the Tauranga school bus transition.

From January 2015 the Ministry of Education will no longer fund “out of policy” school transport in Tauranga. This refers to students who do not meet the Ministry’s eligibility criteria for bus transport but who currently may be able to use school bus services funded by the Ministry of Education. The Regional Council is planning for the increased demand for public transport that will result.

Councillors on the Public Transport Sub-Committee were asked to consider the fare policy to be implemented, with a lower fare than the current BayHopper student fare recommended.

An estimated 3000 students will be affected by the school transport changes, of a total of about 23,000 students attending schools in the Tauranga urban area.

“This decision will provide some certainty for schools as they consider the issue as part of their annual planning, and will help prepare parents for the transition from the Ministry of Education-funded services,” Public Transport Sub-Committee Chair Lyall Thurston said.

The Regional Council’s project advisory group, which includes representatives from the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Ministry of Education, the Bus and Coach Association, and schools, has previously given an indication of support for the introduction of fares.

“We accept that this will not be welcome news for those families with children who find they will have to pay a bus fare from next year, but the provision of bus transport will place a cost on the community and that cost has to be met in part by users, the same as it is for all public transport services in the country.

“We are already working with schools, affected students and parents, to develop solutions together and want the community to help us shape a new SchoolHopper bus service and we will be consulting the wider community as we go through the process,” Mr Thurston said.

Following the decision about fares, Regional Council transport staff will now start work on confirming the routes, with community input.

Councillors may be required to reconsider the in-principle fare decision as better information comes to hand, and once a final decision has been made, fares to be charged will be included in the Regional Council’s Annual Plan and Ten Year Plan.

Funding and procurement approvals will then need to be finalised with the New Zealand Transport Authority and contracts entered into with operators.

§ In March 2010 the Ministry of Education and Bay of Plenty District Council signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to align the provision of school transport. The MOU acknowledged the Ministry is required to withdraw from providing “out of policy” school transport in Tauranga.

§ Many students already use existing BayHopper services with children making up about 20 percent of bus patrons.

§ Regional Council’s transport team put forward three options for potential fare solutions for the transition phase of replacement school bus services and agreed in principle to Option 3:

Option 1: Implement the fare policy in the Regional Public Transport Plan, which does not include a concessionary fare scheme specifically for students;

Option 2: Charge students the same fares as they are currently charged on BayHopper urban services ($1.80 per ride for cash or $1.44 with a Smartride card);

Option 3: Lower fares than currently being charged.

For more information go to the SchoolHopper section of www.baybus.co.nz


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