New moves add $100,00 to ratepayer bill
Blind and disabled passengers are in line for a 50 per cent discount on Wellington’s public transport network from next year, while ratepayers will pay $100,000 for a raft of new initiatives.
The proposed discount comes after criticism of initial plans for a 25 per cent concession, which would have seen some blind and disabled passengers actually pay more.
That was because passengers travelling by train or on NZ Bus already received a 50 per cent discount, under long-standing agreements with those operators.
‘‘We had a lot of submissions on the topic and that was not unexpected,’’ Greater Wellington Regional Council public transport planning manager Paul Kos said.
‘‘It’s interesting because a lot of people who got the discount had no idea that other people who were blind and disabled didn’t get it.’’
The proposal is one of a number of changes put forward in the council’s amended public transport fares review, and would come into effect from July.
It would benefit about 10,000 Total Mobility card or Blind Foundation ID holders, and would also allow carers to ride for free.
Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand welcomed the proposal, but hoped it would eventually be extended to other groups such as the intellectually disabled and deaf.
‘‘It’s a fantastic thing for the mobility of lots of disabled people, but it would be so cool to see them working with some other groups who are transport disadvantaged,’’ national policy and relationships manager Esther Woodbury said.
The cost of public transport was a significant barrier for disabled people, who were often on low incomes, and often led to social isolation and exclusion, she said.
‘‘I want to celebrate the regional council for moving on it. It can make a huge difference to people’s lives.’’
Woodbury has a mobility impairment and often chooses not to take the bus because it is too difficult with her crutches.
Ennoble disability support group director Rachel Noble said the move was a ‘‘positive step towards recognising disabled people as citizens’’.
‘‘The cost of disability is so unrecognised and is a factor when it comes to accessing employment, education, health services, et cetera,’’ Noble said.
‘‘So doing this is an enabler.’’ Unemployment was high among disabled people and that meant it was often too expensive for them to get out and about. The discount would help them gain employment and become more productive, but she hoped public transport would eventually become free.
Other proposed changes to the fares package resulting from public consultation included the retention of 30-day bus passes and rail event tickets, both of which were due to be scrapped.
The modified bus pass will apply on any Metlink bus within Wellington city. The current pass is managed by NZ Bus and applies only on its Go Wellington buses.
With the company losing many of its contracts from July, the council deemed the pass unnecessary, but that caused a public backlash.
The rail event ticket offers discounted rates for special events in Wellington, and has been retained.
The changes have seen the total cost of the package bump up from $7.5 million to $7.8m, with about two thirds of that coming from ratepayers and the New Zealand Transport Agency.
The remaining third will come from an average 3 per cent fare increase across the board, mainly affecting rush-hour commuters.
That meant the additional $300,000 required for the package would effectively cost ratepayers a further $100,000, Kos said.
The package will be considered by the council’s sustainable transport committee tomorrow.
Disabled Persons Assembly’s Esther Woodbury has welcomed a proposed 50 per cent discount for blind and disabled passengers.