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Mike Yardley: Public transport luvvies don't understand the true cost

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 22 January 2019, 4:54p.m.
Auckland public transport users are facing a price hike. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Should public transport users get a free ride? Should the bus, the train and the ferry be totally free?

It certainly doesn’t take much to spark the whiners, and Auckland Transport is facing a firestorm, for increasing fares.  Judging by the reaction of some public transport luvvies, you’d think the sky is falling in as they rush to vent their rage and despair.

But let’s keep this increase in context. It averages one point nine per cent. Most fares will rise by ten cents. And if you’ve got a monthly bus or train pass, the cost stays the same.

But that hasn’t stopped the anti-car brigade blasting these changes, while also arguing that we should go the way of Luxembourg and operate a totally free public transport system to boost patronage.  

But why should the ratepayer and the taxpayer foot the entire bill for you getting about?

I suspect that the average bus user has no idea how heavily subsidised their ticket to ride already is. The public coffers shell out billions subsidising fares. And the long-standing expectation has been that the public transport user shoulder pay 50 per cent of the bill, while public funding picks up the rest.

But despite that expectation, very few cities have ever attained that 50-50y split. In Christchurch, for example, bus fares actually only cover about a third of the cost of the system. The ratepayer and taxpayer is paying through the nose to keep it afloat.

So if fares have to increase to keep in touch with that fifty per cent expectation, whats wrong with that?

The pressure is now being piled on the government to abandon the 50 per cent fare recovery policy.

But why should Joe Six Pack have to shoulder more and more of the cost?

No one seriously expects public transport to ever clean its own face and pay its own way. It will always be subsidised. But surely expecting the public transport user to foot fifty per cent of the bill is only fair and reasonable.  Or should we go the way  of Luxembourg, and give the bus user a totally free ride.

Meanwhile, it’s being asked if Lime should provide all scooter users with a helmet.

The mother of the American, who ran a red light and was run down by a truck in Dunedin is laying into Lime. As her daughter remains in intensive care with head injuries, the mother believes Lime should be forced to kit their scooters out with helmets.

I question the practicalities of that.  Would you want to wear some skanky, sweaty helmet, that has been crowning the head of the previous rider?

I do agree that wearing a helmet should be compulsory when riding an e-scooter. I’d kick them off the footpaths, force them into the cycleways and on-road cycle lanes, and make wearing a helmet mandatory. Just like cyclists.

But should the onus be on Lime to provide the helmets? What is so hard about BYO?  The user should wear their own helmet.  The responsibility should be sheeted home to them.   

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