eBus numbers soar, Stoke OnDemand service to end

Posted on 10 April 2024

eBus numbers soar, Stoke OnDemand service to end

The eBus service has made a great start to 2024 with a record-breaking month in March helping the service grow to more than a quarter of a million journeys in the first quarter.

While patronage for the overall eBus service has been very strong, this has not carried over to the OnDemand service in Stoke, resulting in a Council decision to bring this part of the service to an end. 

Nelson Mayor Nick Smith said March was the biggest month, with 91,687 journeys, since the eBus launch in August 2023 and 27 February had a record 4061 journeys in a day.

“I am particularly encouraged that the eBus patronage this year – in January, February and March – is more than double the same months in 2023 for the former NBus service and that usage continues to growth month on month. 

“The growth is so strong, the eBus could make the million mark in passenger journeys this year.” 

Nelson City Councillor Campbell Rollo takes the bus several times a week and says he’s noticed the increase in passengers. 

"I’m seeing strong growth in passenger numbers, not just at peak times, but throughout the day. It's been really cool to see so many different people catching buses throughout the region, whether they’re on a family trip down to the beach or heading off to work in the city. I’m also looking forward to the trial this month with muzzled dogs being allowed aboard at non-peak times.  

“From 1 May, 2000 local Total Mobility card holders will be able to use the eBus for free at any time of day with a support person, if required. This is great news. As the Chair of the Accessibility for All Forum, I want to encourage accessibility wherever I can and this is one way to make life easier for people who might find getting around challenging.” 

The decision to end the OnDemand service was taken once patronage fell to financially unsustainable levels.   

Stoke Loop was introduced in 2015 but was suspended in June 2017 due to low patronage. The loop was altered and reintroduced in 2018 and averaged 193 journeys a month when it was replaced by OnDemand.  

OnDemand began with promise, experiencing 142 journeys in the first month, but patronage declined from September and was down to just 48 in February and 52 in March. 

Mayor Nick says the Stoke OnDemand service usage is so low – at only 12 journeys per week – and the cost so high – $215 per journey – that it is not viable." 

“Nelson City Council decided on 4 April, on the recommendation of the Joint Nelson Tasman Regional Transport Committee (RTC), to end the service on 30 April. The decision was made in confidential business to enable the contract providers to be informed prior to the information being made public. At the previous RTC meeting, we also decided to extend free eBus travel to 2000 local Total Mobility Card holders.  

“The OnDemand service has not worked because the new eBus route along Nayland Road has met much of the need and local retirement villages have good courtesy coaches. We are also finding that people with mobility issues are using taxis under the Council’s Total Mobility scheme, which provides a 75% subsidy and a door-to-door service. 

“The key reason for ending the Stoke OnDemand service is that the $215-cost-per-passenger journey is poor use of ratepayer and taxpayer money. We are only recovering an average of $1.50 from passenger fares, leaving a subsidy of $213.50 per passenger journey. We could fly people to Wellington and back for less. The cost equates to more than $100 per kilometre when taxis cost just $3/km. It would be financially irresponsible to continue with this service at this cost, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis and when rates are under so much pressure,” Mayor Nick says. 

Toi Toi Street removed from Route 3 

OnDemand isn’t the only change to the eBus service. Council is also permanently retiring Toi Toi Street from Route 3.  

Route 3 was diverted from Jenner Road on 30 September 2023 following damage to the road. A replacement route including Toi Toi Street, tested by SBL, started on 12 February 2024.  

A fortnight later, an eBus hit the kerb while going through the roundabout at Toi Toi Street and Abraham Heights. No one was injured, but Council has revised its view of the risk on this street following further investigations.  

Group Infrastructure Manager Alec Louverdis says the addition was originally made as a response to public demand to extend the bus route in Victory.
"That hasn’t worked out as we hoped but when introducing a new service of this scale, we have been open about the fact that we would need to adapt over time as we find out more about new routes and timetables.”  

On 4 April, Council accepted the recommendation that this section of the route be permanently retired. Route 3 will continue to use St Vincent Street, effective immediately. 

Mayor Nick says “The eBus service is a great success but we need to continue to refine and improve it in response to public feedback and usage." 

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