Category Archives: Media releases

Incremental improvements welcome, still waiting for big investment in service, says PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association has welcomed the Victorian Government’s ongoing commitment to improving the state’s public transport networks, but says Victorians are still waiting for a ‘step change’ investment in service delivery to match the government’s record in building infrastructure.

“We’re pleased to see improved metro and regional train services roll out with the ‘switch on’ of the government’s Big Build,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “A boost to scheduled service kilometres on the bus network shows we’re moving in the right direction, and there are important new initiatives on V/Line rolling stock, accessible tram stops and regional services.”

New investments in public transport and rail freight networks and operations total $1.38 billion over the forward estimates, compared with $965 million of new investment in roads and private car travel, and $43 million on walking and cycling.

But Dr Morton emphasised these improvements were still incremental in nature, and fell short of the game-changing investment needed in service frequencies and span across the bus, tram and train networks to meet Victoria’s climate and accessibility challenges, and compensate for decades of neglect of alternatives to car travel.

“The experts say we need to cut carbon emissions by at least two-thirds in the next decade to have any chance of keeping climate heating below 2 degrees, and limiting catastrophic damage to our way of life,” Dr Morton said. “Transport has to start doing the heavy lifting, as on current trends it’s set to become our largest source of emissions. And we won’t get there just by getting everyone to buy an electric car: on realistic estimates, even a fully electrified car fleet in 2030 will still produce carbon emissions per passenger about one-third that of cars today, and three or four times higher than a moderately loaded diesel bus.” [1]

A step change in frequent public transport services across suburbs and regional cities is also essential to COVID recovery, according to the PTUA. “Transport planning is now playing catch-up to the shift in daily travel patterns,” Dr Morton said. “More people are doing their day-to-day activities close to home on weekdays, but finding their local public transport isn’t up to the task, given how the planning of services has been so heavily skewed toward CBD commuting for so long. The world’s other most livable cities show how public transport can work for both commuting and for local travel.”

“We also need to improve access to our transport network, for people of all backgrounds, all needs and all abilities,” said Dr Morton. “There are great accessibility improvements with the new V/Locity rollout, and close to $100 million of investment in making our tram network accessible. It’s all very welcome, but at the same time, it will still take decades at this rate to have a fully accessible public transport system.”

The PTUA remains optimistic about future service improvements following through from the state’s Big Build initiatives, including the Metro Tunnel and Suburban Rail Loop. “But that’s no reason to overlook what can be accomplished now, with our substantial existing infrastructure and resources, to get Victorians moving again without creating a new traffic and emissions nightmare.”


Notes:
[1] Calculations for a renewable electricity transition similar to AEMO’s ‘step change’ scenario project that a fully electrified car fleet will entail emissions from electricity of approximately 80g CO2-e per passenger kilometre in 2030. This compares with 22g CO2-e per passenger kilometre on a diesel bus carrying 40 passengers. See ptua.org.au/myths/electrify

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40 years on, time to scrap the 7-day Myki Pass

Fare reform needed for a post-COVID world

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the State Government to review public transport fares, and make adjustments to reflect expected changes to travel demand as Victoria comes out of COVID-19.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said October 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of Melbourne’s public transport fare zones and tickets allowing travel for a specific time: 2 hours, daily, weekly, or longer.

“Zones were revolutionary, bringing Melbourne’s trams, trains and buses under a common ticket and fare system for the first time. This helped lead to higher patronage, as passengers could buy one ticket to cover a connected journey on a bus, train and tram.”

Mr Bowen said that forty years on, there had been a huge impact of COVID-19 on public transport demand. A new Monash University Public Transport Research Group paper predicts patronage will most likely return to 80% of normal.[1]

But CBD commutes are expected to remain at lower levels, with probable widespread shift to part-time Work From Home arrangements for many office workers.

Mr Bowen said the State Government should reform the fare system to make sure public transport remains attractive.

“There is a chance to make changes to ensure public transport is attractive for people as we come out of COVID, including for off-peak, non-work journeys.”

