On-demand public transport launched in Wellington

Metlink On Demand

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

Using a mobile phone app designed by 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.”

Redwood and Linden train stations, and Tawa’s CBD are key stops during peak hours (weekdays 6:30am - 9am and 4pm - 6pm).

Off peak (9am - 4pm weekdays and all weekend) passengers can travel anywhere in Tawa, including to important community destinations such as shops, supermarkets and medical centres.

Tawa Community Board chair Robyn Parkinson said she was delighted with Metlink's response to local transport needs.

“Tawa residents wanted public transport to hillside and outlying areas. The board made pushing for this a priority two years ago and is pleased to have worked closely with Metlink on the new service.”

Starting at $2.50, rides are paid for using a credit or debit card registered with the Via app, the platform supporting 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 the age of five ride for free on the 17-seater buses being used in the trial, which can carry wheelchair passengers.

“As well as being accessible, the service will be responsive to the transport needs of the community. We can add more virtual stops and adjust bus numbers as required,” Ms Gain said.

“Like all of our regular services, Metlink On-Demand provides free travel to SuperGold card holders during off-peak hours.”

With a fleet of five buses for the trial, service operator Mana is confident its drivers can pick-up most passengers within about 10 minutes of receiving their orders.

“Mana is delighted to supply 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

Greater Wellington councillors, Metlink officers and members of the Tawa Community Board

Greater Wellington councillors, Metlink officers and members of the Tawa Community Board