WA patronage slips away

Paid bus patronage is suffering the effects of an employment downturn in Western Australia

Paid bus patronage has fallen for a second successive year amid a weakening economy in Western Australia (WA).

Fare-paying bus boardings tumbled by 1.5 per cent last financial year, following the 2.6 per cent decline in 2013-2014.

Public Transport Authority’s (PTA) 2014-2015 annual report cites increased unemployment, slowing population growth, due to the reduction in mining investment, and low fuel prices as the cause.

"Two years ago, things were rosy," PTA managing director Mark Burgess wrote in the report.

"However, the past two years have seen a slowing in patronage growth."

Two major rail shutdowns for the Perth City Link works late last year disrupted regular patronage trends and also affected by less resources-sector employment in the CBD.

"A drop in the number of people working in the CBD – also reflected in lower City of Perth parking revenues – thus weakening Transperth Trains’ core market base," Burgess wrote.

"Reduced population growth rate after several years of unparalleled increases, also shows up as a lower level of demand for our services.

"Our low population density and high car dependence creates a challenging environment for public transport."

Public transport overall, including free trips for seniors, still managed to record a small 0.8 per cent increase.

Another area of concern is on time bus performance, which also decreased from 81.2 per cent in 2013-2014 to 80.2 per cent of services running on time in the last financial year – reportedly due to significant road works.

Although unprecedented financial pressures are bearing down on the WA economy, it is hoped that new infrastructure such as the new underground Perth Busport, an increased bus budget and the gradual rollout out of 70 new Transperth Euro 6 buses will help boost patronage in years ahead.

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