Advocates Call For Government To Clear Up Uncertainty Over Public Transport Discounts

Published: Fri 28 Jul 2023 03:22 PM
Public transport and disability advocates are calling on the Government to clarify that half-price fares continue for Total Mobility Card holders on all forms of public transport. Many Total Mobility Card holders have experienced an increase in public transport fares since half price fares ended at the end of June, despite expecting continuation of the subsidy through the Community Connect scheme.
Mikey Brenndorfer, a Total Mobility Card holder in Auckland, says “I started hearing from disabled mates of mine that their fares had just doubled. I didn't believe it at first, but sure enough my fare prices had also just increased 100%! I was even more confused when I approached Auckland Transport about it and they said this discount for Total Mobility card holders now only applies to when we order taxis but not buses, trains, or ferries.”
Joanne Dacombe, President of the Disabled Persons Assembly, says, “DPA understood the Government’s recent announcements on Total Mobility to mean that half price public transport fares would continue for disabled people along with the 75% discount on taxis for Total Mobility card holders. We are still trying to confirm this. We fully support any measures that make it easier for disabled people to travel including discounted public transport fares.”
The Ministry of Transport describes Community Connect as “a targeted package aimed at making public transport more affordable”, providing half price fares for Community Services Card holders, under-25s, total mobility users, as well as free fares for under-13s. The Government-funded discounts were introduced at the beginning of July and are considered “a massive win for public transport equity, despite the disappointing loss of half price fares for everyone” according to Free Fares campaign coordinator Hana Pilkinton-Ching.
However in some regions including Auckland, the additional 50% discount for Total Mobility Card holders is applying only to Total Mobility taxi services, rather than all public transport. On July 7th, Waka Kotahi/NZTA updated the web page on Community Connect to state that the total mobility discount only to total mobility services only, whereas prior to this it had stated that the discount applied to public transport.
Total Mobility Cards provide discounted public transport and taxi services across the country to people with impairments or accessibility needs that limit their ability to access transport easily.
The Ombudsman’s 2021 report "Making Disability Rights Real in a Pandemic" highlighted the issue of the inconsistency of the Total Mobility subsidy across the country, and attributed this to the fact the subsidy is funded partially by local government and partially by central government.
“We are now seeing that inconsistency reinforced, with discrepancies between local and central government communications and understandings of the discounts, as well as fare differences between regions.” says Ari Kerssens from Free Fares to Freedom. “We want free fares for all Total Mobility cardholders, in all regions, on public and taxi transport, because we have the right to not face financial discrimination when disability limits our transport options.”
Although some Total Mobility Card holders are eligible for half price public transport through Community Services Cards, Pilkinton-Ching says this is not enough to ensure disabled people can access cheaper fares. She says that “requiring Total Mobility Card holders to also have a Community Services Card for public transport is an unnecessary barrier and would lock many out of important support”.
The Free Fares campaign is calling for urgent clarification by the Ministry of Transport that Total Mobility Card holders travelling on public transport are still eligible for half price fares, and ensure that local authorities implement this discount correctly.
Brenndorer says that “Access to public transport is a disability rights issue, a cost of living issue, and a climate change issue. If the government is serious about these issues they need to reinstate the half-price fares for Total Mobility card holders, or even better, for everyone.”

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