BusVic policy document released

BusVic wants the State Government to focus on public transport in the lead up to the elections

BusVic policy document released
BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe

The Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) believes Melbourne risks sliding down the table of the world’s most livable cities unless the Victorian Government quickly expands its public transport effort.

The association has released the Moving People Victoria document ahead of November’s election which proposes a number of bus service improvements in outer, middle and inner Melbourne suburbs that would cost $25 million a year.

The policy document is in line with other Moving People documents produced by the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) and the Tasmanian Bus Association (TasBus).

What’s more, it has backed up its suggestions with independent research that shows the proposed upgrades would produce significant economic benefit.

The study, by Dr Peter Brain’s National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, shows that, for every $1 invested, there would be an economic benefit of $8.40. This means the $25 million in recurrent expenditure would produce $210 million in recurrent benefits.

The association claims the Victorian Government has to take action to counter two trends: declining service standards over the last four years and sharply rising populations on the city’s outskirts.

The BusVic manifesto lists a number of proposals, including greater frequency on local-route services in outer areas, more extensive SmartBus operations on, and connecting, major arterial routes and more extensive on-road priority for buses.

The last item would include more dedicated bus lanes and ‘go on red’ bus priority at traffic lights.

"The Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2009 demonstrated that Australian capital cities were slipping down the livability ranking, being replaced by cities that had made substantial investment in transport infrastructure," the association says in its manifesto.

The need for more public transport was underpinned by estimates from the local councils that ring Melbourne, which have forecast a 47 per cent growth in population on the outer suburbs by 2026.

The councils found these areas were "highly dependent" on cars for access to work and mobility generally.

The association says growth stalled in scheduled bus kilometres in outer Melbourne areas in 2010, while the population has grown by two per cent.

"There are still too many routes with no Sunday service, inconsistent scheduling on public holidays, as well as a failure to provide easy and equitable access for sections of the community who are vulnerable to social isolation."

While the outer suburbs require more local-route services, the association argues that the Smart Bus services, which currently are circumferential, should be expanded.

"The SmartBus network must be expanded to create a web of interconnected routes that enable commuters to move across Melbourne using fast and direct services that link population centres to employment centres and augment the heavy and light rail services."

A crucial part of the plan is the provision for more on-road priority for buses, which the association admits would require some investment.

"By allowing buses to move freely in limited-access lanes and to queue jump at signalised intersections, the state would achieve a substantial increase in the productivity of its recurrent expenditure on public-transport resources and boost its productivity.

"Creating bus priority is the most effective manner for realising a modal shift from private transport to public transport as bus travel times improve."

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