Baillieu urged to invest in public transport to save time, money and lives: PTUA

A renewed focus on improving public transport is needed to save Victorians time and money, and to cut the toll of death and injury on the roads, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today.

“Car dependence means more money has to be spent battling road congestion, more time is wasted in traffic, and more people are killed or injured going about their daily business,” said PTUA President Tony Morton. “We can free Victorians from car dependence and save money, time and lives by making public transport, walking and cycling more convenient for more people.”

In a submission ahead of the 2013 state budget, the PTUA has called on the Baillieu government to expand the coverage of fast and frequent public transport services by building long-awaited railway lines to Doncaster, Rowville and Mernda, and electrifying existing lines to Melton and Baxter. The submission also calls on the government to better integrate services, which was a key pre-election pledge.

“Many journeys don’t start and finish along the one public transport route,” said Dr Morton. “Services need to integrate, with quick and easy transfers, to allow people to leave their car at home. That’s why we need to overhaul bus routes [1], and to extend tram routes that currently fail to reach train stations and activity centres.”

Dr Morton also highlighted a number of measures that could increase capacity and help to relieve overcrowding on public transport much sooner than the proposed Melbourne Metro tunnel. “Several suburban railway lines and commuter belt regional lines still include sections of single track that limit capacity and cause delays to reverberate across the network when disruptions occur,” said Dr Morton. “These could be duplicated much sooner and at lower cost than the government’s current high-cost infrastructure wishlist.”

Other time and money-saving measures called for in the PTUA’s submission include:

  • An ongoing program to remove level crossings across Melbourne. According to Dr Morton, a steady stream of grade separation projects would also provide ongoing work that could build the capacity of local firms to deliver secure jobs and value-for-money infrastructure right across Melbourne, in constrast to the employment boom-and-bust of costly freeways [2].
  • A huge boost to the capacity of road-based public transport through a traffic priority programme to eliminate time-wasting at red lights for tram-loads of passengers. “The less time trams and buses sit at stop lights, the more services they can provide and the more people can leave their cars at home,” said Dr Morton.
  • A staged program of gauge standardisation for Victoria’s rail network. Accompanied by work to cut delays for both freight and regional passenger services, the program would enable freight from around Victoria to be shipped by rail to markets around Australia without requiring transfer to incompatible rolling stock or long-haul trucks.

“Public opinion polls consistently show that Victorians think public transport is a higher priority than encouraging even greater car dependency [3]. The Baillieu government was elected with a mandate to fix public transport, so it must now fulfill that mandate or risk the electorate’s ire in 2014,” concluded Dr Morton.

PTUA Victorian Budget Submission 2013 (PDF)