Kicking off concession card holders unfair, but we may need to review peak fares

mX (Brisbane’s free afternoon newspaper) today ran with a typical attention grabbing front page headline “Peak fare shock: Kick concession cards, says forum”:

Concession card-carrying commuters should be relegated to off-peak services only, a peak transport body says.  A report released by the Tourism and Transport Forum this morning has also called for a limit on the number of people eligible for concession travel discounts as a way to raise revenue for transport operators.

Fortunately for students and pensioners, the Transport Minister Rachel Nolan has rejected this idea, which seems grossly inequitable even to a hard-headed ex-econocrat like me.

That said, we may need to review our fare structures for peak commuting periods.  The trains and buses in the peak 7-9am and 5-6pm time slots are massively over-crowded, potentially endangering the health of commuters.

Currently Translink defines the peak period as:

From 2am to 9am and 3.30pm to 7pm weekdays

It may be worthwhile exploring whether the peak period could be further split up – e.g., by creating, for the morning commute, an early peak period from, say, 2am to 7am and a later peak period from 7am to 9am.  TransLink could drop fares for the early peak period, and raise them for the later peak period, with a view to encouraging people to catch an earlier, less crowded train or bus, reducing congestion from 7am to 9am.

People are creatures of habit so it may require a big differential in fares to change travel behaviour (e.g, a $1 fare for the early peak period compared with a $3 fare for the later peak period). TransLink would have to make sure the fares were set so that total fare revenue wouldn’t decline, which may be a challenge to get right on the first attempt.  Still I think this idea is worth exploring by TransLink.

You can find the Tourism and Transport Forum’s discussion paper here:

Meeting the Funding Challenges of Public Transport

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