Today, the government announced an end to universal half-price public transport fares which has improved the ways of commuting for many people in Aotearoa since April this year. From 31 March 2023 only people with a Total Mobility Card or Community Services Card will continue to enjoy half-price fares.

Executive Director of 350 Aotearoa Alva Feldmeier says, “We welcome the permanent half-price fares for Total Mobility and Community Service Cardholders. 

“But ending affordable public transport for the majority of people comes at a cost to communities and the climate”. Together with Free Fares coalition members, she is calling on the government to reverse its decision. “Building a just, equitable and safe climate future means making it more affordable and accessible for everyone to travel sustainably. Universal half-price fares were a brilliant first step to commit to this future and should be protected”. 

Spokesperson Mika Hervel from the Free Fares Coalition says “Universal half-price public transport has helped address the climate emergency by encouraging public transport use. According to Waka Kotahi, in June, 4% of all New Zealanders used public transport instead of cars because of half price fares. Among public transport users, one third used public transport more often and 15% had switched from cars because of half price fares.1 

“We need to lock in those new public transport habits, and build on them, not send people back to their cars.

“We want to ask the Minister of Transport: how will he replace that lost mode shift? Without half-price fares, will it even be possible for our cities to achieve our ambitious patronage targets, for instance in Auckland where the goal is to triple public transport use by 2030? Of course reliable, frequent services matter too and the Government needs to invest in those as well as half-price fares by increasing overall public transport funding,” said Free Fares spokesperson Mika Hervel.

“Inflation, which prompted the policy, is still at large and particularly affects people with lower incomes. Half-price fares therefore remain much-needed relief. In Auckland, people face the loss of this subsidy on top of proposed fare increases from Auckland Transport and a pause of rail services: a triple whammy for public transport users at a time when patronage needs to be increasing to meet emission goals.

“Fortunately the Government has another chance,” said Mika Hervel. “They can reverse the decision and keep this amazing policy. 

“Then they can go further in Budget 2023, by making fares free for groups that need it most: under 25s, tertiary students, Community Services Card holders, and Total Mobility Card holders and their support people.

“That would truly connect communities, and show respect for the climate, wellbeing and the opinions of the vast majority of the public who want affordable public transport made permanent.”

1 Waka Kotahi research note, p. 19
2 Auckland Climate Plan aims to triple mode share by public transport by 2030. Greater Wellington aims for a 40% increase in transport by public transport and active modes by 2030 (Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan p.7).