Bus dis­counts for stu­dents wanted

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By SI­MON ED­WARDS

WelTec and Whi­tireia are to of­fi­cially ask Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil to con­sider in­tro­duc­ing bus and train dis­counts for ter­tiary stu­dents.

The chair­man of the two in­sti­tu­tions’ new joint board, Roger Sowry, told us they’ve been talk­ing to stu­dents all over the re­gion in the last month and the is­sue of dis­counts ‘‘has come up at ev­ery meet­ing’’.

He said Welling­ton was the only re­gion not to of­fer re­duced fares to univer­sity and polytech­nic stu­dents, (an in­cor­rect) claim also put to Labour MPs when they vis­ited Ta­maiti Whangai Academy at WelTec last month.

Academy man­ager Hinemoa Pri­est told Labour leader Phil Goff that for Trades Academy and Youth Guar­an­tee stu­dents in par­tic­u­lar, trans­port dif­fi­culty was an of­ten-quoted rea­son why they missed classes. They’re not el­i­gi­ble for stu­dent loans.

‘‘They come to WelTec and they’re treated as adults, but there’s no al­lowance for travel – there’s no money for them full stop.’’

As they’re of­ten teenagers still liv­ing at home, for low in­come fam­i­lies the pri­or­ity is putting food on the ta­ble. There may not be suf­fi­cient money left over to pay for their teens’ bus fares from Wainuiomata, Po­mare or Porirua. Se­nior high school stu­dents of the same age can get dis­counted fares when they show their ID.

Peter Glen­sor, who chairs GWRC’s Eco­nomic Well­be­ing Com­mit­tee over­see­ing pub­lic trans­port, said only Auck­land and Palmer­ston North of­fers bus and train dis­counts to ter­tiary stu­dents, and in the lat­ter case it’s sub­stan­tially off­set by a con­tri­bu­tion of cam­pus park­ing rev­enue from Massey Univer­sity.

There are no dis­counts in Hamil­ton, Christchurch or Dunedin ‘‘that I’m aware of’’, Mr Glen­sor said.

While he ac­knowl­edged a cam­paign for fare dis­counts on Face­book last year by two Welling­ton stu­dents, which quickly gained 6000 sup­port­ers as word spread amongst friends, Cr Glen­sor said there had been no for­mal ap­proach to GWRC un­til the coun­cil it­self ini­ti­ated dis­cus­sions with the Vic­to­ria Univer­sity Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

The as­so­ci­a­tion put in a sub­stan­tial sub­mis­sion in April last year to the Welling­ton Re­gional Pub­lic Trans­port Plan. It said stu­dents had sig­nif­i­cantly lower in­comes than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, were less likely to be able to drive or own a car and are much less likely to get parental in­come sup­port than high school stu­dents. Of an av­er­age weekly stu­dent in­come of $223 in 2007, $38 went on pub­lic trans­port.

Mr Glen­sor said with 25,000 ter­tiary stu­dents in the re­gion, any of­fer of dis­counts had sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial ram­i­fi­ca­tions for ratepayer-sub­sidised buses and trains.

‘‘If dis­counts are of­fered to stu­dents, what about those on the min­i­mum wage, the men­tally ill, sick­ness ben­e­fi­cia­ries. There are many groups that can of­fer a pretty pow­er­ful case for dis­counts.’’

How­ever, Mr Glen­sor said later this year GWRC is ini­ti­at­ing a ‘‘thor­ough’’ re­view of pub­lic trans­port fares and would wel­come sub­mis­sions from stu­dents.

He said his own view is that if there are to be dis­counts, the coun­cil should fo­cus on when peo­ple travel rather than who they are.

Dis­counts for off-peak ser­vices, which of­ten run rel­a­tively empty but still have to cover fuel and driver costs, could en­cour­age more peo­ple to leave their cars at home and travel out­side the rush hours by bus and train.

And he’d rather re­ward ‘‘more se­ri­ously’’ peo­ple who al­ways take the bus and train, rather than the ‘‘one-offs, or even those with 10-trip tick­ets’’.

Both WelTec Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion co­pres­i­dent Kevin Sepe­fano and his Vic­to­ria Univer­sity coun­ter­part Sea­mus Brady told us bus and train dis­counts would be a big deal for those they rep­re­sent.

In Auck­land, full-time ter­tiary stu­dents are el­i­gi­ble for a 40 per cent dis­count on a range of bus, train and ferry adult fares.

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