Saturday, September 14, 2019

Youth advocate says: Get rid of transit fares

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Youth Perspectives on Transportation: Free Public Transit for a More Just, Equitable, and Sustainable Urban L.A.
Youth advocate interning with ACT-L.A. urges city to get rid of transit fares

By Eli Pallrand, StreetBlogLA, 13 September 2019
When you wake up each morning, what do you think of first? You probably think about what you’re going to do that day. Off to school, then back home, but do you ever pause to think about how you’ll get there? Probably not, but take a second to consider it, because whether you step out into the crisp morning air and into the driver’s seat or into the nearest subway car can change a lot. It’s not just a matter of how you get to where you’re going, but the means of getting there. 
Building networks of public transit users – ones from across the spectrum of people who live in Los Angeles – requires removing the biggest barrier to use: the transit fare. It’s imperative that the change be made now.
Compared to public transportation, a single car throws vastly more carbon into the atmosphere, fits fewer people, and isolates us from our communities. Like any other essential program, say healthcare or college, we need free public transportation. Until transit is free, every city without it will be plagued by the dominance of cars – and car companies – which destroy an environment already under siege.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Kansas City considering #freepublictransit

Could Kansas City become the first major US city with totally Free Public Transit?

The Kansas City streetcar is already free to ride, thanks to a taxing district whose revenues pay for its operation. City officials hope to use a similar method to make all buses in the city free.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Public Transport Can Be Free

By Wojciech Kębłowski, International Viewpoint, 10 September 2019.
We don’t put coins in street lamps or pay by the minute in public parks. Here’s why we can make subway and bus fares a thing of the past.
If we are to believe transport experts and practitioners, abolishing fares for all passengers is the last thing public transport operators should be doing. For Alan Flausch, an ex-CEO of the Brussels public transport authority and current Secretary General of International Association of Public Transport, “in terms of mobility, free public transport is absurd.”
According to Vincent Kauffmann, a professor at University of Lausanne and one of key figures in sustainable mobility, “free public transport does not make any sense.” Getting rid of tickets in mass transit is judged “irrational,” “uneconomical” and “unsustainable.”
However, if we turn to commentators from outside the field of transport, the perspective on fare abolition changes radically. Social scientists, activists, journalists and public officials—often speaking from cities where fare abolition has actually been put to the test—fervently defend the measure.
For Judith Dellheim, a researcher at Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin, providing free access to public transport is the “first step towards socio-ecological transformation.” For Michiel Van Hulten, one of the earliest proponents of free public transport in Europe, “it is about returning to the commons.” Finally, according to Naomi Klein, this is precisely what cities around the world should be doing —“to really respond to the urgency of climate change, public transport would have to become free.”


Public Transport Can Be Free 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Minto for Mayor - get Christchurch moving.

Children ride for free

Free child fares on Auckland’s public transport at weekends

Our Auckland, 2 September 2019

[Photo: Metlink]

From Saturday 7 September, children aged 5 to 15, using a registered AT HOP card, will be able to travel free on Auckland Transport’s bus, train and select ferry services during weekends and public holidays.

 Children under the age of five already travel free with a paying adult at any time.
This change comes as part of the $1.1 million contribution from Auckland Council towards public transport initiatives announced earlier in the year.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the free travel will encourage the next generation of public transport users.
“We’re spending more than ever before on building our public transport network across the region. Aucklanders are embracing transport choice, with more than 100 million journeys taken on public transport in the past year,” he says.
“Making public transport free for under 16s on weekends and public holidays will encourage more people to leave their cars at home and use existing capacity. Every person on public transport is one less car on the roads, helping to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.”
Colin Homan, AT Group Manager of Integrated Networks says public transport will now be accessible for all young Aucklanders.
“We’re really excited about this, families will be able to enjoy some time together and explore the region without worrying about the traffic.”

