IPART have recommended a series of small increases to bus fares of 1.5% per year above the expected rate of inflation over the next three years - a total rise of 14.6% over 3 years.
They have used a very rigorous and transparent process to explain the increases which relates to the 'efficient costs' of running the buses and providing the infrastructure such as buslanes.
IPART also provide the logic of why they have allocated about half of the cost of running the bus system to be paid for by the passengers through ticket sales (excluding concessions) and half to be paid for by taxpayers through the Government; this half share paid by the Government equals the 'external benefits' derived by everybody, including non-bus users, from reduced traffic congestion and reduced air pollution when people use the bus instead of drive a car.
For the full IPART draft report click here: IPART Draft Bus Fare Determination
It appears that while short distance single tickets on buses will remain fairly good value, even with a rise from $1.90 to $2 in the first year and maybe up to $2.30 over 3 years, the people who travel greater distances of more than 5 sections, and don't have access to multi-trip tickets or flexible time-based tickets, will feel the increases much more. A single 3 - 5 section ticket is likely to increase from $3.20 to $4.50 and the 6 - 9 section tickets are likely to increase to more than $5.50. These are large increases and make regular return trips very expensive - particularly if you are trying to combine this with other train or bus trips.
Some of the main issues that have been pointed to by various transport advocates have been largely ignored. In particular IPART has disagreed that it is worth considering a shift to a zone/time-based integrated ticketing, which offers discounts for trip bundling.
It appears that we are going to be stuck with a flag-fall / distanced based ticketing system, even if we achieve an integrated ticket: ie the ticket will be integrated but many of the fares will not. This has the potential to be very bad for people in Western Sydney because of the greater reliance on the private bus system and the greater distances travelled. It is also not very 'family-friendly' because of the multiple transport needs of people trying to manage a family.
As an example, using the current fares, one return off-peak trip between St Clair and Castle Hill is likely to be $19.00. There is no potential for any integrated fares or multi-trip discounts (although you could get separate discounts for weekly bus tickets and train tickets if you are a regular commuter). A Cityrail day tripper ticket, however, which allows you unlimited, all-day travel on all STA buses, CityRail trains and Sydney Ferries is $17 (ie $2 less to travel from St Marys to Brookvale and return via the Manly Ferry and unlimited travel in the Sydney CBD).
This is an example of how an 'integrated fare' (the day tripper) compares to simply an 'integrated ticket' (several fares combined on a single ticket). The integrated fare provides additional discounts and the flexibility to travel multiple trips and stops whereas the integrated ticket simply makes it easier to pay the fare (even though they are expensive). It seems less likely that public transport will effectively compete with private cars, and the flexibility that they offer, without this kind of change. It is like having a toll on every road - it would be interesting to see how road users would react to that ....