Dalziel: ECan doesn’t need to slash bus routes

Mayor Lianne Dalziel

OPINION: The city council will be submitting on Environment Canterbury’s Long Term Plan.

Our submission focuses on a number of issues, but today I want to focus on the proposed cutting of six bus routes and reduction of the amount that can be subsidised for those who use the Total Mobility Scheme payments due to disability.

I acknowledge that there is a funding shortfall and that ECan has no more public transport reserves to fall back on. But there is more than one way for ECan to address that.

Personally, I believe that the New Zealand Transport Agency should have intervened to provide additional short-term subsidies rather than allowing this piecemeal approach to what is a network of bus routes. But it was not prepared to do that, leaving ECan with the problem to solve.

Under these circumstances, we are asking ECan to put in place a two-year targeted rate to manage the shortfall these routes and subsidy produce.

It seems more than unfortunate that ECan is required to do this given it is about to start its review of the Regional Public Transport Plan, which will be completed by the end of the year.

I sit on the joint public transport committee which brings ECan, the city council, the two neighbouring districts (Waimakariri and Selwyn), Ngai Tahu, NZTA and the Canterbury District Health Board to the table to provide broader input into the statutory decision-making process that sits with ECan.

It has just been announced that the draft RPTP will be presented to the joint committee for approval to go to out for public consultation on July 18. Public consultation will take place between August and September, with public hearings in late September. A final draft RPTP is then approved by the joint committee on October 17 and the final RPTP is adopted by ECan in November.

Once the RPTP is adopted, public transport service reviews can commence. This is the process by which the indicative network structure adopted in the RPTP is confirmed at a street-by-street level. This will involve further consultation (early next year) as detailed routes are proposed. Once the exact routes and levels of service are confirmed, these will be packaged into ‘units’ (groups of services) for tendering.

It seems to me that this is a much better process for considering the network as a whole, rather than isolating ‘poorly performing’ routes from a fare box perspective, and removing them now under a separate ECan LTP process without any consideration given to how other routes could be used/extended to meet the needs of those who rely on the ones it proposes scrapping.

I am not criticising ECan. It has been left between a rock and a hard place by NZTA’s decision not to give it a grace period, in spite of the RPTP review being so close. I hope that our submission, along with the submissions of affected residents, brings about a change around the ECan table. Submissions close on Monday, March 26, so please ensure you too have your say.

•If you want to ask Ms Dalziel a question, email mayor@ccc.govt.nz. Put Reader’s Question in the subject line