Travel for free

There are a few things that you need to do before you head out on public transport.
You need to make sure that your kids have an AT HOP card and it is registered with a child concession.
Setting up a child discount concession is easy:
  1. Buy an AT HOP card for each of your children aged 5 to 15
  2. Create a MyAT account
  3. Register your child’s AT HOP card
  4. Start your adventure!
A child concession will be applied automatically when you register your child’s AT HOP card with the correct date of birth.
It may take 24 - 72 hours after registration for the concession to be applied, so make sure you register the card/s at least two days before you intend to travel.
To find out more, visit
Ferries services that are included:
  • Bayswater
  • Beach Haven
  • Birkenhead
  • Devonport
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Hobsonville

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

French city of Dunkirk tests out free transport – and it works

People cross a square with a 100% free autobus parked in background in Dunkirk, northern France on October 30, 2018.[Philippe Huguen, AFP]
The city of Dunkirk in northern France launched a revamped bus system last year with a twist – it’s completely free. A new study shows that the programme is not only revitalising the city center but also helping the environment.
Dunkirk, which sits on the “Opal Coast” at the northernmost tip of France, is best known for the battle and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers to Britain during the Second World War. After the war, the port city was rebuilt as an industrial hub, with oil refineries and a major steel mill.
Now the city (population 90,000) seeks to become a beacon of a greener economy, by building infrastructure such as a large-scale wind farm off the coast and transforming its city center to be more pedestrian-friendly. Key to this effort is its free bus system, inaugurated on 1 September, 2018. The network connects Dunkirk to a cluster of neighbouring towns, with five express lines running every ten minutes throughout the day, and a dozen other lines serving less dense areas. Altogether, it serves some 200,000 residents.
For many, the effect has been nothing short of liberating, says Vanessa Delevoye, editor of Urbis, a magazine of urban politics published by the local government. To get around town, you no longer need to look at the schedules, buy tickets or worry about parking, she says. You just hop on the bus.
“It’s become a synonym of freedom,” she says, attracting those who might not otherwise have used public transport. In this largely working-class city, “people of limited means say they’ve rediscovered transport” – a prerequisite to finding a job, maintaining friendships or participating in local arts and culture. But it’s not only disadvantaged or working-class people who take the bus. It is also attracting white-collar workers, students and pensioners, according to Delevoye.

A postwar industrial hub, Dunkirk now seeks to become a beacon of a greener economy. [Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
Accessibility has been “one of the keys of Dunkirk’s success” with free transport, says Maxime Huré, a political scientist at the University of Perpignan and president of the think tank VIGS, which specialises in urban development and transport issues. Over the past year, Huré has led an in-depth study of Dunkirk’s free bus experiment, commissioned by the city and carried out by an independent team of social science researchers. The study will officially be released on 11 September, but some of its initial findings have already been published. They show that ridership has spiked over the last year, more than doubling on weekends and increasing by around 60 percent during the week.
Going car-free
More revealing than the simple increase is the way that the free buses are changing residents’ habits. In a town where a large majority of residents (about two-thirds) have typically depended on their cars to get around, half of the 2,000 passengers surveyed by researchers said they take the bus more or much more than before. Of those new users, 48 percent say they regularly use it instead of their cars. Some (approximately 5 percent of the total respondents) even said that they sold their car or decided against buying a second one because of the free buses.

Source: VIGS. Infographic by AGUR, courtesy of Urbis magazine. Adapted by France 24.
“My car was getting old, it needed major repairs, so I gave it up and I told myself, the new bus network is coming, I’ll see how it goes,” one retiree, Philippe, told the VIGS researchers. “In the end, I don’t need it – I do everything by bus and on foot.”
For some young people, the reliable bus service means they may not need to start driving at all. “My cousin started taking lessons to get her driver’s license, she failed, and she dropped it because she found a job and the bus takes her straight there from her house,” said Laure, another passenger.
Despite the clear implications for reducing pollution, fighting climate change was not the main goal of Dunkirk’s free bus campaign, says Delevoye. If nothing else, though, it’s a welcome side effect.
The free buses are a step in overhauling the car-centered model that has shaped European and North American cities since the Second World War. That model has shown itself not only to be environmentally unsustainable, but “disastrous” for urban life, argues Delevoye.
Could the Dunkirk model catch on?
Styling itself as a “laboratory” of free transport, Dunkirk has attracted an “incessant” stream of visitors intrigued at whether it could work in their cities, says Delevoye. Among them was Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who took a ride on Dunkirk’s buses last October. A few months later, she announced that Paris would extend free transit passes to children under 11 and young people under the age of 20 with a handicap, taking effect this Sunday, 1 September. That’s in addition to senior citizens earning less than €2,000 a month, who already benefited from free ‘Navigo’ passes.
Such measures remain a far cry from Dunkirk’s model, whose appeal rests in part on there being no forms to fill in or criteria to meet. Expanding free public transport to the level of a major city like Paris poses a completely different set of challenges, says Huré. Before the network was revamped in Dunkirk, buses were often almost empty – a problem common to many small and medium-sized cities. Major metropolises tend to face the opposite problem: a public transport system that is saturated, especially at peak hours.
Historically, the lack of travelers on Dunkirk’s buses also meant that ticket sales contributed only a small amount – about 10 percent – of the system’s funding. The rest was publicly subsidised.

