At the Transportation Conference, I presented on “Zone 0“, the proposal to make buses free within the Four Avenues for Metrocard holders. This caused quite some debate, with a lot of one-on-one follow up. My peers can see that this makes a lot more sense than reinstating the Shuttle.
Zone 0 makes sense. Much better level of service than the Shuttle at a fraction of the Shuttle cost. Reverse the passenger decline. Now it’s up to ECan to make it happen, but I haven’t heard a beep that they are even interested.Axel Wilke after presenting to his peers
Visitors and residents alike loved the free central city Shuttle. It was introduced in 1998 and ceased operating with the February 2011 earthquake. There is popular demand to have it back. But three official reports and a request for proposal (to get a feeling for likely costs) later, nothing appears to be happening.
I presented an alternative concept at the 2020 Transportation Conference. Dubbed “Zone 0” as a play on the existing public transport fare zone structure, the proposal is to make all buses free within the city’s four avenues for Metrocard holders. The benefits are:
- much cheaper to run than to reintroduce the Shuttle
- better level of service (better geographic coverage; higher frequency on many corridors)
- exposes opportunistic users to the public transport system and would attract many of paying users
To me, the real power of this concept is that it may have in reversing declining bus patronage; we’ve been losing patronage (when measured as trips per person per year) since 2014. By offering people something for free, but insisting that they can only have it if they hold a Metrocard, many will graduate from “freeriders” to paying customers outside of the four aves.
A separate proposal is to make the initial Metrocard free once more. It was one of the first public transport decisions made by the incoming ECan commissioners in mid-2011 to charge $10 not just for replacement cards (as it had always been) but also the initial card. This was supposed to save us $65k per year and I always thought it was the dumbest thing that we could possibly have decided; it’s a perfect violation of marketing 101. I understand moves are underway to reverse the 2011 decision.