Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The State of Public Transport in Melbourne Australia


Well if you have read my first blog you will know that I just recently lost my drivers license. This situation has led to many problems the worst of which is catching public transport in Melbourne.

For those who don’t know the structure of Melbourne it has grown mostly by Urban Sprawl primarily designed for car use. There is a limited rail network which was mostly constructed between 1880 and 1930, during the period after the Victorian gold rush but before the on set of the great depression. These early rail links formed all the population growth corridors though the outer suburbs. However with the advent of the car Victorias transport strategy largely shifted solely to moving people around via roads. Throughout the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s Melbourne went on a major freeway building regime constructing large corridors channelling traffic from the outer suburbs straight into the city. Melbourne has one of the largest contiguous freeway networks for a city of its size. Melbourne is a city built for the car, and until I lost my license I liked it that way.

Melbourne public transport system incorporates 3 distinct networks, rail, tram and buses. As said earlier the rail system was built very early on in the cities history and is completely inadequate to server today’s population which has tripled since the 1930’s when they stopped building new lines. The tram network as a whole functions fairly well except it only serves the inner suburbs and completely chokes the traffic on the roads they run along. My real problem lies with the bus network.

If you can use one word to describe the state of the bus network in Melbourne it would be “CRAP”. I live in what would be classified as the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. An area that was largely just cow paddock 30 years ago and thus it completely missed out on any rail or tram services so all we have to move us around is the buses. I also have the misfortune needing to catch 2 buses to get to my final destination which often means large waiting times at either end when I have to transfer.

Driving to work in a car takes me 26 minutes non peak or 40 minutes in peak time. It is a north-south journey so it doesn’t get too much traffic. This same journey daily on a bus takes me 1:30 non peak or up too 2 hours during peak. The worst thing is that the bus routes I take are some of the best in Melbourne. They are these new so called smart buses and unlike most bus routes they run in what is pretty close to a direct route.

The buses are everyday no matter what time I am on completely full of people often requiring me to stand up for the entire journey. The main users of public transport are recently immigrated people from either Asia or India who are unable to speak English and delay the buses further taking a large amount of time communicating which ticket they need.

I think public transport will always be much less comfortable than personal transport and once I have my licence back I will go straight to the Car Lot and purchase a new car so that I will never have to get on a bus again. However there are things this government can do that will help alleviate the major problems on the network today.

  1. Improve all major roads and include dedicated bus lines. This does not mean closing down existing public lanes but adding new lanes specifically for high volume transport. On roads where traffic is being pushed onto newly built freeways such as Springvale and Stud rds close down 1 lane for buses.
  2. Straighten up bus routes. Most of the buses in Melbourne run on zig-zag lines through back streets and take the most indirect route to the final destination. Buses should travel the same path that people would drive.
  3. Increase frequency. A “good” bus in Melbourne will run every 15-20min all day with very few running more than that and the vast majority running far less. There are many buses that only run once an hour out of peak. This is just an unacceptable situation making people wait for extremely long times to get connecting routes in the daily commutes just to get to work. Buses should run every 5 – 10 minutes this will reduce the over crowding and minimize waiting times.

Implementing these 3 action items will greatly increase the patronage on public transport in Melbourne however even with these benefits I for one will still be an avid user of private transport and will take my car to work regardless of the price of petrol.

4 comments:

PrincessT said...

I hear ya! I hate public transportation here, it sucks. I'm coming from Toronto, where I was spoiled by the subway. I'm one of the lucky ones who lives in the inner suburbs (ps - living in the inner suburbs = much cheaper than buying a car... think about it), and I still find having to wait 10 minutes for a tram confusing and frustrating. I'm used to just going to a subway station and being on the next train within 2 minutes. That's right, because Toronto, which is a city about the same size as Melbourne, manages to run their subway trains ever 2-4 minutes; that's all day, every day, not just peak times. Yet somehow, Melbourne can't manage to buy more buses - the cheapest and easiest public transportation system to implement. And while they're at it, run more trams! And you're right about the zig-zag routes - just run the bus in a freaking straight line for crying out loud! You shouldn't need an engineer to figure out the bus route map. No wonder Melbourne has the highest cars per capita for a city its size. I'm just counting the days to get my own license, and I was always a public transportation girl before I moved here.

odin749 said...

Hey yea I completely agree with what you said. It has been a long time since I wrote this post and I have since moved into southbank where all I have to do is walk to work. No more waiting for public transport.

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