30 Jun 2022

Free public transport for long-term hits the mark, survey finds

6:27 pm on 30 June 2022

A poll carried out by two of the country's largest unions has confirmed that Aucklanders overwhelmingly support free public transport.

Double decker bus goes on a flyover against a back lit sky in Auckland New Zealand.

Photo: 123RF

First Union and the Public Service Association released the results of a poll that shows the majority of people want to be able to travel for free.

This follows a 40-page report on the feasibility of free public transport in Auckland City.

The poll of 722 Aucklanders showed 73 percent of people supported making public transport permanently free.

Only seven percent of those surveyed opposed the idea.

The poll also revealed strong support across the political spectrum, with a majority of National and ACT voters supporting the proposal.

Assistant general secretary of First Union Louisa Jones said free public transport will benefit the economy and the environment in the long run.

"Working class communities in Tāmaki Makaurau are doing it tough, as rising costs follow on from a brutal pandemic period. Fare free public transport will reduce costs for many families, putting climate action within reach," Jones said.

The author of the Fare Free Public Transport report, Professor Jen McArthur, said the policy aims to restore public transport as a genuine public good.

"Public transport will have a major role in Tāmaki Makaurau's future, but it cannot be sustained unless bus and rail operators receive fair pay and decent working conditions. In turn, this will safeguard the long-term sustainability of delivering public transport and improve service quality."

To reach the target of becoming climate neutral by 2050, Auckland Council has a goal of increasing the share of trips by public transport to 25 percent by 2030 - more than three times the current share of 8 percent.

Jones said free fares would be the most effective way for the council to reach its public transport goal.

One of Tāmaki Makaurau's mayoral candidates, Fa'anānā Efeso Collins, said he would make public transport free on his first day in office.

"From day one I will make sure that we are working towards our 10-year plan to ensure that we get the finances to accommodate free public transport," Collins said.

"When the government discounted public fares by 50 percent in April, we saw 140,000 extra trips on public transport. This shows that pricing is an impediment for people using public transport."

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