If you were listening to the radio on Tuesday afternoon after the state budget was announced, you may have noticed that it wasn’t me doing the media for PTUA… I’ve bowed out as my real work is getting too busy to be able to do media effectively. Chris did the budget comment, and did a great job. (And yes, at least one outlet misspelt his name.)
Transport and environment groups aren’t happy with the budget on the transport front, principally because two-thirds of the new money for transport went into roads.
But Daniel, I hear you cry, that’s fair isn’t it? More than two-thirds of travel is by road, so roads should get the bulk of the money!
Not quite. The budget builds on Victoria as it is now — it takes today’s situation and pledges new money to build on today’s transport network.
Where should the money go? The principles of transport are pretty basic. It’s supply-led — people will use whatever’s there that’s most convenient for them. If you build roads, people will use them. If you provide usable public transport, people will use it.
So the money should go to the type of transport we want to encourage people to use. If we want to encourage more car travel, we give more money to roads. If we want to encourage more public transport use, we give more money to public transport.
For example, suppose you have a road that gets congested. And you have a parallel train service that gets overcrowded. You have a limited amount of money, and you can widen the road, or you can put more trains on. One or the other.
Which should you do? Widen the road so more people can drive, or put more trains on, so more people can catch them? For either, any fix may be temporary, as demand slowly grows and eventually again reaches the limits of supply. But one outcome is environmentally friendly, cheaper and safer for the participants. The other is the opposite.
The government says it wants to boost public transport use to 20% of motorised trips by 2020, about double what it is now. A fine goal.
But this is just rhetoric. If they really wanted to achieve it, they’d be doing something about public transport, would they? Until they provide usable services into every suburb — and in most cases upgrades to make PT usable are cheaper than the equivalent road projects — it’ll never happen.