Zero Fare Saturday buses trial

25th February 2015

That a one season trial of zero fare Saturday buses for Wellington city be included in the Greater WellingtonRegional Council’s draft 2015/16 Annual Plan.

Make Wellington Saturday buses free DomPost

Photo DomPost

A Green Party proposition is for a time-limited 3 month trial of zero fare Saturday buses followed up
with an independent evaluation.

Wellingtonians are sick and tired of traffic jams in the weekend. Traffic jams clog parts of the CBD and surrounding suburbs.

A Hutt Valley bus review was implemented 9 years ago, and brought an 80% increase in patronage on some routes. Wellington has not completed a Bus Review for several decades now, and the current review that started 7 years ago, will not be implemented until the completion of the new tender round in 2017. Meanwhile Wellington continues with significant unreliability problems, expensive journeys and dirty diesel buses.

Zero Saturday fares would bring fewer parking problems, smaller traffic jams, more customers for retail.

Fare revenue losses can easily be met from recent operational surpluses.  Weekend buses are running with spare capacity, so rate payers can adopt this proposal with a net zero cost  – savings in vehicle and parking compensate for any rate cost.

When the councils make it easier for the 30% without licenses to use buses, then others who do need cars, such as large families and disabled can be more mobile.

Wellingtonians like the idea

Ruby Fitzmaurice, 16, quoted in the DomPost, agrees that free buses would take cars
off the road. Retail NZ Wellington city members attending a breakfast meeting last week,
voted unanimously in support of the idea, and are now polling all retailers.

Wellington City Councillors voted $200,000 for weekend fares caped at $2 in March this year.

Go Wellington provided zero fares for the fun marathon and the 14,000 Round the Bays participants.

Metlink City Safari participants enjoy free travel on Wellington’s buses and trains, with Regional Council
and Bus Operator’s blessing.

Saturday is the day where congestion is now affecting the ease of moving around the city
with parents combining sporting events with shopping trips, visits to the market and school
fairs. If some of these trips were made by public transport, congestion would disappear,
as would the parking fuss, leaving spare change for purchases.

Wellington’s compact size means space is at a premium downtown. Private car traffic
is the part of that network that takes up the most space and energy for the least return,
while better utilisation of existing public transport enhances the village atmosphere that
we all seek.

Free weekend parking already provided by WCC, costs retailers $1.4m,
but with the benefits only going to those who have a car and can get the park.

A research study focusing on Tory Street precinct, showed that the greatest contribution to
the local economy came from those who do not require on-street parking (Jean Beetham,
2013).  Zero fare public transport will on the other hand, reduce congestion and parking fuss.
An equity argument would demand that public transport users also get free access to the CBD.

The positive economic gains from having free buses on Saturday should be reflected in
improved local retail and hospitality sales, and we can test for that. There will be social
gains. People who choose to go out on a Saturday night and consume alcohol will know
they can use free public transport to get home before midnight.

Wellington is attracting talented migrants, innovative business and forward thinking
investors. We need to provide innovative transport options for our region in ways that
add to the area’s appeal and reduce congestion now.

The rapid increase in rail patronage over the last two years, following improved reliability
of the new trains, has amply illustrated the potential of our public transit
(11% increase in patronage over the 12 months to December 2014).

However, unlike rail, bus patronage has remained flat (0.3% increase to Dec14)
with unreliability, poor performance and high fares turning new customers away.

The city will see no implementation of the integrated ticketing package or the Wellington
Bus review, until after new tenders are completed …

Getting more people on public transport to reduce congestion, transport emissions and make
public transport more cost effective, is Regional Council’s stated objective. Council must act
now in the interests of all Wellingtonians. 


Estimated 6 month Saturday ticket sales is $1.5m
The recent 6 month transport operational surplus was $1.9m.

Also see:


Annual and long term plan consultation through to 21st April 2015


Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan
Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS) 2010-2040
Integrated Fares and Ticketing Programme update 10 Dec 2014

Business owners have a bad record of guessing how their customers visit them:

Examples of free public transport (China, Australia)


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