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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Prez Col – no.10.0.

Over the last few days, you might have seen the Wellington Public Transport Tertiary Student Price Petition circulating around Facebook. Long title aside, its message is simple: it’s time to implement fair fares for students.

Public transport for students has long been an important issue for VUWSA. Last year, we submitted to the Greater Wellington Regional Council on the document that will ultimately guide the provision of public transport services across the Wellington region. We help students with classes on multiple campuses with free bus tickets and we have lobbied hard to ensure that the service survives in the face of Snapper, despite some initial reluctance from Go Wellington.

The crux of our submission was that tertiary students should have access to concession fares. Based on research we conducted we argued that as a group, we clearly met the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s criteria for fare assistance. Students are people who are ‘transport disadvantaged’, based on our age, average level of incomes, access to vehicles, and distance from education.

I agree it’s not helpful to demand “student fares full stop”, but it isn’t our responsibility to provide the Regional Council with a solution. That’s what we elect them to do. Our responsibility is to always highlight why the cost of public transport is such an issue for students, and how it will benefit the city.
Many cities, including those with far more complex transport networks than the Wellington region, have concession fares for tertiary students. This is something the Regional Council should aspire to emulate. Palmerston North has free public transport for students, while those in Auckland enjoy a 40% discount. That’s phenomenal; we should best it or at least try to match it.

Sadly, the Regional Council don’t seem willing to find that solution. They’ve effectively given up, claiming that there is “no political will” to act. Imagine the “political will” they’d suddenly find if there were planning on scrapping children’s fares, or those for the elderly. Or even if they were standing on a crowded Number 18 as it speeds its way up Salamanca Road on its way to early morning classes.

Students are less likely to reside with their parents and to have access to a vehicle; they are also the most likely to heavily rely on public transport to access education or employment. Combine this with the fact that the student demographic is incredibly socially mobile and you can see the glaring problem.

What makes this an easy issue for the Regional Council to ignore is that they don’t see it as issue. Unlike fares for school kids and the elderly, there is no alliance of soccer mums and dads or Grey Power calling for change and consistently voting in local body elections. Imagine the outrage (and electoral backlash) if they got rid those concession fares!

VUWSA and the University will continue to fight to get the Regional Council to see sense on this issue. We’ll keep you posted with developments with the Regional Council, but in the mean time, give them a piece of your mind, either through the Facebook page or by email. If you want to read our submission, you can find it on our website and our Facebook page, or flick me an email.

See you,
Seamus Brady

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Comments (3)

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  1. Hellish says:

    While I may sympathize with all the students, lets get real.
    It may not be all Students that are having this issue but remember,
    they all choose to go on with further studies, they are not forced into it.
    They are always in town smoking and boozing away money, they get Student grants that are spent partially on their courses while the rest goes to help in their lifestyle, which includes buying the latest gimmicks and clothes, motor vehicles, bikes, parties and trips.
    Some people who work for a living can not even afford to do these things and they still use public transport.

  2. Ilvie says:

    I’d just like to point out to Hellish that that is not at all the case. I am unable to get student allowance, so I work for my money. I pay everything with the money I earn, Including bus fares, food, and everything else. I do not drink. I have not bought any new clothes since the beginning of year 13, (I am only first year) and the rest of your list is just unthinkable. I’m not even flatting and I am unable to pay my way. this would be greatly helped by a reduced bus fare when I am paying 35 dollars a week for travel – which is on the cheaper side. I know people who pay near 120 dollars a week – how is a student who is unable to work full time supposed to get that kind of money? without incurring huge student loans that will have interest soon.

    Also, It is not really a choice to attend higher level education any more – whether it be a diploma, degree, certificate – these all require a lot of money and transport into the city. You can’t get a decent job any more without it, as so many people have some form of higher education that employers will always prefer.

  3. Amanda says:

    I completely agree with Ilvie. I’m in the same situation. I have to pay $185 a month in transport to get to uni and I also do not qualify for the student allowance. I have a part time job but that does not cover anything. I never have money to go out even if its just to the movies. I two am in my first year and really do not want to have another two years of finanical stress as uni is stressful enough. The government should either lower the costs or make the allowance more accessible to all uni students not based on what there parents earn. Most parents are not able to support their children through uni but also do not want them to miss out on the opportunity of going.

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