Fare go: Council makes bid for $2 bus fares

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Two dollar bus fares could be on the way for the Wakatipu.

Queenstown’s council, the regional council and NZ Transport Agency are working on a radical overhaul of the public transport system.

They’re consulting on an “inexpensive, reliable and frequent” bus network.

While the money-go-round isn’t settled, Queenstown’s council’s slice could be about $500,000 a year, with the regional council contributing a similar amount. The transport agency could be up for $1 million.

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult wants to see two dollar bus fares across the Wakatipu for multi-trip concession cardholders, as well as improvements to routes and timetables.

The aim is to make public transport the “no-brainer” default mode of transport in the resort, with a target of doubling the number of passenger trips each year to one million within 12 months.

The flipside will be a hike in downtown parking charges.

“If you continue to make parking too affordable, why would anyone opt for public transport?”

He’s “highly optimistic” it will change the way residents and visitors travel around Queenstown.

“Fully-subsidised public transport is not without cost but we can’t afford the alternative.

‘Wherever possible we have to move away from a dependence on private cars. Public transport is essential to ensuring our transport network doesn’t come to a grinding halt.”

Queenstown ratepayers will be consulted in April.

Regional council chairman Stephen Woodhead says both councils will need to formally adopt the proposals and consult on them, with a view to introducing the new system later in the year.

Boult wants the new service to start in July, but concedes it will be “something of an evolving process” throughout the year with ongoing tweaks and improvements.

The agency has an incentive to back the scheme, he says.

“If we’re right and we can shift half a million [trips] out of motor cars into buses, that’s a whole lot less cars on the road.”

It’s the first significant announcement of Boult’s mayoral term, and one he promised in December to deliver within six months.

He also promised a park and ride system between Frankton and central Queenstown for commuters.

ed@scene.co.nz