Wellington Scoop

Fares going up – they could have come down

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 Revenue 94,107 101,186 (7,079) 95,629
Operating Expenditure 92,637 104,185 (11,548)1 92,861
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.

Click for big version.

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

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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  1. lindsay, 30. September 2013, 19:04

    But only two regional councillors voted against increasing fares?

  2. andy foster, 30. September 2013, 19:36

    I believe Daran is right. We’ve had concerns about fare price resistance for some time, and have expressed them both informally and formally in submissions to Greater Wellington.
    What is very clear is that we are not going to achieve the desired increases in mode share for PT with the current policy settings and planned actions.
    There are really exciting plans in the wind – if we get the PT Spine right, and there is absolutely a lot of discussion and critiquing to happen there, and with the Wellington bus review.
    However the gains in patronage made since the 1990s have flatlined in the last three or four years. I strongly suspect price is a real issue in that. The question for GWRC is whether not increasing prices would in fact increase patronage and thereby not increase costs to ratepayers.


    Andy Foster
    City Councillor

  3. Hayley Robinson, 30. September 2013, 21:55

    Well said Daran,

    Cr Foster: glad to hear to you do feel WCC have some influence over public transport after all.

    Hayley Robinson
    Onslow-Western ward candidate for Council

  4. andy foster, 1. October 2013, 9:11

    To be clear Hayley as I think you are very well aware, City Council does have a significant role in public transport, especially buses. They operate on Council roads, we provide for bus priority, we operate the traffic light system, we provide the vast majority of bus shelters. We also have a role through providing for walking routes to bus stops. Other policy settings we make also indirectly relate to PT operations and use levels.

    We also advocate, and regularly talk to GWRC. For example during the recent bus review I personally made a submissions and followed it up arguing for weekend and evening services for the Wrights Hill bus service pointing out inconsistencies in the level of service given population numbers served on that route in comparison with other routes. GWRC agreed with the logic and have included weekend and later evening services. These will be part of the new bus timetables to be implemented when GWRC have completed contract negotiations under the new legislation with bus operators.

    That of course is just one of many examples of advocacy.

    We are also in regular discussion with GWRC and NZTA on issues like the PT Spine. Watch this space because there is some very good thinking going on on this subject – as Wellington.Scoop readers will know !

    However what we do NOT do is set fares. It is GWRC that determines fares and timetables, and service levels. It is GWRC that invests many millions of dollars in supporting PT operational contracts. We have our views. We advocate. We talk to them. They make the decisions on that front.

    Andy Foster
    City Councillor

  5. Cr Paul Bruce, 3. October 2013, 10:01

    Thanks Daran. Totally agree with the analysis. We have had the highest farebox recovery of any city in New Zealand for some years, and the recent drop off in bus patronage shows that our customers are noticing. It is time to bring forward the fare packages the Council voted for earlier this year and speed up the implementation of the Wellington Bus Review to give commuters a fairer deal.