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Free Fares For Total Mobility Card Holders

The Free Fares Campaign, after consultation with the Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity, has expanded to include Total Mobility Card holders and their support people. This is a move which is necessary to ensure that we create greater equity in the transport system for those with disabilities.

We believe that those who receive Total Mobility support already undergo significant costs in their day-to-day life. While the existing support is helpful, the Government needs to go further and cover all public transport costs for Total Mobility Card holders and their support people. Doing so enables them to participate fully in society, and reduce financial burden during a time of significant inflation.

Environment Canterbury is one Council who will be seeking to trial Free Fares, with the proposal currently being discussed as part of their annual plan consultation. Lan Pham, an Environment Canterbury Councillor, said that she was “thrilled to have a free fares option (for under 25s, tertiary students, Community Services and mobility card holders) coming up in our annual plan consultation, but limiting this initiative to Canterbury/Waitaha isn't going to cut it. We're in a climate emergency and we need to urgently get ourselves out of our cars if we're serious about providing a half decent future for our kids and grandkids.

Shannon, a Total Mobility Card holder from Christchurch explains how costs quickly add up and transport being free could alleviate some of that pressure. "I only get $62 a week, so $22 a week is going on bus fare. I've got my doctors' bills... that can be $40. Then, I've got my toiletries, that can be another $20... that's all my money gone. If any other bills pop up, then I don't have the money to pay for them. It would just give me more freedom if we had the free option... more independence.”

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Total Mobility Card holders from across the country are in support of our call. A cardholder from Wellington said that “when your movements depend on the movements of others, you lose your independence.” We are calling on the Government to help provide that independence by giving them free fares. Currently, 32.6% of disabled people aged 18-64 earn less than $15,000 annually, compared with 21.1% of non-disabled people - a significant gap making it even harder to cover transport costs.

Currently, the subsidy maximum varies across the country and there are significant inequities across the board. During lockdown in 2020, the Total Mobility fare subsidy was increased from 50% to 100%. This resulted in profoundly positive outcomes for the disabled community, many who were able to experience total freedom of movement and engagement with their community for the first time. We cannot just provide Total Mobility card holders support in a time when they are most vulnerable, we must provide them support always.

Susan Williams, from Fares to Freedom, says that “during the Covid-19 response, taxis were free for those of us with a mobility disability, and it was the first time in four years I experienced the same level of freedom I had when I was sighted. Getting places was no longer a massive mission, no longer a drain on my health.”

Dave from Christchurch echos this sentiment, “When you don’t have a lot of resources, free public transport is a big deal. I can’t believe some people don’t get that. For me, it means a lot more freedom. I would have a lot more freedom. The problem is, when you get stuck at home, you feel caged up, then like a burden to everyone you have to depend on to do things and go places. I’ve basically been incarcerated in my home for a year- that’s what it feels like.”

We must make this change now. We call on Minister of Transport Michael Wood and his Government to provide Free Fares for under 25s, tertiary students, Community Services card holders and Total Mobility card holders and support people.

The Free Fares petition was handed over to Parliament last month and will be looked at by the Petitions Committee. The petition had over 13,000 signatures at the time of hand-over.

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