On-demand service to replace Timaru Link bus

Having seen most of its passengers shift to using Timaru's popular on-demand public transport service MyWay by Metro, the Timaru Link will run its last loop in February 2023.

General Manager Public Transport, Stewart Gibbon, said Environment Canterbury has found the Link is no longer sustainable following the successful introduction of on-demand public transport.

"The Link represents the end of an era, as Timaru’s last remaining fixed-route bus service. Our three other routes were replaced in June 2020 by the on-demand service. 

"Now, with our community accustomed to using on-demand public transport, so few people are using the Link that it is clearly no longer sustainable as a service," said Gibbon.

"Depending on the arrival of our new vehicles, we expect that the Link’s last day will be in early February 2023. By this point, there will be increased capacity and more accessible vehicles in the MyWay fleet, to assist customers that would benefit from this as they switch from the Link."

A new school service will be introduced, following a similar path as the Link route. 

Hearing from Link customers

Consultation was undertaken with Link passengers in July to gain an understanding of how the Link service is used by current customers. Environment Canterbury found that 96 people use it regularly, with 20 of those people using it daily. 

"Given the size of Timaru, with a population of 28,600, a very small number of people are still using the Timaru Link. We need to compare this to those using MyWay by Metro, which averages 600 boardings, or around 300 people, a day.

"Of the 59 people that responded to the consultation, 20 people use it every weekday, 28 customers use it two or three times a week, and the remainder use the service sporadically," said Gibbon.

"We asked Link customers whether they had tried the MyWay by Metro service. Seven currently use MyWay, and 17 had tried it but have not continued with it. 

"The remaining 33 customers said they had never tried MyWay by Metro."

Supporting the shift to MyWay

Stewart Gibbon said that all current customers have been offered information about the on-demand service, including vouchers to try the service for free, and were offered a personal travel planning tutorial to assist them to try MyWay.

"We are also working with community support agencies to make information available through their channels, including promotion of our booking on behalf services and the Total Mobility scheme for Timaru Link customers that would qualify for the programme," he said.

The MyWay service will replace the Timaru Link

The MyWay service will replace the Timaru Link

By February, three new super low-floor MyWay vehicles will be added to the fleet, replacing one older vehicle. The new vehicles will increase the capacity of the service and cater for passengers with mobility needs, pushchairs, or simply with extra shopping in hand. Customers can request a low-floor vehicle when booking.

The July 2022 consultation with Link customers followed a wider 2021 community consultation on the future of fixed route services in Timaru, and in particular the Timaru Link, which was held as part of the research and monitoring of the new MyWay service.

"We, of course, have a financial responsibility to Timaru’s ratepayers, and we simply can’t continue to operate the Timaru Link for around 30 daily customers, excluding school students, over the 26 trips run each week. We will regularly offer information sessions and will continue to improve the MyWay service to encourage everyone to give it a go," said Gibbon.

School children were not included in the Link consultation, because, having already identified that approximately 26 children regularly use the service to get to and from school, the Link will be replaced with a school service following a similar path as the Link route. Details of the new school route will be available on our Metro Timaru site before the beginning of the school year.

Since its successful introduction in Timaru, trials of on-demand public transport have begun in Hawkes Bay and Wellington, with another proposed for Tauranga.