In a bid to wean the Hawke’s Bay population from our collective addiction to private vehicles, the Regional Council are providing incentives for public transport use. If the ruinous price of petrol is not enough to pry us from the driver’s seat, then perhaps cut price fares and upgraded cycle tracks might do the trick. 

MyWay, launched this week in the greater Hastings area, is their latest initiative. 

Mimicking popular ride share providers, MyWay replaces urban buses with a new service utilising the Uber model. On weekdays between 6am and 6pm instead of consulting a timetable and waiting at a bus stop you let the service know where you want to go, and within a promised 25-minute pick up time, you will be delivered as close to your door as the large transit van can let you alight. 

Rides can be booked primarily via an app, but in person help is also at the end of the telephone or at a number of popular CBD destinations including supermarkets and major retailers, and medical and municipal service providers. The charge, just $2 per ride with under-five’s free, can be paid by credit card through the app automatically – in the same way that Uber works – or by Bee Card on the minibus. While they’re ironing out their systems, Bee Card charge stations are out of operation so you can enjoy some free rides on the Regional Council’s dime.

Accessibility is clearly front of mind for this service. You can request a van equipped with wheelchair lift, all vehicles have space for mobility aids (except for electric scooters) and accept service dogs. A special driveway to driveway service is available to mobility card holders, albeit at an increased $5 fee. However, SuperGold Card holders travel free within school hours, as do patients on their way to and from the hospital, on presentation of their appointment card. DHB staff on their way to and from work also get free rides, a small concession for toiling at the coalface.

If you’re booking for a group, after the initial $2 you pay just $1 for every subsequent passenger. This has got to be a massive boon for Hastings’ low decile schools, for whom extortionate transportation costs run by a monopoly are a massive barrier to providing education outside of the classroom. 

The scheme services Hastings’ major suburbs, between George’s Drive and the Expressway, to east and west; and within the 50km zone to north and south. This is a far greater area than the services it replaces. The 16A and B and 17 buses each circled the CBD before taking a 35 minute loop around Camberley, Mahora, and Akina and Parkvale respectively, at intervals between 45 minutes and two hours. Those in Frimley, Tomoana and Mayfair were previously out of luck, but are included in the new scheme. The hours of service are also extended at least an hour either side of what was offered before. 

It all sounds very blue sky, but does it actually work? I took to the streets to find out. 

My first ride is booked at a peak time and promises to arrive in 15 minutes, just three minutes slower than an Uber at four-fold the cost. This is my longest wait of the day – other rides appear in under ten minutes, frequently far faster than Uber can deliver. Unlike the temporal anxiety of waiting for a traditional bus, I can see the reassuring blue dot creep the streets towards my location. 

The van is spanking new, painted in the shade of green designed to make us at ease in hospitals and docile in police cells. My only fellow passenger is a uniformed schoolgirl. Her mother usually drives her to school but today she’s running late and this is a new alternative. 

The driver is cheerful, optimistic about his new job. He’s undergone training by the council, paid. He and the other drivers I meet throughout the day are happy to be working, have had steady work since the launch, and have had up to five passengers at a time, though the vans seat up to thirteen. Their ratio of empty seats pale in comparison to the often-vacant buses that previously seemed to circle their routes, uselessly. Their dashboard devices tell them exactly where to go in a schoolmarmish tone. It’s all automated by the app, they just do as they’re told.

Once one is happy to travel within the confined area, within the confined time, the service is excellent, far better than what was offered previously. 

It does have its limitations though. One wonders why the people of Flaxmere are not spared the purgatory of waiting at the bus stop? Surely those travelling to and from one of our lowest decile suburbs deserve this service? 

I have business in Napier and so take the regular bus – a two hour round trip. As we meander through the Hastings hinterland an anxious girl in a New World uniform stops us opposite the hospital, wanting to know if we’re heading to town. The driver says she’ll have to wait for the next one. She’s within the MyWay service area, and had she used the app could have been at work within fifteen minutes. As it stands, the next available bus going to Hastings will have her endure a twenty-minute wait followed by a forty-five minute tiki tour of Flaxmere and most likely make her late for work. It’s not a major stop and there is no signage advertising MyWay. 

I want to hop off and let her know, but then I will have half an hour’s delay til the next bus lets me get on with my day. So perhaps some more work needs to be done to get the word out to those who might benefit from it. Existing service users seem to have been targeted, but if we are going to effect the genuine culture shift Regional Council hope to achieve, then the net needs to be spread wide to encompass those who don’t yet know they need this service.

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1 Comment

  1. Used it this week and it was excellent. Pick up was only 18 mins from booking on the app so I got to hang out the washing before going out the door. Pick-up location was only 3 houses away and Icould see from the app map how close the transit van was! I hope more people use this great service! Agree with Rosheen- Flaxmere folk could benefit significantly so their exclusion is surprising.

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