We call on the Minister of Transport, Michael Wood, to implement free public transport for Community Service Card holders, full- and part-time tertiary students, and under-25s nationwide.
We want to see this fully funded by central government in Budget 2022 and free fares beginning in 2023.
We also acknowledge the need for this government to reduce fares for all other passengers and to increase the reach, frequency and quality of services in underserved areas.
Why is this important?
New Zealand should be a place where everyone can afford public transport to stay connected, enjoy our regions, and travel in a way that’s kind to the environment.
But with the high cost of public transport, many people can only afford to travel by private car, causing congestion and harmful carbon emissions. Some people don’t travel at all, and their wellbeing and communities suffer as a result.
The solution is for the government to fund free fares for public transport, starting with low-income groups and under-25s.
The case has never been stronger. New Zealand needs to take bold actions to reduce emissions and improve equity; we also need to address rising living costs and pandemic pressures that are pushing people into poverty. Free fares is a solution. Now is the moment!
We'd love to double that. Could you send an email blast or newsletter to your members? Text you can use is below.
We've also set an outrageous goal of getting 100 individual councilors to support the campaign... before 18 November.There are 25 on board so far, plus several councils will soon vote on motions of support.
Can you help us? Do you know any individual local city or district councilors that you could ask to support the campaign? That involves adding their name to a public list that will be used on the freefares.nz website and in public media (we'll send out a press release on 18 November). We will also keep them updated about the campaign. If they want to get further involved, they are most welcome. Here's a template you can use to reach out to councilors. Direct them to this sign up form, or send questions to email@example.com.
Thanks again for your support. A reminder we have weekly strategy meetings, 7pmWednesdays on Zoom, for anyone wanting to join. This week's link is here.
Here's text to you can adapt for email newsletters:
Join the call for free fares.Our organisation has teamed up with dozens of others around Aotearoa to support the Free Fares campaign (freefares.nz). Together we are calling on Transport Minister Michael Wood to make public transportFREEfor all under-25s, tertiary students and Community Service Card holders, so that more people can afford climate-friendly options. Everyone should be able to afford public transport, but the high cost leaves many people reliant on private cars or disconnected from their community. Free fares is part of the solution! Sign the petition here: our.actionstation.org.nz/p/freefares.
Conrad Landin explores the idea of a universal free ride. New Internationalist 5 November 2021
Official delegates visiting Glasgow for the UN Climate Conference in November will receive a free pass for buses, trains and the subway. But once they look around at ordinary punters, they will see that the residents of Scotland’s largest city juggle a daily cacophony of individual paper tickets and separate smart-cards.
Urban and regional transit is as much a part of everyday life as education and housing. When we can move around with ease, we don’t just benefit as individuals – we benefit as a society. It seems like it would be a win-win to make public transport free for users and pay for it out of general taxation.
At first the idea might seem unworkable, but we just need to cast our eyes to the cities, regions and, in one case, an entire small country, that have already implemented it. The Estonian capital of Tallinn has gone part of the way there. The city’s 438,000 residents pay a small fee for a pass that gives them free access to public transport, but tourists still pay full whack. In one sense this supports the city’s transport budget, but it also means there is still a need for expensive ticketing infrastructure and enforcement regimes. Wouldn’t it be simpler to eliminate ticketing altogether and instead levy a tourist tax on overnight stays?
Although public transport was already heavily subsidized in Luxembourg, from 2020 ministers decided to scrap fares and ticket checks on trains, trams and buses in a move that cost just $44 million. Transport is not only free to the grand duchy’s 600,000 residents, but also its many incoming commuting workers and tourists. ‘The objective is to stop the deepening gap between rich and poor,’ François Bausch, the Green politician in charge of the programme, said at the time.
Dunkirk has been another high-profile testbed for fare-free travel – and no, this isn’t a bad joke about World War Two’s Operation Dynamo. In 2018 the town, (population 91,000) revived its public transport system by granting free travel on five express bus lines, each running at a 10-minute frequency. It had the desired result: a survey of bus passengers showed ridership in Dunkirk spiked the next year, with passenger numbers doubling at weekends.
In 2019, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced free bus and metro rides for women as ‘a gift to our sisters’. In 2012 a woman was brutally gang-raped and murdered on a private bus in Delhi. Politicians concluded that having more women on public transport would improve safety and so decided to address the fact that women were far less likely to be travelling on buses and trains in the first place. The fact that this scheme has been rolled out in region with a 16.9 million population is an encouraging sign that free transport isn’t only workable for small cities in the West.
There is, however, a thorny issue with free travel – the potential for bosses to use it as an opportunity to cut staffing. In Luxembourg, such concerns prompted transport unions to oppose free travel. Given that many transport workers are primarily focused on revenue collection and enforcement, and that corporations have a proven record of using smart ticketing and automatic barriers to cut costs, this argument can’t be dismissed out of hand.
Passenger advocacy groups should instead work with transport unions to make a dual demand for free urban transport, alongside legal staffing guarantees which would make public transport safer and more accessible. Rail ticket inspectors should receive full safety training, and trains should never run with just one ‘safety-critical’ worker on board – a longstanding demand of UK rail unions concerned over driver-only operation. Ticket clerks and bus workers who currently perform spot-checks should be trained to provide assistance to elderly and disabled passengers, and indeed to anyone who requires help on board.
Free travel is not a panacea for inequality, and needs to go hand in hand with measures to make our urban settlements fit for walking and cycling. But as well as the potential for reducing car usage, it could help make public transport safe, secure and accessible for all.