Tuesday, July 6, 2021

 Petition for free Wellington public transport for students, Community Service Card holders


A petition has been launched to get free Wellington public transport travel for students and Community Service Card holders.

“This is an essential move for students who face unaffordable living costs in the city, foregoing basic needs and services in order to use public transport,” said Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association engagement vice president and campaign spokesperson Grace Carr [pictured above]

The group – backed by a long list of organisations including the Public Service Association, Downtown Community Ministries, and New Zealand Disabled Students Association – has written an open letter to Transport Minister Michael Wood, asking for a trial of the free system.

“Affordable and accessible public transport is an essential tool that would benefit all tertiary students and people who have community service cards,” the letter said.

“The current system does not provide the basic essential needs for our communities.

“Rising housing costs now account for a greater proportion of living costs and many people have been forced out of the city. So for many the cost of public transport has risen, and it is a major portion of people’s income.”

The trial would cover all Wellington region trains, buses, the cable car and harbour ferries.

Organisations backing the call:
  • New Zealand Union of Student Associations
  • Victoria University of Wellington Student Association
  • Massey at Wellington Students’ Association
  • Āwhina | Maori Student Support @ Victoria University of Wellington
  • Young Greens at Victoria
  • VicLabour
  • Victoria University of Wellington Commerce Students’ Society
  • Disabled Students Association of Victoria University Wellington
  • CCS Disability Action
  • Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand
  • New Zealand Disabled Students Association
  • Public Service Association
  • Hospo Workers Union
  • Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust
  • NZ Beneficiaries and Unemployed Workers Union
  • Wellington City Mission
  • Free Store Wellington
  • Catholic Social Services
  • Downtown Community Ministries
  • Urban Vision
  • Anglican Advocacy Wellington
  • Blueprint Church
  • St Thomas Anglican Church, Newtown
  • Lyall Bay Community Church
  • Stillwaters Community Association
  • Aro Valley Community Centre
  • The Common Unity Project Aotearoa
  • KiwiClass
  • ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum
  • Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Etc English Teaching College
  • Tauira Pasifika
  • Kāpiti Climate Change Action Group
  • Generation Zero
  • Low Carbon Kāpiti

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

As NZ Government declares a so-called 'climate change emergency' -


Cost blowouts on 17 roads cost NZTA $1.1 billion

A review into the delays and cost blowout of Transmission Gully is under way.

That’s the equivalent of the entire annual budget for state highway improvements.

A handful of roads have managed to go $1.1 billion over budget, forcing the Government’s transport agency to make tough choices to make its books balance.

It comes as a group has lodged a judicial review to challenge decisions around transport spending, saying that Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency had disregarded direct orders from the Government to pivot transport away from roads and towards cycling and public transport.

NZTA gets about $4b a year from fuel taxes and road user charges to spend all over the transport system, building and fixing roads, cycleways, and subsidising public transport.

But in between 2017 and 2020, $1.1b of its funding was ploughed into plugging cost overruns on 17 road projects that went wildly over budget.

The worst offenders were the Wellington Roads of National significance, which went $381m over budget, and a series of Auckland roads that went $352m over budget.

The cost overruns were revealed in written Parliamentary questions to Green party transport spokesperson and former associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

Genter said construction costs were increasing too fast.

Transmission Gully has run hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.
Ross Giblin
Transmission Gully has run hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.

“Construction costs have been increasing at an alarming rate over the past few years. NZTA clearly needs to do more to get costs under control.”

She laid part of the blame at the Roads of National significance programme – National Government roads that have come in seriously over budget.

“National’s mega motorway projects in particular have been blowing out by hundreds of millions over the past term of Government, reducing the amount of money in the transport budget that was available for road safety, public transport and safe cycling,” Genter said.

Genter said she would propose the Transport and Infrastructure select committee investigate construction cost inflation “so we can get a good cross-party view of the problem and potential solutions.”

Julie Anne Genter wants Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure select committee to investigate infrastructure cost inflation.
Julie Anne Genter wants Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure select committee to investigate infrastructure cost inflation.

