Free Public Transport

Posted on Updated on

8 July 2022

UCAN NZ Endorses the following;

The Free Fares organising team would love to call your attention to a couple of upcoming public transport campaigns. These have a lot of crossover with our kaupapa, so we thought that as a member organisation of the Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity you may also be interested in supporting.

Vote Climate campaign

A number of organisations which are part of this coalition are launching a campaign for local elections called Vote Climate. The campaign asks are:

  • More public transport, more often
  • More affordable public transport
  • Safer and easier walking & cycling
  • More inter-city and regional public transport

What you can do:

  1. Have your organisation Join Vote Climate in support: 
  2. Attend the online campaign launch, on Wednesday 6th July at 10-10.30am:

For more information, see the summary document attached. Feel free to contact Brendon Lane from PSA if you have more questions,

Greater Wellington fares consultation

Greater Wellington Regional Council are currently consulting on public transport fares, and they have proposed some minor fare reductions for off-peak concessions. 

What you can do:

Get in touch with Hana Pilkinton-Ching if you’re interested in signing on to the joint submission or if you’d like more information,

Finally, welcome to our two newest coalition members, Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University. VUW’s press release led to this great article on Stuff and a segment on the Breakfast show on Tuesday morning. It’s great to have this media coverage and we hope to see this momentum grow!

Ngā mihi nui, 

The Free Fares organising team

Vote Climate

We believe that there has never been a better time to focus on the importance of investing in public
transport and other climate-friendly modes of transport. We are seeking to form a coalition for
change that will challenge candidates in the October local body elections to commit to such a policy
platform. We will also use this platform to encourage under-represented voter groups to enroll and
vote for the change they want.

We are a broad coalition of unions, climate action, public transport and cycling groups that are
working together to encourage our politicians to do the right thing – take climate action now. We
believe there are a number of key actions these politicians can do, and these form the basis of our

Transport is one of Aotearoa’s biggest emissions sources. We drive more than almost any
other country. If more of us used public transport, we’d see reduced emissions, inequality
and costs from congestion and pollution. The recipe for more public transport passengers is
simple: More public transport and more affordable fares.
o Cars and other passenger vehicles were responsible for 27 percent of New Zealand’s
gross carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.
o The Government has committed to help households reduce their transport
emissions by improving access to affordable, sustainable transport options, including
improving travel choices and accessibility by providing people with more convenient,
affordable and frequent buses and trains, as well as safer walkways and cycle lanes.
o The Government introduced public transport fare reductions in March 2022 and
then extended this subsidy in the 2022 Budget.

We need to push politicians to go further to make the emissions reductions needed.
These are broad enough to encourage social change groups to join the coalition whilst allowing
these groups to have their own voice on how the asks might be achieved.

More public transport, more often
o More frequent services in cities and towns, and between centers and across regions
More affordable public transport
o Increased trialing of reduced fare or free services to encourage and broaden uptake
Safer walking & cycling
o Investment in infrastructure to make cycling and walking safer
More inter-city and regional public transport
o Investing in train and bus services that make travel between cities, towns and
regions easier

To have climate change, and public transport and mode change investment as the central
issue for the upcoming local government elections in October 2022
To have nation-wide a majority of local body candidates commit to our policy asks
To enroll new voters who support our policy platform and encourage them to vote for
candidates that support our asks

o Upholding Te Tiriti O Waitangi and Tino Rangatiratanga, working in ways which honor them
o Building mana enhancing relationships
o Inclusivity and accessibility
o Equality and equity
o Climate justice
o Collective action and universalism
o Evidence-based

o Launch early July
o Enrollment – July until roll closes on 12th August
o Campaign – Aug onwards – highlight and encourage candidates to adopt and actively support
our platform through personal endorsements and public meetings
o Mobilisation – Sept-Oct – mobilize supporters to vote for supporting candidates and post in
their ballots

Given that we are looking for this to be a nation-wide campaign, it be will primarily be a digital
campaign that will include:
o A campaign website – campaign asks, voter registration, candidates who support our asks
o Social media – to share events and commitments – Facebook and Twitter
o Local campaign meet-the-candidate meetings – streamed or posted to social media

We know that often groups campaigning in this space have limited time and resources. We hope
that by joining together we can amplify our calls for climate action and make it happen. Your
involvement might include:
o Adding your logo to our supporters’ page
o Sharing our campaign updates with your membership
o Sharing our social media posts with your membership
o Hosting a campaign event
o Contributing some people resource or donating to the campaign

This is our chance to put climate change actions in the public eye and
build a movement. Will you join us?

Submission to GWRC Future Fares Review consultation by the Pōneke Collective for Public Transport Equity

The recommendations and ideas presented in the future fares review are a good step in the right direction towards more equitable fares in the Greater Wellington Region. We submit that the GWRC could and should go further and make fares completely free for the target groups instead of a 35% off peak discount

We see the need for:

  1. Easy-to-understand fares, so people on low incomes can allocate personal budgets successfully. The current direction of the 35% off peak discount for certain groups has the potential to be confusing and frustrating for the very people it seeks to help.
  2. Fare capping, if implemented, needs to be simple and actually have a maximum cap on the amount a person can spend on public transport in any given day or week. Ideally fare capping would be avoided and fares would be free instead.
  3. Inclusion of all total mobility services in the proposed discounts. We are disappointed to see total mobility taxi services excluded from this 35% off peak concession, as we feel the benefits of including mobility services in this discount greatly outweigh any costs. 
  4. Free public transport for school age children and young people at all times. We strongly advocate for free public transport for all children regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. This would produce positive benefits for teenagers particularly.

