MyWay trial extended but success dependent on support
A decision on the future of Timaru’s MyWay by Metro on-demand public transport will be made in June this year as part of the Long-Term Plan process, following an extension of the service trial beyond April 2021 by us and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
The trial public transport service was fully introduced in June 2020 after beginning during lockdown in April.
More data needed to assess the service
Councillor Peter Scott said that due to the disruptions of the COVID-19 lockdown and alert level changes, enough information has not yet been gathered for an informed decision on its success.
"What is immediately clear is just how well the MyWay service has integrated into the community, and how it has provided a demonstrable improvement in accessibility and community connection for many people in Timaru," Cr Scott said.
"MyWay by Metro offers far greater convenience and flexibility, without the need to rely on bus schedules or to travel fixed routes. Nearly 80,000 rides have been taken since the full service began. However, its success is also reliant on uptake from people who didn’t previously use public transport, and we need more data to accurately assess this."
Community backing to decide MyWay's future
Cr Scott said that as a subsidised service, we are looking for a mandate from the people of Timaru if it is to be continued.
"There’s no doubt that this is a good service, and that it can work well for Timaru, as demonstrated by the extremely high ratings it receives through our app feedback.
"However, through these last few months of operating the service, it has become clear that the increased convenience comes at a cost; it is more expensive than a standard public transport system," Cr Scott said.
The cost of running the service between 22 June 2020 – 30 January 2021 was $922,132.14, covered by the revenue from fares of $125,979.61, and ratepayer and NZTA funding of $796,152.98. This is in addition to around $500,000 per annum for the fixed route Timaru Link and school services.
The total trips taken on Timaru’s public transport for that period were 110,000 compared to 95,000 for the 2018/19 year; an increase in patronage of 15%, in a period which included several COVID-19 alert level changes.
"Public transport is funded by users, ratepayers and NZTA. So, during our 2021-2031 Long-Term Plan consultation this March, we will be asking Timaru’s ratepayers whether they value public transport for their city," said Cr Scott.
Growth still required
Cr Scott said we are looking closely at the MyWay service to understand whether it will be able to grow to a level where the fare contributions bring in what is required for financial sustainability.
"We’re looking at needing around 100 more riders each weekday, for the service to realistically be financially sustainable.
"Ultimately, it will be a community decision whether to support this service, but for now, we have a responsibility to do all we can to give Timaru’s on-demand public transport its best shot at success," Cr Scott adds.