“The high cost of delivering transport infrastructure in New Zealand, whether road, busway or rail, is not good for anyone. Especially when we need to urgently invest significantly in infrastructure to decarbonise our transport system,” Genter said.

National’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said his party’s caucus would have to decide whether it would support a select committee inquiry, but the “eye-watering” cost overruns needed an examination.

“Whatever form that takes it is absolutely appropriate that we examine whether that represents value for the taxpayer,” Woodhouse said.

The chair of the committee, Labour’s Greg O’Connor, didn’t indicate whether he’d support Genter’s attempt to get an inquiry started.

“Julie Anne is welcome to bring that to the committee and it will have to be discussed within the committee,” he said.

A spokesperson for NZTA said that plugging the funding hole by moving money from other parts of the transport programme. However, NZTA still planned to make the road programme fit into its three-year budget.

“Waka Kotahi is able to move funding between NLTP activity classes provided the funding allocations remain with the bottom and top of the three-year funding ranges set by the GPS for each activity class,” the spokesperson said.

“The funding range for State Highway improvements for 2018-21 is between $3b and $3.85b.

“We are currently tracking to finish the three-year funding period near the top of that range,” they said.

They also said that some cost overrun figures included next year in their calculation– making the overall figure look larger.

The intervention comes as NZTA faces questions over its alleged bias towards road building and against things like walking and cycling.

Every three years, the transport minister draws up a Government Policy Statement (GPS) telling NZTA what sorts of things it would like funded with transport money.

NZTA takes its directions from that GPS and then decides what it would like to do with transport funding within the boundaries set out by the government.

The current Government has pivoted this funding away from roading projects towards things like walking and cycling.

Despite this, NZTA is forecasting to spend nearly half a billion dollars more than the maximum amount of money the Government earmarked for state highways.

It’s also going to spend tens of millions of dollars less than the Government had earmarked for walkways and cycleways.

Former transport minister Phil Twyford said a maximum of $1.15b should be spent on state highway improvements in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

But, in an answer to a written Parliamentary question, Transport Minister Michael Wood said that NZTA would in fact be spending $1.296b and $1.483b on state highway improvements in 2019/20 and 2020/21 – a full $479 million more than the top end of the Government window.

The Government said NZTA should spend a minimum of $80m and $95m on walking and cycling improvements in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

NZTA actually plans to spend about half that - just $45.5m and $54m in each of those years.

Movement, a transport advocacy organisation (formerly known as Skypath), has lodged an application for a judicial review of NZTA’s transport decisions, saying they deviated from Government policy.

Chair Christine Rose said “The GPS on Land Transport has specific priorities for NZTA which includes fewer private car trips and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite being legally required to do so, NZTA continues to develop transport plans that are not consistent with nor ‘give effect to’, these important priorities”

Waka Kotahi NZTA said that it was confident that it’s transport funding decisions “gave effect” to the priorities of the Government.

“Waka Kotahi is confident that our investment decisions through the National Land Transport Programme give effect to the Government’s priorities as set out in the GPS. No further comment will be made on the judicial process,” said a spokesperson.

The application will be heard on February 1 next year.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Cost #freepublictransport would be 4% of cost of roads

To put $19m [fares] into context, here’s the cost of some of the other significant transport investments wither considered or made recently.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

