Record patronage growth makes case for more investment in buses

By: Chris Smith

Latest patronage figures show Melbourne bus patronage grew by around 12 percent in the last 12 months - the highest

Latest patronage figures show Melbourne bus patronage grew by around 12 percent in the last 12 months - the highest annual growth rate on record.

Bus patronage has now grown by a total of around 20 percent since the first implementation of bus upgrades under the Victorian Government’s Meeting Our Transport Challenges package (August 2006).

"Buses are truly undergoing a renaissance in Melbourne," BusVic spokesman Chris Loader says.

"The government’s upgrade program has been very successful and bus patronage is now growing faster than ever."

BusVic research attributes most of the growth to service upgrades and rising petrol prices, but also strong growth on non-upgraded routes that have good service levels.

"The evidence is clear – people are switching from their cars to buses when there is a frequent service that operates seven days a week," Loader says.

SmartBus routes have seen the strongest growth, with patronage growth rates exceeding international benchmarks.

The productivity of SmartBus services (measured in boardings per hour) also far exceeds that of other routes.

"Strong growth reflects the success of the Government’s investments so far. We are now calling on the Victorian Government to further upgrade bus services to support continued strong patronage growth," Loader says.

"The government can invest in buses with confidence that they are getting people out of their cars, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing social exclusion, and providing real relief from high petrol prices."

BusVic this month has announced its major priorities for the upcoming Victorian Transport Plan:

  • An acceleration and expansion of the successful SmartBus network, including completion of the four "orbital" routes by 2010, with upgrading of other major routes to SmartBus standards to follow.

  • A significant upgrade to bus services in the Doncaster corridor, in line with the recommendations of the Eddington report – to support strong patronage growth in a corridor that is still heavily car dependent.

  • A boost to local bus services to better feed the train network - such that buses meet at least every second train off-peak (including weekends). This will help to relieve pressure at station car parks. Bus routes with well integrated timetables have proven to be very effective at delivering people to train stations.

  • Implement the recommendations of the ongoing Bus Service Reviews, which will improve the existing bus network, and have been developed in consultation with the community.

  • New bus routes in growth suburbs and industrial areas that currently lack public transport. In particular, we would like to see bus services introduced as the first residents move into.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook