Greens float free public transport ‘experiment’ as City Hall vote nears

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Greens float free public transport ‘experiment’ as City Hall vote nears


The news

Brisbane’s council should fund free off-peak public transport and travel for kids, along with a trial of universal free public transport, to convince the state government to stop charging fares.

That’s the latest pitch from the Greens in the battle for the hearts and minds of residents in the Queensland capital before they vote in statewide council elections in little over a month.

While any such deal would have to be hammered out by the council and state government, it is imagined to include tweaks to previous funding deals or see the council simply hand money to the state.Credit: Robert Shakespeare

“Permanently abolishing fares will take funding and co-operation from the state government, but a Greens council would take the first steps,” said Jonathan Sriranganathan, the party’s mayoral candidate and a former Gabba councillor.

“Our three-month trial of universal free fares would be a real-world experiment to give Brisbane residents a taste of the freedom to leave their cars at home. We’re confident it would help convince the state government to abolish fares for good.”

Why it matters

The Greens hope to translate growing electoral support in Brisbane to a lift beyond their sole seat in the 27-person council, dominated by the LNP for two decades, making a strategy of just shifting debate towards progressive policy areas.

Cost-of-living pressures have been front-of-mind for politicians of all stripes. As have been questions about transport in the fast-growing state capital now and into the future.

While Brisbane City Council owns and operates the city’s bus fleet, state agency Translink manages ticketing and timetables. The state pays the council a subsidy for its part, but runs train and ferry services itself.

Labor unveiled its council transport policy last month, including a proposal to halve zone one and two bus fares. The Greens have previously suggested it would cost the state $275 million to fully subsidise public transport.

What they said

In a statement to media ahead of an announcement on Saturday morning, Sriranganathan said the proposal would build on the party’s plan for more high-frequency bus routes.

Queensland Transport Minister Bart Mellish responded to Labor’s City Hall transport pitch last month by saying “any initiative that encourages more people to get out of their cars and onto public transport is a winner in my book”.

Of that proposal, LNP council administration finance chair Fiona Cunningham said Labor had “surrendered the real alternative agenda to the radical and risky Greens”.

By the numbers

Detail released alongside the Greens proposal says the plan would cost $338 million over four years, including:

  • A once-off $45 million council budget allocation to make all travel on trains, buses and ferries in the council area free as part of a three-month trial
  • $13.5 million ongoing council funding to cover city public transport for under-18s
  • $80 million annually from 2025 to extend free off-peak public transport from seniors’ travel on buses and ferries to all ages and services

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