'Do we care about the public?': Cities weigh free public transit amid rising costs
Progressive lawmakers across the U.S. say mobility is a human right and want their residents to be able to freely move around their cities, no matter their income.
Commuters at the North Station T station in Boston wait as an Orange Line train pulls in on Bill Greene / Boston Globe via Getty Images
By Ben Kesslen and Ludwig Hurtado, NBC News, 18 February 2020
Michelle Wu, a City Council member in Boston, wants everyone to ride for free on subways and buses that crisscross the region.
Wu says the city is experiencing a "transportation crisis" as ridership declines, rush-hour traffic rises and the infrastructure of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority continues to crumble.
The transportation authority needs salvation and money for repairs, commuters and local transit advocates say, but instead of raising fares beyond the $2.90 it costs now if you pay for a subway ride in cash, Wu thinks a solution may lie in dropping fares altogether.
Her position is shared by other progressive lawmakers across the country who say mobility is a human right, like health care and education, and think residents should be able to freely move around their cities, no matter their income brackets. They propose eliminating fares on city buses, light rail and trains to achieve their vision of universal mobility. But some experts warn that free rides wouldn't solve the issues besetting many public transit systems, including crumbling infrastructure, infrequent and unreliable service, and routes that take workers nowhere near their jobs.
Kansas City, Missouri, could become the first major city to eliminate bus fares in June under a proposal in the budget the City Council is expected to approve by the end of March.
Mayor Quinton Lucas said scrapping the $1.50 bus fare would be a windfall for working-class families that spend a good part of their incomes on transportation, and he believes it would benefit the city's economy, allowing people to move around more easily and patronize local businesses.
"Making transit free makes more job opportunities accessible for more people," Lucas said. "We're a car-based city, so if you don't have a car or bus fare, you don't get to where you need to be."
The city would lose $8 million a year on fare-free transit, but Lucas insisted that it would not be "a significant amount" of Kansas City's $1.7 billion budget. By not paying for maintaining and using a fare collection system, the city would save about $3 million a year, leaving Kansas City officials to come up with only $5 million to cover losses, Lucas said.
He said critics rarely ask where the money comes from for other projects, like the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year on building and maintaining streets or the $325 million to renovate Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play.
"That costs us and local government tens of millions of dollars a year," he said. "So I think the real question people have to ask is 'Do we care about the public?'"
Robbie Makinen, CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said public transit is the glue that holds a community together.
"The return on investment for social justice, compassion and empathy far outweighs the return on investment for asphalt and concrete," he said.
The Kansas City transit authority partnered with the Center for Economic Information at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to analyze the economic impact of the proposed zero-fare policy. The study found that free transit would increase Kansas City's regional gross domestic product by more than $13 million a year and improve the livelihoods of regular riders along with new riders encouraged to try public transit without the fare barrier.
"For those living paycheck to paycheck, as most Americans are, even an additional $50 (the cost of a monthly bus pass) per month of income can make the difference in deciding which bills to pay," the study said.
Kansas City has embarked on similar but smaller experiments before. In 2017, it made transit free for veterans and the next year for ninth- to 12th-graders in four major school districts.
While advocates have championed the move, they say fare-free policies aren't enough if transit isn't accessible.
Comparing 100 metropolitan areas of similar size to Kansas City, a 2011 report from the Brookings Institution found that Kansas City's transit system was among the 10 worst at connecting workers to their jobs, with only 18 percent of jobs in the metropolitan region accessible to job seekers by commutes of less than 90 minutes.
For that reason, city leaders should not look at eliminating fares as a "panacea" for transit problems, said Hayley Richardson, a spokeswoman for TransitCenter, a nonprofit group based in New York City that works to improve public transit around the country.
"A bus that comes once an hour that's free isn't useful to people," Richardson said. "The way we make transit useful to people is by making it come frequently and reliable."

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Video report: zero-fares coming to Luxembourg

Luxembourg is about to embark on an experiment into whether offering zero-fare public transport will persuade people to leave their cars at home. In 2020, it will become the only country in the world to get rid of fares on all its forms of public transport, in a bid to tackle increasing congestion.
23 Dec 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Free transit is just the beginning

