In an interesting move Wellington City Council is paying $200,000 to subsidise bus fares on Go Wellington buses on weekends in the lead up to Christmas.
As Wellington bus users look forward to low weekend fares in the run-up to Christmas, their Auckland counterparts face a doubling of the price of new Hop cards.
Wellington City Council yesterday announced it was contributing $200,000 to subsidise bus fares, to as little as $1 for one-stage rides, for four weeks from November 28 to encourage more people to use public transport.
“This initiative will provide a welcome boost for retail sales,” said Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.
The fares, on yellow Go Wellington buses, will also include $2 for an adult two-stage ride and $1.50 for children travelling across two or three zones.
Auckland Transport is not jumping to match that, saying only that it will “watch the Wellington trial with interest”.
There are a couple of thoughts I have about this.
In effect this is the council trying to encourage people to use PT to shop in the city rather than them driving to a mall which most likely has free parking. In my view there are both positives and negatives to this. On the positive side it’s certainly better to encourage people to catch a bus to go shopping – which in most cases isn’t for going to be large bulky items – rather than lowering prices for limited numbers of council carparks.
At the same time though I wonder there are other reasons why more people aren’t already choosing to use the bus for shopping. The biggest of these is likely to be that that buses simply aren’t fast or frequent enough on weekends. Lowering the price might get a couple of people to change their behaviour but improving the level of service will likely have been much more effective – although possibly more costly.
In saying this I do think that in Wellington and in Auckland more use should be made of off peak fares to encourage more people to use PT at times when there is often an excess of capacity. For Auckland at least this isn’t currently possible with HOP so I very much hope AT are including it as part their integrated ticketing work.
It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on patronage. Currently growth on PT in the region is basically non-existent and for the 12 months to the end of September patronage was only up 0.6% however that was only due to rail with bus patronage down 0.2%. Hopefully the regional council release information about the impact of the campaign so we can see just how successful (or not) the idea is.
What do you think of the idea?