A recent government offer of half-price bus fares for three months may be extended to free fares, if the Bay of Plenty Regional Council agrees.
At a recent meeting of the Bay of Plenty Public Transport committee, the regional council’s transport and urban planning manager spoke to councillors about the half price fare reduction announced last week, which applies to public transport contracted by the regional council.
He says the government will be covering all costs incurred by the offer, from April 1 until June 30, including any expense around making the change, such as changes in ticketing.
Regional councillor Norm Bruning describes the announcement as a “golden opportunity” to test consumer appetite for free bus fares.
“I’d have to see the figures before I voted for it, but if it’s not going to cost us that much money, why don’t we take it further and make it a free bus service for three months.”
Bruning is proposing staff put forward options to the next full council meeting.
Tauranga City Council commissioner Stephen Selwood agrees it's "an amazing opportunity to test price sensitivity”.
“We don’t have a huge awareness of that, so if it were financially feasible to run free fares for a while, then back to half, and then back to full, then there will be the understanding about the effect that is having on patronage. While it might cost a little bit in the short term, it could be invaluable knowledge for the longer term.”
Regional councillor Lyall Thurston also agrees.
“This is one golden opportunity to either celebrate or put to bed once and for all any arguments about whether free fares will get untold thousands onto buses.”
“What we don’t know is the cost of this to our council,” committee chairman Andrew Von Dadelszen says.
“It will come back to our full council to decide and hopefully by that stage we will have a cost analysis.”
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