Protesters jump turnstiles in the New York City subway, during a protest against police presence in the MTA on November 1, 2019. [Photos via Decolonize This Place, by Javier Alvarez.]
Militant transit struggles are breaking out across the Americas.In Chile, transit riders responded to a proposed 4 per cent fare hike with explosive protests that included mass turnstile jumping, peaceful marches, and vandalism or destruction of subway stations in Santiago. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to hire 500 more transit cops for New York City’s subway – along with increased fares and a series of viral videos of incidents of police violence in the subway – have triggered massive fare evasion actions and rallies.
Last week, bus riders in Vancouver were refusing to pay fares until TransLink offered a fair contract to transit workers, while activists in Montreal marched for a transit-focused Green New Deal. Others in Toronto plastered the city with beautiful posters calling for free transit and proper funding of the TTC. Fare strikes and rallies for free transit are scheduled in several cities for November 29 – the same day as the global climate strike. Transit workers are striking against their private employer in Washington, D.C. while Vancouver SkyTrain workers voted 96.8 per cent in favour of job action. Campaigns continue to escalate in power and scale.
But it’s the specific demands for free transit that knit seemingly disparate movements for climate action, anti-poverty, and prison and police abolition together into a potentially world-changing force.
It’s no coincidence that these efforts are all taking place at the same time. Public transit is one of the most powerful sites of struggle that we have in our cities, given it’s the backbone of how many people get to work, grocery stores, schools, and social activities. The physical nature of the service – requiring strangers to congregate in bus shelters and train stations, often anxious about delays and costs – represents a site of highly effective collective power if harnessed. But it’s the specific demands for free transit, through spontaneous actions of turnstile jumping and campaigns like “swipe it forward,” that knit seemingly disparate movements for climate action, anti-poverty, and prison and police abolition together into a potentially world-changing force.
Technocratic transit wonks often condescend to advocates of fare-free transit, arguing that municipalities need more funding to improve service and that calls for free transit undermine that goal. Of course it’s true that transit departments need massive amounts more money – but that shouldn’t be coming from regressive fares that increasingly benefit corporate owners like SNC-Lavalin’s botched light-rail project in Ottawa. Instead, excellent transit systems can and should be fully funded by increasing taxes on rich households and corporations and rerouting current spending on roads and highways.
Such a transition will have a huge range of benefits: boosting ridership, cutting emissions, making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and ensuring that everyone has the ability to travel regardless of income. It’s an exceptionally straightforward policy to implement, and can serve as a clear rebuttal to the growing trend of privatization and austerity.
Transit agencies will no longer have to worry about “fare evasion,” which has long been used to justify dystopian securitization measures. After the TTC’s alleged loss of $61 million due to fare evasion in 2018, it launched a widespread ad campaign to threaten riders with $425 fines and dozens of new fare inspectors and transit enforcement officers. Similarly, New York responded to a reported loss of $215 million last year from fare evasion by hiring 500 more Metropolitan Transportation Authority cops – costing almost $250 million over four years (that’s in addition to the over 700 existing transit police and 2,500 NYPD officers who patrol the city’s subways and buses).
Unsurprisingly, such enforcement is highly racialized: two-thirds of the MTA riders arrested for fare evasion in the second quarter of 2019 were Black, while a decade’s worth of TTC data indicated that Black transit users have been fined at a rate almost double their demographic. Transit police are increasingly profiling and detaining undocumented people on transit, leading to deportation and incarceration. While getting rid of fares doesn’t eradicate racist policing, it removes one of the main tools used to harass and detain in transit spaces.Free transit also protects transit workers. Bus drivers, especially, are forced to bear the brunt of rider anger at high fares and poor service. According to a survey conducted by the Amalgamated Transit Union of drivers, 73.6 per cent of assaults are caused by fare disputes. If we want to reduce the very threat of attack and abuse that workers face on the job, we should remove the primary source of incidents: fare disputes.
Ditching fares means that people are no longer denied transportation due to lack of money. It also means that riders can board the bus far more efficiently, not having to scan their transit pass or put a pocket full of coins in the farebox, increasing the ability for the vehicle to remain on schedule, and for riders to be able to rely on its service. Some cities have half-heartedly introduced low-income transit passes but they’re often still far too expensive or require a byzantine means-testing process. It would be far simpler just to abolish fares.
It’s not some utopian demand. Over 100 transit systems operate fare-free around the world, including much of Estonia. Dunkirk, France, became one of the largest examples, when it introduced free buses to its population of 200,000 last year. About half of riders surveyed said they were new transit users and were using it instead of driving a car, a clear indication of the policy’s power to reduce transportation emissions in a city. Such an approach can be scaled up to any level, of course, including to intercity bus service or national passenger rail.
Free transit is about much more than transit: an end to austerity, a refusal of police power, and a demand for decommodified and universal public services. We simply can’t build the world we dream of until we confront ruling class power in all its forms. As geographer Juan Correa told CityLab, people in the highly unequal country of Chile attacked the subway because companies were extracting profits from them through higher fares: “This was a moment of rage, of stating that this institution was public, but they make me pay and with a hike that is unjustified.”
Free transit is a struggle for genuinely public and democratic control of our society. Activists in Chile and New York City are showing us how to win. Let’s join them at the turnstiles today.


