Free Buses For Kids?


Auckland’s Mayor has put “free buses for school kids” as his second wish for the super-city behind the 3 rail projects, in a list I noticed in the weekend press.

It’s a benevolent idea but does have some challenges.

As I noted in the discussion about Brisbane’s successful money-making airport rail system, it was that company’s decision to let people under 14 travel free on the train that caused patronage to leap as families found it attractive to use the airport link.

Getting children on public transport means they grow up thinking public transport is “normal” and hopefully breaks the tradition of parents driving them around everywhere so there are also health benefits if they walk to a bus.

But Auckland’s public transport subsidies are under siege from the government with the government, via the NZTA. actively questioning in the last year, why main centre local authorities have been so generous in subsidizing fares.

It’s hard to see who is going to pick up the tab and what the possible consequences are on fare revenue. Also does this mean the council is paying for the private bus operators contracted already to provide actual school bus services?

Let’s not discount the idea without seeing the numbers.

Anything that encourages public transport and helps parents is worthwhile. But in the present government climate of user-pays, I am nervous about how it could operate without an even heavier burdon on the ratepayer who is already being asked to cough up more including for Auckland’s rail.




  1. Alex says:

    maybe we should first ask: How many kid use the current bus services available? - of those that don’t would they use if further subsidized ….

    personally I am uncomfortable subsidizing buses for families who choose not to use the local school but travel across Auckland

  2. Matt L says:

    I wouldn’t agree with this, as commented in another post recently it will cost us the same to run those buses or probably more as we will likely need more buses to cope with demand, yet we would be collecting less than now with the current generous subsidies. I think the airport link you mention in Brisbane is different as those are trips not taken every day but only when families go on holiday and they are weighing up parking costs vs other options.

  3. Jon C says:

    @Matt L Good point Matt re Brissy. The daily cost would not be cheap.

  4. max says:

    I take Jon C’s comment re how any attempt to get this brought in would be attacked by the “subsidies are EVIL (except for motorways)” crowd.

    However, it seems a no-brainer for me, to have school bus services be free and extensive for kids. I am kinda surprised they are not, but then I didn’t grow up here, so know little about how the schemes work at the moment. In Germany, where I am from, only a fraction of school kids is driven by their parents. The idea that up to 20% of a workday’s traffic could be school-related would be totally foreign to traffic there.

  5. rtc says:

    @Alex going to a school in your neighbourhood does not mean it is within walking distance of your home - this is the case for much of Auckland. I think this goes hand in hand with the walking school buses and would help students who don’t live somewhere where the PT connects very well with whatever school they go to.

  6. antz says:

    Timaru’s Metro system stops outside of all Secondary primary schools as well as the
    popular Aoraki sports stadium to pick-up/drop off the students to/from the main burbs like Gleniti, Seaview and Mountainview, dispite not being subsidized ($1.10 for under 18′s. 25% off if your using metro card) the buses are proving popular. the last i saw these buses it was full to capacity.
    So i guess it is simply parents giving thier kids some independence and letting them travel on the bus on thier that would help boost numbers rather than a subsidy. but i understand the parents reasoning, Auckland in some areas isn’t safe for kids to be on thier own at a bus stop like timaru.

  7. Nick R says:

    This would cost a lot off the balance sheet to start with, but it would pay dividends over time.

    The de-congesting benefits alone would make the scheme ‘profitable’, and in the long term it would totally normalise bus travel for parents and children alike.

  8. greenwelly says:

    The question that I think needs to be asked first up is

    Is cost the current limiting factor in stopping School Children using Buses?

    it may be a contributing one, but I suspect there are many reasons and cost is but one of them,

    Also how does adding more children to the morning peak improve the experience of other PT users ( who are actually paying fares)? - in some cases this may clog services/seats/ etc enough to drive some fare paying marginal PT users back to their cars

  9. max says:

    “Auckland in some areas isn’t safe for kids to be on thier own at a bus stop like timaru.”

    Antz, do you think Timaru is such a peaceful place that people are always safe, and Auckland is so horrible that kids can’t be out on the road? I disagree, and at the end of the day, we can let the parents decide anyway - we just need to give them the OPTION of having an alternative to dropping off the kids on their own.

    Google some news for Belmont Intermediate School - over 40% of their kids CYCLE to school. That is in North Shore, in an area where a year or two before, some locals were still rabidly fighting against cycle lanes, with the ass-backwards argument (as one of their arguments) that they were not safe enough (the real reason behind it is that they wanted the road to be widened by another lane, which was impossible with cycle lanes).

    In other words, it takes initiative, but Auckland can do pretty well in getting away from the school gate drop-off chaos if it wants to.

  10. antz says:

    @max jeepers! calm down! it isn’t what IM thinking, it is what i usually hear from the parents at school.

    In my PERSONAL opinion i think auckland is much safer than most other cities around the world, it is just that the media hypes things up scaring the parents yet again.

    besides timaru isn’t that peaceful at the moment. right now there are vandals going on an arson spree around here. my dad works at girls high and he said 2 of the classrooms were set alight and got destoryed.


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