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Christchurch can become the Dunkirk of the South

7 August 2019

There has been some mischievous misinformation circulating about the Minto for Mayor policy of free public transport.

To put this misinformation to rest we are releasing a full description of the policy (pasted below)

Dunkirk in France is one of the European cities providing free public transport. Christchurch can do the same. We can become the Dunkirk of the South.

Providing Free and Frequent Public Transport

The problem:
Our greenhouse gas emissions need to come down quickly to do our part in preventing climate catastrophe. 53% of Christchurch’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport – mainly cars and trucks.

Solution:
Free bus and rail travel in Christchurch City. This is the single most important way Christchurch can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

What would this look like?
Comfortable, modern, low-emission buses, fitted with free wifi, would provide free and frequent travel along transport corridors to all parts of the Christchurch City – up to Rangiora, West to Darfield and South to Lyttelton. A plan for the future development of fare-free tram and train services would be prioritized.

What would it cost?
Taking into account the current bus fares collected by ECAN (which runs the bus service) the initial operating cost of the policy would be approximately $20 million per year. However, it would also require capital investment to double the number of buses over the next five years as residents move to public transport.

Where will the money come from?
From funding already allocated for new road building in Christchurch. This would require negotiation with the government and ECAN but with a strong mandate from Christchurch in the election this would be easily achievable. The policy would lead to a rethink of the hugely expensive and unsustainable roading projects currently being developed for Christchurch.
Why don’t we just build more roads to reduce congestion?
It’s irresponsible to promote roads with the environmental crisis we face through greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Public transport is far cleaner and greener and this policy would significantly reduce Christchurch’s carbon footprint. A person who switches from their car to a full bus has 15 times lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In any case the experience elsewhere has been that new roads just mean getting to the traffic jam quicker.

Will Christchurch be the first city to do this?
No, but we’ll be the first city in Australasia to run free and frequent public transport.

So where else is it working?
Other cities ahead of us include Tallinn in Estonia, Dunkirk in France and Chengdu, capital of China’s Sichuan province and the fourth largest city in China where many of the main transport corridors run free buses. Germany is considering making public transport free across the country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

What are the benefits?
Cleaner and greener – this may well be the single greenest policy in the history of New Zealand! - less pollution, a smaller carbon footprint and big ups to the environment!
EVERYBODY benefits – even those who never use a bus or train will be able to travel on a gridlock-free roading network.
More time at home instead of buried in traffic congestion
No extra charges for anyone - no rates increases, no extra fuel taxes, no congestion charges, no network charges, no toll roads, no PPPs, …
Improved productivity – roading congestion costs Christchurch tens of millions in lost productivity every year. This policy will release that lost productivity and enable better pay for workers. (NOTE: The New Zealand Initiative tells us we need higher productivity to get higher wage increases. Here’s a golden opportunity to pass on these productivity increases to workers in wages!)
Faster bus travel as no time wasted collecting fares
Revitalising central Christchurch as more people travel to enjoy the central city, Lyttelton and the city beaches.
Savings for workers and reduced income inequality. The Mayor of Tallinn has called it the “13th monthly salary” because of estimates the policy saves a month’s salary each year for workers using free public transport. People on low and middle incomes spend a higher proportion of their income on transport than those on higher incomes so this will help reduce inequality.
Economic stimulation as workers have significantly more to spend in the real economy.
A tourism boost as tourists relish the chance to see all parts of Christchurch.

Who loses?
The big oil companies and car manufacturers. They make a mint from petrol and diesel burned up pointlessly on our congested roads every day.

(Note: John Minto writing on Free and Frequent public transport for Christchurch in 2016:
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/oct/15/i-leave-the-car-at-home-how-free-buses-are-revolutionising-one-french-city )

Also: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/81293873/a-bold-solution-to-christchurch-transport-woes-free-public-buses

ends

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