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Thursday, 26 March 2015

A better approach to public transport commitments

In State election campaigns, we have come to expect political parties to make commitments to individual transport projects - a new rail line, bus route or ferry wharf.

But the quantity of projects, or their dollar value, are not synonymous with community benefit. 

A better approach would be to articulate principles and present a well thought out long term strategy.

New infrastructure is needed, but what are the principles that guide the selection and specification of individual projects? Without those principles, NSW will not get value for money, and is unlikely to achieve a discernible mode shift from car to public transport.

Here is a list of four things that need to be included in a public transport strategy for Sydney:
  1. A long term commitment to building a multi-destinational network. Only a small percentage of travel in Sydney is the trip from home to work - and a small fraction of these are trips to Sydney CBD. A substantial increase in public transport travel (and a drop in car trips) will only happen when PT can be used to travel to wherever you need to go, at a time that suits you. This is not as unrealistic or costly as might be assumed, but it does require intelligent network planning and integration. And it does mean Sydney PT users must get used to more journeys which include a transfer.
  2. Speed, frequency and simplicity are key elements of a successful network plan, plus measures to increase reliability. Practical strategies include fewer, straighter routes, greater distance between stops and more bus priority lanes.     
  3. Priorities for infrastructure projects will be determined by the network plan. Developments which have the biggest impact on achieving the long term network plan should proceed first.
  4. A modified fare structure to remove disincentives to public transport travel. This means removing penalties for transferring between modes, adopting the same fares for all modes and offering heavily discounted monthly, quarterly and annual travel passes. We don't want people to ration their use of public transport, as happens in the current pay as you go system. We want them to treat it as though it is free!   

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