Waikato bus concessions; accessibility in action

In mid 2019, Waikato became the first region in New Zealand to provide a 100 per cent accessibility concession.

This came about after a young Hamilton woman, Joy Ho, a regular bus user asked the council to consider a disability concession in a submission to the Regional Public Transport Plan earlier this year.

Ms Ho described how buses provide freedom of movement, help her to be more active and get to and from her part-time admin job. She said more than 2500 people had signed a petition supporting her push for a concession.

With the concession, "the opportunities for people with disabilities are endless," she told councillors.

Russ Rimmington, who was the co-chair of the Hamilton Public Transport Joint Committee at the time, said: “Buses enable people with disabilities to live more independently – getting to jobs, medical appointments and social engagements.

“A 100 per cent concession will be a first in this country. As a progressive region, it’s important we help persons with disabilities go about their normal day.”

The cost of the concession is co-funded by the NZ Transport Agency and ratepayers, and it is estimated it will cost the council up to $75,000 per annum. The majority of that cost comes from the administration costs associated with providing the cards – there is very little in lost revenue as many of the people on the scheme are new travellers. Additionally, they tend to travel in off-peak times, when there is spare capacity on the bus system.

So far there are around 2400 users of the scheme. The regional council has received great feedback about the scheme, with disability organisations talking about the new independence their clients are able to have. Removing the cost of travel also frees up money in very tight budgets, allowing for more financial freedom too.

The concession is available to any person of any age if it can be demonstrated they have a physical, intellectual, psychological, sensory or neurological impairment that prevents them from being legally able to drive a private motor vehicle or is such that they will be unable to drive once of a legal driving age.

It is available to those that have a temporary or permanent impairment that results in a transport disability. A temporary impairment means a person will be unable to drive for a period of six months or more but is expected to recover from the impairment.

The application process is done via an assessment with a local disability agency or GP. Once the application process is complete, an accessibility concession photo ID card is issued for use on bus services.

A young man in a wheelchair rides a Waikato bus

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