Jim Boult: Buses a first step

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OPINION: The saying goes that “all good things come to those who wait”, and I am pleased to share with you that we have a commitment from the Otago Regional Council (ORC) to start the new $2 bus service this November.

I’ve received a lot of positive comment from around the district, and I’m delighted it’s finally starting soon.

I suspect there’ll be a settling-in period during which we’ll need the ORC to be responsive in adjusting timetables and frequency to ensure the services adequately and properly address the needs of residents.

A couple of people have questioned the council subsidising the service on the basis they don’t or won’t use a public transport system. The reality is the council pays for a lot of services that many don’t use; swimming pools and libraries are two examples.

The council needs to provide various services for the greater benefit of the wider community, and paying for these services through our rates is the only equitable method.

I regard the $2 bus as a first step. Ultimately, the district needs a public transport system that is synonymous with it being one of the most desirable destinations in the world. In the longer term, plain old buses may not cut the mustard.

There have been lots of alternatives put forward including gondolas, light rail and a ferry service.

Council will rightly consider all of these before making a decision as to whether we will pursue an alternative method and, if so, what it might like look like.

I was recently given a presentation on a new gondola system. It looks promising, but if a gondola system simply takes people from the airport to the downtown area, for example, how do they get to their hotels from there? Likewise, light rail requires a light rail corridor, and I’d question if we have available space to provide one.

My gut feeling tells me a ferry service might be the best option, but I’m keeping an open mind.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was greatly impressed by the shallow-draft, jet-powered ferries that ply the shallow area of Sydney Harbour.

Councillors will begin a process of considering future forms of transport as part of their wider consideration of the new downtown plan. Clearly, alternative forms of public transport need to be factored into any work we do on the downtown plan.

Rest assured we will keep you abreast of considerations in this regard, and whatever direction we may decide on, I very much look forward to publicly consulting on this as we make progress.

Jim Boult is the Queenstown Lakes mayor