this long line of cars will never have an end

8 March 2006 at 17:59 (General)

There is currently a debate in Melbourne arguing the pros and cons for making public transport free.

From the age:

“Critics of free public transport say it would have minimal impact on congestion and would lead to severe overcrowding unless more money was spent on rolling stock”

so the streets are going to remain crowded even if the public transport starts running at capacity? lol.

(ahhh, here’s the solution: at the moment there is a Ford ad next to the article: what does a courier 4×2 diesel give you that petrol trucks don’t? Thousands of extra kilometres a year)



  1. Drew said,

    Interesting article – something of interest to me especially as I wait to see how Melbourne public transport system copes with the influx of people for the Commonwealth Games, given that the system is at peak times is almost at capacity already…

    I personally agree with public transport being free, although there would need to be alternative sources of revenue raised from the tickets, it also means there’s no need for ticketing systems or inspectors.

    Obviously there’s a bit more to the argument than that, but I think fundamentally free public transport is a good idea, provided the infrastructure is in place to support it.

  2. Kent said,

    A far more important help would be the massive extension of public transport services so that more people can use it, rather than the ditching of fairly insignificant fees, if your goal is to cut down the amount of people driving around. If there were regular unley road – flinders buses, I’d be on public transport too. If there were buses running all night, I’d use them. Don’t need to make them free, just need to put them there in the first place.

    On the other hand, the people I know who drive to town would continue to do so even if they were paid to use public transport. These people you will never convert.

  3. toto said,

    Drew: I don’t think there would need to be an alternative source of revenue. The tax money was just going to be spent fixing up the roads or building more parking. However, it will only work if more people start using the services (clearing the roads) which isn’t good if you say that it’s already nearly at capacity. In other words perhaps it wouldn’t work at all.

    Kent: ‘fairly insignificant fees’? An adult multitrip costs ~$20. In Melbourne it is even more so, the monthly full ticket costs $100 for zone 1 and up to $186 if you go through all three zones. This is the discounted ‘buy in bulk’ fee, imagine if you were struggling to get by, I’m sure such ‘petty cash’ all of a sudden wouldn’t seem so insignificant. And it has further significance when people weigh up the cost of train tickets vs the cost of petrol.

    Transadelaide has just spent enormous time and effort trying to maximise their service with their limited resources. Running busses all night or running niche services may not be viable when there are better ways they can use the money and resources.

    I’m was never implying that transport in Adelaide should be free, I don’t think Adelaide has a massive transport overcrowding problem. I just thought it was idiotic for the critics to say that it wouldn’t effect congestion on the streets but would cause unbearable congestion on the public transport. Cars take up lots of space.

  4. Kent said,

    Oh good, we agree then. All night buses are indeed a crazy idea. Your prices still say little though: they’re adult prices, adults are assumed to be (and the vast majority are) working, and you have to get to work somehow. $100 a month is still cheaper than having a car, unless you live exceptionally close.

    My point is that plenty (sure, not all) of the cars on the road these days are not there for the hell of it. People have to get to work somehow. If it’s impractical for Transadelaide to run buses for them, then they have to drive. Making it free would make it no different for them (worse, even, because they’d be further subsidising the travel of others). My point was that if govts want to get cars off the road, the answer is expanding the reach of public transport – not making it cheaper.

  5. Deirdre said,

    Drew said Melbourne public transport is at near-capacity during peak times, but when I was there in January the trams were practically deserted during the day. Maybe this all-or-nothing pattern is a big part of the problem? There might be rules about the minimum hours worked in a shift, say, meaning that if they put on extra drivers/cleaners/maintenance workers etc. to cover the peak demand, they’d also have to employ them during the off-peak times when there is very little need for the already-existing services, let alone extra ones. I don’t have any idea, obviously, but if that was the case, and the real purpose was to increase off-peak use of public transport, I think the offer of free travel might have a big effect, appealing to non-traditional-worker types who need to count their pennies. If more passengers could be found for off-peak times, then it would then be possible to justify adding more services for peak times, in turn making these trips more pleasant and so more likely to attract more passengers. A self-propelling circle, in other words: more passengers leads to better services, leads to more passengers, and on and on to public transport heaven.

    Alternatively, every household could be issued with a horse and sulky, and a big bag of oats distributed to all the horses once per week. This is completely ludicrous idea which appeals to me a great deal, and would doubtless appeal to tourists also. Any of our capital cities could become the Horse Capital of the World, and just think how proud we would be then.


  6. Deirdre said,

    Damn. I was in Melbourne in December, not January. Not that it matters.

  7. Kent said,

    “I think the offer of free travel might have a big effect, appealing to non-traditional-worker types who need to count their pennies.”

