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Advocates Call For Permanent Half-price Public Transport

The Free Fares coalition has called on the Minister of Transport to make public transport permanently half price for everyone, and free for certain groups, in a presentation to the Petitions Committee today.

“In March we delivered a petition signed by 13,700 New Zealanders, which called for free public transport for under-25s, tertiary students and Community Services Card holders. We later extended our ask to include Total Mobility Card Holders and their support people, said spokesperson Hana Pilkinton-Ching.

“In April, the Government made public transport half price indefinitely for people with Community Services Cards, and half price for everyone else until January 2023.

“Half price fares have brought huge benefits. People are riding public transport more often and reducing use of private cars. We are hearing that people are seeing family members more often; attending health appointments and classes they previously could not afford; and enjoying more trips out with their children. People have even been able to buy their first home because commuting costs have fallen,” said Free Fares spokesperson Hana Pilkinton-Ching.

Around the country, public transport users are reporting benefits from half-price fares.

“I now don't drive to work anymore. Half-price fares was the tipping point for me,” said a supporter in Auckland.

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Now I can bus to uni every day AND afford groceries other than rice and beans… [Before half-price fares] I could only go to uni three days a week,” said an Auckland student.

“I used to count the cost of using public transport. Now, I jump on buses all the time and have tried out many new routes,” said a supporter in Wellington.

“I prefer to take the train to Wellington as it is cheaper and easier than driving,” said a supporter in Palmerston North.

“I can now visit my family more often. It used to cost $16 return… now at $8 it's affordable,” said another Wellington person.

Half-price fares are also enabling people to improve their wellbeing.

“[Half-price fares] allowed me to go to therapy in person rather than via zoom which means we've been able to start EMDR… It’s helping with trauma processing and I couldn’t do it virtually,” said an Aucklander.

My kids are experiencing greater independence using buses and trains and have more freedom to do activities or visit friends,” said a Wellington parent.

“I caught the ferry to Diamond harbour for fun because the ferry was half price,” said a supporter in Christchurch.

“Easier bus usage with less worry,” said a person in Nelson.

“Less stress sitting in congestion. Less stress finding parking. Less stress overall!” said an Aucklander.

“Given these benefits, returning fares to full price in January would be a backwards step,” said Hana Pilkinton-Ching.

“People have set up new habits of using public transport. We’re calling on the Minister of Transport to lock in these benefits, by making half-price fares permanent for everyone. We also want to see the Government go further and make fares completely free for the groups that need it most: under-25s, tertiary students, Community Services Card holders and Total Mobility Card holders and their support people.

“If the Government is serious about reducing emissions and supporting people with the cost of living, making fares affordable is a sensible, cost-effective policy.”

Free Fares is a coalition of over 80 organisations including Local Government New Zealand; Universities New Zealand; the Council of Trade Unions; Young Labour; Generation Zero; Christchurch and Wellington City Missions; Poverty Action Waikato and many more (see freefares.nz/coalition).

The coalition has a new petition calling the Minister of Transport to make half-price fares permanent, and they invite members of the public to sign, at tinyurl.com/halfpricefares.

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