Public Transport… Is It Moving You?

Public Transport.. Is It Moving You? was the theme of the first public transport meeting held in Croydon, which like most of the outer east has suffered from continued public transport neglect.

Organised by the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) and the Croydon Conservation Society (CCS), the meeting attracted well over 100 attendees. People were literally standing out the door and clearly demonstrating the demand for public transport improvements.

Speakers included:

  • Carlo Carli, Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure (State Government)
  • John Stanley, Executive Director, Bus Association of Victoria
  • Susan, Davies Federal candidate for La Trobe (ALP)
  • Bill Pemberton and Richard Di Natale, Federal candidate for Deakin (Greens) and Senate Candidate (Greens)
  • Alex Makin, PTUA Outer East Branch Convener
  • Neil Rose and Phil Turner, Mayor of Maroondah and Group Manager – Major Projects
  • Frank Mercuri, Director – Invicta Bus Company
  • Monika Keane, Councillor – Shire of Yarra Ranges
  • Adam Gill, Councillor – City of Knox

Attendees were able to hear about the actions taken by respective speakers in regard to public transport advocacy and improvement. Of great disappointment, however, was the attitude taken by Neil Rose (Mayor of Maroondah) who decided to spend his allocated time discussing freight issues instead.

While also an important issue, freight was completely outside the scope of a public transport orientated meeting, demonstrating on Neil’s part a complete lack of regard for the issues facing his own municipality.

Both Knox and the Yarra Ranges provide active advocacy to improve public transport in their respective municipalities, yet Maroondah and its mayor seemed content on paying these issues no heed.

Excluding the Australian Greens responses from the State and Federal levels acknowledged the lack of services but promised very little to address the issue..

Residents have demonstrated a clear expectation that they demand better from all levels of government. One can only hope that improvements are delivered beginning with the 2005 to 2006 budget.

Speech for Public Transport: Is It Moving You?

Firstly I must congratulate everyone here for taking the initiative to attend our forum this evening and thank the Croydon Conservation Society and the PTUA Outer East Committee for the dedication they have provided in organising this forum for this evening.

Since unfortunately for many people in the outer east public transport is not moving them.

Why? Because the levels of service in our outer eastern suburbs are so poor that it does not instil confidence.

Poor service frequencies and a lack of weekend and evening bus services is the reason behind this. Indirect routes and traffic measures that make it difficult for buses also hamper their useability.

I believe that we as residents need to provide a grass-roots voice calling for better public transport in our outer eastern suburbs. Traditionally this voice has tended to originate from inner Melbourne, that is those that enjoy a ten or fifteen tram service. This needs to change, it needs to be us as outer eastern residents leading the charge and calling for change.

That is the aim of the Outer Eastern Branch of the Public Transport Users Association. We will endeavour to provide a local and vocal presence in the outer east and this forum is our first commitment to that objective.

In fact two Melbourne’s exist:

  • A transport ‘rich’ Melbourne which enjoys frequent and efficient public transport services;
  • And a transport ‘poor’ Melbourne which is provided with infrequent and meandering bus routes. Two thirds of Melbourne is currently transport poor.

It is often not realised but a lack of public transport affects everyone in Melbourne:

  • Our youth are often isolated or dependant on others to get them to work, school and recreation – my sister currently 17 years old is an example of this. She is either dependant on others to drive her around or she simply misses out on opportunities;
  • Parents with children are the biggest victims of a lack of public transport yet this is often overlooked. How many people here this evening have children or grandchildren? Consider how many hours you spend acting as a taxi driving these children around. The average dual-income household family is extremely time-poor and yet there are forced to spend the little bit of spare time they have acting as a taxi for their children;
  • Likewise car transportation can often amount to one-fifth of a household’s income. This money could be put to more constructive uses such as paying off the typical housing mortgage up to ten years earlier;
  • Our elderly are also disadvantaged particularly on weekends. It is often on weekends that our elderly visit their families, yet this and other social interaction is unfortunately restricted due to a lack of public transport.

There is a positive correlation between service frequency and patronage. In 2002 the state government upgraded the frequency and operating hours of bus services along Blackburn and Springvale Roads essentially providing a fifteen minute service during the day. As a result patronage grew by 30% and the bulk of this came from those purchasing full fare tickets, those that are more likely to have access to a car.

Contrast this to the average bus service that ceases operation at 6:53 pm and runs only every 40 minutes and where only 18% of Melbourne’s bus routes actually run on Sundays and you can understand why we in the outer east lack confidence in public transport.

Despite the overwhelming success of the SmartBus program only one other bus route has been budgeted to receive additional funding. We are told there is a plan for public transport, currently known as the Metropolitan Transport Travel Plan yet despite promises to release it in the first half of 2004 it is continually being delayed.

We ask when will the state government match its rhetoric with action and provide the funding required?

I believe it is crucial for the outer east to strengthen its voice in relation to public transport.

All three levels of government have a role to play.

  • Local government needs to ensure that public transport is the focal point of all planning and to lobby for better services. We will be hearing from the municipalities of Knox, Yarra Ranges and Maroondah shortly;
  • The State Government needs to provide increased funding of both public transport services and infrastructure to ensure the achievement of its goal of 20% public transport patronage by 2020. The MPs present this evening demonstrate at least a willingness to listen; hopefully, they will realise that significant action is required;
  • The Federal Government, and we have heard from several candidates earlier, must provide funding for public transport infrastructure in the same way the Federal Government funds roads. Australia remains the only Western nation where there is no consistent funding from the Federal Government for public transport.

In conclusion, there are social, environmental and economic benefits to increasing public transport services. Traffic congestion currently costs our economy $5 billion per year. Likewise there are costs associated with road trauma, which place both an economic and social burden upon individuals and society. The most effective method of alleviating congestion and road related trauma is to reduce the number of cars on our road, the only way to do this to provide viable alternatives.

Enhancing public transport so it is competitive car travel is that alternative.

I thank you once again for attending our forum.