Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wheels: Public bus

I don't use the public transport because Auckland is wide spread and there is no direct bus to my place of work. Brick bats are thrown to the public transport that they are unreliable, they cost too much. There is one group of the population who is not complaining. This is a good idea and long due to them as they have contributed to society after working all their life. I hope they will still be there when I am 64.

ON THE BUSES: Hillsborough residents Adrian and Sheila Kriehn show off their SuperGold cards before hopping on a bus to the city.

Public transport in Auckland has never seen anything like it.

Buses, trains and ferries across the city have been flooded with over-65s taking advantage of free public transport after 9am.

Pensioners have been entitled to the free trips since October 1 last year as part of the government-funded SuperGold card.

Hillsborough couple Adrian and Sheila Kriehn regularly catch the bus along Hillsborough Rd to the city or Newmarket and go out for coffee or lunch.

"It’s excellent. We sometimes use the train as well," Mrs Kriehn says.

And Mt Eden resident Audrey Stokes agrees the scheme is working well.

"I’ve always travelled on the bus because I don’t drive," she says.

"It’s very good for me because it saves me a lot of money."

Mrs Stokes has also noticed an increase in patronage since the scheme was introduced.

"There’s more pensioners going out on the bus now than there used to be."

NZ Bus northern region general manager Warren Fowler confirms the rise in numbers with up to 100 percent increase in patronage on some routes.

"The introduction of the government’s SuperGold card initiative has changed the face of how senior citizens travel throughout the country," Mr Fowler says.

"We have seen senior citizens enthusiastically take up the opportunity to travel for free and this is great."

He says the increase hasn’t put any extra pressure on services because the travel is off-peak.

Age Concern Auckland executive officer Grant Withers says they have had reports of cardholders travelling from the central city to as far as Devonport on the North Shore and Pukekohe in south Auckland.

"They get a bus and they’re seeing different parts of the city again."

He is also confident the scheme is helping the state of mind of some pensioners who live alone.

"We find lonely people can get depressed.

"Depression sometimes leads to mental health problems, so it curtails those things."

The scheme has a budget of $72 million over a four year period.

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority says bus patronage has increased from 147,994 trips in November 2007 to 307,185 trips in November 2008.

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