I think everyone accepts that public transport is worthwhile, but not perfect. The Age today highlights rail capacity problems. The source document is a presentation from PTV, and page 5 summarises the bottlenecks:
(This is similar to a diagram in the 2012 rail Network Development Plan)
So, change is needed on the public transport network.
But because there aren’t unlimited resources, it’s almost inevitable that improving the network means that even for the best changes, a few people will be disadvantaged. The key is to ensure that the benefits vastly outweigh the disadvantages, and that those who are disadvantaged are helped to transition to the new way of doing things.
By unlimited resources, I don’t just mean money. Money can buy you extra vehicles, drivers and so on, but in some cases it’s just impractical and illogical.
Some past examples:
When the City Loop opened, it meant longer trips for many of those travelling to and from Flinders Street and Spencer Street/Southern Cross. But this was heavily outweighed by the boost to pedestrian capacity in the stations, the improvements to platform throughput (one reason it works the way it does was so peak hour trains could run direct to/from inner-city stabling, though most of that no longer exists), relieving CBD trams, and feeding more people into the previously distant north and eastern ends of the CBD.
Grade separations have occurred at some stations in the past few years. Laburnum, Springvale, Mitcham and others. It causes lots of disruption during construction, and the level street access into stations is lost (in favour of stairs, ramps, lifts, escalators). But it boosts safety, rail capacity (you can run more trains without impacting road traffic), cuts delays to buses, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
Over time, some lines have been removed from the City Loop. Werribee, Williamstown, Sandringham trains all run direct on weekdays. But doing this has enabled more trains on these and other lines than would have otherwise been possible. And the growth has continued, so it’s not like it has inconvenienced people so much that patronage has dropped (though interchange could be better).
Re-routing of buses to form the Smartbus services. To help the frequent Smartbus routes run more direct routes, some had to be altered. For instance the Warrigal Road (903) service got moved out of some side streets, and a (less frequent) local route, the 766, created to fill the gap. Similar changes happened elsewhere. Smartbus patronage has continued to grow.
More recently, when Regional Rail Link opened, some passengers wanting Werribee and North Melbourne got bypassed, as V/Line trains no longer stop there. And yet there’s been little discussion of that since — people are adjusting. Geelong to Werribee people have a connecting bus that meets every train at Wyndham Vale. The two new stations have got lots of users. And the boost to Geelong line capacity is a clear benefit.
(There are some problems on the Ballarat line, largely due to train lengths rather than the changed operations and the timetable specifically. This is being slowly fixed as new carriages come into service.)
I’m not saying changes should all be revenue-neutral. More funding is needed to increase services and infrastructure, but the reality is that sometimes compromises have to be made. (And nor should there be a lack of consultation.)
In all the above examples, any disadvantages have been heavily outweighed by the advantages.
Even the lauded metro rail tunnel isn’t perfect. The Dandenong and Sunbury lines will no longer serve North Melbourne, Southern Cross, Parliament and Richmond, for instance. But it brings numerous other benefits.
If the decision-makers get so scared about the disadvantages that they can’t do anything, then we all suffer. The system stagnates. As the city grows, it can’t handle the demand for more capacity and different routes.
Perhaps those proposals aren’t perfect. Perhaps they can be tweaked to minimise impacts, or can go in to coincide with other upgrades.
But the network isn’t perfect, and change does need to happen, and it can’t wait for ever.
You might need to break some eggs to make that omelette, but don’t shy away from making the omelette. The trick is to make it the best omelette possible.