Submission to Otago Regional Council Long Term Plan 2015 on bus fares and concessions
This submission relates to the consultation on bus fares, the final setting of which was deferred from the approved Regional Public Transport Plan. Many points in this submission are repeated from our previous RPTP submission, although we have refined these somewhat where new information has become available.
This submission is made in addition to a submission made jointly to Du8nedin City Council and ORC on bus stop design and accessibility. In that submission there was one omission which we add here: following "Bus Go Dunedin asks both councils to improve the Dunedin network of bus stops to provide:" please add "(4) a yellow stripe about 100x1500mm marking the kerb for people with visual impairment at the intended location of the bus door and a small rectangle of tactile paver about 1m from this point the kerb indicating a safe place to stand while waiting for a bus and indicating to drivers that this person, in stamnding here, is waiting for a bus."
In this submission, Bus Go Dunedin will:
- support the reduction of proposed fare increases in the new schedule compared to the much steeper increases proposed in the draft RPTP
- request a 25% fare discount for CSC holders
- request a "one last journey" facility to be introduced with the new ticketing system
- request a reduced minimum card topup value of $5
- make other suggestions on affordability and marketing of underused capacity
This submission makes no comment on the interim fare schedule using the present ticketing system and "seven zones plus Palmerston" zone structure. We have limited our discussion to the future 5-zone fare schedule and our suggestions regarding fares are intended for implementation when the new ticketing system is introduced.
Conduct of consultation and previous submissions
We note that decisions on fares were deferred from the approved RPTP and referred to the present consultation. The ORC's publicity surrounding the present Long Term Plan consultation mentioned public transport among the council's many other activities but attention was not drawn to the a new fare schedule. We feel that many citizens may have missed the present opportunity to comment on fares. Bus Go Dunedin asks that all submissions made last year to the RPTP, inasmuch as they discuss fares, be reconsidered as part of the present consultation.
Now that the bus fleet is wheelchair friendly, another barrier to many people's mobility is becoming more obvious. Bus Go Dunedin often recieves information that people are unable to afford bus travel. We hear of people who use their car in spite of this being more expensive, because it has petrol in the tank but their GoCard is empty. We hear of people scrounging their home and family members for loose change to travel by bus on a more expensive cash fare because they can't afford the dent in their food budget that a minimum $10 GoCard top-up entails. We feel that the electronic fare system holds great scope for assisting with affordability. We note the recent student 25% discount trial which resulted in acceptance of the lower fare level by contractors and a gradual uptake by students.
The proposed fare schedule
In our RPTP submission, Bus Go Dunedin opposed the proposal for a new zone system due to grave concerns about severe fare hikes for some commuters, especially in present Zone 2 and present Zone 5. The new zone system has been finalised in the approved RPTP so we are compelled to work with it. We note that the latest 5-zone fare schedule offers much lower fare increases for present Zone 2 and present Zone 5. For example, we calculate a saving of $75 per year for a typical South Dunedin daily commuter. We feel that Council has listened to our concerns on this matter and we wish to record our gratitude on this reduction in the fare hikes.
Replace Go Card Extra with CSC discount
Bus Go Dunedin requests a fare discount extending a 25% discount to all Community Services Card holders.
We note the continued problem that people with disabilities who use Go Card Extra are put to great inconvenience in collecting and renewing their cards from the ORC's premises. Citizens from rural areas visiting Dunedin health services are unable to easily temporarily gain the discount.
We understand that all Go Card Extra holders are also Community Services Card holders. Community Service Cards are received and renewed by post, so there is no need for people to travel to the remote Otago Regional Council office to apply for or renew their cards. We note that all Community Services Card holders (including those visiting from Otago) get a travel discount in an ever-growing list of New Zealand cities and towns: Napier, Hastings, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Feilding, Whanganui and Nelson - travel discounts in these places range from 20% to 40%. Many Australian states giove 50% of travel for beneficiaries. Here in Dunedin, the Dunedin City Council gives several discounts to CSC holders, from swimming pool entry to free dog castration.
A CSC discount would widen the present discount to many more people including all unemployment, sickness and domestic purposes beneficiaries and many low-paid workers. The price barrier would be lowered, increasing accessibility of the bus service and mobility of Dunedin people, while filling empty bus seats.
One Last Journey
Bus Go Dunedin requests that a One Last Journey facility be included in the new electronic ticketing system
Passengers stuck in the suburbs with no cash to put on their card can't get to the bank to get the cash, and people stuck in town late need to get home. In London, a 'one last journey' facility allows anyone with any card balance above zero to travel, and the fare is deducted at their next top-up.
Bus Go Dunedin requests that the minimum top-up threshold be reduced to $5.
The present minimum top-up unfairly prevents low-income people to get access to discounted travel as they can't scrape together $10 for the minimum top-up.
Affordable travel and maximising use of capacity
GoCard "travel bank"
We suggest that ORC organise a "travel bank" like a food bank, where people could donate Go Card top-up vouchers to be distributed by social agencies to transport-disadvantaged people.
We accept the need to maintain or increase revenue in the industry. We feel that there is great scope for increasing bus use through novel marketing schemes. A general principle should be that using public transport is a rational economic decision: it's slower and somewhat less convenient than private transport, but it's cheaper. We note that while bus fares are reasonably comparable with car running costs for a single motorist, filling the seats of a car destroys bus travel's cost advantage.
The present discounts do not reflect discounting behaviour in other parts of the transport industry. A quick search of airnewzealand.co.nz for flights to Auckland shows $249 on Friday 15 August but only $99 for a flight on 25 October. That's 60% off, which makes Dunedin's 10% for "frequent flyers" (Go Card users) or 25% for students look less generous. Could explain some of the empty bus seats.
We note that a recent ORC contractor, Mosgiel Coach Services, ran several promotional fares. Discounting could be ORC-led system-wide or based by contractors unit-by-unit, but we would like to see some more innovation:
- Concessions for a carload of adults and children travelling off-peak together (fare to be set lower than running costs for a car). Travel together to be determined by the group adjacently boarding/alighting on the tag-on-tag-off system.
- Concessions for constant users who make the same return trip every work or study day, such as every fifth or tenth day free, or free weekend travel for two adults and some children. The "Flybuys" or "coffee card"-style points could accrue automatically as they use the tag-on-tag-off system.
- Bus pass deal with schools. At present some schools send a van around the suburbs and charge parents $1 each way per day. If they are able to do so at this price, surely a similar deal could be offered to fill empty seats on bus routes. Schools could buy concession cards in bulk and sell them to pupils.