Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Public transport - a paradigm shift is needed

Transport Minister Lyn Kosky has just quit politics, but the public transport debacle is not just her fault - it lies with the Labor government (and preceeding Liberal governments) that have spent far too little on new trains, tracks and better services.

The perennial low budget allocation for public transport compared to roads is the major reason that public transport infrastructure is now groaning to keep up with demand.

Over three million more people now live in Melbourne than when the train network was built - and the last new train line constructed in 1930 - the Glen Waverley line.

Far too little is allocated to serious improvements in sustainable transport infrastructure such as:
  • New train tracks to suburbs not currently serviced by trains - such as the planned (but never delivered) Rowville (servicing Monash Uni) and Doncaster lines.
  • Turning Melbourne's slow and inefficient tram network into a faster more efficient light rail network that is not impeded by traffic
  • Safe and direct bike paths to provide commute and recreational riding within suburbs and to central Melbourne - with proper signposting
  • A metro for inner Melbourne to take the load off congested CBD streets - linking Richmond, Fitzroy, Carlton, Melbourne University, North Melbourne, South Melbourne
  • Undergrounding several CBD trams to free up streets for pedestrians and street life.
  • Return public transport to public ownership and operation. The current blame game and lack of accountability for service delivery and quality - between Government and private operators - must stop.
Martin Pakula, a unionist before he entered politics, is now the Minister for Public Transport. Don't hold your breath for any rapid improvements to public transport - or shift in the Brumby government's priority focus on roads and freeways.

With climate change upon us, it is to be hoped that this situation will turn around so Melbourne's residents have convenient and effective climate friendly transport options available.


1 comment:

Grant said...

Morning Peter
Agreed, the problem the Government has is the distribution of available funding.

Surveys on public transport I have read, show that only 25 - 30% of Melbournians use public transport to go to work, and of the 70%+ who do not, over 80% said they would not use public transport. It would be a very brave (ie. suicidal) Government who said, the public will do as they are told.

Looking at some of your points, the majority would need huge expenditure.

1. The Gov has looked at train services to suburbs such as Rowville, but as this could only be serviced by light rail (no train line corridors), with huge costs as it was directed under arterial roads. There is also the issue that new lines / services on the SE of Melbourne will be impacted by bottlenecks (ie. cuttings). This is one of the main reasons for the proposed tunnel running from around Caulfield to (I think Footscray) via the city. If the Feds are prepared to pay.

2. The tram system in Melbourne has always been slow, and as you cannot restrict road traffic, it will always be that way. Many Govs have attempted to give trams priority, but unless you either stop road traffic from using the same roads, you would need to station a policeman at every intersection. Why not trolley buses (using the same overhead lines). Trams could be used on divided sections of roads, such as Nepean Hwy, Dandenong Rd (as it currently is).

3. Bike paths are good suggestion, they need to be well sign posted, but they need to be well away from heavy road use areas (I suspect that breathing in copious amounts of cancer causing diesel and car exhaust fumes will cause huge health issues in the next 20 - 30 years).

4. - 5. I am sure the State Gov would look at these if the Fed Gov had the funds to pay for. The State Gov is struggling (and I suppose the Fed Gov also), to remain solvent, with both Govs likely to have additional huge costs if an ETS is introduced (through major subsides they will have to pay to avoid political oblivion).

6. The State Gov obviously cannot return the PTS to public ownership till after the new contracts have expired (8 years or whatever it is), but it was hand balled to private enterprise as it was costing over a billion a year to run for the state (after fare receipts). I think the Libs offloaded it, but much of the ground work had been done by previous Labor Govs. Sure return the PTS to public ownership after the contracts expire, but the Gov has to make sure that it breaks even with its running costs (I believe it did for much of its time from the 20s to the 60s).

Overall, no State Gov will ever be able to afford to provide an efficient, cost effective PTS while we have population growth as is planned for the next 40 years (Australia = 35 mill by 2040). We can reduce some of the loading by rethinking where business resided (eg. move businesses out of the CBD hub), so people do not have to all travel to the same destination.

We need to dramatically reduce our population growth, or we will also never have any hope of reducing our emissions (as a nation). Can you imagine the emissions when we have the 35 mill population, with CURRENTLY millions of new TVs, fridges, washing machines, air conditioners, etc, etc, being sold each year, not to mention around a mill new motor vehs also being sold each year.