16 Jan 2017

Half of Auckland passengers face fare hikes

1:57 pm on 16 January 2017

The cost of public transport in Auckland is going up for half of those who use it, and the Green Party is blaming what it calls an "arbitrary" government policy.

Those paying cash and taking shorter trips on buses and trains will be hit hardest, as Auckland tries to meet a government requirement for fares to cover half the cost of services.

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Those taking short trips will be hardest hit. Photo: RNZ

Aucklanders had met the so-called "farebox recovery" target, but a move last year by the city's transport agency to cut many fares has not delivered the expected rise in patronage.

Last year's changes lowered the overall cost of public transport use by 7 percent, but patronage rose by only 4.6 percent since July.

Auckland Transport said the recovery ratio had fallen from 50 to 46.3 percent.

"It was clear that the fare recovery would fall and it fell by a touch more than we expected, and that's mainly due to some changes in behaviour as well, said the group manager of development Colin Homan.

From January 29, the fare rises include a 5 percent or $10 boost to monthly passes, and 5 cent increases for 1 and 2 zone fares for AT HOP electronic card users.

Auckland Transport said 90 percent of commuters were now using AT HOP cards, softening the impact of fare rises.

The agency said it could take two years to get back to the government's 50 percent fare recovery target, depending on patronage growth and the cost of services.

The Green Party said the farebox recovery policy brought in by the National government was very arbitrary, and the goal should be to have affordable public transport.

"Whatever it takes to maximise patronage and get the best in terms of people using buses and trains," said the party's transport spokesperson Julie Ann Genter.

"There should be flexibility, and some sort of stability in fares so people know what to expect and not have fares jumping around all the time," she said.

Auckland Transport said 49 per cent of passengers were using buses and trains for 1 and 2 zone trips, where most of the increases apply, while 7 percent taking longer trips would pay less.

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