Collie attended a recent UDIA function on public transport.  Neil Smith, a Director of Transit Systems, gave an interesting presentation reflecting on his vast experience as an operator of various public transport systems throughout Australia.

Congestion was a recurring theme throughout Neil’s talk.  He argued that congestion could be an indicator that a city was in fact successful. He noted that successful cities attract more people to them, which then creates congestion.  The problem was that if congestion was not properly managed then it may threaten the future success of the city.  The ‘liveability’ of Melbourne is perhaps a good case in point.

Neil had a five-point plan for public transport systems.

  1. Invest in public transport infrastructure that will prioritise travel times to by-pass congestion.
  2. Design communities that maximize opportunities for public transport use.
  3. Create an integrated network.
  4. Communicate travel timetables and scheduling information.
  5. Give the system money – and stop expecting that it will run at a profit.

Not all that surprising coming from a public transport operator.  If we accept that public transport will not operate at a profit, then it begs the question, who should pay?  Federal government? State government? Is a new way of funding needed?

Public transport is not an ‘optional extra’ in our pool of infrastructure requirements.  We cannot afford not to have it.  But how do we pay for the system that we want?