Breakthrough in debate about free public transport brings challenge to other mayoral contenders


The Minto for Mayor campaign welcomes today’s public appeal for trials of free public transport in New Zealand cities from Professor Sir Alan Mark from Otago University.

Sir Alan Mark has joined Canterbury University’s Bronwyn Hayward who was reported in the Press two months back saying free public transport in Christchurch could be a “game-changer” in reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

These academics are joining the call for us to do much more than plant forests – we actually have to reduce our carbon emissions – and free public transport is the best way to create a watershed change in favour of our children and grandchildren.

Around the world the call for free public transport is gaining momentum. Kansas City could become the first US city to take up the policy which is already a feature of Dunkirk in France and Tallinn in Estonia.

Tonight at the Generation Zero public debate I will be asking the other two leading mayoral contenders, Darrell Park and Lianne Dalziel, to commit to a feasibility study and trial of free public transport in Christchurch.

TDB Recommends

As well as a big reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, the benefits of free public transport in Christchurch include:

  • Revitalising the city centre (this has been the experience in Dunkirk)
  • An economic boost for Christchurch businesses (locals have more money to spend locally!)
  • Reduced inequality in the city (the policy gives workers an extra four weeks pay a year through savings on petrol/car repairs)
  • Improved productivity with less congestion
  • Increased social cohesion (people from all walks of life enjoying each other’s company on low emission buses with free wifi)
  • Less traffic congestion for people who hate public transport


  1. The busses don’t take 5 times longer to get somewhere because of congestion or boarding times, they take five times longer to get somewhere because the network is horribly designed.

    This is primarily an ecan problem, what could you actually do as mayor? Would you be willing to shun ecan and nzta funding and set up your own network just to make this happen? It’s the only way it could under current legislation – from a position as ccc mayor, anyway.

    • You need to read what is in the media around all of this. Minto talked about it at the Generation Zero public meeting last night at ARA and got Darryll Park to agree to a trial should he become mayor but not Dalziel. Minto knows about ECANs dumb ownership of the way it goes and would be pressuring the government heavily to change this. Need smaller buses in the long term I think that are much more regular and actually go via more streets. The system now is indeed nuts.

      The whole thing is that we get ridiculous amounts for roading and a piddling amount for public transport that needs re-jigging and the government would have to be pushed to do this. But if Minto were elected on this sort of mandate then you can get the government to give way to the citizens of Christchurch.

      Every 8 ton loaded axle is equal to 10,000 vehicles on our roads. Of course some trucks have 8 axles, eighty thousand cars worth. Move all of this on to rail it is madness, Brougham street has been re-sealed 2 – 3 times in the last few years just to satisfy the roading lobby who successive governments are in thrall to.

      It is the way of the future and it is stupid not to take it up.

      • Nothing is free, just paid for by someone else.
        If Minto got in, he would be a one term mayor because of the disaster he would be.
        He is like the greens on steroids. An effective protester but utterly hopeless at doing anything meaningful.
        Although arguably Labour seems to have caught this disease too.
        They spent 9 long years protesting everything National did but seemingly never stopped to formulate a plan to do things better.

        • So Jays are you saying ‘protesting’ is not meaningful.

          The criticisers of Minto always make me laugh, I wonder what ‘useful things’ they have ever done to make the world a fairer place.

          If it weren’t for the protestors we would have nuclear ships visiting our shores and possibly nuclear power, we would have GE and once that genie is out of the bottle in Aotearoa there will be no going back. Very foolish.

          You know despite Jock Hobbs taking all the glory for getting the rugby world cup to be held in NZ in 2011? the African states who were involved voted for NZ because of our strong stance against apartheid in South Africa and in particular the 1981 tour that Minto and others led.

          • Its all very well protesting so you might convince others to act.
            Doing something meaningful means achieving something rather than just yelling “not that”.
            If Minto were to win the mayoralty then he will undoubtedly be found wanting.
            This is the same with the current Government. Unlike Clark for example who entered power with a plan and the skill to implement it, this lot have spent a fortune and achieved bupkus.
            How anyone can feel anything but disappointment is beyond me.
            Empathy doesnt change lives, effective implementation of good policy does.

        • Well, that’s just being mean and negative. You’re a negative wee meanie. Mr/Mrs/Ms Anti-Matter, Meanie Panties.
          Or? You’re scared that if John Minto ‘ got in’ those other useless bastards in there would ‘get out’. A far more worrisome thing for you, I bet, would be if John Minto got in and he was fucking awesome! Which he would be. Of course!
          What a shocker! To show up poor old Christchurch’s seemingly never ending litany of bland, bleak, snivelling apologists to a cadre of neo liberals and ZAPPERS!
          Like Tim Shadbolt! Tim Shadbolt’s fucking awesome! He literally saved Invercargill’s skin. I know! I was there at the time. Late 1980’s and early 199o’s was a very, very grim time for Southland and you could, quite literally, buy a house and land for a dollar. Yep. A dollar.
          People were walking away from their small rural township houses through a lack of work and the local councils would sell their houses for a dollar provided new owners paid the rates. That’s what your right wing mates did. So fuck off!
          If I wasn’t so fat and out of shape from all the wine drinking I do as I write here while eating Crispies I’d leap up and down with joy if John Minto took steerage away from neoliberal dalziel and if Metiria Turei took on Dunedin and Tim Shadbolt started shooting up testosterone in his arse cheek to give him that pick-me-up he needs to retain Invercargill. Jesus! It’s exactly what AO/NZ needs as an antidote the toxins of neoliberalism.
          What a line up.
          We’ve seen what your beloved right wing have done to AO/NZ @ fucking jays and you can shove it where you think your sun shines from.