Dunkirk is known for its colourful annual carnival. This year, the carnival period saw a spike in bus ridership. [Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
For Dunkirk’s left-wing Mayor Patrice Vergriete, who took office in 2014 after campaigning in large part on the free bus pledge, the small share of ticket revenue was less a problem than an opportunity. It meant that the city could get rid of fares without a major impact on its budget.
In short, finding the resources to make buses free came down to a “political choice”, says Delevoye. Even in Paris, which is on the high end of funding from customers at 28 percent, the transport system is paid for largely by taxation. In other words, the obstacles are less financial than political.
A “figurehead” for post-industrial urban transition
Meanwhile, several cities closer to Dunkirk’s size are testing out their own versions. Among them is Calais, less than 50 kilometers down the coast. Mayor Natacha Bouchart, of the right-wing Républicains party, presented the measure as a response to the Yellow Vest movement’s demands for greater purchasing power and better public services. It was voted for unanimously by the local government and will take effect in 2020, affecting 100,000 residents. As well as Calais, Chateauroux (population 44,000) and Niort (population 59,000) in central-western France have also made their buses free in recent years, although without necessarily improving the service.
Valenciennes, another city in France’s industrial north, is taking a step in the same direction. Starting this Sunday, residents under the age of 25 can sign up for a pass that will allow them to travel around for free, after a €20 registration fee.
For Vincent Jarousseau, a photojournalist who spent two years documenting life in neighbouring Denain for his book Les racines de la colère (The Roots of Anger), the interest of Valenciennes’s approach is mostly “symbolic”. For one thing, students, who are among the main users of public transit in the area, already benefit from steeply discounted passes. And those who wish to take advantage of the new policy face an initial bureaucratic hurdle – they can’t just step on the tram.
Still, Jarousseau says the push toward free transport could help relieve the pressure on some young residents, who risk confronting ticket controllers when they can’t pay the fare. Denain, which is part of the Valenciennois transport network, is one of the poorest cities in France, its economy decimated by the closure of an iconic steel plant in the late 1970s as well as surrounding coal mines. It was an early base of support for the Yellow Vest movement last fall and winter.

Dunkirk remains a heavily industrial, working-class city with an active harbor.[Etienne, Flickr Creative Commons]
For Damien Carême, the mayor of Grande-Synthe (which neighbors Dunkirk), improving the lives of working-class residents, revitalising small cities and fighting climate change go hand in hand. Speaking in 2016, Carême (of the Green party, Europe Ecologie les Verts), said he hoped Dunkirk’s fare-free model could “make the urban area a figurehead for industrial territories undergoing environmental transition.”
So far, it’s been a “winning bet”, says Huré. He adds that, despite the different challenges they face, larger cities should not rule out going fare-free. In the interim, Dunkirk’s example is winning over skeptics. Even for supporters like Delevoye, the policy has revealed unexpected benefits. One year in, free transit is increasingly looking like an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Public transit advocate says benefits of fare-free outweigh costs

An advocate for free public transport in Auckland believes the benefits would far outweigh any cost of setting it up.
Hamilton's mayor wants all buses to be free, all the time, following a free bus trial for under-18s over the weekend.
Auckland Council's Roger Fowler told Tim Dower it would cost a lot to set up free public transport, as services would need to be improved.
But he says no one seems to bat an eyelid over the cost of new motorways.
"You raise the question of making public transport a decent public service and attracting people onto it, some people throw their hands up in horror."
In Auckland, public transport will be free for five to 15-year-olds at weekends from September.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Auckland public transport booms in popularity with region's first fare-free day

