It’s official: Traffic congestion caused by lack of public transport

Alternatives essential for sustainable and liveable city

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has warned the Bracks government to heed the findings of a new draft report on congestion that recognises a lack of alternatives to driving is a major contributor to traffic congestion.

“This report shows that despite Melbourne having more roads and freeways per capita than comparable cities, traffic congestion is getting worse, because many people have no choice but to drive”, said PTUA president Daniel Bowen. “Any government that is serious about managing congestion must ensure there are viable alternatives to car use. This means investing in a frequent, full-time public transport network covering the entire city.”

The new draft report on congestion has been prepared by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) at the request of the State Treasurer, John Brumby. Its release comes as the Bracks government puts the finishing touches on a pre-election Transport and Liveability Statement.

“Many of the world’s most liveable cities abandoned grandiose freeway plans long ago,” said Mr Bowen. “The Bracks government must now ensure sustainable transport alternatives are the foundation of its upcoming transport statement and pre-election budget.”

Mr Bowen said that world class cities — those cities that are the most vibrant, economically strong and internationally competitive — dealt with congestion by providing high quality public transport so that people can avoid traffic congestion, rather than being caught up in it, and that there were also benefits in better access to employment and education opportunities.

“Transport networks should be about the efficient movement of people and goods, rather than cars”, he said, noting that this was reflected in the draft report, which called for better use of existing road space for trams and buses, as well as institutional reform that ensured transport planning was done in a co-ordinated fashion, rather than being run by VicRoads.

Mr Bowen also noted the report cited the high use of cars in peak periods, which stymied business road users [p. xix], the finding that shifting personal trips to public transport provides strong benefits to freight [p. 313] and that international experience showed that increased road capacity was largely absorbed by induced demand [p. xxiv].

Late last year the PTUA issued a Five Year Plan for Melbourne’s transport system, including new and extended train lines and network-wide service improvements. The PTUA is now calling on the government to demonstrate its commitment prior to the state election by starting with a range of quick and easy improvements, including:

  • Traffic light priority measures for trams and buses and enforcement of tram fairways.
  • Bus lanes on key routes and turnaround facilities in Lonsdale Street.
  • Improving public transport service frequencies and operating hours, particularly addressing the poor services in suburbs served only by buses.
  • Reform transport timetabling to make best use of infrastructure and improve connectivity between services.
  • Increased staffing across the system.
  • A range of short tram extensions to reach nearby train stations.
  • A shift from minimum to maximum parking requirements, to discourage over-supply of carparking.
  • Instigating a city/state-wide walking & riding school bus program.
  • Moves to discourage car commuting by Victorian Government employees.
  • Enable funding public transport to access developer contributions.
  • Greater coherence between land-use planning and public transport provision.
  • A single transport budget subject to comprehensive and transparent triple-bottom-line (economic, environmental and social) criteria.

In the medium to longer term, the PTUA has called for government funding for train network extensions into suburban areas lacking in rail access, and an overhaul for buses to form a network of fast, frequent, direct routes.

“Mr Bracks has acknowledged that the government must expand and improve public transport services [1]”, said Mr Bowen. “It’s time for him to put his money where his mouth is and give all Melburnians an alternative to sitting in their car.”

About the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA):

Founded in 1976, the Public Transport Users Association is the recognised consumer organisation representing passengers of public transport. The PTUA is a non-profit, voluntary organisation with no political affiliation, which lobbies governments and public transport authorities in the interest of all users of public transport.

Contacts: PTUA Office 9650 7898

1. Birnbauer, W, 2006, ‘Free bus rides … if you’re English‘, The Age, 2 April 2006, viewed 2 April 2006.