Bus Talk 1: Changes ahead for Dunedin buses

Friday 21 July 2017

Look for this column in your Star every week as the Regional Council works towards improvements to your bus services.

Did you know it’s 70 years since Dunedin got its first bus service?

Dunedin’s earliest public transport service was provided by trams. They were replaced by electric trolley buses in 1947. Many readers will remember the sparks and flashes as the buses progressed down the street and those times when the drivers had to hop out and hook the vehicle back up to the overhead lines when the connection broke mid-journey. Trolley buses were phased out after 1979 with more reliable diesel models.

A law change in 1990 saw responsibility for public transport transfer from the Dunedin City Council to the newly formed Otago Regional Council. DCC retained ownership of CitiBus, the main operator in Dunedin at that time. Since then, the buses have been operated as a mix of contracted and commercial services.

From 18 September this year, all urban services will be contracted to the Regional Council and delivered by Go Bus and Ritchies.

Buses help thousands of Dunedin people get to where they’re going every day, with around 6,000 bus trip taken daily on average. With service improvements in the works, the Regional Council is working on bringing the Dunedin bus experience into line with expectations of 21st century bus users – with the aim of increasing bus patronage over time.

Readers may be aware of the bus hub planned for Great King St. This is one part of the picture of changes coming this year and in early 2018.

Planned route and timetable changes have at their heart consistent frequency and more direct, simplified bus routes. This means across much of the network, buses will come more often and take you where you’re going faster.

Route variations for evenings, weekends and public holidays will become a thing of the past, with each bus route taking the same roads every time.

While the bus hub will help with connections in the central city, an entirely new route is also being added, making new connections between services and suburbs. The Ridge Runner will connect the campus precinct to Maori Hill, Roslyn, Belleknowes, Mornington, the Glen, Carisbrook and Cargills Corner, finishing up at Andersons Bay Rd.

Beyond routes and timetables, Dunedin is also headed towards a newer, more modern bus fleet. By early 2018, all buses will be low emission with air conditioning and all urban services will be fitted with bike racks.

There are tech changes in the works too. Users will be able to track the bus they’re waiting for in real time via information screens at the hub and other major stops or online via a mobile phone. In early 2018, a new ticketing system, with online top-ups, is on its way.

Please bear with us

The aim is a service that works well for current users, including our older passengers and those with limited mobility, and also attracts new people onto the bus.

To get there, there’s going to be a period of thick and fast changes. We’re working towards a transition that’s as smooth as possible – but even if all goes perfectly to plan, it’s going to be a bit confusing for a while at the very least.


Colourful branded trolley buses in 1965. Credit: DCC Archives, Transport Services 7/25 Buses Album