An Auckland councillor says fare increases on public transport will only exacerbate increasing affordability pressures.
North Shore ward councillor Richard Hills said Auckland Transport's fare increases are excessive and unsustainable for many people struggling with the cost of living.
Auckland Transport (AT) announced this morning that it would hike bus, train and ferry fares in Auckland.
The average fare increase is 2 per cent, though some travellers will pay more.
A cash fare for a 3-zone trip (for example: a trip from Auckland CBD to Henderson) will go up by 7 per cent from $7 to $7.50.
The move comes as Auckland public transport use jumped 5.2 per cent in the 12 months to November last year - to 95.6 million trips.
Hills said despite public patronage growing steadily, year-on-year increases to fares will discourage the use of public transport, and make it harder to reduce congestion.
Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) organiser Jon Reeves said they also strongly oppose the fare increases.
"They aren't justified. We have had this big fuel tax which was given to all Aucklanders last year on the premise that it would be funding better public transport, and actually all we are getting is another lemon to bite on," he said.
"It is just not fair. If we want to increase public transport usage then putting the prices up is just not the way to go."
Reeves said he would like to see AT stop the increase, and for Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to step in.
"He campaigned on being very pro public transport so now it is time for him to put his money where his mouth is and order AT to stop this increase," he said.
Richard Hills advocated for a fair freeze in Auckland to combat further rises.
"A fare freeze will require the Government to adjust their farebox recovery target," he said.
"Set up in 2010 the New Zealand Transport Agency requests a farebox recovery target of 50 per cent. The trouble is that, even as Auckland's patronage increases, the operational cost of running more trains and buses puts increased pressure to meet the target — leading Auckland Transport required to increase the ticket price each year.
"... if it is committed to retaining the upward trajectory of patronage it should adjust the farebox recovery target down to at least 40 per cent.
"This would ease the pressure on our communities who are struggling to keep up with increasing household costs," he said.
Greater Auckland transport commentator Matt Lowrie agreed that the increases are disappointing.
"They are counter to the goals of Auckland and the Government of increasing the use of public transport," he said.
"The policy that requires certain levels of farebox recovery is a blunt tool that doesn't take into account the benefits that would accrue from increased PT usage."
The Auckland Council-controlled organisation says it reviews fares each year to make sure they keep up with costs.
"We would like to have been in position to not increase fares in 2019," AT chief executive Shane Ellison said.
He said AT has been exploring different means of not increasing fares for the past three months.
"Unfortunately, a small fare increase is needed as any additional revenue generated by new growth resulting from holding fares at current levels is insufficient to meet the costs of providing public transport services without further funding being available."
However, airline business consultant Grant Smitton said he "can't believe Auckland Transport did this – and the reason – to keep up with costs".
"I feel like I just went back 20 plus years in time. Airlines used to have similar thinking to Auckland Transport 20 years ago, then along came the low-cost airline industry and showed us how $1 airfares could work," he said.
"AT needs to pick up some of this thinking. When I read Luxembourg was making public transport free I was thinking hopefully AT would pick up on that and follow the lead, but no, they are going in another direction."
Smitton said he would advise AT to look at ditching fare zones, make assets work smarter, be innovative and creative with the transport system and introduce massively simplified, low-cost, all-you-can-use monthly transport travel passes.
AT chief executive Shane Ellison said it would continue to look at ways it can further reduce the real cost of public transport for its customers in the coming years.
"Operating a public transport system in a growing city like Auckland means that the costs do increase as we put on more services.
"It's a balance for AT to provide an extensive public transport system that has enough capacity for a growing city, but we also know that cost is a major factor in how people travel, so we've found efficiencies in order to keep the fare increase at an average of 1.9 per cent."
"This is well below the inflationary pressures associated with providing public transport."