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April 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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A Fare Go

  • Discounted public-transport fares for tertiary students may be one bus stop closer to reality as the Fairer Fares campaign gains momentum, with five Wellington Regional Councillors onboard.
    • The Get on Board for Fairer Fares for Tertiary Students campaign, led by VUWSA’s Wellbeing and Sustainability officer Rick Zwaan, aims to “increase the accessibility of study in Wellington through campaigning for Fairer Fares for tertiary students.”

The campaign proposes a student transport concession card which Zwaan says will contribute to “equitability of student life, cultural and economic vibrancy, a sustainable, low-carbon future and retaining tertiary talent in Wellington.”

The campaign has received support from five Wellington councillors, more than 1500 people who have signed petition postcards, and over 200 people who have emailed councillors through the campaign’s website.

However it may be a long journey before students can snap on with a discount, as the campaign needs a majority of seven of the 13 councillors in support of discounted fares. When a majority is reached, one councillor will put forward a paper outlining the discount to the committee, who will vote on the motion.

  • Zwaan says that as yet, no councillors have said outright they would not support the campaign.

Salient spoke to Wellington Regional Councillors Prue Lamason and Paul Swain, who were both aware of the campaign but believed the costs of implementation needed more discussion. Councillor Judith Aitken said she “has not heard of the campaign” but that she was “open to the sympathies of students and the possibility of discounted student fares.”

Wellington Council Public Transport Committee Deputy Chairman Peter Glensor said that more than 75 per cent of the Council’s budget is spent on public transport, and an in-depth analysis of how fares are organised must happen before any decision on fee cuts for students can be made.

The campaign is not just about achieving Council support, but also about engaging with the wider Wellington community, says Zwaan.

“We want to hold forums around the region to hear student stories and get those stories out there. It’s about helping to create a vibrant Wellington region where students want to live, learn, and later work.”

Zwaan also says that if implemented, discounted rates will also benefit Wellington businesses.

“The reality is that there is no more room for cars in Wellington[‘s] CBD, so the only way to get spenders into the city is by public transport. More students mean more business,” he says.

Wellington is one of the only large cities in New Zealand without a student discount.

The first major event for the Fairer Fares campaign will be a participatory space for student stories and perspectives on the need for Fairer Fares, called the Better Forum for Public Transport. This will be held at the Campus Hub on 8 May.

 

Q & A with campaign leader and VUWSA Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer Rick Zwaan:

 

What is the Fairer Fares campaign fighting for?

The Fairer Fares campaign is aiming to get tertiary concessions on all public transport in Wellington.

Why is VUWSA supporting this?

VUWSA is supporting this because of our constitutional goals around student welfare. A lot of students are currently finding it really difficult to get to uni because they can’t afford the high cost of public transport, and we’re building it into our wider vision for where we want to take Wellington in the future, in terms of being a student-friendly city that really appreciates talent.

Why do students need fairer fares?

Students are really struggling right now with high rent costs in the centre of Wellington, so they are being forced to move further and further out, and the transport costs of that are increasingly being raised. So university is becoming more and more inaccessible for students, especially those on low incomes and from backgrounds of different socioeconomic areas.

So is the campaign more targeted at students who live out of the city or is it focussing on all students?

We’ve heard stories of students who live in the centre of town within one stage, and they find cost is still a barrier to catching public transport. Last year when we did a travel survey, 70 per cent of respondents were females, and their biggest concern was getting home safely at night, and the costs of buses were a barrier to that.

What are the biggest barriers in getting Fairer Fares for students?

The main barrier is the political will. The Regional Councillors are the key decision-makers in this process, and their narrative hasn’t changed for the last five years whenever there have been campaigns on this. But the Councillors’ attitudes seem to be shifting on that.

The other barrier is that there is some cost to it, but that’s a marginal cost in terms of the benefit that it will bring to students.

Why has it taken so long to launch?

That’s a tough question. We wanted to launch the campaign after O-Week and that’s when we came out with the postcards. We had some technical difficulties with the website but it has been active for over a fortnight now.

We also wanted to talk to the Councillors first and figure out what issues they were concerned about, to work out how to make this campaign the most effective it can be.

Who is funding the campaign?

VUWSA is the key organisation funding the campaign. We’ve put about $10,000 into the campaign so far. But when you look at the cost-benefit of investing in this campaign, the payoff is huge for students.

What funding models of discounts is the Fairer Fares Campaign looking at? A Student Concession Card? 50 per cent discounts for students? Or both?

What would be simplest is if the current high-school-student concession card was extended to tertiary students. But there may need to be some compromise with Regional Councillors.

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