It’s time for free public transport. The Greens will scrap all public transport fares in New South Wales, introducing free public transport on all buses, trains and ferries. Free, frequent and reliable public transport would take pressure off families, cut congestion and transform how we move around in our state.
Free public transport would provide a massive economic stimulus at a time when our economy desperately needs it by putting more money in people’s pockets, increasing travel around cities and making our neighbourhoods and communities accessible, thriving places to live.
Introducing free public transport will save us money by scrapping our expensive ticketing system, reducing spending on roads and cutting costs associated with fare evasion like court costs.
The State government already subsidises around 80% of every single trip on buses, trains and ferries across – given the massive social and economic benefits of free public transport, we will make it 100% instead.
BACKGROUND AND COSTINGS
Many countries and cities around the world have successfully abolished public transport fares. Luxembourg has scrapped public transport fares, and Germany is considering introducing free public transport in order to reduce air pollution. Some cities in Belgium, France and Estonia have had free public transport for years.
Wollongong and Parramatta operate a free bus service, and Sydney has had periods of free public transport over the past 2 years. Newcastle had a free bus scheme in place between 2006 and 2019.
A 2020 IPART report, written before the impacts of Covid-19 were taken into account, found that the likely impact of free public transport in Sydney would be an increase in patronage of around 40%, with a particular increase in use by low income earners.
The same IPART report found that fare revenue in 2019 was around $1.6bn (approximately one-quarter of the cost of providing transport services), and highlights that this is offset by administrative costs from ticketing and associated staffing. The IPART report does not, however, mention that there is a cost to government of policing fare invasion, including court costs.
The original contract for the Opal card system in NSW with Cubic Transportation Systems was worth $1.2bn over its 15 year life from 2010. At least $600m has been spent in additional infrastructure and upgrades since then.
Transport for NSW states that there are over 800 authorised officers and police checking tickets across the public transport network. In 2021-22, there were 95,026 transport-related fines issued in NSW, including 24,068 fines issued to young people under 25 for travelling or attempting to travel without a valid ticket.
If a young person can’t afford to pay a fine, they will be subjected to additional fines and enforcement costs and potentially a debt collection process. If they want to dispute the fine, they will need to go to court. In addition to the stress and cost this places on a young person, the process of issuing and enforcing fines, including within the court system, is costing government authorities a significant amount of money every year, and only a small percentage of that is recovered once fines are collected.
With the cost of ticketing and enforcement offset against the lost fare revenue from making public transport free, and with consideration given to the societal and economic benefits that public transport will create, the hit to our budget bottom line in the long-term will be more than tolerable. In the meantime, the Greens’ proposed taxes and levies on property developers, coal and gas companies and the big banks will more than adequately cover the short-term costs of making our public transport free.
The fact is that the State government already subsidises around 80% of every single trip on buses, trains and ferries across - given the massive social and economic benefits of free public transport, it seems like common sense to just make it 100% instead.