May 17, 2022

Via launches on-demand public transport service in Wellington, NZ

On-demand public transport was launched in Wellington for the first time as part of a 12-month Metlink trial in the suburb of Tawa.

May 17 (Wellington, NZ) — On-demand public transport was launched in Wellington, New Zealand for the first time today, as part of a 12-month Metlink trial in the suburb of Tawa.

Powered by software from Via, people in Tawa can order rides from buses operating without set routes between flexible pick-up and drop-off locations, or "virtual stops." 

Greater Wellington Transport Committee chair Roger Blakeley said the trial showed the council’s public transport wing was moving with the times.

“Today’s launch marks more than just the arrival of an exciting service for Tawa. It represents Metlink’s commitment to developing an intelligent, accessible and integrated network that better serves the region’s commuters.”

During peak hours (weekdays 6:30am-9am and 4pm-6pm), the service takes passengers to the Redwood and Linden train stations as well as Tawa Mall.

SuperGold card holders can ride for free during off-peak hours (weekdays 9am-3pm and 6:30pm-7:30pm, weekends 8.30am-9.30pm, and all public holidays) when the service stops anywhere in Tawa, including shops, supermarkets and medical centres.

Tawa Community Board chair Robyn Parkinson said Metlink had responded to community demand.

“The idea for this trial came from the people of Tawa, who lobbied Greater Wellington for affordable, on-demand public transport to hard-to-reach hillside areas.”

Starting at $2.50, rides are paid for using a credit or debit card registered with the Via app, the same platform behind Timaru’s highly successful on-demand bus service.

The app provides real-time bookings and trip information, directing users to the nearest virtual stop to be picked up at an agreed time.

“Via is proud to partner with Metlink to provide an efficient, on-demand transport system in Tawa,” said Via’s Asia-Pacific regional manager Ben Hague.

“The service will make it convenient for residents to connect with other public transport services and local retailers and ultimately rely less on private cars.”

Metlink general manager Samantha Gain said children under five ride for free on the 17-seater buses, which can each carry one wheelchair passenger.

“As well as being accessible, the service can be adjusted in response to demand. We can add more buses and virtual stops as needed,” Ms Gain said.

“If the trial is successful, it’ll become a regular service and the diesel buses replaced with electric vehicles.”

With a fleet of five buses for the trial, service operator Mana has trained it drivers to pick-up passengers within about 10 minutes of receiving an order.

“Mana is delighted to provide Metlink’s Tawa customers with a service that will improve wellbeing through better access to local amenities,” said Mana chief executive Craig Chin.

“This trial brings together our highly skilled workforce with the latest digital technology to create an enjoyable customer experience that also connects passengers to the regional rail network.”

Metlink will take what it learns from the trial with a view to piloting similar services elsewhere in the region, Cr Blakeley said.

“We are looking for ways to bridge gaps between public transport hubs, isolated suburbs and sparsely populated areas.

“While we are very clear this is a trial, the ability to measure its uptake and use the findings to guide a potential roll out elsewhere could be a game changer for the region.”

Tawa on-demand customers can download the Via app for free from their mobile device’s app store or by visiting metlink.org.nz/ondemand

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