James Wilt is a freelance journalist and master’s student based in Winnipeg. He has also written for The Narwhal, VICE Canada, Canadian Dimension, and the National Observer, and is working on a book about public transit. He tweets at @james_m_wilt.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Daily Blog - NZ - calls for free public transport

Free public transport: Synchs in with environmentalism, reducing poverty & inequality. Demanding all cities have free public transport would help the poorest amongst us, demand more growth for public transport and take some of the stress out of our groaning roading system that can’t cope as it is. Major way to directly combat climate change.

Monday, October 7, 2019

UK Green Party wants to scrap plans for new roads, use cash for free bus travel for all

By Phoebe Weston, the Independent, 4 October 2019.

The [UK] Green party wants to scrap the Conservatives’ £6.5bn plans for new roads and will instead use the cash to fund free bus travel for all.

The proposals, which will be laid out at the annual party conference in Newport, are part of the party’s Green New Deal, which looks to shift focus from economic growth towards tackling the climate emergency and protecting nature.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green party, says the move will slash emissions from private diesel and petrol vehicles as well as helping low-income families.

He said: “Our reliance on cars is driving up our carbon emissions – a third of the UK’s emissions come from transport.

“Road building currently generates more car journeys, creating a vicious and harmful cycle. This money would be much better spent on reducing CO2 emissions by encouraging the use of public transport as part of a Green New Deal.”

To pay for the Free Bus Fund, the party would allocate £5bn of proceeds from the Vehicle Exercise Duty (VED), which under current Tory party plans is earmarked for road building from next year. The remaining £1.5bn from the VED would be spent on maintaining major roads.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “With bus use declining, this proposed fund for free bus travel is exactly the sort of vision needed to make public transport a more viable option for people across the UK, helping reduce emissions at the same time.

Our government should put its money where its mouth is, instead of committing billions to policies which will increase road use and emissions and worsen the climate emergency.”

The party would also increase corporation tax to 24 per cent and spend the extra revenue on funding local authorities by £10bn a year, it says.

It claims the funding would help local authorities maintain roads and deliver more bus services, which have become 65 per cent more expensive to use over the past decade.

Air pollution is currently linked to the premature death of 40,000 Britons a year and the Free Bus Fund would also be topped up by saving from reduced health costs due to less pollution on roads, the party says.

Free bus travel would be implemented in England but not in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as this is a devolved issue.

The news comes days after the Green party also said it would ban adverts for petrol or diesel cars and flights across Europe. The move would use the same powers that enabled Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, to ban junk food adverts on the London Underground.

Deputy leader Amelia Womack said: “Excessive flying harms our health just like smoking and advertising only increases this harm. The climate emergency will cause 250,000 additional deaths year from 2030, comparable in number to deaths caused by smoking.”

The Green New Deal legislation would also look at ways to cut consumption of meat and single-use plastic.

Caroline Lucas, a former Green leader, said adopting the deal was “essential” to avoid environmental and political breakdown.

She said: “If we are to mend our broken democracy and give people hope for their future, we must invest in an economy where we live sustainably, differently and more equally.”