Timaru’s on-demand public transport hits 200,000 ride milestone

Published 25/11/2021

Shorty Thomas with her twins Kye and Zac.

Shorty Thomas with her twins Kye and Zac.

Innovation has paid off in Timaru as the city’s new on-demand public transport service goes from strength to strength.

Environment Canterbury Councillor Peter Scott said that MyWay by Metro was developed as a test case for similar services around the country.

“We developed this model to understand whether an entirely different public transport model could succeed in New Zealand’s smaller towns and cities,” he said.

“It has surpassed all expectations. This week, we are celebrating our 200,000th ride, and we continue to see passenger numbers climbing. Patronage has increased more than 30% compared with the previous fixed route service, with a marked increase in accessibility for people throughout the community, and significant environmental benefits through reduced greenhouse gas emissions and multi-passenger trips.”

Environment Canterbury has produced a comprehensive report of its findings from the service trial, which is proving invaluable to councils around the country.

“Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors and staff have recently spent time with our team in advance of their own on-demand public transport launch, and around the country, we’re actively supporting several other councils as they look to introduce variations of this service,” he said.

Katrina Brunton, GM Policy & Regulation at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, said that her council has been inspired by the MyWay team and their success in Timaru.

“The team has given us valuable learnings and advice as we prepare to launch our own on-demand service in 2022. A huge thank you to the Environment Canterbury team for sharing their wisdom and time to support us on our journey,” she said.

Pioneering innovation

Cr Scott said that one of the keys to a successful on-demand service is the technology behind it.

“This project places transport at the forefront of innovation. MyWay is powered by global transit-tech leader Via. Their intelligent algorithms allow riders to book an on-demand ride, directing them to a nearby ‘virtual bus stop’ within a short walking distance. This allows for quick, efficient shared trips that provide more flexibility than traditional transport options,” he said.

Via’s APAC Regional Manager, Ben Hague, said that MyWay represents how on-demand transport can create positive impact for communities everywhere.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with Environment Canterbury. Since the launch of MyWay, the service has achieved its goal to expand access to efficient, flexible, and sustainable public transportation in the community, and in turn, better connect residents with both essential and leisure opportunities,” he said.

"Timaru is truly leading the charge for innovative, tech-enabled public transit in New Zealand, and we look forward to seeing how other communities will follow Environment Canterbury’s lead.”

Environment Canterbury’s 49% funding of the service has been confirmed in its Long-Term Plan, while Waka Kotahi has approved extension of the trial until next year while it works closely with Environment Canterbury on longer term funding and procurement options.

“We are pleased to see how well received this personalised form of public transport has been in Timaru,” said Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Director Regional Relationships James Caygill. “It is great to see the learnings from Timaru being shared with other regions around the motu.”