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Media Release

19/05/2003

Melbourne’s Bus Plan - Goodbye to the Weakest Link?

The Public Transport Users Association has applauded the Metropolitan Bus Plan prepared by the state government and recently made public by the bus industry.

PTUA Secretary Vaughan Williams said that the BusPlan vision foreshadowed a revolution in public transport for all Melburnians.

"BusPlan has the potential to give Melbourne some of the best public transport in the world," said Mr Williams. "For too long, buses have been the 'weakest link' in our public transport. Bus services need to be made more like trams - running frequently through the day and evening every day of the year on direct, easy to understand routes. BusPlan provides a blueprint to do this."

Mr Williams said that the implementation of BusPlan would provide a viable alternative to motorists sick of traffic congestion or concerned to be more environmentally responsible.

"BusPlan will allow anyone to get almost anywhere, almost anytime, using public transport. As part of an integrated, seamless network of trams, trains and buses, public transport really can offer a level of convenience approaching that of the private car."

Mr Williams added that the implementation of BusPlan could be expected to deliver massive increases in patronage and revenue to Melbourne's train system.

"The key to success of a rail system is its ability to attract passengers from beyond walking distance. Melbourne currently fails to do this, but the experience of international cities shows that good buses help get people out of cars and onto trains," he said.

"We hope that the Government improves the rail network through increased service frequencies and new lines to Doncaster and Rowville when TrainPlan is released in the coming months. We also hope that the Government decides to retain and refurbish at least some of the older Hitachi trains to cope with passenger numbers as BusPlan is implemented."

"We commend the government for recognizing that people need to have an attractive service nearby if they are to use that service. It is not enough to set a target for 20% of trips on public transport when two-thirds of Melbourne has none to speak of. This plan will finally fix that, and we hope that its implementation proceeds without delay," concluded Mr Williams

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898


Background

The Plan
Bus Plan has been prepared as a follow on to the Melbourne 2030 planning strategy. It was recently released at an industry conference and subsequently published.

Some of the key features of bus plan as reported by Australasian Bus and Coach include

  • Premium services operating with a basic 15 minute frequency running 5 am until midnight, with genuine traffic priority and real-time passenger information systems
  • Local services operating at least 6 am until 10 pm, with 'improved frequencies'
  • Four new orbital bus routes
  • "Small but significant" improvements such as running routes right into railway stations
  • Sunday bus services extended to the entire metropolitan area.

The economic benefit of bus plan was estimated at $3.7 billion over 20 years and passenger growth forecasted at up to 308%. (The PTUA believes that even this impressive figure is conservative).

Buses as the weakest link
Currently, buses in Melbourne offer poor service. A typical bus route runs half-hourly or hourly through the day, stops before 7pm, and perhaps hourly on Saturdays until about 5pm (because people go to bed earlier on weekends?). Most bus routes offer no service on Sundays or public holidays. Most bus stops lack basic information like route maps and timetables and many routes are indirect and confusing to passengers. As a result, buses carry few 'choice' passengers (that is, those with access to cars).

Benefit to rail patronage, public transport as a whole, and the public purse
The majority of Melbourne's train passengers currently walk to stations. 80% of Melburnians live beyond walking distance from stations. Limited parking is available, but this fills quickly and is rarely available after peak hour. These people rarely use trains and almost never do so outside peak hour, because connecting bus services are so poor.

A good comparison is Toronto's much smaller rail system which carries over three times as many passengers. Some three-quarters of these passengers access stations by connecting trams and buses.

This means that poor bus services can undermine the viability of the rail system - conversely, good bus services can provide vital support by delivering passengers to stations.

The same is true in reverse - passengers travelling to stations provide buses with an important passenger market which combined with local travel helps support high quality services and bring public transport closer to paying its way.


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Last Modified: 19 May 2003