Melbourne’s bus boom

Public transport analysis indicates Melbourne is leading the way on boosting bus patronage

Bus networks in all Australia’s capital cities are performing well overall with Melbourne’s network showing the most growth in patronage, a new report reveals.

Patronage in Melbourne grew significantly over the last three years, with a huge 10 per cent leap in 2013–2014, after new routes were added and services became more frequent.

The new bi-annual Consulting Public Transport Barometer Report shows the performance of public transport networks in Australia’s major cities and released by the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (TTF) and L.E.K. Consulting.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond says Sydney is still leading the nation in terms of patronage across all modes, with a growing number of people ditching the car to catch the city’s trains and ferries.

"This increased patronage reflects the NSW Government’s reforms in public transport, including the introduction of the Opal Card, the franchising of Sydney Ferries and the demerging of Sydney Trains and NSW Trains," she says.

"With the light rail and Sydney Metro coming on-line soon, we expect even more Sydneysiders to embrace public transport in the years to come."

Sydney bus patronage figures show little or no growth over the last five years, whereas Perth saw steady growth between 2011 and 2013, before slowing in 2013-2014.

Adelaide’s bus patronage has grown by 0.7 per cent over the past year, punctuality has increased by 1.6 per cent and the operators consistently deliver close to 100 per cent of their services.

Brisbane’s performance is uncertain – since public transport data post-2012 is not available for analysis – due to the former Queensland Government’s decision to not release public transport performance data.

The report also indicates a need to make public transport more financially sustainable.

"Australia’s public transport is one of the most heavily subsidised in the world, with taxpayers paying for as much as 78 per cent of every fare," Osmond says.

"While the public expects a certain level of subsidisation, we can make public transport more sustainable and more capable of meeting increases in population and economic activity, by increasing revenue and reducing costs.

"To achieve this, we suggest reducing costs through improving asset and workforce productivity, network optimisation and bus franchising.

She suggests increasing revenue generated by public transport by optimising fare structures, reducing fare evasion and exploring other avenues such as transport-related commercial development and advertising.

Osmond wants the new Queensland Government to start providing up to date public transport data again.

"I would encourage the new Queensland Government to reverse the former Newman Government’s decision to stop the release of key performance data about its public transport network."

L.E.K. Consulting chair Simon Barrett says while the overall picture is positive, better outcomes can be achieved, especially in Perth and Adelaide.

"In Perth, we have seen strong growth in bus patronage over the past three years and punctuality over the past year, but there is room for improvement in the performance of the city’s rail and ferry network," he says.

"In Adelaide, there has been a rebound in rail patronage, with 14.6 per cent more people using the rail network, although the punctuality of rail services has declined in the past year."

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