Likes unlikely to budge council on buses
A FACEBOOK petition with more than 6300 “likes”calling for subsidised bus fares for tertiary students is unlikely to get them far, says the Wellington Regional Council.
Peter Glensor, Greater Wellington economic wellbeing committee deputy chairman, says the government‘s policies are clear, public transport is promoted due to its economic impact, rather than as a social service.
He says a Facebook petition with more than 6300 “likes”, calling for half price fares for tertiary students across the region, might not be accepted.
“We probably wouldn’t accept a petition on Facebook but we would certainly accept an e-petition.”
Simon Hulse (19) started the page in May this year to highlight the issue before The Greater Wellington Regional Council reviews bus fares.
On his Facebook petition he writes that in a city promoting a green image it is not acceptable that students drive to their universities due to the high cost of public transport.
He also writes that tertiary students need the subsidised fares more than other age groups which are granted the discounted fares, especially because they have loans to pay.
“Help our city grow by giving the students who will one day be its workforce a helping hand.”
Figures from last year’s quality of life survey showed that people between 15 and 24 years old are the most common users of public transport, with 40 per cent of them commuting on public transport twice a week or more.
About 44 per cent of Wellingtonians from that age group rated public transport as unaffordable.
Of the 512 Wellingtonians surveyed, 110 out of those were from 15 to 24 years old.
The survey also showed that the numbers of Wellington residents who consider public transport is affordable has fallen from 68 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent last year.
The percentage of locals who strongly agreed that public transport is affordable was the lowest among surveyed cities at 10 per cent.
About 18 per cent disagreed with the statement and six per cent strongly disagreed which is the highest percentage among surveyed cities.
Despite the city council plans to promote using public transport, numbers of Wellingtonians who use public transport twice a week or more fell from 43 to 36 per cent from 2006 to last year.
Councillor Peter Glensor says one of the key factors involved in student concessions is equity.
“If students got half price fares, then what about low-income commuters, sole parents with children, people on sickness benefits? “
He questioned whether ratepayers would be willing to subsidise half price fares for tertiary students.
“There are already ambitious spending commitments to upgrade the network and ensure a modern bus and train service in coming decades. How much more are people willing to pay?”
He says more than 70 percent of the regional Council’s total budget is spent on public transport, and the council is under pressure to reduce, not increase, the proportion of revenue for public transport which comes from the public purse.
Wellington Regional Council will review bus fares early next year.