Fare data, feedback, community consensus has public transport fares in south-east Queensland as grossly unaffordable. How did this situation occur? What should happen from here?
First - how did this occur?
Following a fare freeze in 2009 (a state election year) a five year fare path was embarked on in 2010. This was stated publicly as a fare path designed to increase the fare box as a proportion of the overall cost of public transport services (i.e. decrease the relative subsidy). Sources close to the heart of matters did inform me cryptically that the real purpose of the five year fare path was to slow patronage growth. Fare increases were 40% for paper tickets and 20% for go card in 2010, followed by 15% increases in 2011, 2012. The ALP lost Government in 2012 and the incoming LNP Government reduced the projected 15% increases planned for 2013 and 2014 to 7.5%. However the real compound fare increases over the period 2010-2014 were 83% for go card and 114% for paper. CPI for the same period was around 10%. It is little wonder then that fares in south-east Queensland are now unaffordable for most. Current fares are here.
To complicate matters the ALP introduced the free travel after 10 paid journeys on the go card in 2012. This followed the introduction of the inequitable two paid journey daily cap for Seniors. The LNP simply trumped them by going to the election with a promise to change this to free travel after 9 paid journeys in a week, leaving intact the flawed two paid daily journey cap for Seniors.
The problem with the free after 10 or 9 paid journeys is that it is easily rorted and is a significant fare box leakage.
What should happen from here?
There are 23 zones in south-east Queensland as it is large area, particularly longitudinal.
Some local zone anomalies should be sorted as part of a wider adjustment of the fare system, however the basic zones are fine.
Clearly, base fares (the flagfall) is simply too high. Daily capping is problematical because of the wide variation in journey lengths in terms of zones. A dynamic daily cap could be done if the system could cope.
The concept of free after " x " paid journeys in a week is seriously flawed. The system is too easily rorted and it is a fools paradigm. During the go card roll out 50% fares after " x " paid journeys was in place. It was a crass political move by the former Government to introduce the free after 10, which was easily trumped by the LNP as free after nine. Both the 50% fares and the free after " x " journeys reflect the limitations on the system, and difficulty with simple capping with huge zonal variation. So reverting back to 50% fares after " x " journeys is probably the best of the worst of the options available.
Withdraw paper singles January 2015.
As interim measure I think they should adjust the go card fare table for all zones. Set zone one peak at $3.
Increase off peak discount to 30%.
Reintroduce 50% discount after 9 paid journeys in a week.
Keep the present two paid journey daily cap for Seniors but work towards a simple flat fare, similar to Sydney and Melbourne.
Allow children to travel free with a fare paying adult on weekends and holidays.
This would turn around the falling patronage and improve the fare box. And then give some space for the next generation ticketing system which is due in 2016 I understand.
A collateral issue is the poor design of the public transport network, particularly the Brisbane bus network. High cost and very inefficient. This will be another blog post topic.
The LNP stand condemned for not acting and fixing the fare system and simply carrying on with the failed fare path. With a state election due by June 2015, they appear be to content to allow the public to be punished and perhaps roll out a carrot in the shadows of the election.
It is little wonder that recent polling has the LNP in serious trouble.
Footnote: I was in Melbourne for a few days last week. Here are the myki fares for the week. Not the affordability relative to fares in SEQ