‘Unbudgeted expense’ to cover cheaper bus fares

It is hoped the popularity of buses will increase if costs come down. Photo: Linda Robertson
It is hoped the popularity of buses will increase if costs come down. Photo: Linda Robertson
Funding to allow for cheaper bus fares in Dunedin will remain an ‘‘unbudgeted expense’’ on the Dunedin City Council’s books.

Twelve councillors present at a full council meeting this week all agreed to allocate an unbudgeted expenditure of up to $600,000 in the draft annual plan for 2020-21.

The other, unsuccessful, option was to reduce other budgets or increase rates to fund a $600,000 contribution to reduced bus fares.

Unbudgeted expenditure is funded from any money left over from uncompleted projects or extra funding the council receives.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said staff did not know yet how much cheaper bus fares would cost.

That would be worked out in May.

Council staff had already started discussions with the Otago Regional Council on how cheaper fares could be achieved and those discussions were ongoing, she said.

As the council always lived within a surplus, it would look at ways of balancing the books if the need arose.

Cheaper bus fares, however, might not cost the council anything if patronage increased to a level at which a subsidy payment was not required, she said.

A staff report cited the example of Queenstown, where an overall increase in passenger numbers, because of the cheaper fares, meant the Queenstown-Lakes District Council, which had also allocated $600,000, was not required to make any payment.

Cr Christine Garey said in outlying areas of Dunedin the cost of using buses was expensive.

At a time when there were large amounts of roadworks the move would help get cars off the road.

‘‘I have absolutely no doubt that cheaper bus fares will get people out of their cars.

‘‘This gives people a choice.’’

Staff would monitor the level of subsidy required and would include a more accurate level of expenditure in the 2021-31 10-year plan.

emma.perry@odt.co.nz

Comments

How about this....give every ratepayer 3 free passes a year as compensation for any rate rises to cover this expense.......then at least you might see more bus users to justify the scheme.

Or here is another idea... How about we stop throwing millions upon millions of $$$ at trying to catch up and do what most modern cities did over 20 years ago and instead spend the money on a innovative, modern, intergrated, low emission public transport system that will meet the needs of the public in the next 20 years.