Should councils own the buses?
Bus services should not be ratepayer-subsidised, Wellington City Council candidate Hayley Robinson says.
Instead the money should be used to build up a council-owned bus fleet to run routes that were privately uneconomic and to supplement privately provided peak-hour services, she said.
Wellington Regional Council economic wellbeing committee chairman Peter Glensor said having council-owned bus services could only be viable if it delivered all bus services, not just those private companies did not want.
Ms Robinson will stand for Wellington City Council in the Onslow-Western ward.
She said each year Wellington Regional Council put about $80 million into privately owned bus services.
‘‘This appears reasonable, because the aim is a good one: to ensure an affordable, quality bus service for our region’s cities,’’ she said.
However, commercial enterprises such as Infratil, New Zealand Bus and Go Wellington needed to return a profit to shareholders.
As a result, the multimillion-dollar profit the company and its subsidiaries earned last year could be seen as having come directly from ratepayer subsidies.
Public transport was vital because it flowed on to everything else, such as residents and businesses, she said.
‘‘Without them functioning and everyone being able to get to work, everything is stuffed, basically,’’ she said.
Mr Glensor said he believed Ms Robinson had seriously underestimated how expensive it was to run the bus network.
‘‘The only way to make it even marginally viable is to deliver all the services with the service you own, not focus on the services where two people want to come home at 10 o’clock at night – a whole transport network rather than a series of separate operations,’’ he said.
‘‘Secondly, you have got to have a network running right through the day.
‘‘Private companies want to focus on only those services that make money – they pick the busy routes,’’ Mr Glensor said.
‘‘That is why we bundle together all of those different routes, so they can’t cherry-pick the services that they want to run for a profit.’’
One fleet of buses to provide public- good services and a second run by a private company to operate a commercial service was not realistic, he said.
On board: Hayley Robinson says councils should buy buses rather than subsidise bus companies.