PTUA comments on TTF report on funding/concessions

PTUA comments on the Transport and Tourism Forum report on public transport funding:

We shouldn’t fall for the trap of believing that public transport should make a profit. It doesn’t recoup its costs any more than the public health system, the education system, law enforcement or for that matter the road system – these are all subsidised by taxpayers for the good of everyone. Even those who never use public transport recognise that if it wasn’t there, there would be chaos on our roads.

Melbourne’s public transport fares are already some of the highest in Australia, and for suburban trips, fares are often more expensive than just getting in the car. The danger of increasing fares further is that it will lead to a decline in patronage, requiring an even bigger taxpayer subsidy, and adding to the traffic on the roads.

However there is room to improve cost-recovery. Growing off-peak patronage by providing more frequent services would improve the overall return on the significant investment in rail infrastructure, for instance.

Better off-peak fares should be considered; almost nobody in Melbourne uses them at present because they have such limited availability, in contrast to V/Line services.

It is not clear there are a large number of people using concessions who don’t deserve to use concessions. If there were masses of passengers rorting the system, then it might be a problem, but we suggest that most of the people travelling on a concession fare genuinely need that concession fare.

Many of the TTF’s suggestions make sense, such as allowing retail development around stations, promoting transit-oriented development, and spreading peak demand. But raising fares is a sure-fire way of discouraging people from using public transport, further reducing revenue and making traffic congestion worse.

And they appear to have missed the most obvious funding source: stop encouraging more traffic by continuing to build expensive freeways, and instead fund fast, frequent public transport services that provide a genuine alternative to car travel.