Public transport advocates worry Auckland fare hike will drive commuters away

A public transport advocacy group is questioning Auckland Transport's priorities after it announced it would hike its fares.

From next month, trips on AT's buses, trains, and ferries will be up to 40 cents more expensive, with the council agency saying the cost of living is hitting it, too.

The Public Transport Users Association called the change a step away from the goal of encouraging Aucklanders out of their cars.

In the announcement on Monday, Auckland Transport said every ride would increase by an average 6.2 percent in price.

It estimated bus, train and ferry trips would be between $0.06 and $0.40 more expensive, with longer trips seeing the smallest increase.

The announcement came just days after the government confirmed it was scrapping the Auckland Light Rail project.

Public Transport Users Association president Niall Robertson said it would be just another cost added to the pile.

"We're feeling this in the supermarket, we're feeling this in our rents and our rates at home, and now we're feeling it on public transport - this is just adding insult to injury."

He said the hike of up to 40 cents for every bus, train and ferry trip would have the opposite effect of what should be Auckland Transport's goal.

"We should be actually aspiring to make public transport in Auckland as cheap as we possibly can to attract as many people as we possibly can to use it."

Robertson insisted the expected outcome was fairly obvious.

"The public will probably react in the way they usually react and that is to ... use public transport less and use other forms of transport more."

Auckland Transport director of public transport Stacey van der Putten said it was a decision the agency could not hold off any longer.

"I mean everything's obviously experienced inflation over the last few years," she said, "public transport's no different."

"We've tried really hard to keep that down to the customer, but, of course, we do need to make sure that the fares are recovering a percentage of the transport cost - and it is a marginal percentage at that."

A 9 percent fare rise had been floated by AT's management, but they settled for the 6.2 percent increase, van der Putten said.

She believed the relatively small increase was unlikely to deter anyone from using public transport.

"We do obviously want to encourage people to use public transport."

A big part of keeping public transport sustainable was ensuring every user paid their fare, van der Putten said.

Commuters on Queen Street on Monday had a mixed reaction and for some, public transport was their only option.

"Forty cents is fine," said one woman while waiting for the bus, "I don't love it but it's okay."

"I will keep using it but it gets to the point where it's almost cheaper to drive," said another.

One man said he could use a gold card, so was less affected by the change, but was aware of how often they were changing.

"Well someone needs a closer look in my opinion," he said, "it's quite expensive public transport."

"I still need to go to work, it doesn't change much for me," said a young man.

Auckland Transport said fare hikes happened nearly every year to keep up with rising costs, with 2022 one of the few exceptions.

It said a review of its fare structure was underway, and its findings would be released in the coming months.