Environment Waikato is rejecting criticisms of its proposal to lift Hamilton bus fares by 15 per cent in each of the next two financial years, instead of 10 per cent as earlier planned.
The 15 per cent proposal has come in response to public submissions on the council’s Draft Annual Plan and the Long-Term Council Community Plan.
“We are proposing a new network of bus services to help commuters get around the city better and to ease congested roads,” said the council’s passenger transport spokesperson Cr Paula Southgate.
“Hamilton City Council has also actively campaigned for more services and is supportive of rates increases to pay for these and we have taken this into account, as well as feedback from ratepayers during the annual plan process. By lifting the rate of fare increase to 15 per cent, we are ensuring that bus passengers pay a bit more of the extra costs. We need to charge a fair fare: fair to the customer and fair to the ratepayer.
“It is important that the fare should not negatively affect the patronage and represents good value. However, what is not collected in fares is collected in rates and taxes so it is important to balance the effect on ratepayers, passengers and the growth of the bus service.
“The 15 per cent proposal takes into account all submissions on our plans, including Hamilton City’s. Councillors have had to weigh up whether the extra rate of increase would dent growth in bus patronage, or lead to more clogged roads, and have taken the view that the new services will continue to be an attractive alternative to cars.
“The fact is that, even with our proposed 15 per cent increase next year, most people will still be able to ride a bus for up to two hours for less than $2, and students less than $1 with a BUSIT! card. Fares are below what the average bus passenger pays elsewhere in the country and are already well-subsidised by ratepayers and other sources.
“Our fare recovery ratio - the percentage of the cost of the service paid for by the bus customer – is only 24 per cent in Hamilton. Other regions achieve 50 per cent. The proposed 15 per cent fare increases will still only lift the recovery rate to around 25-26 per cent.
“All Environment Waikato councillors have indicated support for a small fare increase to ease the rate burden of the new services. The Draft Regional Passenger Transport Plan is now out for public submission and offers the public a chance to comment on levels of service they would support.”