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PHOTO: ECAN / SUPPLIED

by Greta Yeoman

The Timaru public has given a “cautiously optimistic” response to Environment Canterbury’s proposed on-demand public transport service, a spokesman says.

The regional council held an online survey in December and January about the proposed change to a flexible, Uber-style transport system.

Of the 211 survey respondents, 50% were positive or neutral about on-demand public transport, while 25 respondents did not agree with the proposal.

While half of the respondents said prices were “fairly” or “very” important to them – and fares had not yet been set – it was likely the new service would cost slightly more than the bus, Mr Gibbon said.

“[It is] the trade-off for a more convenient, on-demand service that takes you where you need to go.”

Off-peak travel will remain free for SuperGold Card holders.

More than half of survey respondents wanted to be able to use public transport on weekends and about a quarter in the evening.

A prototype of the service is being tested by groups in Timaru – looking at functionality, hours, cost of operation and service coverage – and is expected to be complete by the middle of this year.

The project team is also preparing a business case for NZTA funding.

Depending on the response to the business case and other factors, an on-demand service could be operating by the end of the year, ECan said.

Both ECan and NZTA want to engage with the business community and recruitment agencies to establish future workforce needs.

Those involved with both groups are encouraged to contact public transport community engagement adviser Isabelle Bromham on 27275-1966.