By Todd Niall and Caroline Williams, Stuff, 23 June 2019

Photo / Greg Bowker NZ Herald

Families and children are expected to be big users of Auckland's fare-free Sunday public transport promotion.
Aucklanders have enjoyed their first all-day chance to use public transport without paying on Sunday, with services across the network humming with passengers.
Auckland Transport put extra staff in key locations for the initiative which it hoped would get more people hooked on public transport.
The fare-free Sunday was announced a fortnight ago as a way of celebrating the milestone of 100 million public transport trips being made in a 12-month period.
AT expected a far bigger than normal turnout on the network, especially from families.
"Kids love going on double-deckers, it's one of those novelty things, and I think a lot of families will try to get out on the trains," Stacey van der Putten, the group manager of metro services, said.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said although exact numbers were not yet known, public transport services across the network had been busy.
However, buses in particular had been "very busy" and all train services were double-carriaged. 
Ferries had also proven popular, with queues of people being asked to wait for the next service due to ferries reaching max capacity.
Half Moon Bay, east Auckland, was an early contender for busiest ferry service while Devonport ferry services were reshuffled in anticipation of high demand.
Hannan himself travelled from Britomart to Sylvia Park and back on a full train, where he observed some passengers who had never been to Britomart before.
"[There are] lots of people trying things for the first time. It's generally gone pretty well." 
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tweeted about the occasion, stating central hub Britomart had been "bulging" with four times more people than usual.

There were stand-by buses for the northern busway, which is mostly served by double-deckers, and extra capacity on some ferry routes.
The Waiheke Island ferry, which operated outside the public transport network, was not be fare-free, except for holders of multi-journey passes issued by Fullers.
Public transport enthusiasts launched a challenge on social media – with the hashtag #akltransitchallenge – in which the aim is to pass through every train and busway station.
The challenge would start and end at the downtown Britomart terminus, and participants were encouraged to post on Twitter a photo from the outer end of each rail and busway line.
Discounted or fare-free public transport moves have gained momentum in Auckland this year to try to accelerate patronage, which is already rising at nearly 8 per cent.

Auckland Council this month voted to make weekends fare-free for under-16s, starting in September.
A wider range of ideas to shift more commuters out of their cars is being worked on jointly by the council, AT and the Government.
In March, the youth climate change lobby group Generation Zero launched a campaign calling for cheaper fares, free weekend travels for families, and a new range of daily and weekly fare caps.
Generation Zero also proposed boosting the tertiary fare discount from the current 20 per cent level to 50 per cent, free travel for under-12s, and creating optional extras for holders of the AT HOP travel card, such as being able to buy an unlimited weekend travel pass.
Other ideas included extending the period allowed to transfer between services without extra cost from 30 minutes to an hour.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A ‘big idea’ that's too big for Auckland Transport (AT) to consider:

Seniors show the way to get Auckland moving –
Why not extend the successful SuperGold Card to open up zero-fare public transport for all citizens?

Reclaiming our city from car-centric chaos towards a modern, expanded quality public transport network for Auckland, that is fully integrated, sustainable, publicly owned and free at the point of use.

This proposal is based on an opinion piece by Seniors Advisory Panel member, Roger Fowler, that was endorsed by the panel in 2017, and discussed at the Public Transport Accessibility Group meeting on 27 August 2018 and then forwarded as a contribution towards Auckland Transport’s ‘Big Idea’ project. AT rejected the proposal.

 A fresh approach – a total modal shift


To effectively combat serious traffic congestion, chronic fossil-fuel wastage & pollution issues that plague Auckland, (and can only get worse, as currently over 850 cars are added onto Auckland roads every week) it’s time to consider a truly sustainable public transport policy that offers a whole fresh approach to city-wide mobility, while also seriously addressing urgent climate change concerns and mitigate global warming.

A total modal shift is required that advances quality public transport as a vital and viable public service, like education, libraries, health services, sanitation and water supplies.

Although not proposed as a complete panacea for all of Auckland’s woes, free public transport could certainly help evolve a positive and practical impact on many aspects city life – answering primary mobility needs for accessibility, affordability, reliability, frequency and quality, as well as propelling social and environmental transformation.

