Free travel for seniors on the line

03:22, Nov 05 2012

The future of free afternoon public transport for Auckland's seniors could be decided this week.

Auckland Council's Transport Committee will decide whether or not Super Gold Card holders can use public transport in the afternoon peak period from 3pm-7pm.

As it stands Auckland is the only city in the country which offers free trips at this time of the day, and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is concerned it is the only region it has to assist with funding for the service.

Afternoon peak hour travel for Super Gold Card holders costs $2.4 million a year, which is split around 50/50 between the Auckland Council and NZTA.

NZTA has previously described the Auckland deal as unaffordable and said it fell outside its responsibilities.

Joshua Arbury, the principal transport planner for the council, said in a report to the committee that keeping the service in the afternoon peak period would have a number of benefits.

"These include removing any operational challenges and confusion for passengers that may arise from the card switching from being valid to invalid repeatedly and the additional socio-economic benefits to senior citizens arising from having free public transport available to them." 

Arbury said it would be a problem if NZTA withdrew its part-funding of the peak period.

He proposed several options for the council to keep the service alive.

One was to advocate to the NZTA and Auckland Transport the council's desire to keep the service running in the afternoons.

Albury said the council could suggest Auckland Transport prioritises funding for it, or even to consider the merits of giving Auckland Transport more money.

If NZTA was to withdraw its funding, Auckland Council would have to front up with $1.2 million a year to retain the service.

Albury said this figure would grow over time with a growing and ageing population.

Auckland Transport plans to review all passenger concessions. 

A spokesman said they hoped to continue the free travel for over-65s if funding was cut, but it was not known where that money would come from.

"That hasn't been talked about in detail yet but it is something we're looking at."

The organisation was also reviewing the amount and eligibility of tertiary student discounts on public transport.

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