Wellington to test free public transport on weekends



Metlink Services will be conducting a free pricing trial next March.

Monique Ford / Stuff

Metlink Services will be conducting a free pricing trial next March.

Wellington will test free or heavily discounted public transport next weekend in March.

The month-long trial, which is expected to apply to all bus and train services in the region, will largely focus on exploring new fare structures.

The lawsuit was approved by the Greater Wellington Regional Council at a meeting of the Transport Committee on Thursday.

Metlink chief executive Scott Gallacher said the trial would help prepare for the National Integrated Ticket Project, a new smart card for payment for all public transport developed by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

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Metlink chief executive Scott Gallacher said the trial would check what the weekend usage patterns are.

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff

Metlink chief executive Scott Gallacher said the trial would check what the weekend usage patterns are.

“We want to test the resilience of the network if we suddenly have free public transport on weekends… are the travel patterns very different from what we’re seeing now and if they are different, what are those patterns? ” he said.

Metlink has already rolled out a number of new payment trials, including adding Snapper card payment to the Johnsonville rail line and removing cash payments for some express bus services.

Gallacher said one possibility under the integrated national ticketing would be a capped weekly fare – where, for example, any weekly travel over a certain number would be free.

“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, regular users of public transport hit the cap on Friday or Saturday, which means all other travel will be free,” he said.

Gallacher’s Metlink team will return to the board in February with more details on the lawsuit, which he says could be expanded in some way to test other changes as well.

Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council have both officially expressed their support for the Aotearoa collective for equity in public transport, which calls for free public transport for students, under 25s and community services.

Greater Wellington Regional Councilor Thomas Nash wanted to see more government subsidies for public transport

KEVIN STENT / Stuff

Greater Wellington Regional Councilor Thomas Nash wanted to see more government subsidies for public transport

Regional councilor Thomas Nash said he hoped the government budget in 2022 would include a boost to public transport, including a change in the rate of fare recovery (the portion of the Metlink network’s operating costs covered by tariffs versus tariffs and taxes).

“It has to be a partnership between the central government and the regional councils. Ideally, we would go towards less tariff recovery. The most successful, fair, and high-end fashion change systems in the world have less than in New Zealand, ”he said.

He was also interested in testing free fares on specific bus routes, citing newly elected officials. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who took steps to make three major bus routes free on the first day of his tenure.

“We could consider targeting free public transport on routes located in areas where people will benefit more from weaker socio-economic areas. We could consider that for Waitangirua, Strathmore or Naenae for example ”.

The trial will be carried out as part of the national ticketing solution and jointly funded by the municipality and the transport agency.


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