The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the government to take the next big step in upgrading public transport services.
In launching their “Every 10 minutes to everywhere” plan at a climate change and transport forum at Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday, PTUA president Daniel Bowen noted the urgency for action on climate change, and said that it was time to provide people right across Melbourne and regional cities with a viable alternative to driving.
“The focus in the past decades has been on CBD peak-hour commuters”, said Mr Bowen, “and that market has been won. Around 80% of motorised trips into Melbourne’s CBD on weekdays is by public transport. But for trips elsewhere, the share is only 9%, and it has barely moved in years.”
In highlighting the aspects of high quality public transport that were needed to get people out of cars, Mr Bowen said that long waiting times in particular were the biggest problem. “When the waiting time for your train, tram or bus exceeds the total time it would take you if you just drove, the car is always going to win,” he said.
The PTUA plan envisages a network of services right across Melbourne, running every 10 minutes from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week. The network would include trams, trains, and buses along every main road, to form a “web” of services enabling anyone to travel from anywhere to anywhere by public transport with a minimum of waiting.
As part of the plan, minor tram extensions would be built to ensure tram routes terminated in shopping centres and interchange to the rail network was improved. Electric trains would be extended or electrified to South Morang and Mernda, Sunbury, Rowville via Monash, Doncaster and Cranbourne East, to keep up with rapidly growing outer-suburbs. Trams and buses would get more priority at intersections to speed up trips, and the roll-out of accessible trams and tram stops would be accelerated.
Staff would be on every station, and after midnight a comprehensive Nightrider bus network would run every half-hour to ensure shift-workers and party-goers also had a public transport option.
Similar services would be rolled out in Victoria’s regional cities and towns, where currently the only viable public transport is often the train service to Melbourne, and virtually all other trips are done by car.
Mr Bowen said that most of the plan could be implemented within five years, and did not require expensive infrastructure. “We already have enough trains and trams to run them more frequently outside peak hours, including evenings and weekends. Some buses would be needed, and some sections of single track on the rail network would need duplicating, but by and large the infrastructure and fleet are already capable of this; costs would be mostly in employing extra driving staff — which is cheap compared to building multi-billion dollar tunnels.”
Mr Bowen added that extra peak hour services were also possible. “Once we use the City Loop to its full potential, the real need is not for more tracks but for more trains, to replace the ones the government foolishly scrapped five years ago.
“If the government is serious about getting people out of cars, providing fast, frequent public transport right across Melbourne is not an option — it’s essential, to move quickly on climate change, to provide relief from petrol prices, and get people out of cars”, concluded Mr Bowen.