As Dublin Bus fares increase for the third time in four years, mind Kerry Sheridan offers advice on how UCD students can prepare their already tight budgets.

The announcement made by the National Transport Authority (NTA) on the 23rd of October, stated that transport costs would increase in the coming months to “protect service delivery.”

Amongst government tax rises for alcohol and tobacco products, Dublin Bus and the Luas are set to rise their fares another 10% despite raising prices just last year. The NTA released a statement claiming that the raise is only to “protect service delivery at a time of reduced incomes.” The statement goes on to further detail the full economic picture. While Dublin Bus claim to need the additional revenue  to maintain regular routes and services, it is the consumer who will pay for it. In a request to the NTA, Dublin Bus outlined how €2.1million will be spent on “service level increases to meet growing customer demand.” It is debatable whether the effect of quality or quantity on this improved service provided will be seen by customers. The bus company is expected to get an additional €9 million in revenue for the proposed fare changes.

What does this translate into for the student population? It will mean that from this month any person purchasing annual or monthly public transport tickets can expect increased fare prices on our infamously already tight budgets.

A return train ticket on the commuter line costing €31 will become €34.65 euro once the changes are made. In UCD this may mean less trips home for rural students. The news is not all bad as Bus Eireann is only facing a 6 to 7% increase. As for the day to day trips to and from campus, the ever popular “student rambler” is also expected an increase of at least 10 %. The 5 day ticket will rise from €18.30 to €20. The 30 day ticket will rise from €91.50 to €100. The most drastic changes have been made on the Xpresso lines, as they have increased by an additional 39%. The somewhat good news is that these rises will not be implemented until 1st December. This gives students with low income some time to prepare for fare increases. As previous tickets are valid until December 2014, an option can be to stock up on tickets now to avoid paying the increases later.

While these changes may not seem drastic to some, they are a drastic scenario for others. Those who live just outside the walking or cycling parameters of UCD will be affected the worst by the changes. First year student Claire Hackett faces increases in both her weekly bus to Kilkenny and her weekly student bus card. “I was finding budgeting my money for the first time quite difficult, every penny seemed stretched” explains Claire, “the bus increases are a real blow to me as it takes almost an extra 30 euros off of me a month.”  For students living on less than €50 a week, the extra €9.50 a month will prove a little more trying with Christmas just around the corner. With mounting costs decisions made to save money may be damaging. The main concerns are that the cost of getting to class will far exceed the benefit derived from going.

It will make student life harder for students already living on the edge.

Nonetheless, bus fare hikes are being a commonplace pain for students. For student Matt Breen the mounting fares still annoy. “When I came to UCD in 1st year my fare was €1.80, which then increased to €1.90. Last year the fare rose again to €2.15, a huge difference in my opinion. To see the same route I take into town now raise to €2.35 is very annoying.” Echoing many disenchanted students Matt also adds, “I don’t see where my raised fare is going to. Services have not been improving and I regularly wait for buses long after their timetabled appearance.”

Dublin Bus is notorious for its no change policy that sees many people drop in a round amount of money to cover the fare. With prices now at €2.35, That round amount could see many students dropping €2.50 into the bus fare calculator. For a return journey that can see students paying a whole €5 just to travel into town. With already tight budgets, transport fares are further neglecting UCD students, who mainly live in the surrounding UCD area, from enjoying the city they chose.

If you only plan to use the bus when it rains as an alternative to biking it is preferable to invest in a Student Travel Card to curb the effect of these increases. The card costing €12, has the best savings after all the changes, and also offers various student deals in other retail and service outlets.  The Leap Card is also a great option for students to curb increases. The card can be topped up at many outlets and lowers fares by almost 10%. A student Leap Card may also be purchased, with ownership of a Student Travel Card, that gives even further reductions.

Suggestions by the government being made to help students who are affected by the extra cost including “car – pooling” and “cheap bike solutions.” While these ideas are acceptable they don’t quite suit students who live just that bit too far away. While the NTA claims that the fares are fixed for the year 2014, there is no optimistic opinion that fares will not rise again in next year. For those of you who are still a little confused let’s put it like this, Dublin Bus is planning on taking the cost of two pints a month away from you, that’s 24 pints a year you won’t get because of the price increase. Now that’s a sobering fact.

To find out how the fare increase will affect you visit www.nationaltransport.ie for details.

 

 

Kerry Sheridan