by Daran Ponter
Bus fares are increasing again on Tuesday, this time by an average of 2% (GWRC Notice). This will result in increases in the cost of Snapper and Mana card fares by 3.8% for Zone 1 fares and approximately 2.5% in most other fare zones. On average, fares have risen by 8% over the past three years.
The Regional Council has justified this week’s fare increases on the basis of “covering rising public transport costs”
However, the Council’s 2012/13 Year End result shows that the Council ran a significant budget surplus of approximately $4.5 million in the transport area (see table below).
Indeed, the Year End Report of the PT Group shows for the year 2012/13 the GWRC spent…
|PT Group 2012/13||Actual ($000s)||Budget ($000s)||Variance ($000s)||Last Year ($000s)|
|Operating surplus / (deficit)||1,470||(2,999)||4,469||2,768|
… $11.5million less than budget on public transport services.
This means that the 1 October fare increases are simply not warranted. It means that the Council through its own policies has kept prices high and that this year could actually have afforded to provide fare decreases.
The Council’s policy of increasing fares every year irrespective of the circumstances is just simply irrational and does nothing to attract people to use public transport .
Significant Drop In Patronage
As concerning is the fact that peak hour patronage on Wellington buses has dropped by 10% over the past three years (from 11,288,335 trips in 2010/11 to 10,214,328 trips in 2012/13). See http://www.metlink.org.nz/info/statistics/patronage-numbers/. In the same period total patronage (peak and off-peak) dropped by 2%.
At a time when the Regional Council has been predicting patronage increases of 3- 4% per annum, we have gone in precisely the opposite direction.
These figures seriously bring into question the efforts that the Regional Council has been taking to encourage people onto public transport.
At the heart of the problem is the fare structure and the fact that the Regional Council is not innovative enough in its fare products.
The Regional Council cannot sit on the sidelines waiting for next petrol spike. It needs a far more aggressive strategy for encouraging people and families onto public transport – cheaper fares, wider discounts, especially in the off-peak and a commitment to park and ride facilities for bus commuters.
Daran Ponter is a councillor on the Greater Wellington Regional Council | TE PANE MATUA TAIAO