Transport poverty can be alleviated

22 April 2024

enviro200ev new zealand auckland transport scaled 960x565 c default

New Zealand’s temporary half-price bus fares were critically important in enabling people on low incomes to make essential journeys, according to recently published findings from the Healthier Lives and Ageing Well-funded ACTIVATION project.

Transport New Zealand Waka Kotahi introduced half-price bus fares from April 2022 to June 2023 as part of a transport relief package to support New Zealanders through the global energy crisis.

Healthier Lives researchers Dr Angela Curl and Professor Simon Kingham, based in Ōtautahi Christchurch, seized the opportunity to include extra questions about the impact of this initiative in their planned ACTIVATION surveys and interviews on how people move around the city.

angela curl simon kingham 2
ACTIVATION researchers Dr Angela Curl and Professor Simon Kingham

Analysis of the data from 372 surveys of public housing tenants and older people in Christchurch (between October and November 2022), and from in-depth qualitative interviews with 25 public housing residents, found that almost half the public housing residents were able to afford additional trips as a result of this government public transport initiative.

Increasing the affordability of public transport enabled those on lower incomes to access key destinations and services they otherwise wouldn’t have got to. While alleviating some of the financial stress associated with travel, it also allowed people to spend more on food and other essentials.

Statistics New Zealand figures show that the lowest income households spend more than a quarter of their incomes on transport, contributing to what is known as transport poverty.  This is an issue in many countries, and these New Zealand research findings have been featured in both national and international media.

Previous survey data from the ACTIVATION team showed that the cost of transport prevented people accessing essential services like medical appointments, and could also affect mental health by limiting contact with family and friends.

Some survey respondents didn’t make use of the half price fares because they didn’t want to start relying on them if fares were only going to increase again. But there has been a positive outcome: insights from the ACTIVATION survey were sent to Environment Canterbury and have since informed the Community Connect programme, which provides on-going half price bus fares for community services card holders.


Accessibility and Affordability Impacts of Half Price Public Transport Fares in Aotearoa New Zealand. Angela Curl, Anna Coppens, Cushla Dares, Jonathan Williman, Helen Fitt, Simon Kingham. Transport Findings, February, 2024.

Media coverage

Half-price fares benefit people experiencing transport poverty – study University of Otago
Cheaper public transport trial helped people experiencing ‘transport poverty’ RNZ
Transport Poverty: What Is It, And How Can We Address It? Forbes

View our 2019-24 Research Strategy

He Pikinga Waiora Research Findings Brief

Sign up to our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

Scroll to Top