Meeting with ORC first step in addressing public transport issues

Many of you will have noted that our council and that of Dunedin City have been seeking dialogue with the Otago Regional Council over the running of our public transport services.
    I’m pleased to note that ORC has now agreed to meet us both to address a number of issues.
    Locally, public transport was not taken particularly seriously until 2017, when congestion on our roads reached the point where we needed to introduce a service that would attract a high number of users and reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.
    The $2 bus, as it is known, along with greatly increased routes and frequency and a new fleet of buses, quadrupled the number of folk using public transport virtually overnight.
    ORC has advised us that it has recently had to curtail some services due to a lack of drivers.
    My contention is that the $23 per hour wage will not attract drivers and we need to take a leaf out of the books of Wellington and Auckland, who have both recently substantially increased drivers’ pay rates.
    We also have some misgivings over ORC’s understanding of our district and its transport requirements, as one of our goals is to encourage significantly greater use of public transport to address both congestion and environmental issues.
    One of the deliverables we are also looking to achieve is the introduction of public transport into the Upper Clutha and possibly a service between Cromwell and Queenstown at commuting times, recognising the large number of folk living in Cromwell who work in Queenstown.
    On the positive side, we recently had a presentation by Environment Canterbury (who run public transport in Canterbury) showing an on-demand public transport service which has been introduced into Timaru.
    My feeling is that this would be well suited for the Upper Clutha.
    The ORC has much on its plate and we understand it has priorities outside of ours. However, public transport is important to all parts of our district and I look forward to our meeting with the ORC to see what positives can be achieved.