Bus Options: Back to the Past

Ideas and Opinions
Minibus trial – from the Otago Daily Times October 1988

In the Beginning

This was from the early days of deregulation and contracting out, when Dunedin City was not in charge of the Dunedin City buses. Instead it was a contractor to the Coastal-North Otago United Council – which morphed into the Otago Regional Council a year later.

Dunedin City was still looking at ways of boosting patronage to make the system more economic. I guess they didn’t success in convincing the CNOUC or the Urban Transport Council to try these smaller buses out. But I do recall that they did introduce some smaller buses that may have been made in NZ and these were run on the Normanby to St Clair route on a much more frequent schedule. This did lift patronage to some extent. I think I heard of people from other Councils around NZ coming to Dunedin to look at this concept. Some were surprised that providing a better bus service gets more people on buses. Maybe they were people who shouldn’t have been anywhere near bus services.


Travelling in the UK a few years ago we saw lots and lots of smaller buses on bus routes in many different places. We rode on some in Bath in England, to and from our AirBnB. Bath is a city with a population slightly smaller than Dunedin. A couple of months ago in Nelson we saw smaller buses among the bigger ones at their bus hub.

Why Not Here?

Apart from running cost benefits, smaller buses would be a lot easier to manoeuvre around Dunedin’s streets. So they’d be easier to drive. We’d probably find a lot more people willing to take on the job of driving them. We’ve always been told having small buses would still mean we have just as many big buses so we’d just end up having more buses. Given how many cities around the world use small buses as part of their fleet. it’s hard to understand why this couldn’t work for Dunedin as well.

Why don’t we find out how other cities use smaller buses and see if we can copy them? What do you think?

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Barbara Lemm
Barbara Lemm
1 year ago

The bus service in Dunedin does not take people to the places they want to go to. e.g. the hospital. There is only one stop between the bus hub and midway between Frederick St and Albany St. The stop between Frederick St and Albany St has no shelter – walking half a block and waiting for the lights to change is no fun in the pouring rain.
It looks as if someone put a map of Dunedin on the floor and drew lines radiating out for bus routes – this does not take into account the topography of Dunedin. A short distance might be a steep hill no one wants to climb.
Cars are essential in Dunedin as the bus service is so poor.

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