Game changing public transport options for the community

Published 1/10/2021

At the Environment Canterbury meeting on Thursday 30 September, the Council (Canterbury Regional Council) voted to take to the community a number of potential game-changing options to stimulate the Greater Christchurch public transport system. 

Fare options to stimulate bus use and reduce transport emissions

 “We are in a climate emergency.  We all know this, and action needs to be taken now to reduce emissions. One of the key levers we have to do this is to reduce transport emissions – and getting people out of their cars and on to public transport or other modes is key,” says Council Chair Jenny Hughey. 

“The Council wants to encourage the people of Greater Christchurch to do their bit to reduce emissions. Just moving a few more people, a few more times, on to the bus will start to move the dial on our transport emissions.

“Price isn’t the only factor that encourages, or discourages, people to take the bus – but it is a lever we can use, with the community’s support, to help those on lower incomes to maximise their use of the public transport system and it is a lever we can use to lower the barrier to others, opening the gap between the cost of the car vs the cost of the bus. 

“We know there are other things we need to work on – like the quality and frequency of the services – and we are doing that also.  But these fare options are being put forward now to start to change the game and stimulate bus use in our largest urban centre.

Child fare age raised to Under 19

”The first decision for the Council today was to raise the child fare age to under-19 – meaning 18-year-olds will be eligible for child fares. There is funding available for this in the first year of this Long-Term Plan (2021/22) so this can be implemented within this financial year, with an undertaking to have it in place before the start of the new school year. 

“Currently, when a young person turns 18 they cease to be eligible for child fares regardless of whether they are still in school – potentially inadvertently encouraging them into cars, and certainly costing them adult rates to get to/from their place of study.

”There is provision in the Regional Public Transport Plan for raising the age, and today the Council agreed to an implementation date of February 2022. This will be publicised ahead of the new school year so students are aware of the reduced travel costs available to them. 

By way of an example saving, a Zone 1 adult Metrocard fare is $2.65 and a comparative child fare is $1.50.

Further proposed options for community engagement

The second decision made by Council today was to engage with the community on a number of other options so that Environment Canterbury can gauge community views in time to inform what is included in the 2022/23 Annual Plan. The options proposed are:

  • Reduced fares for tertiary students using Metrocards: a two-year trial of a concession equivalent to the child fare for tertiary students.  This would potentially be supported by Waka Kotahi funding and existing rates. Council agreed an implementation date of July 2022, subject to resources and funding to be agreed for the Annual Plan. This would apply to Timaru and Greater Christchurch public transport. 
  • Creating a larger, single zone with a universal $2 fare: combining zones 1, 2 and 3, with a single, reduced fare of $2 (with child fares capped at $3 per day). To enable this, all Greater Christchurch ratepayers would be asked to pay more to support the income from bus fares.  
  • Creating a larger, single zone with a universal $3 fare: as above, combining zones 1, 2 and 3, with a single, reduced fare but with that fare being $3 for adults (with child fare $1.50. To enable this, all Greater Christchurch ratepayers would be asked to pay more to support the income from bus fares.
  • Free fares for under 25s, students, mobility and community card holders: this travel would need to be paid for through rates in the Greater Christchurch area.

By engaging with the community on these options – with information regarding the impact on rates - Council will be able to gauge the community interest in these options ahead of determining the 2022/23 Annual Plan. 

“We’d love to hear what the community thinks of these options to increase the number of people taking the bus, optimising the network and reducing the number of car trips,” says Chair Hughey.

Next steps will include modelling these options to provide material for community engagement and feedback.