The fares on the bus go up and up

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Queenstown’s under-fire bus operator is crying poor.

Privately owned Connectabus hiked fares on March 1 - less than a week after a draft Wakatipu transport strategy was released.

Bus firm director Morgan McCammon says it was forced to put up prices as some fares were losing money because of major cost increases.

“The seven-day pass price and cash fares could not be maintained at their present level and have been operating below cost.”

He says a $47 adult seven-day pass for unlimited travel in the “Queenstown basin area” is extremely good value, at $6.70 a day.

As to the wisdom of upping prices so close to a public transport-friendly strategy being released, McCammon says the strategy will take some time to implement.

“Connectabus has been moving people onto public transport for 23 years.”

The strategy suggests tearing up Queenstown council carpark leases and banning all-day parking from much of central Queenstown in an attempt to push people out of their cars and onto public transport.

But many wonder how realistic that is when a bus ride from Fernhill to Queenstown now costs an eye-watering $5.50.

That’s prompted a new carpooling group to be formed, called Queenstown Carmate.

Founder Alicia Hardy, a graphic designer, says the idea is to offer a gold coin donation for a lift.

More than 500 people signed up in less than 24 hours.

Hardy says the town’s “inefficient and expensive” bus service means it’s four times more expensive to bus than drive.

“If the council wants to ease the parking situation and the traffic in town, they will have to come up with a better bus service.”

The Otago Regional Council runs public transport in Queenstown but doesn’t subsidise Connectabus.

Mountain Scene asked the Queenstown Lakes council’s infrastructure manager Denis Mander for comment - but he kicked the inquiry to councillor Alexa Forbes.

Forbes says should the public agree the local council wants to reduce bus fares.

“We want to move some of the money that’s taken from carparking charges into subsidising buses.

“Our whole aim is a much cheaper, much more convenient bus service.”

Submissions to the draft transport strategy are expected to open early next month.

david@scene.co.nz