A key reform proposed by the PTUA would be removing the 7-day Myki Pass and replacing it with an automatic fare cap at a reduced cost of 4 days, or fewer.[2]

“Currently the 7-day Pass provides a week of travel for the cost of 5 days. So it can benefit some regular travellers, but only if they are using the system 6 or 7 days a week. And to get that benefit, the Pass needs to be pre-purchased and loaded onto the Myki card.

“For many people, the days of commuting 5 days a week to the office are over. A cheaper weekly cap would help improve the attractiveness of public transport for both work and non-work trips, even for passengers who are only commuting to work 3 days a week.”

Weekly fare caps are used in cities such as Sydney and London[3]. Unlike prepaid weekly Passes, they can be used by those who are not sure of their travel patterns at the start of the week.

“This change would also mean a cost saving for those who still commute 5 days a week, and it would make Myki auto-top up work better for more people.”

The PTUA also believes the 30% off-peak discount should be returned, and made permanent. The discount was a temporary measure introduced in 2020, and ended in August.

Other fare changes worth consideration are removal of the Free Tram Zone, to relieve CBD tram crowding and delays, and either replacing the train-only Earlybird fare with the off-peak discount, or making it multi-modal.

V/Line fares should also be reviewed to remove discrepancies with metropolitan fares such as the big price jump when travelling from Melbourne to outside Zone 2.

“Melbourne’s zone system now spreads well into regional Victoria, and has served us well. But as we recover from the pandemic, the fare system must be revamped to ensure public transport is still a competitive, viable option for more Victorians”, concluded Mr Bowen.


[1] Graham Currie et al, Evidence of a post-COVID change in travel behaviour – Self-reported expectations of commuting in Melbourne https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856421002391

[2] Automatic fare capping was built into the Myki system, but is currently only used for daily fare caps.

Currently under Myki, a 7-Day Pass must be preloaded onto the Myki card. It is priced at 5 x the Daily fare. Prior to Myki, a weekly ticket was about 4.3 x the Daily fare.

[3] Many cities including Melbourne use a daily cap system. Cities with longer fare caps include:

Coverage of this story: Herald Sun 28/10/2021: Fares cap urged for myki users

PTUA welcomes Auditor-General’s report into Transport Planning

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the Victorian Auditor-General`s report into Integrated Transport Planning.[1]

The Auditor-General found that while the Department Of Transport has more than 40 separate plans and strategies, this does not constitute an integrated transport plan, as required by the Transport Integration Act.

PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said the PTUA supports the Auditor-General’s calls for the State Government to ensure that an integrated transport plan is prepared and made public, as soon as possible.

“With the huge government investment in transport at the moment, it’s crucial that it’s all working towards a clear, shared goal. For example, given the enduring view that we should move towards zero emissions, and become less dependent on private car travel, a proper transport plan would consider whether widening the Eastern Freeway to 20 lanes actually contributes to that goal.

“Likewise, we should have a public transport system where all the different modes connect with each other seamlessly to get people where they need to go. This means an easy and accessible walk to the bus stop, a bus that’s timetabled to connect with the local train, and level boarding at the tram stop.

“We all rely on the transport system for access to jobs, education, services and a myriad of other journeys. Better public transport services and effective transport planning are key to achieving sustainability and continued prosperity for Melbourne and Victoria.”

[1] https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/integrated-transport-planning

Bus performance data welcomed – and highlights the need for improvements

The PTUA has applauded the State government’s release of bus network performance data for the first time.[1]

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said the organisation had been asking for years for the data to be published, to help transparency and accountability around the bus network.

“Detailed train and tram performance data has been published for decades now. Buses have yet again been the poor cousin, despite upgrades to realtime tracking equipment some years ago.

“We’re very pleased to see the government finally release this information, to drive discussion and debate about how to improve bus services.”

Mr Bowen said that PTV/DOT should continue to release transport network performance data, including punctuality information for regional buses where available, and that it would be preferable to allow users to export and filter the data more effectively, to aid transparency and analysis.