  2. I wish I could get someone in Palmy North to even remotely consider a free public transport plan. I have yet to see a candidate for the upcoming election who supports this. Our present fare system is unreliable 30 year old equipment. Horizons have been promising a new ticket and fare system for the last four years and it is now at least two years behind schedule. When you think of the money and time that could be saved from not having to spend a million or more updating it and training everyone (plus passengers) to use it, plus more safety for drivers, it starts to look less like fantasy land and more like a serious proposition.
    The biggest problem is selling it to regional ratepayers, because they would be paying for nearly all of it. At the moment they pay for roughly half of the cost and many think that’s too much now. Imagine the whinging of the country squires about having to pay for townies to catch a bus for free. That’s the kind of thing you are up against and it would take a very brave regional council to do it.

  3. When an organisation fails it’s always because of piss poor management.
    Our local governments are failing, across the board, because our Central Government still has it’s head jammed up roger douglas’s arse who in turn will have a picture of short arsed little milton friedman pinned up on his bedroom wall.
    Free buses and passenger rail is as obvious to the betterment of us all as breathing is to staying alive so why the fuck the debate? It’s a solution to pollution and traffic congestion and if run properly is a pleasure to use. Just do it for Christ’s sake! Adern? ‘Lets do this Adern’ ? Lets do that then?
    Where the fuck’s our passenger rail services between the main centres BTW? There used to be one so where is it now? And who sabotaged it, and why? ( For $-ers of course. Heavy road transport multi millionaires might have an opinion on that? )
    Re Ch Ch? Why is there not a FREE light rail passenger service linking the central city with the now gangrenous eastern suburbs and the beaches? There used to be one? Where is it now and what greed oriented, sociopath pulled them up?
    While we allow the neo-riche to control our lives? We’re fucked and will remain so.
    George Monbiot. The Guardian has an opinion on that too.
    This, is a very interesting read.
    ‘For the sake of life on Earth, we must put a limit on wealth’

  4. “already a feature of Dunkirk in France ”

    A few days ago Forbes magazine covered the benefits to Dunkirk. One year on from implementation, the city’s free bus system “has succeeded in drastically reducing private car use.

    “An academic study on the experience shows that bus use has skyrocketed more than 60% on weekdays and more than doubled on weekends, with 48% of users saying they now leave their cars at home. Furthermore, 5% of those surveyed said they have sold their car or decided not to purchase a second vehicle. A third said that the availability of free buses means they now make trips they wouldn’t have otherwise.

    “This increased demand is not due solely to the availability of free and convenient transportation, but also to the fact that it is frictionless: people don’t have to worry about travel cards, cash or identification.” – 15 Sept 2019, by Enrique Dans.

  5. “Around the world the call for free public transport is gaining momentum.”

    Many cities around the world are at least beginning to bring in free public transport systems and in March next year the first entire country will have free public transport. (Luxembourg).

  6. Since retiring I do use the buses more but I have never seen anybody strike up a conversation with me or anyone else. Free is not free as it will have to come out of my rates and John knows it is not in his power to past free buses even as mayor as it’s needs government to change the control from Ecan
    . The roads still need fixing so no saving there . Survey shows those that vote for more public transport usually hope others will take it so they can get to work quicker in their car.

    • So the fact that total fuel consumption will fall dramatically if we use more public transport and a great deal less private transport is of no interest to you. I take it you are a global warming denier then? Would you have any children? I hope not.
      If you took the trouble to read the article it gave clear evidence that there will be substantially less wear on the roads. Many years ago at Uni I attended a lecture on road design. I seem to recall a formula referred to, which stated that road wear increased as a square of the speed of a vehicle and the cube of the load. Will that do?

    • Kia ora Trevor,
      Paying for free buses comes from the government’s transport funding. At the moment Christchurch transport funding is three to one in favour of regional roads over public transport while in Auckland it is two to one in favour of public transport. We need that kind of ratio in Christchurch which means no cost to ratepayers.

      • Grandma wrote: “Do you strike up conversations..”

        My mum used to do that 🙂 (Damn I miss her!)

        She got to know the births, deaths and family dramas of various bus regulars. At the time I felt slightly embarrassed. Then about a year after she stopped using the busses, when we drove her into town we stumbled across one of the bus drivers, in the Warehouse. He was a big burly man and Mum was tiny. He scooped her up in a great bear hug and had a bit of a tear in his eye. It was clear that she had made some close friends.

        • Kheala – Your mum sounds like a lovely authentic sort of person – and some good caring sort of values there. My oldest sister was like that too, and she taught me a lot for which I am hugely grateful – kindness personified.

  7. Well Trevor Sennitt, those in their cars who get there quicker can pay for the time they save thanks to those who make the effort

  8. “Nothing is free, just paid for by someone else.”

    We are paying far more now than we would be if CHCH and other cities provided an upgraded transport system that was without charge to those in the city.

    Here are some of the savings we would see:
    – Fewer traffic accidents
    – Fewer road deaths
    – Fewer road rage incidents
    – Less noise pollution
    – Less air pollution
    – A less stressed-out population
    – Improved health of many
    – Fewer traffic police needed
    – Fewer ambulance drivers tied up with road accidents
    – Fewer parking problems, and associated parking fines
    – Fewer people ending up in courts and in jail (as happens after traffic accidents)
    Etc …

    • But free public transport by itself is not going to solve the whole problem.
      Kiwis love their cars, and a large percentage of them wouldn’t use public transport if someone paid them to do it. These people regard public transport and the people that use it as second class.
      I would like to see parallel measures like increased rail and bus services, car congestion taxes, incentives for smaller independent operators to set up feeder services for schools, clubs, etc.
      A lot of transport planning to date has been very piecemeal, it needs to be a lot more integrated – perhaps on a national level – to be more efficient and economical.

Comments are closed.