## Pithy Comments on Public Transport Russell Degnan

Free Public Transport is ridiculously unjust, favouring existing infrastructure at the expense of old, and inner-city residents (funnily enough, also rich Age readers) at the expense of outer-suburban and country people. No doubt the same supporters will also look down on them for driving everywhere and not being "sustainable". It also overlooks the fact that significant numbers of p/t services are already congested.

Discrimination against outer suburbs depends on how you define an outer suburb. I find it hard to believe only $86m was spent in outer suburbs on public transport. According to the budget papers and Track Record, while useless for a decent analysis of cross-subsidies in p/t shows that trams (the quintessential inner-suburban transport mode), are being subsidised$136m to move 146m passengers, while buses get \$308m to carry 94.8m passengers. The inner suburbs might be decently subsidised but at least it isn't wasted.

Fare evasion is a touchy issue. People want evaders hung, drawn and quartered (the government commissions surveys with this specific question), but hate the way transport inspectors operate (they'd like them hung drawn and quartered with more respect). As I've said before, collecting money for a service should be the responsibility of the service provider. Fines are not an appropriate way to collect money from people, and it should be up to the operators (or the out-sourced ticketing providers) to find the most cost-effective way to charge people.

Cycling might finally gain some currency in the endless debate over funding for roads against public transport. Given some 300,000 people live within 5km of the CBD and another 650,000 within 10km, walking and cycling should be the commuting option of first resort for a lot more than the current 2-5%. But it won't happen if it continues to be viewed as a third-choice option behind other, more visible, and more demanding, road users.

Developing around, on and over railways, roads, and car-parks is a great idea, if it is cost-effective. Melbourne is nowhere near as dense as Hong Kong or London, so it is not short of land. The sort of developments Greg Hunt talks about could happen, but don't hold your breath. You'd need to start taxing under-developed land before existing owners could see any benefit in doing developments of questionable worth. And that's before they hit the planning system and irate Hollywood actors.

Sterner Matters 12th March, 2006 17:08:48   [#]

'Free' public transport
'Free public transport' doesn't necessarily mean unfunded public transport. Making it free shifts it from being seen as 'user-pays' to 'public good'. Funding of public transport can instead be done through levies and people are reminded at least once a year (when they do their tax return) that they are paying for it - so they should bloody hell use it more.

Of course public transport should be improved in the outer suburbs and this will require substantial investment. I strongly doubt that rich Age readers don't have any sympathy for those in the outer suburbs.
Aaron Hewett  12th March, 2006 18:50:30

Aaron, you aren't naive enough to think the government can either impose an extra tax or reduce other government services without some political cost (even in a one party state like Victoria). Particularly as the people least well served are in marginal outer suburban and country electorates. Secondly, public transprot use is affected by travel time, far more than cost, so if they are going to spend money in that sector more infrastructure is a much better investment.
Russ  13th March, 2006 14:22:09

What is it with you transport/planning people and your fricken bikes?

I want to see better PT service like every other user and can see the advantages of bikes. But I swear I want to punch those idiots who try to combine the two during peak hour.
Bruce  13th March, 2006 17:14:30

Bikes and p/t
Bruce, I agree, they are incompatible uses. To the extent that they should be combined we should be fitting out carriages specifically for bike riders (ie. with racks along one edge and a bench seat on the other).
Russ  13th March, 2006 17:43:09

Pithy indeed! Nice summary of the issues Russ.
David  13th March, 2006 17:52:04

thanks David, it is all politics really. Apparently the government is releasing another transport strategy soon despite releasing the previous one 18 months ago. Given its pre-election status it will probably be a wonderfully forward-looking and expensive basket of promises. The Age has been trying to manoeuver them into putting p/t into that basket for the past 6 months, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Russ  14th March, 2006 10:15:07

Bruce
Why do you want to punch them? Do they take up to much room on the train? Not as much as SOV's take up on the road. For me the only time- viable alternative to trainbiking is driving all the way to work. So take a deep breath and so hello when you see me on the train, and together we can campaign for better trains so that we both have more space.
Geoff  14th March, 2006 11:10:21