Sydney Public Transport
This thread is dedicated for the general trend in public transport overall instead of specific discussion in one particular mode. To start off, here is a related article.
22 million more trips on public transport
Date: February 22 2009
A GROWING number of Sydney commuters are abandoning their cars in favour of trains and buses as economic and environmental concerns bite, with experts predicting the start of a fundamental, long-term shift in travel behaviour.
Sydneysiders undertook about 22 million more train and bus journeys last year than the year before, and tens of thousands of people have abandoned the two main roads into the city this year.
As petrol prices soared and some commuters paid more than $10 each way in tolls, CityRail experienced a 5.7 per cent increase in patronage - about 17 million individual journeys - from December 2007 to December 2008.
There were also 5.6 million more trips on State Transit buses - up 3 per cent - despite the fact that many services, particularly those in the inner city and eastern suburbs, are already packed to capacity.
Public transport use is expected to swell further with the long-delayed opening of the Epping to Chatswood rail link tomorrow.
Meanwhile, The Sun-Herald can reveal that 10 Australian and international companies have expressed interest in running a privatised Sydney Harbour ferry service.
Nationwide research commissioned by Victorian transport authority Metlink shows a growing number of people switched from using cars to public transport last year, due in part to high petrol prices. Among the Sydneysiders surveyed, 62 per cent said they were substituting car use with train, bus, or ferry travel.
Figures from the Roads and Traffic Authority show this trend has continued in 2009, despite fuel costs falling, suggesting that the economic downturn, environmental and health concerns may be making public transport a more attractive option.
Forty-one-thousand fewer cars used Sydney's most congested harbour crossings - the Harbour Bridge and tunnel, and Victoria Road - in the morning peak between January 27 and February 16 this year than did so last year.
The 6.4 per cent drop coincided with the introduction of variable tolling on the Harbour Bridge and the Harbour Tunnel, where the toll has increased to $4 during peak periods.
It also followed revelations, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, that the average peak-hour speed on Victoria Road had dropped to 23 kmh.
University of Technology planning expert Garry Glazebrook said the figures were a part of a long-term global trend that would require new transport planning, and reflected a range of factors including the cost of car travel in tough economic times and changing land use patterns.
"The cost of car-based travel has gone up with petrol prices and tolls," Dr Glazebrook said.
"Even with petrol prices falling back to $1.20 a litre, public transport is cheaper overall. The financial downturn has made people more aware of that than, say, a year ago.
"But even more than that, we're starting to see the impact of changes in land use patterns - from detached housing on the fringe to high-density. This is the beginning of a major shift and we have to reassess our infrastructure priorities.
"The days of building toll roads are at an end. We have to stop catering for more car traffic."
Metlink research shows 44 per cent of people who reduced their car use in favour of public transport did so because of petrol costs; 9 per cent due to environmental concerns. About 70 per cent of Sydneysiders viewed the change as permanent, though 62 per cent thought the Government needed to provide more options for car drivers such as improved road infrastructure.
The change follows similar trends in the US, where car use dropped significantly as the economic crisis worsened, with public transport use increasing rapidly.
The American Transit Association reported that public transport use in the December quarter of 2008 was 6.5 per cent higher than for the same period the year before, the biggest rise annual rise in 25 years.
The executive director of the International Association of Public Transport, Peter Moore, said the Sydney figures hinted at what the city could become if it had a transport system with sufficient capacity.
"The evidence from around the world is overwhelming that if we could supply the necessary capacity in NSW, it would be fully utilised - it's a no-brainer," Mr Moore said.
"Clearly the demand is there in Sydney but at the moment people are being crowded out of trains and buses. The Government needs to stop widening roads and start implementing integrated transport planning policies now."
NSW Transport Minister David Campbell said the Government was planning for the future by delivering 300 new buses, along with 620 extra train carriages that the private sector is contracted to deliver from 2010.
"We have also begun detailed planning for a new metro system to cater for the increased demand to be completed in 2015," Mr Campbell said.
"Sydneysiders are taking to public transport in significant numbers and I believe this is a credit to the public transport system in NSW and our frontline staff.
"I always encourage people to hop on a bus, ferry or a train and obviously that's exactly what people are doing, because they are confident they will get a good service."
The number of train commuters is expected to swell further from tomorrow, with the opening of the overbudget and overdue $2.3 billion Chatswood-Epping rail link.
Mr Campbell said the new line would put an extra 12,000 people on the CityRail network every day.
That number would have been higher had the Government not scrapped its original vision of a $1.4-billion rail link between Parramatta and Chatswood because the plan was deemed too expensive.
Instead, after 11am tomorrow, commuters will have a new five-station line, with shuttle services running at 15-minute intervals while train drivers adjust to the new line.
Tomorrow, travel on the Epping-Chatswood line will be free but from Tuesday full-fare adult passengers will pay $7.60 for a return peak-hour trip. Normal weekday services will begin about 6am and finish about 9.30pm.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Gladys Berejiklian said new public transport infrastructure was always welcome but this new line was a great example of how not to build it.
"We're getting half the line for double the cost," she said.
What the experts say: all travel options on the table as Sydneysiders vote with their feet
University of Technology planning expert Dr Garry Glazebrook:
"Even if you build new metros, heavy rail is going to remain the backbone of the public transport system in Sydney. The percentage of passenger kilometres travelled that are made up of rail travel will increase from 10 per cent to 18 per cent over the next 30 years. Heavy rail will get bigger and the system needs to get better."
International Association of Public Transport executive director Peter Moore:
"Buses will have a crucial role because they're so adaptable. It takes 10 years to build a rail system but you can put a bus in tomorrow, assuming you've got the vehicle. The key is giving it priority. If you put a bus service on George Street it could work as well as a light rail system if you gave it the necessary priority."
Bret Walker, SC, Special Commission of Inquiry into Sydney Ferries Corporation, 2007:
"Sydney Ferries Corporation's patronage is largely static because [it] is presently unable to enhance its services. Catching the ferry is a healthy way to travel. In fact, 40.8 per cent of commuters walk from home to the ferry wharf and 68.9 per cent of commuters walk from the wharf to their destination."
Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (commenting on a Brookings study showing a 4 per cent decline in car use in US cities):
"This is part of a worldwide trend. In the United States there has been a significant drop in vehicle miles travelled, which began before the fuel price rises. I am predicting reductions in car use from here on. It's the death knell for toll roads and indeed makes any new road capacity increases highly questionable."
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore:
"More people are switching to bicycles to escape crowded public transport, reduce car usage, do something for the environment and get fit. The reality is we don't have a choice. There is an urgent need for investment in sustainable urban infrastructure as we face the threat of global warming … Priority must be given to investing in green infrastructure - projects which will make our urban areas more sustainable and better equipped for the future."
According to research commissioned by Victorian transport body Metlink, reduced car use is likely to be substituted with a form of public transport or with walking. In Sydney 47 per cent of people who reduced their car use substituted that form of travel with walking. This was the highest rate among any state capital city, and was equalled only by Canberra. Seventy-one per cent of Sydneysiders surveyed said they saw their reduction in car use as a permanent change.