To achieve this goal, there needs to be a new big stimulus to change the decades-long, entrenched mind-set of dependency on private cars, more roads and fossil fuels. In 1956, at the beginning of the boom in car ownership and the disastrous downgrading of public transport, Aucklanders took about 90 million trips on public transport per year, in an era when the city population was less than 400,000.

Had that level been sustained as the city population has grown over the past 60 years, Aucklanders today would be clocking up over 360 million trips a year – more than four times the current annual rate of 90 million trips. Although recent improvements have greatly increased patronage, Auckland now needs to seriously consider a radical incentive to effectively entice the bulk of commuters out of our cars and into quality public transport and put an end to Auckland’s daily & extremely costly traffic congestion. AT hopes PT patronage will reach 100 million per year –  but this would be just a quarter of the patronage levels of the 1950s per capita. Public transport will need to become so attractive and so easily accessible to once again be embraced as the main option for travel most days for most people, with our cars parked up in the car port for those special trips.

This is a formidable but essential task, if we genuinely want to achieve these aspirations for a sustainable citizen-focused environment instead of a clogged car-centric dead-end.

A catalyst for change

The SuperGold Card has been profoundly successful in getting seniors out and about on free public transport. This proposal advocates that Auckland Transport, in cooperation with Auckland Council and Government, expand the Super Gold Card success as a proven model, to gradually open up free public transport for all citizens – no longer just restricted to senior citizens. Free transit for all passengers at the point of use – with the costs and immense benefits shared by all.

This move could be the catalyst to transform transport in Auckland, and could be introduced gradually, sector by sector, as capacity to cater for increased patronage is developed.

Rather than building more & more extravagant motorways, tunnels, on-ramps and flyovers that encourage more traffic congestion – the Government should place a moratorium on current and future plans, and urgently divert funds from big roading projects into efficient, user-friendly, quality, free public transport throughout Auckland, coupled with expanded walking and cycling facilities and open spaces. This concept applies the principles of universal design and ‘age-friendly’ cities, also endorsed by the Seniors Advisory Panel.

This paper is based on a concept endorsed by the Seniors Advisory Panel last year, and outlined by the writer at this week’s PTAG meeting, which recommended this proposal to be forwarded to AT’s quest for ‘Big Ideas’. It discusses the proposal to introduce free public transport in Auckland, and invites a considered response.

It can be done - overseas cities opting for free public transport

Free public transport (FPT) is not a new concept. Many cities overseas have adopted, or are seriously considering, fare-free transit, often coupled with a raft of new citizen-focused initiatives. FPT is an innovative solution that can be appropriate for New Zealand cities, especially Auckland.

In January 2013 the capital city of Estonia, Tallinn, (pop 450,000) introduced free public transport for all residents after a referendum. Although public transport had always been popular in Tallinn, the abolition of fares brought about dramatically positive changes in city life, by further increasing mobility and cutting congestion and pollution levels. The city’s mayor reports that the experiment has ‘surpassed all expectations’ with passenger numbers up by 10% and cars on the streets reduced by 15% in just 3 months. Other Estonian cities are now following suit, with free public transport now becoming available to all throughout most regions of the country. (Total population 1.3million)

VIDEO: Free Public Transport in Tallinn: 

Free buses introduced on early morning key routes in central Chengdu, (pop: 14 million), the provincial capital of Sichaun province in South West China, have resulted in similar stunning transformations in mobility and air quality. The former hopelessly-gridlocked Belgium city of Hasselt flourished since 1997 when their visionary council stopped extravagant ring-route road building plans and embraced free buses and bicycles, and tree-lined boulevards – ridership soared by 1300% and their rates went down! However, a subsequent more conservative council later re-introduced some modest fares.

Citizens of many other smaller cities in France (such as Aubagne, and Chateauroux) and the USA (notably Chapel Hill & Clemson) have also benefitted by free public transport. Other large cities in Europe, such as Brussels, Leipzig and four other cities in Germany, and Riga (capital of Latvia) are considering introducing free transit. The city of Zory in Poland introduced unconditional free public transport in May 2014, and hosted the 2014 International Conference on Free Public Transport. The municipality of Avesta in Sweden enjoys free public transport and hosted last year’s international FPT conference.

Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia have expansive popular free bus services to increase mobility and combat congestion and pollution..