As expected, the bus performance data showed that punctuality improved during 2020 as COVID-19 took hold, with fewer passengers using the service, the removal of on-board payments, and less traffic.

However the data also showed that some routes have ongoing poor punctuality problems. The routes with the lowest ontime performance from January 2019 to June 2021 were:

Route Ontime*
Jan 2019-Jun 2021
Ontime
Jan-Dec 2020
Highest ontime month
2020
606Elsternwick to Fishermans Bend70.7%78.9%91.6% (Sep 2020)
182Werribee to Tarneit70.9%NANA (Route started 30/5/2021)
417Laverton to Laverton North72.3%77.8%91.5% (Sep 2020)
538Broadmeadows to Somerset Estate77.5%82.6%93.5% (Aug 2020)
795Warneet to Cranbourne79.0%79.5%89.0% (Aug 2020)
400Sunshine to Laverton80.0%77.7%87.0% (Apr 2020)
745Knox to Bayswater80.0%82.9%89.5% (Sep 2020)
693Belgrave to Oakleigh81.0%89.1%96.7% (Aug 2020)
414Laverton to Footscray81.5%85.9%95.0% (Sep 2020)
303Ringwood North to City81.6%84.2%86.5% (Oct and Nov 2020)
NETWORK WIDE AVERAGE90.4%92.9%96.7% (Aug 2020)

*PTV defines ontime as no more than 4 minutes 59 seconds late, and no more than 59 seconds early

Surprisingly, routes 795, 400, 745 and 303 were unable to achieve 90% punctuality (within five minutes) at any time during 2020, despite few passengers and little traffic during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Mr Bowen said that if people couldn’t rely on bus services, they wouldn’t use them.

“Logical routes, good timetables and frequent services are all important. But if buses are rarely on time, even when there’s no traffic on the roads, how can passengers rely on them?”

The PTUA believes the newly released data should help the State government prioritise improvements to bus services, including on-road priority.

“Buses are vital for serving journeys not possible by train and tram. The government’s recent release of a high level plan[2] for improvements to bus services is very welcome. This data helps show which routes need immediate attention.

“While it might be justified in some cases to adjust timetables to better match traffic delays, a better outcome is improved on-road priority: smarter traffic light priority, removal of indented bus stops, and bus lanes and queue jump lanes at intersections where possible.

“Other measures such as ‘Rapid Running’ on frequent routes[3] and all-door boarding can also help cut delays.

“Of course, the most punctual bus service won’t get passengers if the route is indirect and the buses don’t come frequently. Most Melbourne buses don’t provide the service level needed to attract people out of their cars – and town buses in regional Victoria are even worse.

“Priority measures must be matched by commitments to boost services and provide a bus network that meets the 21st century travel needs of Victorians”, concluded Mr Bowen.

* * *

[1] https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-public-data-reveals-high-performing-bus-network 

Data is published at https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/footer/data-and-reporting/network-performance/monthly-performance/
– and follow the link to the Power BI App.

[2] https://transport.vic.gov.au/getting-around/public-transport/buses 

[3] https://www.ptua.org.au/2021/06/15/rapid-running/ 

A steady-as-she-goes transport budget for COVID recovery

The Victorian Government’s 2021-22 budget reflects its cautious approach to post-COVID economic recovery but is building steadily on its previous commitments for public transport and rail freight, according to the Public Transport Users Association.

New commitments in the budget are a healthy reassertion of the need to compensate for the three decades of disinvestment in public transport infrastructure and services prior to 2010. New expenditure on public and active transport initiatives totals $2.9 billion in this budget, accompanied by $741 million in new expenditure on initiatives supporting roads and private car travel.* This, however, comes on top of prior spending that on the whole has favoured roads over public transport.

“On the whole, these new initiatives in both public transport and roads are sensible, pragmatic commitments to ensure our existing transport networks operate well into the future,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton.

The largest single item of new transport expenditure is the purchase of new suburban train rolling stock, which is budgeted at around $1 billion but with few details yet disclosed regarding timelines. “This is a welcome and necessary investment but the details are still vague, in particular how much of the expenditure is to take place beyond the forward estimates,” Dr Morton said. “We trust that by next year there will be clear targets for how much is to be spent and what year we can realistically expect all these new trains to be on the tracks – particularly given the delays in the earlier Evolution train order.”

