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Upping the game on public transport

Upping the game on public transport: cheaper fares and zero emission buses now

As the Regional Council begins its hearings on its Regional Public Transport Plan this week, three City Councillors are calling on the Council to introduce cheaper fares and switch to zero emission buses.

“We want to see affordable bus fares for Wellingtonians, with a 50% discount on off-peak fares,’ says Cr Sarah Free.

”We need to make our public transport assets sweat more; there are times the buses are under-utilised, and so incentives to improve patronage at off peak times make a lot of sense.

Such a move would particularly benefit those on low incomes, children and students.”

Cr David Lee said he was very concerned that bus patronage in Wellington continues to decline and questioned whether high bus fares in Wellington were contributing to this situation.

“We cannot understand why Wellington bus users have to pay considerably more than users in Auckland and Christchurch,” said Cr Lee. For example, the Inner Link Bus in Auckland which travels around inner suburbs in Auckland costs $1.90 as opposed to the proposed $2.50 to just travel around Wellington’s CBD.

“There also needs to be equity between bus users and train users. Bus users pay a far greater proportion of the cost of their trip than rail users,” said Cr Lee.

More and more evidence is emerging about the harmful health effects of diesel fumes, said Cr Free.

“We therefore urge the Regional Council not to make a hasty decision to scrap our fleet of trolley buses. We consider there hasn’t been a sufficiently detailed and transparent comparison of the total costs of the different options to get the best deal for Wellington. The present trolley buses still have years of useful life and we would like to see them retained until there is a good electric alternative”.

Cr Iona Pannett said that the Regional Council needs to embrace opportunities to collaborate with the City Council on these two issues – issues supported by the public through submissions. “This is a great opportunity for the Regional Council to take a real leadership role in reversing the trend of declining public transport use.”

Cr Pannett said “I am concerned that the Regional Council may have already made up its mind to get rid of the trolleys. Trolleys are seen as a viable form of transport around the world; over 300 cities use them, as they are seen as efficient and an environmentally friendly form of transport.

“There are questions about the accuracy of some of the figures that have been provided by the Regional Council about the cost of the trolleys. “A report by consultants Sinclair Knight Mertz (SKM) shows that energy costs for trolleys are less than that for diesel buses, they last longer and they can manage Wellington’s hills better.

“The costs for removing the wires also have not been quantified fully although another report by PwC report puts it at around $20m, a very high cost. The costs of upgrading the system may also be too high with only a portion of it requiring further work”. She also pointed out that the report shows that trolley buses are not incompatible with the Regional Council’s vision for Bus Rapid Transit.

Cr Lee added that the City Council has a role to play in making public transport work better. “We need to introduce a dedicated public transport corridor and new bus priority lanes as soon as possible. Without these measures, it will be impossible to make public transport work better.”

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