A well-attended ‘Rise Up Against Climate Cuts’ meeting in Auckland on Thursday heard from a range of speakers including GreenPeace climate campaigner Christine Rose, Elliot Crossan from System Change Not Climate Change, Roger Fowler from Fare-Free NZ, Xavier Walsh from Unions Auckland, Takutai Moana Kemp, Te Pati Maori candidate, Joe Carolan for Unite Union, and Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.
Fare-Free NZ spokesperson Roger Fowler said the climate crisis is here now and deadly serious. ‘We need to take this seriously and put the country on a ‘war footing’ to combat climate change.’
Fowler advocated that Free Public Transport can be one effective means to ‘turn around this obsession with cars’ and dramatically cut the number of vehicles, and reduce air pollution and emissions that are a major contributor to global warming.
But it’s not just a matter of zero fares - Free Public Transport will need to have frequent top-quality 24/7 services with an increased fleet of modern zero-emission vehicles, integrated colour-coded routes, free wifi, easy access and ‘Public Transport Ambassadors’ to assist passengers and deter anti-social behaviour - and free up the drivers to focus on their job: getting everyone to where they need to go safely.
To address the shortfall of drivers, Fowler said they need to be respected - ‘treat them like rock stars and pay them like surgeons!’
Funding could start now by diverting the billions of dollars allocated to current and proposed extravagant roading projects, and the ‘National Ticketing System’ (estimated to cost $1.3 billion). Why build more motorways and under-harbour crossings to encourage more traffic when we need to cut traffic volumes?
Other measures should include expanding electrified rail for passengers and freight, boost coastal shipping to get freight off of trucks, expand modern ferry services (also with zero-fares) and upgrade walking, cycling facilities and open public spaces.
Fowler called for building a strong people’s movement to build pressure to demand effective action to combat climate change.
‘We need to make public transport sooo attractive that few people would choose to go by car’ he said.
High quality free and frequent public transport could be that game changer - ‘to dramatically cut traffic congestion, reduce emissions, make roads safer, increase social cohesion, cut travel costs as well as combat climate change.’