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A new plan – which will provide a strategic blueprint for the region’s public transport for the next six years – has been released for public comment.
John Bain, Chairman of the regional council’s Regional Transport Committee, says the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) 2011-2017 is a long-term plan that looks at how public transport services are delivered in Northland.
“Legally we’re required to produce this plan because we both administer – and rate for – Whangarei’s public bus service ‘CityLink’ and the regional council also administers the Total Mobility Scheme, which gives the disabled and elderly access to discounted taxi trips.”
Councillor Bain says CityLink and Total Mobility have been successful and popular with Whangarei users.
“CityLink alone now carries almost 300,000 passengers annually; three-and-a-half times the 80,000 its predecessor did when it began operating in 2000.”
He says among the challenges in coming years will be how to maintain an affordable, quality service while continuing to grow patronage.
“The plan proposes investigating ways of improving user experience, including public transport information and ticketing options.”
However, Cr Bain says the plan also recognises that providing access to public transport in other parts of Northland is of equal – if not greater – importance.
It also acknowledges that achieving this poses a real challenge because so many of our communities are relatively small, rural-based and essentially car dependent.
Councillor Bain says the plan proposes helping those with a disability by not only maintaining the Total Mobility Scheme, but also by looking for opportunities to expand it to areas outside of Whangarei.
“It also recognises the other public transport services that already exist elsewhere in the region and provides guidance on how their operators can to try to gain subsidies to help reduce their costs.”
He says the regional council is running an extended public consultation period for the draft plan, with people able to make submissions until 3pm on Monday 16 January.
“This longer-than-usual period is to make sure as many people as possible can have their say on this important document and also to take into account the upcoming Christmas/New Year break.”
Councillor Bain says copies of the full Draft Regional Public Transport Plan – and a summary document - can be viewed on the Northland Regional Council website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/publictransportplan
Printed copies are also available from Northland Regional Council offices and public libraries.
Councillor Bain says input from the public will help shape the final plan before its adoption, currently scheduled for February 2012.