Public transport has a critical role to play in helping reduce New Zealanders’ reliance on travel by car, especially in reducing greenhouse gas emission in our large urban areas.
It provides a safe, affordable way for people to access employment, education, recreation and healthcare. Improvements to service provision, frequency and reliability are addressed through continued National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) investment, encouraging a greater uptake in public transport usage.
Our investment in public transport supports better accessibility, such as through the Total Mobility scheme by assisting people with long-term impairments to access appropriate travel options, while our Requirements for urban buses standardises urban bus requirements across all regional councils and Auckland Transport to create efficiencies and improve the usability and accessibility and environmental quality, of buses for all customers.
During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, there was a significant drop in public transport use across the country. Nationwide, passenger numbers fell nearly 18% from 168.4 million total boardings in 2018/19 to 138.8 million in 2019/20. The greatest drop was a reduction of 18.5 million passenger boardings in Auckland. In Wellington, patronage fell by 6.3 million boardings and in Canterbury by 2.7 million. While use is recovering at a faster pace in some centres, numbers are not expected to return to pre-COVID levels until 2023/24 or may continue to be impacted by further COVID-19 lockdowns. The Delta variant is going to place more pressure on the public transport services farebox recovery.
A total of $2.6 billion will be invested through this this NLTP in public transport services and improvements. With co-investment funding from our partners, our focus is on maintaining all existing services. Where revenue allows, investment through this NLTP will be in making improvements to the frequency and reliability of public transport services, and to work towards transitioning to a low emission bus fleet.
The following are examples of activities that we expect to co-invest in during the 2021–24 NLTP: