Fare's fair for regional public transport

PETER GLENSOR
Last updated 06:50 18/12/2012
Wellington bus
Integrated rail and bus ticketing could make fares fairer.

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OPINION: Johnsonville commuter Tony Randle (Rail users should say thanks to bus users, December 11) argues that Wellington City bus users subsidise train users, but an equally logical argument could be made that ratepayers who use public transport either infrequently or not at all are subsidising all public transport users.

The picture is much bigger than this. Our public transport system is a crucial part of the region's transport network: it enables tens of thousands of people to get to and from major destinations each day, in turn enabling others to travel in their private vehicles with less congestion.

The regional council is charged with funding and planning the public transport network and we set standard fares for all bus, train and harbour ferry services. We try to do so as fairly and equitably as possible.

Currently fares are calculated on a zonal system, with 14 zones flowing out from Wellington CBD. The standard fares, based on the number of zones you travel through, are exactly the same whether you're travelling on a bus or a train. Bus and train operators are required to offer a minimum 20 per cent discount on multi-trip tickets and stored value cards.

Historically, rail monthly passes have been set at a level to encourage take-up because they make it much easier to collect fares on the train.

Bus companies also used to encourage monthly passes in the days when they used 10-trip cards and paper tickets. The removal of the Gold Pass on Go Wellington services had nothing to do with the regional council. It was a commercial decision by the bus company after it had introduced electronic ticketing.

We're currently reviewing the fare system - ie, how fares are calculated, the types of concessions and the types of fare products; eg, single, return, 10-trip, monthly. This review will help us prepare for integrated ticketing, where you use just one card or ticket for all your public transport travel, regardless of how many services you need to connect with. Integrated ticketing will be a great improvement for public transport users and we hope it will make the fare system even fairer.

We and central government have invested half a billion dollars in rail in the past five years, but we are not running down bus services to compensate. Our funding contracts with bus operators, for example, enable them to upgrade their vehicles regularly to ensure they're meeting current safety standards. Wellington City bus users have 61 new modern trolley buses, and just the other day GO Wellington launched 20 new cutting-edge diesel buses with engines that meet the highest environmental standards and Italian-designed seats.

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Wellington City, Kapiti, Hutt Valley and Porirua bus users can now get Real Time Information that tells them when their next bus will arrive. We're working on a design for on-street displays along the Golden Mile and hope they'll be installed in the first half of next year.

And we're carrying out a major review of Wellington City bus services, which will result in more frequent services on many routes, a lot more weekend services and access to a core bus route for more people.

Mr Randle correctly points out that rail expenditure will continue to be higher than for other public transport services over the next few years. The reality is that rail costs more - but it carries tens of thousands of people into Wellington CBD to make their contribution to the economy each day, reduces the numbers of cars in the CBD and frees up the roads for others. Without it, Mr Randle would have a lot more to complain about.

Peter Glensor is deputy chair of Greater Wellington regional council and a regular public transport user.

- The Dominion Post

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