Bucharest, the capital city of Romania is currently planning to introduce free public transport. Dunkirk in France (total pop 200,000) has introduced free public transport for all, and many smaller cities in France provide free buses services.

Many cities offer targeted free transit, such as for under 14 year old children in Barcelona, and on CBD routes in a large number of cities, such as Perth & Sydney.

Big cities such as Paris, Los Angeles and Beijing are often faced with implementing free public transport and ban cars on days that pollution reaches dangerously high levels.

Public transport – a vital public service

This proposal is much more than just a narrow issue of transport policy and urban mobility. Modern user-friendly free transit can be a key component to foster social cohesion, inclusiveness and civic responsibility, as well as a cleaner environment. Public transport should be publicly owned and operated as an important public service, just like libraries, parks, footpaths, cycleways, playgrounds, schools, street lighting, police and fire service, and rubbish collection – it would be ridiculous to expect householders to pay on the spot for each rubbish bin collected, or to get street lights turned on each night.

We happily pay for these public services and amenities collectively, sharing the cost, even if we may not use them often.

Zero fares are just part of a whole new modal mind-set that will need to be introduced in stages.

It’s not just a matter of simply abolishing fares. The municipalities that have successfully adopted free public transport insist that there needs to be a whole new emphasis & modal mind-set change: firstly, there needs to be a planned transition period to allow for building up the required increased stock of modern no-emission buses, trams, trains and ferries and expanded infrastructure.

A robust promotional campaign will keep people fully informed about the changes and benefits, and help change the prevailing car-dependency fixation into a realization that quality, well-patronised public transport is best for all. Removing all the obstacles (such as fare systems, proximity, accessibility, inefficiencies etc), will switch engrained attitudes from “I’d be crazy to go by bus” into “I’d be crazy to go by car”.

 A ‘step-by-step’ transition period

A transition period could commence with a phased fare reduction to say a flat $1 per trip, and a moratorium on all big roading projects in the region.

The abolition of fares could be introduced in stages; firstly for disabled passengers and school students to join the senior citizens, followed by tertiary students who show ID, then lastly all other adult riders.

This gradual process would allow for the infrastructure to be developed throughout the city at a reasonable pace over, say, a three or four year period. It has been estimated that the number of public transport vehicles would need to be increased three or four-fold over this transition period, to meet the needs of the predicted big shift away from mass car-dependency to a popular, modern fare-free public transit system.

Such a transition would fit with the Green Party pledge:
Radio New Zealand News: "A 'Green Card' would be created, which would also provide free off-peak travel for tertiary students and those doing apprenticeships.

Under the policy all people with a disability on a supported living benefit would also be eligible for free public transport.

The Greens' transport spokesperson, Julie-Anne Genter, said the policy would cost $70-80 million a year.

"That would buy about 1km of the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway, if we look at the announcement made by the National government for $10.5bn on a few highways - that's 100 years of free public transport."

Ms Genter said the cost of transport should not be a barrier to getting to class or going on a family outing."

The transition could also coincide with a fare-free trial in one area – such as South Auckland, (for say, 6 months). A fare-free bus trial proposal was floated by the Manukau City Mayor, Sir Barry Curtis 12 years ago.
[‘Curtis says Manukau rail spur threatened’ NZ Herald 21 February 2006: ]

Mayor Curtis nominated three of his city's suburbs for trials of free bus services, which transport authority chief executive Alan Thompson had indicated could prove a very useful investigative exercise. [‘Increased subsidy hits free bus trials’ NZ Herald 7 Sep, 2005 -

A 4000 signature petition supporting a proposed free bus trial in Manukau, was presented to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. But opposition from Auckland’s then main bus operator, the multi-national bus company StageCoach, stymied Curtis’s initiative. (Another reason why public transport should be publicly owned and operated).

Developing new improved infrastructure and services

Providing unconditional easy access to a new people-focused fare-free mobility service would help address important issues of social exclusion and equity, and the environment, and should include these features:

•   Greatly expanded fleets of buses, ferries, trams and train carriages. It is estimated that this would need to be gradually increased up to about three or four times the current capacity to adequately cater for the increased demand. All new vehicles should be no (or low) emission, modern and comfortable.

•   Extended bus lanes & bus-only traffic signals on all bus routes,

•   Expanded networks of safe cycle ways, more open green spaces, walkways and car-free boulevards & malls,

•   Expanded park & ride facilities, and feeder services at all key nodal points.

