Supporting a campaign for free fares on public transport will tell Horizons Regional councillors bolder action is needed on climate change, councillor Nicola Patrick says.
Aotearoa Collective for Public Transport Equity is campaigning for free fares on public transport for tertiary students, community services cardholders and people under 25.
Horizons councillor Sam Ferguson took the matter to the council's November 23 meeting, asking it to join the campaign.
Ferguson chairs the council's passenger transport committee.
He said 21 per cent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions were from transport, and the change would keep cars off the road and help the people most likely to use public transport and least likely to afford it.
Bus use in Whanganui increased 100 per cent during two weeks of free fares, he said.
Horizons already gives people over 65 and UCOL and Massey University students free bus travel. Supporting the campaign would put pressure on the Government to go further and signal to communities that public transport is important.
The campaign asks the Government to pay the fares and wouldn't commit Horizons to more spending, Ferguson said.
Associate Professor Imran Muhammad, of Massey University, spoke in favour of the campaign. He said public transport in the regions needed attention and improved services, roading priorities and parking provision would help.
However, free fares would also make a difference.
Councillors Alan Benbow, David Cotton, John Turkington and Bruce Gordon were worried about future costs.
Benbow said nothing was for free, while Gordon predicted the council would be asked to provide half of the subsidy.
However, councillors Jono Naylor and Emma Clarke said the council would only be supporting the campaign at this stage.
"This is just sending a clear message that public transport is going to be important to reduce carbon emissions and make roads safer," Clarke said.
Patrick believed the number of bus users would more than double with free fares.
"There's definitely capacity on our buses. Even if we don't put on a whole lot of extra buses, they will just be fuller."
A "deep mode shift" is needed to reduce climate change, she said.
Gordon was happy to be "the fly in the ointment" on the matter.
He was the only councillor to vote against the campaign.