Other initiatives include a programme of improvements and increased maintenance on the regional train network, improvements to tram infrastructure including additional separation from cars, new work at Caulfield station to speed up trains and improve interchange with Metro Tunnel services, and a catalogue of minor bus service improvements.

“We commend the government in particular for including new bus routes in growth areas and investing in the sustainability of the suburban bus network,” Dr Morton said. He pointed to the introduction of new or more frequent bus services in Clyde, Tarneit, Yarra Ranges and Fishermans Bend. “At the same time, it’s only hinting at the kind of reform that’s needed in order to support new home-based travel patterns in our suburbs post COVID.”

“The entire package of bus improvements amounts to an extra $15 million a year. That’s less than what is typically spent expanding one railway station car park catering for a fraction of the patronage.”

“Overall we see the government building on its solid infrastructure credentials in this budget,” said Dr Morton. “But we also look forward to seeing a more transformative approach to bus and tram services in particular, as our new post-COVID travel patterns become permanent.”

PTUA welcomes rail investment, calls for more funding for services

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) welcomed today’s Victorian Budget, with substantial investment in rail infrastructure, as well as expansion of the accessible tram fleet.

“The planned upgrade to the Geelong line, and the long-awaited Airport rail line are very welcome”, said PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen. “It’s also great to see funding for regional rail upgrades and zero-emissions buses, and the Suburban Rail Loop kick-started.

“Suburban Rail Loop is the type of project that can help the shift from a car dependent to a sustainable transport community – in contrast to the government’s major motorway projects such as North East Link and West Gate Tunnel, which unfortunately are pulling Melbourne in the opposite direction.”

Mr Bowen said the investment in trams was a big step forward. “100 new low-floor trams will make a big difference, though obviously this will need to be followed-up with further investment to make the whole tram fleet accessible, and the government must work harder at accelerating the rollout of tram platform stops.”

Mr Bowen said that funding for bus and tram network planning was also welcome, and along with the infrastructure projects, planted the seeds for future service upgrades.

“The sooner service improvements such as on-road priority, bus route reform and frequency upgrades can be delivered, the better”, said Mr Bowen.

“Labor has an impressive record on infrastructure. But public transport isn’t just about infrastructure. It’s also about fast, reliable, frequent services – these are key to encouraging people to use the system, and getting the maximum return for the substantial investment in that infrastructure.”

Public transport service provision per capita has declined in recent years, according to figures compiled by Monash University[1]. Mr Bowen said that “while this budget funds some extra bus services, overall, public transport services are not keeping up with population growth.”

Mr Bowen said that as the state comes out of COVID-19, it is vital that the government supports the recovery, particularly by targeting public transport upgrades at the outer suburban and regional communities hit hardest by the economic downturn.

“Good quality public transport has a vital role to play in ensuring that people right across Melbourne and Victoria have good access to jobs, education and opportunity – without the financial burden of every adult in the household having to own and run a car.

“More frequent trams, trains and buses across the day are desperately needed to cut waiting times, improve connections, and provide a viable alternative to driving”, concluded Mr Bowen.


[1] Government News: Melbourne population boom outstrips transport

PTUA concerned on curfew cuts

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) is concerned at the rush to cut public transport services during Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown and curfew, causing confusion and delays for those who have to travel.

“While we appreciate the need to scale back services at a time when much of the economy is shutting down, there has been a severe impact on those who need to travel for essential work, and a lack of information”, said PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen.

“On Monday night details of drastic evening service cuts for trams and trains were only published as they took effect, giving travellers no time to plan ahead.

“A number of bus services also saw cuts after 8pm, but many of these were not published anywhere, leaving passengers in the dark.”

The PTUA believes the cuts should have waited until Thursday when the workplace shutdowns start in earnest, allowing time to better plan and communicate the changes.

Mr Bowen said that the cuts need to be refined, with a better outcome being a paring back of high frequency peak services, and leaving something closer to the usual service in place after 8pm for essential workers. In the case of trams and trains, this might be the equivalent of a Saturday timetable.

The sudden changes on Monday night left trains running mostly hourly, but with some gaps of up to 90 minutes or more [1].

“While the capacity will probably be sufficient to maintain physical distancing given the curfew and the shutdown of most workplaces, the big problem is the wait times. Imagine finishing your shift at 11pm and having to wait 90 minutes for your train home”, said Mr Bowen.

“For those who have to get to and from work in the evening, it makes the service nearly unusable, particularly if making connections between services.

“Meanwhile, with most white-collar workers at home, services running every few minutes in peak hour are near-empty.”

Mr Bowen called on the government to refine the timetable changes to better support essential workers such as those in distribution centres and medical roles.

“Trams and trains on a Saturday timetable every day would be a far better outcome for passengers compared to the situation we have now.”

“We know it’s a fast evolving situation. We urge authorities to look at this again: ensure a minimum 30 minute frequency on metro train lines in the evenings so those who have to work still have a service they can use”, concluded Mr Bowen.


[1] On the Craigieburn line, the second and third last outbound trains were cancelled, leaving a service gap of 98 minutes between 10:52pm and 12:30am.


Coverage of this story:

PTUA welcomes additional services

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has applauded the additional train and tram services announced on Friday by the Victorian Government.

“These changes are very welcome”, said PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen.

“Train service frequencies drop off outside peak hours, resulting in long wait times and – under normal circumstances – crowding.

“We have been concerned about the ability of travellers to maintain safe physical distancing on busy services, particularly outside of peak times. These additions to the timetable are a welcome step towards providing all-day frequent services on Melbourne’s public transport network.”

In addition, the Department of Transport and bus operators have announced the formal adoption of ‘all-door boarding’ for buses. This change will help reduce crowding at bus stops – another important measure to keep people safe – with the additional benefit of faster boarding.

Mr Bowen said speeding up buses would bring widespread benefits for passengers, particularly if timetables were adjusted to take advantage of the shortened dwell times, and further boosted by on-road priority and service upgrades.

“Cities around the world have seen delays at stops reduce thanks to all-door boarding[1]. Faster bus journeys is great news for passengers.

“It also will be important for authorities to properly promote and improve Myki top-up options, including Mobile Myki, to ensure that bus passengers have every opportunity to pay their fare.”

“New Transport Minister Ben Caroll has hit the ground running with these upgrades. We look forward to continued improvements to Victoria’s public transport services”, concluded Mr Bowen.


[1] North American case studies showed dwell reductions of up to 50%. https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/NACTO_Better-Buses_Boarding.pdf

COVID-19: Public transport timetable boost needed to help stagger trips

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the State Government to boost public transport services across the day as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.

A PTUA analysis of train timetables found that on some lines, services and capacity dropped by two-thirds outside peak hour.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said that as people returned to work and students returned to schools and universities, social distancing was going to be critical, and that spreading peak demand was a key part of achieving this.

“It’s clear that we can’t return to the usual peak loads, with rampant overcrowding on trains, trams and buses”, Mr Bowen said.

“We don’t want a situation like Adelaide, where passengers are unable to maintain social distancing.[1]

“It makes sense to encourage staggered working hours, with people travelling at different times – but this won’t help if public transport frequency and capacity is not boosted to enable it.”

Analysis of Melbourne train timetables shows that capacity is cut by up to two-thirds outside peak hour.[2]

“This means that on some lines, off-peak trains can be as crowded as peak hour”, said Mr Bowen.[3]

Mr Bowen said that while public transport infrastructure and fleets were stretched during peak hour, for most of the day there is spare capacity sitting idle.

In recent years, Perth and Sydney have boosted rail timetables to at least every 15 minutes all day [4].

In contrast most of Melbourne’s stations have trains only every 20 minutes – unchanged for decades – despite normally strong overall travel demand throughout the day.[5]

Melbourne buses and outer-urban V/Line services are even less frequent, with 30-40 minute waits between services being common, making connections difficult.

