Wellington mayoral candidate Justin Lester, and candidate for Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) Daran Ponter, announced a plan to cut bus fares for high school and tertiary students if elected. They also promised a freeze on rising bus and train costs for public transportation users.
“Wellington currently has the highest fare-box recovery of any large city in New Zealand, which means we’re charging public transport users more than is necessary,” Lester said. “That’s wrong and I want to change it.”
The proposed fare cut would see the standard fee being cut in half, saving the student $3.80 on a three zone trip and up to $900 annually (provided they use either a Snapper or a Mana card). This discount would be valid to all transport undertaken by students.
Lester acknowledged there was one problem with his current plan, as the Wellington City Council does not regulate public transportation fares. This responsibility is governed by the GWRC, hence the partnership between him and Daran Ponter.
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“The technology exists now for the GWRC to provide free transfers” Ponter said. He admitted that this student discount would mean a loss of $5 million to the transportation budget, a shortfall that would be handled with extra rates from ratepayers or funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency. New bus contracts begin in 2017, which would also lessen the budgeting problems.
VUWSA attended the campaign rally, supporting the promises made by these two candidates. The plans align with VUWSA’s stance on “fairer fares” for public transportation in Wellington. This is a fight they’ve supported since 2014, in response to Wellington’s developing position as a student-friendly city.
When asked what he thought of the announcement VUWSA President Jonathan Gee stated, “it’s great to have a strong commitment to a 50% discount being made a priority. We’re looking forward to hearing more commitments from local body candidates towards a student-friendly city.”
Justin Lester is the first mayoral candidate to endorse a decrease on bus fares for high school and tertiary students, with other candidates yet to specify a stance on this issue. While VUWSA is not explicitly endorsing Lester for mayor, they appreciate his proposal, and they are encouraging other candidates to come forward with their own commitments.
“We will applaud any candidate who makes a commitment to tertiary bus fares or some of our other student-friendly policies, like a rental warrant-of-fitness,” Gee said.