It is excellent that GWRC is implementing central government’s half price fares for community service card holders permanently, and adding an additional 35% discount off the remaining fare during off-peak times. However, for all of these groups, why not just go the extra bit and make it free? The system created here is confusing and difficult to navigate for the exact target groups it wants to help. For people who aren’t worrying about their budget or finances and don’t factor in public transport costs hugely, this is a nice discount. But for people who need to work out every week how much they can feasibly spend on public transport, this is a mathematical challenge. They now have to navigate a web of concessions which they may or may not be eligible for, some at one time of the day and some at other times of the day. This whole process would be much simpler, and massively impact transport equity,  if fares were fully free for these target groups. Even if it was only free for these target groups during off peak times, that would still be simpler than the suggested system. 

Fare capping

Our strong submission is that fare capping needs to be very simple to understand. We can see how fare capping could be beneficial, but the proposed system will only create further unnecessary complexity. The proposed discount is not a real fare cap, as it will still cost increasing amounts of money and have no cap on the amount spent every day or week. This extra 35% discount adds further confusion with extra concessions depending on how many rides a day or week a person takes, which could be avoided by a straight and simple cap on fares after a certain amount of daily or weekly rides, or even better, simply making it free from the start. 

Concessions for school age children

In terms of high-level goals, we believe that free public transport for school aged children will increase wellbeing and social participation for children, particularly for those on low incomes. We would like to see families on lower incomes having greater access to transport and also can see a future where children who adopt public transport habits now will continue to prioritise public transport usage into adult life.

Narrowing in on the specific concessions, a 35% discount for school aged children during off peak times is a good step in the right direction, but there are multiple issues to consider. Firstly, school aged children use public transport to go to school, and school buses are at peak times. Therefore, this discount realistically only benefits school aged children who are not at school or who are travelling after the evening peak finishes at 6.30pm, or on weekends. In the week, this concession is only really going to benefit school aged children who attend an after school event which runs late, like perhaps some sports or rehearsals, and even then only on their trip home. While this is admirable, it could go a lot further and benefit more children. 

On weekends this concession benefits school aged children as well, but GWRC is considering making it free for school aged children on weekends when accompanied by a parent or guardian. It would, in our view, make more sense to simply make public transport fares free for school aged children on the weekends. While for young children riding with a caregiver makes sense, to incentivise mode shift for high school aged children dropping this requirement would be best. This would also reduce congestion as parents would not need to drive their children out to sports games or events on the weekends, as these could be accessed for free by children using public transport on their own. High school aged children care deeply about the environment and climate change and are likely to actively seek to reduce emissions where they can, and making public transport free on weekends without needing a caregiver is a better way to incentivise this change. If GWRC is considering making public transport free for school aged children during the weekend, then why not extend that to off peak travel throughout the whole week and drop the caregiver requirement? 

Concessions for tertiary students

A further 35% discount for off peak fares for eligible tertiary students is an excellent step towards free fares for all tertiary students, but excludes tertiary students who are not studying full time. Many students cannot study full time because they have to work to afford to pay for rent and other expenses, or for other reasons. Part-time tertiary students would hugely benefit from fare concessions and should not be excluded from this discount. It is also worth mentioning that students often need to travel at peak times to attend lectures and tutorials at university. Therefore, this concession will not be relevant to many students’ regular use of public transport, and would significantly benefit students if it were applicable on and off peak. 

Concessions for total mobility card holders

In regards to total mobility card holders, it is worth asking, why is it excluding total mobility services? For total mobility card holders, total mobility is public transport. Not everyone has access to buses, its a lottery based on specific disability and access needs. Presently, with the half price discount, it costs approximately $10 to get into town with mobility services from a suburb like Karori, whereas the same trip on a bus costs less than $2.

However, not all total mobility card holders are best served by mobility services. In a lot of instances, catching the bus is easier, cheaper and more convenient. However, for those who cannot catch a bus, or for whom catching buses causes significant hardship, even danger and pain, affordable mobility services are essential. The cost of extending this discount to Total Mobility services does not outweigh the benefits. It’s a massive discount which really adds up.

People with disabilities are chronically underemployed and disproportionately on low incomes, already paying way more than other people for transport. Extending this discount to mobility services allows those who are not as able to catch the bus the same opportunity as everyone else to connect with their community, friends, see the doctor, patronise local businesses and seek education and employment. Isolation due to lack of transport means people with disabilities are not seen in the community, and are denied the lives everyone else takes for granted.

Every cent off can make this difference between seeing your Whānau once more in a month or not, or going to the supermarket or doctors or not. This also makes on peak discounts for diabled people make more sense, as disabled people need to access services on peak, just like everyone else, but are not always as well resourced or able to do so. A discount during on peak times would go a long way in remedying some of this inequity.

The nature of this discount, as we understand it, does not actually change anything for total mobility card holders at all. Because this proposed 35% off peak discount is not cumulatively added onto the existing 50% discount offered by GWRC, we cannot fathom a situation where someone eligible for the proposed 35% off peak discount actually receives it, as they will always receive the 50% discount instead. Therefore, we submit the proposed 35% off peak discount should be added cumulatively onto the 50% discount, or else it is completely pointless as nobody eligible will ever receive it. We would also like to seek clarity and reassurance that there is no risk of the proposed 35% off peak discount replacing the existing 50% discount, as that would be a regressive step backwards and leave disabled people worse off.

Other options for fare reductions for mobility services should be considered. Ideally total mobility services would be totally free, but if not it should at least be included in this existing discount, and other discounts such as the fare capping should also apply to mobility services. 

Massey at Wellington Students Association

Victoria University of Wellington Students Association

Generation Zero


Chaplaincy VUW 

Public Service Association


Parents for Climate Aotearoa


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