Pushing for rural villages in Manawatū to get public transit options sooner

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Aly Thompson, manager of Neighborhood Support Manawatū, says people in rural Manawatū want public transportation.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Aly Thompson, manager of Neighborhood Support Manawatū, says people in rural Manawatū want public transportation.

Manawatū advocates are pushing for rural communities to have better public transportation options, with people from outside these areas perhaps coughing up money to get there.

One group says a bus service would cost less than $150,000 a year.

The Horizons Regional Council is putting the finishing touches on its regional public transportation plan, a vision of how people can get around Manawatū and surrounding districts without using a car.

Only transportation follows agriculture in the list of Manawatū’s biggest carbon emitters, but few people have options other than their own car.

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Palmerston North, Whanganui and Feilding have services, and there are occasional buses to transport people from towns to larger centres, but options for people in villages like Āpiti and Bunnythorpe are non-existent.

Neighborhood Support Manawatū, as part of its transportation plan submission, conducted a survey of 335 people, with the vast majority saying they would use a rural public transportation service.

People overwhelmingly want to be able to travel from the villages to Palmerston North and Feilding.

Sixty-nine percent of people said they would use public transport in the interest of reducing their impact on the environment.

Director Aly Thompson said she wanted Horizons to conduct a survey of public transportation options for villages in Manawatū.

The plan proposed an investigation in 2027 and classified it as medium to low priority.

Elderly people living in villages, many of whom were prohibitively expensive to travel to larger centers, needed the means to get to places to shop or get to medical appointments, he said. she declared.

The survey showed that the vast majority of people would use public transport for such trips.

Feilding has a bus between the town and Palmerston North, as does an orbiter service from the town, but residents of nearby villages have no public transport options.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Feilding has a bus between the town and Palmerston North, as does an orbiter service from the town, but residents of nearby villages have no public transport options.

Neighborhood Support offered a 12-seater van with an enclosed trailer, similar to an airport shuttle, transporting people between the villages and Feilding.

The fully costed proposal involved the employment of two people and would cost $157,000 to set up and $147,000 to operate before ticket revenue was factored in.

As part of its submission on the plan, the Manawatū District Council asked Horizons to investigate a harmonized fare for public transport services, with input from people outside these rural villages.

As a general rule, public transport is financed by target rates. For example, residents of Rangitīkei do not pay the fares for the Palmerston North bus service.

Manawatū Mayor Helen Worboys, speaking to the Horizons Public Transportation Committee on Thursday, said providing service to rural communities would be prohibitively expensive without a harmonized fare.

“If all the extra costs go to those communities…it just doesn’t add up.”

Determining whether there was an appetite for a harmonized rate was “the million dollar question”, she said.

Manawatū District Council’s senior planning advisor, Lisa Thomas, said the harmonized tariffs were not unusual, pointing to their use for financing water infrastructure.

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