Over the past two days I attended a conference conducted by the MAV focused on public transport and the goal of increasing public transport modal share from the current 9% to the goal of 20% by 2020.
The conference made it clear that the goal of 20% modal share by 2020 must happen to secure the future economic, social and environmental success of Melbourne. The State Government must commit to this goal by increasing the funding of public transport improvements. It is inexcusable that problems within the network that have been common for well over six years (such as the constraints single track sections and the need for upgraded bus services) are only now beginning to attract state government interest.
It was encouraging to see a strong level of support from local government, through the number of local government attendees. Local governments have a clear role to play in advocating and demanding significant and much needed public transport funding from the state government.
It was disappointing to see the ‘bus lobby’ lash out against the tram network. Melbourne has a comprehensive tram network that at most requires a 2 – 4km extension on some routes. It is much more efficient to complete these tram extensions (such as tram 48 to Doncaster) and allow buses to be redeployed over the rest of the public transport network. While bus services do require significant funding improvements the bus operators must realise they form part of a comprehensive public transport network.
While the concept of marketing and promoting the public transport was discussed. The speakers made it clear that these promotional strategies will only succeed when the product is of a satisfactory standard. This means that public transport must be fast, frequent, reliable and readily accessible before promotional strategies will have an effect.
The need for better integration between government departments was also discussed particularly in linking road, public transport and planning outcomes with treasury. The current lack of integration has caused much criticism over Melbourne 2030 and has severely undermined the public transport network.
Ultimately improving Melbourne’s public transport system would not only provide greater economic and social benefits but it would provide economic benefits of around $6 billion meaning it would create standards of living 2.5 to 3 times better than today’s standards.
It is clear that public transport must be improved and it is clear that local government is calling for this to occur – it is now time for the state government to deliver.