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2008-07-31: Agreement reached on new Metrobus fares

THE City of Johannesburg has reached an agreement with commuter organisations that the proposed fare increases for Metrobus, which came into effect on 1 July, will remain in place.

A decision was also taken that the city will revert to the previous transfer system for a period of six months, starting on 1 August while a new system is being developed to take into account the length of a journey.

This decision follows lengthy meetings between the City's Department of Transport, the Metrobus Management, the SA Commuter Organisation and the Metrobus User Forum (representing communities who use the bus service).

Member of the city's Mayoral Committee for Transport, Ms Rehana Moosajee said there is a broad recognition that transport inflation is growing at a rapid pace and that fare increases are inevitable if safe and effective public transport should continue to be provided for the people of Johannesburg.

The agreement means that the 33% increase in fares agreed earlier by the Johannesburg Council will go ahead. This increase is a market-related fare structure based on distance travelled. The new fares were published for public comment.

The decision by the City to extend the new fares also to passengers who transfer from one route to another raised a number of concerns among commuters. This eventually led to the meetings between the city and organisations representing commuters. A task team was established to review the decisions.

Following this engagement, the City will now revert to the previous transfer system for a six month period stretching from August 2008 to January 2009.  During this time, the electronic ticket machine software will be modified to ensure a proper route-based fare charging structure.

The fare charging will be based on a continuous (one leg) route structure rather than a discontinuous (two leg) structure which resulted in passengers having to pay double for the two journeys.

Discussions on the introduction of the revised transfer system will continue with the commuter forums, says Ms Moosajee.

A decision was also taken that on the expiry dates, weekly and monthly tickets will no longer overlap into a new financial year. Passengers will be informed in advance of upcoming expiry dates on tickets.

Ms Moosajee says the City's decision to implement a market-related far structure based on distance travelled was taken in the light of the current spiraling transport inflation figures. She added that the City makes every effort to keep public transport affordable but the rising cost of fuel alone means that daily commuters must carry a fair share of the economic burden.

The cost of fuel has increased by 44% for the two year period from 2006-07 and this constitutes 40% of Metrobus' total direct operating expenditure. Other increases include repairs and maintenance as well as salaries and allowances.

An analysis of the old fare system indicated that it was not market related and placed undue pressure on the city resources which had to subsidise passenger journeys.

The new fare system is based on distance travelled but with an adjusted reduction in the rate per kilometer over longer distance. This will enable Metrobus to continue providing quality services to commuters including those who travel long distances or who transfer from one route to another.

Metrobus also offers reduced fares for adult commuters travelling on multi-journeys, for scholars, for pensioners, for disabled passengers and for commuters in uniform (SA Police Services, Johannesburg Metro Police Department, SA National Defence Force).

Ms Moosajee says Metrobus continues to provide affordable transport services compared to other similar services in the industry.

"Our new fare increases are in line with the City's approach that tariffs should be equitable and affordable," she says.

Ted Tenehi of the Passenger Forum confirmed the decision taken and said more meetings will continue to take place where interests of the passengers would be on the agenda to ensure the smooth running of the service.

"We want to thank everyone involved and ensuring that these changes take place. The Executive Mayor, the MMC for Transport and their administrative support played a positive role in this matter. Together with this team, we promised to work hard in improving the bus service to passengers. With their help, we will try our best to bring the service closer to meeting operational times," added Teheni.