Fare-FreeNZ editor, Roger Fowler, presented a submission to the Auckland Council on the Draft Auckland Plan on Tuesday.
His submission called on the Council to "introduce a region-wide network of fare-free public transport to get Auckland commuters out of our cars, and seriously reduce traffic congestion, fuel wastage, road accidents, pollution and related health issues."
Fowler recalled his recent visit to Hasselt in Belgium, who's visionary mayor introduced free public transport 15 years ago, which totally transformed the provincial city from a drab, gridlocked nightmare, into a pleasant, green, 'people-focused' city. Hasselt has since become a popular cultural hub in Europe.
Auckland too could be transformed into a modern, clean & green world-class city by implementing an efficient, integrated, publicly-owned fare free public transport network. Free & frequent low (or no) emission buses criss-crossing the city and linking up with free electric rail services and ferries, would free up the roads and allow people to move about easily, and leave their cars at home.
One councillor inevitably asked "How would it be paid for?" Fowler noted that no one seems to ask who pays for all the extravagent motorways, tunnels, and flyovers that continue to be built - only to be encourage more traffic that soon gets clogged again. Not to mention the high costs to people's health from exhaust pollution and accidents.
Government & Council funding for decent public transport should be a public service priority. Free public transport would make Auckland a world leader and attract a large influx of visitors, who could be levied a special tourist tax. Companies who profit from the resulting increased business could be levied too. And Auckland would be spared the excessive costs of building more motorways.