•   Ample passenger shelters at each stop, that effectively protect people from the weather,

•   Limit inner city parking facilities.

•   New redesigned & direct bus & tram routes should be colour-coded, criss-crossing the city, integrated and easily linking up for maximum mobility.

•   All bus, tram, ferry, light rail & train services & timetables integrated to allow for easy transfer from one mode to another.

•   Strategically placed transport information centres offering simple colour-coded route maps, directions and advise.

•   All services should be frequent and reliable. Services should become so frequent that the publication of printed timetables would no longer be necessary – another cost saving.

•   The introduction of free transit needs to be accompanied with a high-profile promotion of the benefits of the new public transport services.

•   Free wifi on all public transport and passenger facilities.

•   Clear signage to make public transit easily understood by all. More electronic passenger information signs at bus stops & train stations.

•   All services should use modern comfortable vehicles that can easily accommodate wheelchairs, shopping bags and cycles.

•   Wide doors, with lowered ramps, at front & rear for easy & rapid alighting & egress for all.

•   ‘Public transport ambassadors’ engaged to assist passengers and deter anti-social behaviour – similar to Maori Wardens. This will free up the drivers to focus on getting their passengers to their destinations safely.

•   All public transport services should operate 24/7. This will allow for the safe travel of increasing numbers of late night/early morning workers and nightclub patrons etc, and a practical alternative to drink-driving.

•   Mini-buses could link isolated suburban pockets to the main public transport network.

•   Like many European cities, free bicycles could be available for loan at strategic locations. Hasselt in Belgium even offers a free bike maintenance depot at the central railway station.

•   Reintroduce trams along appropriate main arterial routes – modern trams are comfortable, & easily accessible.

•   Rail should be actively encouraged as the main means of transporting the bulk of freight, with expanded facilities. This will get a large number of heavy trucks off the roads & severely cut road maintenance costs. Heavy rail services to the airport and beyond should be urgently installed – also with zero fares.

How will it be paid for?

Public transport is a common good that should be paid for by all. Everybody will share the benefits of a big switch to quality public transport and an end to traffic congestion - so everyone should share the costs, instead of expecting the users of public transport to shoulder the burden and effectively subsidise car travel on ‘free’ roads.

There is good reason for public transport to be partially paid for by subsidies from the public purse – why not cover the full cost collectively, as we do for other important public services such as libraries and police and civil infrastructure?

Most of the funding could come from diverting the huge government funds earmarked for planned big roading projects, into decent public transport services. Also direct income from: road & fuel taxes, inner city parking fees, and selling the extremely expensive fare collecting & ticketing systems. The vast tracks of land already purchased for more roads and fly-overs could be sold releasing extra funds for public transport.

A new tourist ‘carbon-footprint’ tax could help of-set their carbon costs and be channelled into the new transit system.

Businesses will be the greatest benefactors as productivity soars and transport related costs dramatically drop. Huge company cars fleets would become unnecessary, and the need for extensive car parking space would be heavily reduced. So a differential rates system could be reintroduced, or a special levy on business could also be applied.

The cost of introducing free public transport to Auckland would be not be cheap, but I estimate that it would be a fraction of the real cost of the current chaos that centres on the dominance of car dependency, (including health & lost productivity costs etc), and also a fraction of the cost of constructing and maintaining more and more motorways.

It would be an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the actual total current costs with the projected costs of opting for FPT in Auckland. This honest comparison, of course, should be the first prerequisite action towards a genuine consideration of this proposal.

A list of advantages:

•   Dramatic reduction, or end, of traffic congestion.

•   Substantial reduction in traffic related pollution levels and greenhouse gas emissions.

•   Substantial reduction in road accidents, deaths and injuries.

•   Huge reduction in health costs related to traffic congestion and pollution: respiratory conditions, hospital admissions due to road accidents, stress related illnesses etc

•   Cut noise pollution

·      Reduction in polluted run-off water from roads into waterways & harbours

•   Reduction in ‘road rage’ incidents

•   Big reduction in fuel usage, waste and costs

•   Reduction in insurance claims and costs.

•   The finances and mobility of low-income people will be greatly improved, giving greater access to jobs, health facilities etc by removing cost constraints and coupled with better services.

