On-Demand Public Transport in Timaru?

Research stage 

Timaru’s public transport – why change? 

We know that many people in Timaru rely on public transport as an essential service. However, for several years now, the number of people using the service has been declining. 

Because of this, the cost to the ratepayer to cover the services is becoming unsustainable. Rather than reducing the service or increasing rates contributions, we have looked at a range of options. 

We are investigating whether an on-demand, ride-sharing public transport system could work as a viable alternative to the current service, so that we can continue to offer public transport in Timaru.  

What is On-Demand Public Transport? 

Think of it as a corner to corner service at times that suit you.  You’d be picked up nearby and then dropped off near to your requested destination.

On-demand public transport could provide a timelier and more convenient journey when compared with the current bus service.

The on-demand service would not replace the school services or the Timaru-Temuka service, and we expect to provide an enhanced school service which would replicate what some Timaru Link services currently cover at school times.

How would I book my ride? 

Most passengers would book a trip on a rideshare vehicle using a smartphone. You would enter your pick-up and drop-off locations into the rideshare app, and a vehicle would pick you up nearby.

Those who don’t have a smartphone will be able to book a ride by calling the customer service centre or using the website. Bookings will be able to be made minutes or even days in advance.

Off peak travel will remain free for SuperGold Card holders.

What’s happening now? 

15 February 2019

The project has progressed to its prototype testing stage, where aspects of the service such as functionality, hours, cost of operation and service coverage are being tested with individuals and focus groups, recruited from across Timaru, and validated with on demand technology provider Via.  

This prototype testing phase takes a robust, community focused approach to ensure the technology and the service is easy to understand and to use. At the same time, the project team is preparing a business case for NZTA funding, which will ultimately determine whether the service can be introduced.   

You can read more about what’s happening at the moment in our media update here.

We know people will have lots of questions about how an on-demand service would work.    

Similar services work well elsewhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean that they are automatically right for us.  In recent months, we have been working with the Timaru community to understand your preferences for things like booking, pricing, payment, and where you need to go.  During this prototype testing phase we will be testing our findings with community focus groups.


If you have any questions, please contact us by emailing metro@ecan.govt.nz 

As our research proceeds, we will update this webpage.

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