ORC pitches 50c bus fares

The Otago Regional Council has suggested raising bus drivers' pay. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
A proposal to drastically reduce bus fares in Dunedin to a 50c flat rate is awaiting a government agency’s approval.

A paper presented at last week’s Otago Regional Council’s public and active transport meeting said the council was investigating ways to double the number of people who used buses as their preferred mode of travel within 10 years.

At present about 4% of the Dunedin population used buses as their preferred mode of travel.

"Based on experience in Dunedin and elsewhere in the country, it was identified that the quickest way to achieve this growth would be by a combination of changes to frequencies and fares," the report said.

The report said the ORC had done some economic modelling to determine what was the most effective approach for increasing public passenger transport usage.

"A flat fare had performed best in all the assessments, and these fares were selected after testing five different flat fare options ($2, $1, 50c, 20c, free).

"These fares were able to achieve the 8% mode share target while still retaining a level of fare revenue," the report said.

The report said free fares would have the greatest improvement for public transport usage, but this option was not feasible because Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency would not approve it.

Instead, it recommended cutting the flat fares in Dunedin from $2 to 50 cents, and increasing the investment into public transport from about $207million in the city to $403.5m over the life of the next long-term plan (2024-2034).

This included introducing new routes to Dunedin, and ensuring all bus routes have a maximum interval period of 30 minutes, with the majority of them at 15 minutes.

Council public and active transport committee co-chairman Cr Andrew Noone said the council would take its business case to Waka Kotahi.

If it gets Waka Kotahi approval, then it would form part of the next LTP which goes out for consultation next year.

"We’ve got a really good story to tell the community about our public transport aspirations," Cr Noone said.

"It’s still in its early stages, but we’re hoping to get the Waka Kotahi tick."

Cr Noone said although they had gone ahead with the flat rate of 50 cents in their business case, they were not necessarily wedded to that amount.

"It depends what the public has to say about it — it could end up being 20 cents or $1, or it could end up staying at $2," he said.

A survey of more than 1700 people last year revealed about 70% of them were happy with the present fee setting, Cr Noone said.

The report warned the status quo would not get public transport passenger usage to the 8% target within the next decade.

Cr Noone said the council was also working on a public transport business case for Queenstown.