I was invited to the 2007 Infrastructure Summit as part of a panel to discuss public transport infrastructure and the improvements required to maintain patronage growth and mitigate rising traffic congestion.
Each panellist was provided with the opportunity to deliver a five minute presentation and during this time I covered the economic, social and environmental factors that necessitate the delivery of much needed public transport improvements. While the State Government may claim that it has been overwhelmed by recent patronage increases, the reality is that this should have been expected and encouraged, if the Government was sincere about achieving the goal of 20% public transport modal share by the year 2020.
Modal share data, which is available as Appendix B of the recent State Budget papers, shows very little growth in the proportion of people that use public transport versus the proportion of people that are driving, thereby demonstrating a lack of government commitment to this modal share target.
It is interesting to note that the corresponding VicRoads data for the 2005-06 period highlighted a slight reduction in road use with the total vehicle kilometres travelled decreasing by 1.9% within inner Melbourne but by just 0.3 in the outer suburbs. Given the high price of petrol over that period, this data clearly demonstrates the deficiencies that exist in Melbourne’s public transport system, since outer suburban residents are not provided with the same public transport options that are available to inner Melbourne.
It is clear that the State Government needs to go beyond the projects it listed in its policy document Meeting Our Transport Challenges and commit to the delivery of frequent train, tram and bus services across metropolitan Melbourne. This includes the need to bring forward much needed rail extensions, new tram extensions and further bus improvements. Reports such as the Government commissioned Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) inquiry into traffic congestion and the Environmental Sustainability Commissioner’s recent report into Melbourne’s sustainability confirm this view.