Refresher on school bus changes

With sweeping changes to the city’s school bus system fast approaching, a Welcome Bay school is taking it upon itself to get everyone onboard and up to speed.

From 2015, thousands of Western Bay of Plenty students will have to pay to catch the bus to school as the Ministry of Education withdraws its funding for Tauranga’s urban school bus routes.

BOP Regional Council transport policy manager Garry Maloney and senior transport planner Rachel Pinn. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

Currently, the Ministry provides for 70 free buses used by about 5200 of Tauranga’s estimated 23,000 school students.

To plug the gap, Bay of Plenty Regional Council will provide replacement services through a new network called Schoolhopper – at an estimated cost of $3million a year.

In an effort to talk over any issues, Welcome Bay School – in conjunction with Bay of Plenty Regional Council – is hosting a drop-in information session at its school hall tomorrow (Wednesday) from 2.30pm to 6pm.

Welcome Bay School principal Nik House says these are some “significant changes” that will affect all children catching a bus to school, and the session is a timely reminder.

“Some people will have to pay for the service they have been receiving for many years,” says Nik. “It’s important our community knows how things will affect them in the future.

“And we felt that it was a good opportunity to provide a forum for people to be able to come and get the correct information.”

Nik will not go into specific details of how the changes will affect the school and its students, but there has been strong interest from throughout the school community.

At the drop-in session there will be information and maps canvassing the changes along with regional council staff working on the project to answer any questions.

“If your child catches a bus, or will be in the future, or if you know anyone who this may effect, please make it a priority to get along and find out how any changes may impact you,” he adds.

As part of the Schoolhopper service, Western Bay students catching the bus to school from next year will be charged $1.15 for concessionary travel and $1.60 for cash fares.

The fares will apply to all school students travelling to and from school on Schoolhopper or Bayhopper buses in the city.

The fares will come into place from 2015, when the council’s new service replaces the bulk of the Ministry of Education-funded school bus services throughout Tauranga.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council transport policy manager Garry Maloney says since the announcement earlier this year, council has been working on implementing a seamless transition with minimal changes.

“This includes keeping routes as similar as possible to what they currently are, keeping the network school student-only and contracting the same bus companies to operate the routes,” says Garry.

“The major difference will be the introduction of fares for students.”  

Garry says council staff who have been working on the project will be available to speak to the school community, students and parents after Welcome Bay School requested the drop in session.

If parents would like to know more about the Schoolhopper service but are unable to attend, they can visit: www.baybus.co.nz/schoolhopperwhere they can find route maps and descriptions for all Schoolhopper routes as well as information about fares.


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