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Uncertain future...Gore Taxi's leasee Mike Tait is con cerned costs associated with installing a new Total Mobility system will overwhelm the business. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

Installing a new Total Mobility system will force Gore Taxis to foot a hefty set-up bill, incur ongoing costs and impose a charge on those using the system, leasee Mike Tait says.

The increase has prompted Mr Tait to examine how to keep the service viable in the town.

Mr Tait said the initial set-up for the apps needed to operate the new photo identification electronic smart card system would cost about $400 each.

He also expected there would be ongoing costs associated with the new system.

If the service had to install eftpos it would be another cost, he said.

Added to the increase in fuel prices and insurance, the company faced financial uncertainty.

“I’m stuck. I’m really worried,” Mr Tait said.

Senior citizens and those with disabilities were eligible to use the service which is subsidised by 50%.

Presently an eligible person travelling 1km would pay half the metered fare of $5, and half of that fare would be topped up by the subsidy.

Under the new system that person was likely to have to pay an extra $1.50.

The maximum Total Mobility customers the service transported a week was 60, Mr Tait said.

While the increase in fares for users seemed minimal, people on fixed incomes struggled to find extra money, he said.

Gore’s population was ageing and retention of the service was vital, he said.

“To my way of thinking, I know they were trying to save costs on the scheme but they’ve only transferred costs,” Mr Tait said.

He questioned why there was a need to change the existing system, under which clients were issued with a card and trips were manually recorded by taxi drivers.

“I do not want to put the price up.”

Gore Taxis owner Stewart Anderson, of Invercargill, said the implementation of the system would add $1800 a month to the cost of running the Total Mobility side of the business.

The company would have to bear the cost of transactions associated with the new system.

“It’s $3 a swipe,” Mr Anderson said.

Land Transport paid $1.50 of that and the client another $1.50, on top of the existing fare, Mr Anderson said.

The client would pay $3 per trip, he said.

Invercargill City Council roading manager Russell Pearson said moving Southland’s Total Mobility to an electronic card system would provide safety, ease of use and transparency for clients and transport providers.

“It will bring Southland’s scheme into line with other regions such as Otago and Canterbury,” Mr Pearson said.

The Total Mobility Scheme for Southland is administered by Invercargill City Council, on behalf of the Gore District, Southland District and Invercargill City Councils, and has about 1400 members.

The scheme is co-funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency and the local councils.

At present, client trips are managed by using sheets of stickers issued to qualifying clients.

“This is a paper-based process at present and relies on the person travelling having the ticket available,” he said.

“At the conclusion of the journey, half of the fare value is paid by the client directly to the transport operator.”

At the end of each month, the transport provider collates all their drivers’ trip record sheets, summarises the total travel costs and makes a claim to the scheme for payment, Mr Pearson said.

Each trip is then manually added to a database for recording and validating the trip and travel cost.

“This process is very labour-intensive and takes a large administrative effort from both the council and each company, to correctly check and verify the claims made.”

This system will electronically collate allTotal Mobility trip details in place of Southland’s stickers.

This change had been discussed in October 2017.

“We have been working with contracted transport operators in Invercargill and Gore since January to assess what existing equipment is compatible with Ridewise cards.”

“We have found that four of the six operators already have suitable equipment in use that is fully compatible with Ridewise cards.”

The remaining two operators had a range of charging options, depending on the system selected and the number of trips delivered by the operator, he said.

These trip costs could be built into the fare structure of the transport provider, or processed as a booking fee or similar.

These costs form part of the fare that qualifies for the 50% trip subsidy.

“”Some of these options .. can be used to provide improved services for their other customers, so they could then pay by eftpos for travel, which we understand is not generally available for Gore users.”