A comprehensive scheduled bus service could be joining up the dots in the Wakatipu as early as July next year.
Otago Regional Council wants existing monopoly operator Connectabus to expand its present service – and ORC may also call for tenders from new competitors.
The bus boost is a bid to reduce traffic congestion via public transport.
Policy and resource planning boss Fraser McRae says ORC wants to increase Connectabus’s frequency between Queenstown, Frankton and Arrowtown – plus supplement main routes with new “feeder services” from Kelvin Heights, Quail Rise, Lake Hayes Estate, Glenda Drive and Arthurs Point.
The Wakatipu’s public transport network is “less than adequate” for people who want to use it as their first choice, he says.
The network upgrade, expected to cost “millions” of dollars, will be funded by ratepayers and taxpayers – via the New Zealand Transport Agency – to get it up and running.
McRae hopes commercial operators will expand the Wakatipu network provided ORC kick-starts new routes and expanded services with subsidies.
“A contractor would provide the buses and the drivers and timetables and we would provide funding to cover the shortfall and Queenstown Lakes District Council would be providing the bus shelters.”
But it’s still early days, McRae says – ORC’s designing routes and working through other servicing issues before calling tenders.
Other than Connectabus, he hasn’t yet spoken to any other potential operators.
A critical factor for the project is whether major Wakatipu roads can handle double the number of buses, McRae says.
ORC is closely watching an NZTA project involving the possibility of installing bus lanes on Frankton Road.
“If [buses] can’t get ahead of the rest of the traffic, then there’s going to be a [congestion] problem as there [currently] is for private transport.”
Connectabus owner Ewen McCammon says talks with ORC are still in the early stages: “We are moving down a lane of seeing what’s needed and what’s necessary.”