    Yes – but this achieves nothing -or not much. You’re talking about people who wouldn’t otherwise travel. But going on…

    “If more passengers could be found for off-peak times, then it would then be possible to justify adding more services for peak times, in turn making these trips more pleasant and so more likely to attract more passengers”

    Yes but adding more peak services will add to the already nasty traffic congestion, and I wonder how much more pleasant already long trips will be then? (At off-peak times, my bus into town takes about 18-20 mins – peak times it can take up to 50 mins. And calling even bad peak hour traffic en route here ‘congested’ is laughable compared to Melb or esp. Sydney. Hell, peak here is a little like Sydney off-peak.) And, like I said, none of this will help those who drive because they have to – unless the extra peak services were those unusually routed ones, which might indeed be a good idea.

  8. toto said,

    “none of this will help those who drive because they have to”…

    correction, many are capable of cycling.


  9. Deirdre said,

    Yeah, and we could teach the horses to cycle too. They’re very quick learners.

    “You’re talking about people who wouldn’t otherwise travel.” No I’m not. I’m talking about anyone who doesn’t go to/from work in peak times, which could cover anyone who doesn’t go to/from work in peak times, strangely enough. There might be a few of them, not all going to work, but maybe one or two nevertheless capable and desirous of travel and who might otherwise be using a car.

    And the point of adding peak services is to replace cars, thereby reducing congestion. If your trips in buses take too long, a lane should be taken away from the cars and devoted to the buses instead – making car trips longer and bus trips shorter. I was thinking more about the comfort of the inside of the vehicle anyway. Getting squished into something that resembles a cattle truck just encourages people to use private transport.

  10. Kent said,

    I was waiting for you to resort to bicycles. It’s like Godwin’s Law of transport.

    And Deirdre: “A few” indeed – the only people your plan will take in are those who could use off-peak transport now, but only will if it’s free, and they drive at the moment. A few indeed. Those congested 1am/1pm roads are a real problem.

  11. toto said,

    well, I am a cyclist. It’s like going to church and complaining when they ‘resort’ to talking about god.

    I don’t resort to bicycles. They are a valid solution; often superior to every other option in many ways. But they’re nearly always overlooked.

  12. Deirdre said,

    So forget my plan then, Kent. My horse theory was much better anyway.

  13. Kent said,

    Better for you. Other people might come to other conclusions. I can think of a few: not fit enough, too dangerous, too unpleasant when it’s wet or hot.

    Your church analogy is a good one. Many are capable of achieving happiness by believing in an omnibenevolent deity and immortality, and many think I should, but opinions are divided. Same goes for commuter cycling.

  14. Kent said,

    Sorry Deirdre, I was responding to Matty then.

  15. Drew said,

    Deirdre – you’re right about the system not being busy at off-peak times in Melbourne; you would have no trouble heading away from town at peak times, nor travelling in the middle of the day. However, catching a morning train to town anytime between 7:30 and 8:30 will almost guarantee a packed train on any line, as will travelling outbound from 5:00 – 6:00.

    As you pointed out though, the whole issue with having a lot empty off-peak services may not be cost effective for Connex (especially given that Bracks is already subsidising them to the tune of $350m annually).

    Not sure if this is a valid excuse – if people can’t catch trains when they need to (which for most commuters, is in the peak morning and evening periods), shouldn’t the operator be obliged to offer some additional services at the times required, even if it it does result in extra off-peak trains?

    Oh, and this blog I foud might be interesting – a guy who’s basically set up a blog complaining about Connex (the current train operators).. quite an interesting read =)

  16. Deirdre said,

    Waving at you, Drew: hello!

    This is a good question: “shouldn’t the operator be obliged to offer some additional services at the times required, even if it it does result in extra off-peak trains?” I think they should be, but not if it’s a private company – I don’t think a private company should be running public transport. All I know about Connex is from that blog from the Whinger (nice tables: very impressed), but if it’s subsidised by the govt, that suggests it’s a private/public hybrid, and maybe that’s where all the trouble starts. On one hand they need to make a profit, on the other hand they need to provide services at a loss.

    But it depends on the way you look at it, too. You could say public money is not only subsiding Connex, it’s also subsiding (a) industry (by moving the workforce and customers where they need to be) (b) families (getting offspring to/from educational commitments) (c) power companies (using lots of electricity/fuel) (d) housing and state planning (allowing outer city development) (e) the roads and traffic authority (reducing the load there), not to mention supporting the health and welfare of the population by providing access to sporting events.
    There might be health benefits, too, for people and the larger environment. All I mean is, probably it’s an issue that spans such a large range of OTHER issues, it needs to be approached wholistically, and by a public-spirited team rather than a profit-minded board. (Not having a go at profit-minded boards, btw, they’re just doing their jobs. Actually, I would be having a go at them if they’re selfishly blinkered about their place and effects in the world, but that’s another story.)

  17. matty said,

    hmmm… you come across as being very hostile kent. hope you are okay.

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