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Canberra families hit hardest by public transport and vehicle costs

Canberra families are among the hardest hit by vehicle and public transport costs in Australia with many spending more on travel than on food.

Those with low incomes or receiving disability or welfare payments are also likely to spend more money on transport than wealthy Canberrans.

Analysis by the ACT Council of Social Services reveals the full impact of petrol, registration and public transport costs across the territory.

The ACT Cost of Living Report, released this week, found Canberra and Darwin had the highest weekly expenditure on transport in Australia at $232 and $233 respectively. 

Canberra households spend almost as much on transport each week ($232) than they do on food ($235) and far more than those Melbourne and Sydney.  

ACTCOSS director Susan Helyar said the report showed transport costs were blowing the budgets of many low-income families.

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"This data strongly suggests that transport costs are considerable in the ACT and further compound the cost of living challenges faced by people on low incomes in meeting their transport needs," she said.

The territory has the highest expenditure on vehicle registration in the country, 27 per cent higher than second placed NSW and 36 per cent higher than the national average.

Registration and compulsory third party insurance costs have also risen by 28.7 per cent combined over the past six years, a rate more than double the consumer price index (CPI).

Despite a 13.1 per cent decrease in fuel prices in recent years, the cost of car maintenance, spare parts and accessories has dramatically increased. The savings in fuel are not always felt by lower income families.  

"While benefits from falling petrol prices are a welcome relief to everyone in the community, areas of transport that showed a price increase are likely to disproportionately impact on people on low incomes," Ms Heylar said.

"Households whose primary source of income is Newstart or a study payment spent more on public transport, as a proportion of income, than other households.

"Transport costs are considerable in the ACT and further compound the cost of living challenges"

Susan Heylar

"People on unemployment and study payments spend nearly twice as much on public transport as those on disability and carer payments and more than three times more than age pensioners."

MyWay fares have increased at a greater rate than the CPI during the past four years, with weekday capped fees experiences the largest jump in prices.

According to the report, people with disabilities are more likely to use taxis on a regular basis than others, which means they have been hardest hit by taxi fares increasing faster than CPI.

"Canberra has the highest flag fall rate, the third highest distance per kilometre rate, the third highest waiting time per hour rate and equal third highest airport rank fee," Ms Heylar said.

The report also found MyWay fares have increased at a rate higher than CPI during the last four years, with weekday capped fares increasing by the greatest amount.

"This pattern of price changes means low income households are more likely to experience cost increases and we know they are less likely to be able to absorb these costs in an already stretched household budget," Ms Heylar said. 

The council made a number of recommendations to the ACT government, including a dramatic restructure of public transport network with more services outside the 9am to 5pm peak period.

Ms Heylar also called for the renewal of low cost housing and employment opportunities in areas already serviced by public transport.