·      Enhanced accessibility and increased frequency of services will benefit disabled citizens.

•   Reduce the number of school children currently being dropped off and picked up at school gates by car.

•   Greatly reduced costs in road maintenance due to less wear and tear.

•   Businesses able to cut their fleets of cars and thereby substantially reduce costs.

•   Inner city building owners & developers will not need to assign so much valuable space to car parking

•   Taxi services may be required less - surplus taxi drivers can be offered jobs as bus and tram operators or rail or ferry staff.

•   A big reduction in the massive amount of time and productivity potential lost stuck in traffic each day.

•   Increased health and fitness with encouragement and confidence due to safer walking & cycling opportunities.

•   End assaults on bus drivers who will no longer carry cash boxes.

•   Faster boarding times and an end to constant delays as passengers one-by-one fumble for change or cards or ID, ask directions and receive tickets etc.

·      End the constant diversion and stress for drivers over ticket sales and monitoring ‘fare dodging’.

•   Emergency vehicles will be able to get through without traffic congestion problems.

•   The increased number of buses & trains will be available to be quickly seconded to rapidly evacuate large numbers of the population in event of an major earthquake or other civil emergency and reduce the likelihood of impassable chaos experienced in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina and Rita floods, where all interstate highways were clogged in total gridlock for 24 hours, resulting in almost as many deaths as the hurricanes inflicted.

•   Abolish expensive ticketing and fare handling systems – fares only comprise a modest percentage of current income for public transport but impose an enormous (unnecessary) cost.

•   End all problems of ‘fare dodging’ and ‘over-riding’ and disputes over fares. No need for teams of ticket inspectors & punitive measures.

·      Bus & tram operators can focus on safe driving without being concerned with fare collecting and protecting a cash box.

•   Public ownership & control will reinforce PT as a vital civic service focused solely on the mobility needs of the public.

•   As the city becomes far more user-friendly, socially interactive, mobile and genuinely ‘liveable’ – rates are likely to fall.

•   The new innovative free transit system is likely to become a major tourist draw-card – think of Melbourne and its popular trams. Tallinn promotes it’s green ‘fare-free capital of Europe’ as a unique and successful tourist attraction.

•   Auckland could become a world-leading ‘clean-green liveable city’ renowned for transforming chronic traffic chaos into sensible urban mobility.

A list of disadvantages … well, can YOU think of any?


Some recent interesting articles/reports on overseas examples of Free Public Transport:

1.     Should all public transit be free? By John Cookson, Big Think 2017
2.     Free Public Transport & the right to the city, by Yavor Tarinski, Resilience, 25/7/18. 
3.     Free Public Transport will be available nationwide in Estonia, By Intelligent Transport, 13 June 2018.
4.     Free PT boosts Ida-Viru (Estonia) passenger numbers by 92%. NewsERR 17/8/18.
5.     Estonia is making public transport free. World Economic Forum, 1 June 2018.
6.     Paris considers making public transport free to reduce pollution, The Independent, 23 March 2018.
7.     German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution, The Guardian, 14 Feb 2018.
8.     French town adopts free public transport in growing trend, RFI, 3 Sept 2017.

Produced by Revo Raudjarv for Tallinna Television [2015]

This video mostly focuses on Tallinn, Estonia, and includes interviews with international advocates: Roger Fowler (New Zealand), Greg Albo (Toronto Free Transit), Erik van Hal (traffic planner, Eindhoven), Michel van Hulten (scientist, Netherlands), Anna Ujma (advisor to the mayor of Zory, Poland), Dan Diaconu (deputy mayor of Timisoara, Romania), Raymond Polus (journalist Hasselt, Belgium), Mao Xiang (Chengdu Transport Department), Siim Kallas (European Commissioner for Transport), Lars Isacsson (Mayor of Avesta, Sweden), Allan Alakula (Head of Tallinn EU Office), Taavi Aas (Deputy Mayor of Tallinn).



Author: Roger Fowler QSM
Member of the Auckland Council’s Seniors Advisory Panel from 2014  – Transport portfolio. 
Director of the Mangere East Community Centre.
Cell Ph: 0212999491
Postal: PO Box 86022, Mangere East, Auckland 2158.                                         [29/8/2018]