Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1751 ..
MS TUCKER (11.47): I move:
That this Assembly:
(1) does not support the ACTION fare structure announced by the Government in the 1998-99 Budget;
(2) calls on the Government to develop and introduce a new fare structure, which will not increase fare revenue, based on a single time-based fare for all journeys regardless of any bus transfers, and including appropriately discounted student and concession fares.
Mr Speaker, I have put forward this motion because I am very concerned about the future of public transport in Canberra. It has been obvious to anyone who lives in Canberra that the ACTION bus system has been getting worse over the last decade. Patronage has been steadily falling, fares have risen and service levels have declined. Most people in Canberra rely on cars for transport and very few journeys are taken by bus. Very few people travel on buses by choice. As a result of all this, ACTION has become caught in a downward spiral that needs some radical action to arrest.
This came to a head with the review of ACTION services by Roger Graham in 1997. This review presented a damning assessment of ACTION and recommended a major overhaul of just about all aspects of its operations. We are yet to see the details of how all the recommendations of the Graham report will be implemented, particularly the new route structure. The Government has, however, told us what the new fare structure will be, which is the focus of this motion. This is not to say that I am happy with other aspects of the ACTION service, but fares are a critical factor in the attractiveness of public transport and I want to make sure that the Government gets this right.
Roger Graham rightly pointed out that the existing fare structure, where people who have to change buses at interchanges to complete a journey have to pay a second fare, was quite inconsistent and inequitable when compared with the single fare for journeys of a similar distance on one bus. The Government has responded to this by introducing a three-zone system. The standard fare remains at $2, but there have been increases for concessions and students in the faresaver fares and in the term fares across two or more zones. Much of the public attention has focused on the increase to student fares, where students who have to travel outside a zone to their school are particularly affected, but we should not lose sight of the question of whether we want this zonal system at all and how it is going to impact on the whole community.
I am appalled at the illogicality of the proposed zonal system and the increased bus fares for many people. The Government seems to be doing its best to discourage people from using buses, even though increased bus use will reduce traffic congestion and air pollution and give Canberrans more transport choice. Commuters who face higher fares will just be encouraged to start using their cars, particularly given the fact that in many cases it is cheaper to drive a car and pay low or no parking fees than to catch a bus.