Martin De Ruyter / Stuff
NBus ridership reached 32,280 in November 2021, but began to decline in December with the Omicron outbreak. By March 2022 numbers had fallen to 29,317, but in April attendance increased and equaled the previous year, likely due to the introduction of half-price fares.
Taking the bus is not only better for the environment, it can be a much cheaper and less stressful way to get around Nelson-Tasman, especially with improved services on the way.
Adult bee card– Commuters can travel one way between Richmond and central Nelson for $1.40 until the end of August under the government’s expanded half-price public transport scheme.
But even the full fare of $2.80 is cheaper than taking a gas car.
Yachal Upson of Novology Ltd in conjunction with the Nelson Tasman Climate Forum has put together some ballpark figures showing the costs of running a car.
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After reviewing publicly available data on vehicle fuel efficiency, fuel cost, as well as fixed costs of ownership, 1000 random trips were made. These showed that a one-way trip between Richmond and Nelson by car would cost around $3 to $3.50 in fuel, rising to around $9 to $10 with the inclusion of fixed costs.
For a one-way trip between Motueka and Richmond, the cost would be around $7.50 to $9 in fuel or around $14 to $15 if fixed charges are included.
In comparison, the Motueka Coastal Bus offers a round trip between Motueka and Richmond for $10.
Along with the Wakefield Community Bus, the Motueka Bus is operated under the umbrella of the Nelson Tasman Community Transport Trust, with the help of volunteer drivers. Although commuter journeys are not yet on the schedule, this is expected to change next year when a planned enhanced bus service is introduced under the Regional Public Transport Plan 2021-31.
Developed by Nelson and Tasman City District Councils, the first stage of the plan includes new weekday regional commuter services from Motueka and Wakefield to Richmond – and then to Nelson as express services.
This first stage, from July 2023, also includes a network of simplified urban routes that will operate seven days a week, all-day 30-minute frequencies on all urban routes, a new on-demand service to replace current loop in Stoke and support for community transport in Golden Bay and Hira. Low-emission buses are offered as well as a new fare structure based on a single urban fare zone.
Hamish McNeilly / Stuff
Dunedin to Palmerston round trip: $2 for a 126 km journey.
Nelson Tasman Climate Forum transport group coordinator Bruno Lemke said the extended routes and more frequent services on offer would encourage more people to switch from their cars to buses.
As well as being a cheaper option and helping to reduce emissions, fewer cars would help reduce congestion on the road, making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
“Ten people in a bus are better than 10 people in 10 cars,” Lemke said.
Other benefits for commuters who switched from cars to buses included time during the journey to relax, read, chat with other commuters, or work. Plus, they wouldn’t have to find or pay for parking when they arrive.
“It looks very encouraging,” Lemke said.
Peter Olorenshaw, of sustainable transport lobby group Nelsust, described the proposals as a sea change for buses.
“What’s not to like.”
He said bus ridership would really increase once priority lanes were introduced and motorists stuck in traffic saw a bus passing with “people reading a book or checking their emails”.
“Unfortunately they didn’t prioritize priority lanes,” Ororenshaw said.
Nelsust was keen for the planned express bus service to use Beatson Rd as a bypass and have priority over a section of Waimea Rd.
“It would be very inexpensive,” he said, adding that cameras could be used to take pictures of the license plates of any cars that tried to use Beatson Rd as a rat run.
Olorenshaw suggested that in addition to the “carrots” of the single urban fare and more frequent bus services, there could also be “sticks” such as the introduction of peripheral parking charges. Such a combination had worked in other places to discourage people from driving into the center and parking in the surrounding suburban streets.