You can expect a new timetable booklet in your mailbox in early September, with new routes and timetables available to preview online around the same time. The new timetable will be operational from 18 September.
The new timetable is part of a programme of changes being implemented over several years, first outlined in the Otago Regional Council Public Transport Plan 2014. The plan signalled a fundamental shift in our approach to public transport in Otago.
The core principles established by the plan include bus routes being as direct as reasonably possible, generally using main roads rather than small, residential streets; and removing route variations so the new network is stable, simple to remember, and easy to understand for new users.
The first steps towards these principles were made in 2015 and 2016. Some of the big changes made then included 238 extra services on southern routes, a new fare structure that reduced the number of zones from seven to five, and the introduction of a free transfer between routes within the same zone for GoCard users. Next month will see the biggest step change yet.
What’s changing in September?
The routes that changed in 2015 and 2016 will stay the same. Most other routes will have changes in keeping with the principles of the Public Transport Plan. For some passengers, the more direct bus routes may mean a slightly longer walk to your bus stop, but the streamlined routes will see your travel time reduced.
At the moment, some services follow one route during the day and another in the evening, weekend, and public holidays. From next month, services will follow the same route at all times of the day and seven days a week, making bus travel less complicated.
There’ll be more buses running on many services too. The Regional Council is moving towards getting most urban peak services running every 15, 20 or 30 minutes. Many passengers will see quite an increase in how often their bus comes from 18 September.
Timetable changes on some routes will also mean more buses in the evenings, weekends, and on public holiday services.
All urban bus services will be fitted with bike racks from next month – hopefully useful for those who like riding down Dunedin’s hills but may prefer not to ride up them! Free wifi on buses is also on its way, shortly after the route and timetable changes.
Where does the bus hub come into it?
The bus hub is also part of the changes first outlined in the Public Transport Plan. Combined with the principles of more direct services (and reduced journey time) and buses that come more often, it will help open up the whole network by making transfers from one service to another much more straightforward.
Look for this column in your Star every week as the Regional Council works towards improvements to your bus services.