The NZ Transport Agency’s (NZTA) new farebox recovery policy will likely lead to increases in Christchurch bus fares. This is the result of a new national policy to get public transport to pay for at least fifty per cent of its costs by 2018.
…the proportion of operating costs covered by passenger fares had fallen nationally from 58 per cent in 2001/02 to 46 per cent in 2008/09 and the agency wanted to prevent any further decline.
Christchurch’s current farebox recovery ratio is about 44 per cent, but of more concern is the likelihood that Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will have to foot the bill to ensure that the rest of the country meets the fifty per cent target. This could mean that Christchurch’s farebox recovery ratio will have to be set at a minimum of more than fifty per cent.
The ultimate solution is of course increasing patronage without incurring much in the way of further operational cost. For instance, the new bus lanes on Papanui Road have led to higher than average increases in patronage along that corridor than the rest of the network. However, as I have pointed out time and time again, funding for public transport infrastructure in Christchurch, such as bus lanes, has been severely cut by the Government making it less certain that this can be effective.
Therefore my concern is that this policy could lead to a reduction in services, or planned improvements being cancelled, because the risk is considered too great (this will be particularly true if further reform means that the more popular routes cannot subsidise the less popular). In my opinion, Christchurch is in quite a difficult position as funding to improve our public transport system and make it more efficient, accessible and effective is not forth coming, while the existing system is expected to pay for itself to a greater degree. Contrast this with Auckland and Wellington, currently receiving substantial investment towards public transport from the government which will undoubtedly lead to significant gains in patronage over the next few years. Is this really fair? We will have to keep a close eye on this one.