Council, Transport

Bus service trial sours as passengers not on board

A commuter is hoping more people will take up riding the bus. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council is sinking tens of thousands of dollars into a commuter bus service that is barely being used.

Two trial bus circuits designed to take commuters to work were launched near the end of February.

But the service is falling flat with an average journey costing around $70 per passenger.

One worried commuter says she’s always travelling solo and hopes more people will jump on board.

Retail assistant Cheryl Abrahams, from Blenheim, says she wanted to reduce her carbon footprint but fears she is making it worse.

“I’m wanting to make my carbon footprint smaller but, am I, as the only one on the bus?”

The bus services, two commuter lines and a bus from Renwick, are part of an 18-month trial service.

Cheryl Abrahams wants to reduce her carbon footprint but is often the only passenger on the bus. Photo: Supplied.
Cheryl Abrahams wants to reduce her carbon footprint but is often the only passenger on the bus. Photo: Supplied.

The east and west commuter lines each do two circuits in the morning and two in the evening – eight circuits each day.

Figures from council, show passengers have taken 248 trips on the commuter bus and 342 rides on the Renwick line since the beginning of the trial to 30 June.

“All of council’s bus services were heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic,” a council spokesman says.

The commuter component of the Renwick service and both the Blenheim services were stopped from 26 March to 1 June – with full services reinstated on 2 June 2020.

Over the 30-or-so days the trial has been taking passengers, and spread out over the eight loops each day, that works out to about one passenger per trip.

The $135,442 programme, now nearly a third of the way through, is costing roughly $70 per passenger.

Cheryl, who lives in Witherlea, says it’s a no-brainer to take the bus, and thinks if more people knew about it, they would use it.

But she says bus stops don’t have the timetable for the early commuter bus posted and she’s never seen any advertising for it.

“Council has done a poor job of advertising,” she says.

“Reducing traffic by even just 5 per cent would make a huge difference. To your wallet and traffic.”

She says she was the only one to catch the east bus line into town last week and says the bus driver told her she was only the third person he had picked up since February.

Cheryl usually bikes to work, but when the weather is poor takes her car.

“Where I work there’s no all-day parking,” she says.

“To get parking, I have to walk the same distance as to the bus stop.”

It costs about $4 a day to park in a long-term carpark in town – the same amount as a return bus fare.

“I’m thrilled that it does exist,” says Cheryl.

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