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Bus fares - who pays?

Thanks to Jefferson for the beautifully captured base image, later doctored by me.


A big issue for consideration at tomorrow’s (Weds March 20) full council meeting is how we respond to government’s decision to discontinue the community connect fares which offered free or half price fares for some demographics. 


This leaves us with a difficult decision.  Do we plug $500k per year gap left by the government decision or do we not? Or do we do something like, fill the gap for younger people by increasing rates, and if so, what age groups should we fund and what does it cost? If we think we should fund at some level, the next major consideration will be, are our ratepayers happy to pay? 


The options in front of us now are below - noting that government has withdrawn funding and we can’t change that fact at this point.


-          Option 1: restore bus fares to the pre-half-price level (except for Community Services Card holders)

-          Option 2: maintain all existing Community Connect & Extension bus fare concessions (at ORC’s cost), at an estimated cost of $500,000 per annum.

-          Option 3 (staff recommendation): retain free bus fares for 5 to 12 year olds (at ORC’s cost) and half-price fares for Community Services Card; and otherwise restore pre-half-price bus fares, at an estimated cost of $42,000 per annum

-          Option 4: retain free bus fares for 5 to 12 year olds and half-price bus fares for 1318 year olds (each at ORC’s cost) and half-price fares for Community Services Card holders; restore full fares for 19-24 year olds, at an estimated cost of $102,000 per annum.

-          Option 5: Council agrees to retain free bus fares for 5 to 12 year olds, half-price bus child fares for 13-18 year olds; and half-price adult fares for 19-24 year olds until 30 June 2024 (inclusive), at an estimated cost of $84,000 pa.

So the difficult question for us and ratepayers to consider is; should it be ratepayers or bus service users pay the cost that government has said they won’t?


When considering putting that cost onto ratepayers, we have to consider that we are already facing double digit rate rises that many are telling us they can’t afford.


My personal views are well known.  I think that everyone benefits from people who ride buses. They benefit from lower carbon emissions, less congestion, increased social connection, independence for those who  don’t drive (think everyone from the 14 year old who craves transport independence through to those who can’t hold a drivers license for health reasons as well as those who don’t afford or choose not to).  Because everyone benefits, everyone should pay.  This should be funded nationally.  However, that is not the view of the current government so we have to make these decisions.  


This, and other decisions around transport will in future be guided by the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport.  I’ve written my critique of that document here.  The GPS is in draft at the moment and your submission to that document is important if we are to make it clear to government that our public transport system is vital and requires their support.


Submissions can be made here.


You can see the agenda for tomorrow’s council meeting here.

Pic from ORC files

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