Millions of people living on the outskirts of Australia’s major cities are being left behind by a lack of access to public transport, a damning audit by the country’s independent infrastructure adviser reveals.
A new Infrastructure Australia report says it takes more than four million people over 15 minutes to walk to a reliable bus or train service, forcing many into cars.
Accessibility is worst in the outer areas of Melbourne, where 1.4 million commuters struggle to access frequently-running public transport.
Across Australia, one million commuters in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane, 200,000 in Adelaide and 500,000 in Perth have too far to walk.
“Australia’s public transport system moves millions of people every day. It’s important that people have access to high performing and frequent services,” Infrastructure Australia director of policy and research Peter Colacino told nine.com.au.
Mr Colacino also said more commuters are forced to drive long distances to work, contributing to a congestion bill that IA estimates will reach $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031. That figure is expected to blow out even further as Australia’s population grows.
But rather than recommend new rail lines, IA has called on state governments to increase the efficiency of existing systems and embrace on-demand buses.
“We urge governments to regularly review public service networks to make sure the supply of services matches demand. Some of our networks haven’t been reviewed in a long time,” Mr Colacino said.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Metro Trains service was rated the worst in the country by more than 3000 commuters surveyed this year by market researchers Canstar Blue.
It found 53 per cent of Melbourne commuters often experienced delays compared with 15 per cent in Perth and 26 per cent in Brisbane. And when it comes to overcrowding, 70 per cent in Melbourne said it was a common problem compared with 62 per cent in Sydney and 36 per cent in Adelaide.
Victoria’s minister for public transport, Jacinta Allan, said the Labor government has been working to address the state’s transport woes.
“Whilst the Victorian Liberals had four years and didn’t start a single major public transport project, the Andrews Labor Government is investing $40 billion in real road and rail projects right now, to get Victorians where they need to go,” she told nine.com.au.
“We’re not wasting a minute to build the transport system Victorians deserve and we’re doing all of this without our fair share of infrastructure funding from the Federal Liberal government.”
The Victorian state government is currently spending $20 billion on projects to improve public transport in outer suburbs.
It says it has also invested $200 million in better bus networks and opened new stations at Wyndham Vale, Tarneit and Caroline Springs to deliver heavy rail to the fastest growing parts of Victoria.
Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton welcomed Industry Australia’s report, saying access to public transport in Melbourne is “among the worst in the developed world”.
But he said Uber-style “demand responsive” or “ride share” services are not the answer to the city’s transport woes.
“These have been trialled in some other Australian cities and extensively in North America and elsewhere, and the results indicate that they are carrying even fewer passengers per service-kilometre than a current Melbourne bus does,” he told nine.com.au.
“For many years now we have been calling on state governments to reform bus networks …. Run the buses every 10 minutes instead of every hour, run them in straight lines along main roads and collectors, and give them priority at intersections.”