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by Greta Yeoman

A pilot scheme of an alternative public transport system in Timaru will not happen until early next year, an Environment Canterbury representative has confirmed.

ECan public transport senior manager Stewart Gibbon

The regional council’s public transport senior manager, Stewart Gibbon, said while community consultation over the draft Regional Public Transport Plan 2018-28 would begin later next month, any changes to Timaru’s transport system would not occur until early 2019.

The region-wide draft plan, which included the Timaru changes, was approved at the ECan meeting last Thursday.

Mr Gibbon said while the council had decided that although continuing to run a transport system of buses on fixed routes and timetables was not a viable option for Timaru, it was still unsure what form an alternative system would take.

“[It is] quite clear to us . . . the current bus service is not really meeting the community’s needs.”

That was where public feedback, during the month-long consultation process which would begin on September 17, would be important, Mr Gibbon said.

“It’s exciting times, but it’s challenging times.

“Anything that involves change can be quite disconcerting for people.”

ECan had begun talking to service providers, both nationally and internationally, around technology used to book transport, as well as other groups from transport and vehicle perspectives.

“[It is] quite clear to us .. the current bus service is not really meeting the community’s needs.”
– Stewart Gibbon

Mr Gibbon said, if public transport was on a scale between buses on fixed routes and an Uber-style taxi service, a new system would be towards a more flexible service.

However, providing a taxi-style service would not be financially beneficial for any party involved in using or running public transport.

ECan already fund a total mobility service for Gold Card users that partially funded taxi rides for disabled residents who could not use the bus.

He hoped that current users of public transport in Timaru would be involved in the consultation process, along with people that had used the bus in the past and those who never had.

Consultation would open on September 17 for a month. The draft plan was already accessible on ECan’s website.

The official regional public transport plan would be finalised by December, he said.