Bus discounts for students wanted
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.