A guest post by Wellington Regional Councillor Daran Ponter:
1 OCTOBER BUS FARE INCREASES
The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) bus and train fares are increasing again on 1 October (i.e. Tuesday), this time to increase the amount paid by commuters by an average of 2% (GWRC Notice). This demand for a 2% increase in commuter fare revenue for 2013 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 Greater Wellington Regional Council justified the 1 October fare increases on the basis of “covering rising public transport costs”. However, the Regional Council’s 2012/13 Year End result shows that instead of a budget shortfall of $3M, the council ran a significant budget surplus of nearly $1.5 million in the transport area (see table below) !
PT Group 2012/13
Operating surplus / (deficit)
The Year End Report of the PT Group not only shows for the year 2012/13 the GWRC spent $11.5M less than budget on public transport services, it shows it spent less in 2012/13 than the year previously ! The council has banked the 2012/13 transport surplus of $4.5M taking the transport reserve to $9M.
Clearly last year’s 3% fare increase was actually never needed as predicted PT costs did not increase. This also means that this year’s 1 October fare increases are simply not warranted. The regional council, through its own policies, has kept prices high and that this year it could actually have afforded to cut fares and still stay within NZTA funding rules!
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%.
The Regional Council has been predicting patronage increases of 3-4% per annum, we have gone in precisely the opposite direction. Peak bus patronage is now less than 2005/06. Wellington bus commuters now realise that high bus fares mean it is cheaper to drive to work and are obviously doing so in increasing numbers.
These figures seriously bring into question the efforts that the Regional Council has been taking to encourage people onto public transport. Its PT fare policy needs to be less about revenue and far more focussed on encouraging people and families onto public transport – fares cheaper than cars, wider discounts, especially in the off-peak and a commitment to park and ride facilities for bus commuters.
The GWRC plan for increasing public transport use is failing. Increasing fares on Tuesday is the worst thing it can do when bus patronage is plummeting. It is especially bad when all the increased revenue will not be spent on PT services . . . it will probably just end up being banked into the GWRC Transport Reserve.
I think it is wrong for the Regional Council to be increasing fares, in what appears to be a revenue generating exercise.
The policy of both central and local Government is that the fares should cover 55% of the costs of public transport, but with these increases the proportion paid for by fares will exceed that. The other issue is they are putting up bus fares to basically cover increased train operating costs. Bus fares should cover bus costs and train fares train costs.
If you are voting for Regional Council, ask your candidates whether they support an increase in bus fares, which is not justified or necessary.