Greens plan student card for free public transport

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

A Green Party policy to provide tertiary students with free off-peak travel on public transport has been welcomed by students, however some say it doesn't go far enough by excluding peak times.

The 'Student Green Card' policy was revealed in front of more than 200 students by co-leader Russel Norman at the University of Auckland today.

Transport costs soaked up a significant portion of students' weekly income -- often up to a quarter of a student's weekly allowance entitlements or student loan living costs, he said.

The policy would save most students between $35 and $40 a week by allowing for free trips on trains, buses and ferries between 9am and 3pm and after 6.30pm, he said. The policy also allowed for free travel on weekends and public holidays for students.

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association welfare vice president Rick Zwaan said the association had been campaigning for fairer fares on public transport for several years and it was great to see politicians responding with policy, however they would like it to go further and provide for on-peak travel as well.

"Students don't get to choose when they have lectures. This proposal in its current form would still create barriers for students who have class early in the morning.

"A third of students at Vic travel during peak time, so we need concessions for them too."

The policy would also require cross-party support, and the association hoped to see that this election, Mr Zwaan said.

Students already get some discounts on bus and train fares -- up to 35 per cent in Auckland.

These discounted schemes had led to greater public transport patronage in the cities that offered them.

Dr Norman said the policy excluded peak-times because it would over-stretch the public transport system.

"When we looked at the public transport network, clearly the pressure is during the peak periods.

"The first step that we could take with relatively low-cost is about using the existing off-peak capacity."

The Student Green Card would be available to any person attending a university, polytechnic, wananga, private training establishment or New Zealand Apprenticeship scheme -- around 350,000 people.

The policy would cost the Crown an estimated $22 million to $28m annually -- less than the cost of one kilometre of one of National's roading projects -- and would be paid for by reprioritising spending from the National Land Transport Fund, Dr Norman said.

University of Auckland science student Monique Liebenberg, 20, said it would be her first time voting this year and the policy appealed to her.

"I'd use it on a daily basis. At the moment I spend around $7 a day on public transport, so I figure it would be good to save up that money and use it towards my studies."

Biology student AJ Essex, 22, said it would be good if the policy also covered students commuting to lectures at peak times, however free off-peak transport still provided students with "a lot more freedom".

The New Zealand Union of Students' Associations president Daniel Haines said the policy was a long-overdue acknowledgement that transport costs was a significant burden on students.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 31 Oct 2014 04:18:19 Processing Time: 643ms