“The public transport network is key to Melbourne’s economic recovery from this crisis. But it must be run in a way that ensures passengers and staff are as safe as possible.”

Mr Bowen said that some passengers were wary about returning to public transport.

“The increased cleaning on the system is very welcome, and should continue. The government should seek health advice on options such as deploying hand sanitiser dispensers at stations, and the effective use of masks.

“But fundamentally, capacity must be managed, and the key to this is encouraging staggered travel, which is only possible by providing sufficient services throughout the day”, concluded Mr Bowen.


[1] ABC: Coronavirus concerns raised by Adelaide rail passengers after social distancing breaches revealed

[2] Comparisons of train timetables showed that the Sunbury, Craigieburn, Mernda and Hurstbridge lines service frequency and capacity drop by two-thirds (66.7%) outside peak hours.

The graph below shows trains per hour 8:00am-8:59am vs 10:00-10:59am at the “city cordon” (Richmond, Jolimont or North Melbourne). Percentage is the reduction to capacity outside peak.

Peak vs off-peak train services

Notes:

  • Lilydale/Belgrave/Alamein measured as 10:30-11:29am to reflect the 8 trains per hour pattern that runs from 10:30am to 1pm. Frequency then drops further to 4 tph after 1pm.
  • Upfield and Williamstown see no capacity reduction outside peak because the peak and off-peak service is near-identical, with only 3 trains per hour
  • Network-wide, overall capacity (train services per hour) drops by 55.6% outside peak hour. Evening service capacity (8pm-8:59pm) is 70.9% lower than peak hour.

[3] PTUA: Midday trains crowded

[4] Sydney Trains since 2017 have had services every 15 minutes or better, all day until 11pm to 71% of stations. Sydney Morning Herald report.

[5] PTUA: Call for Govt to fund official PTV “every 10 minutes” train plan


See also:

Herald Sun: Public transport group urges for more off-peak services to help social distancing on trains

Transport for Everyone: Post COVID-19 Recovery – New vision for buses

(Media release from Transport For Everyone)

Key transport professionals have jointly written to the Victorian Premier urging the Government’s Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce to focus on upgrading bus services and active transport through a 5-point plan to improve mobility for Melbourne and build jobs as part of recovery from COVID-19.

The 5-point plan seeks a new vision for buses: fast tracking local bus reviews, delivering bus priority and enhanced Smart Bus top-10 corridors planned for future rail upgrade. Also sought, is boosting domestic jobs in bus building including electric buses to replace polluting diesel fleets.

The joint representations including by Monash Professor of Public Transport Graham Currie, University of Sydney Business School Adjunct Professor John Stanley, and transport groups across Melbourne, emphasise that “bus and active transport upgrades are quick to implement for immediate impact at a fraction of the cost of large scale infrastructure projects.”

They join the Eastern Transport Coalition (ETC), Public Transport Users Association, (PTUA), Transport for Everyone (T4e), Transport for Melbourne (T4M), Victorian Transport Action Group (VTAG) and others to urge that “The massive economic impact on budgets of the COVID-19 emergency necessitates more expedient transport outcomes in advance of longer term projects.”

T4e President, Cr Jackie Fristacky points out that “Public transport is an essential service”, yet “70% of Melbourne is beyond the effective reach of trams or trains and rely on buses. Despite this, many metropolitan bus services are underutilised due to infrequent, indirect services and which miss good catchments. This has led to high car dependency and travel cost burdens on households.”

“And it is many of these areas of Melbourne that have been most adversely impacted by COVID-19”, said Cr Fristacky.

The transport groups are united in the view that “The current period of reduced patronage due to COVID-19 provides the opportunity to revise poorly performing bus routes to work the bus fleet harder to make it more useful, more productive and efficient.”

Successes of frequent and regular direct Smart Bus services and University bus shuttles demonstrate the potential to substantially upgrade poorly performing bus routes to improve access and efficiency in services, build patronage and create jobs.