Alas, the above tabloid style headline sums up the level at which the press received the Greiner government's mini-budget, at least on the issue of transport. As we said in our last Newsletter, APT has no objection to fare increases in themselves - public transport cannot defy inflation all by itself. Increases in bus fares from 60c to $1.00 and from $1.20 to $2.00 are certainly very steep, but this will only give passengers more incentive to use pre-paid Travelpass and MetroTen tickets (which will rise in price far less) thereby saving time for everybody and speeding up bus services. The worry is more in the long-term implications of the new government's policies:
In practice it's not as simple as this, because the negative externalities (eg. losses suffered through effects of pollution, congestion, injury) are far worse in the case of private cars than public transport. In other words, the interactions between parts of the transport system are such that if each part attempts to maximise its own profit, the whole will suffer.
To put it another way, running N.S.W. as a business implies attracting people and activities from other states and countries by making our cities attractive places in which to live and work. This will NOT be done if we run our transport purely on the basis of profit and loss. Any business manager would realise that a "loss" on one item may be necessary to make the total product more attractive (has it been calculated whether Parramatta Road makes a profit?). Investment in public transport may not all be recovered through the fare box, but without it Sydney would simply cease to function in its present form.
We hope that the overall transport planning unit which the Liberal Party has promised to set up, will remind the government of some of these facts and start on some positive public transport initiatives.
Incidentally, those responsible for reviewing "underutilized" services, might by the same token turn their attention to "overutilized" ones. With the popularity of Sunday outings to Darling Harbour and all the other pleasures of the city, it is now normal for Sunday buses to be standing-room only and trains also to be quite well-packed. With Sunday frequencies poor in many cases (say 30 minutes when weekdays are 15) this is an obvious area for improvement.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"There is a growing recognition worldwide that improved roads have not helped to any extent in the reduction of the road toll and that driver attitude, coupled with skill and knowledge, is imperative in any attempt to reduce the road toll."
- Paul Zammit (chairman of NSW parliament Staysafe Committee) in Western Suburbs Courier, 8/6/88. The bureau of Transport and Communication Economics notes that road crashes are now costing Australians $1 per day each, ie. $5690 million for l987 (SMH 20/6/88). Any increased use of public transport, with its proven safety record, represents a clear saving in this area (see our August '87 Newsletter). The whole issue is a perfect example of external costs and benefits of transport as mentioned above. More about this in a coming Newsletter!
Deregulation of urban bus services ln the United Kingdon has been very Successful - for British Rail. The International Railway Journal reports that in the first year since deregulation took effect, journeys on local buses decreased by 6% while metropolitan rail journeys increased by 14%. This may be because (as has happened after bus and airline deregulation in the U.S.A.) operators have concentrated their efforts on a few profitable routes while service to the remaining places deteriorates. Unfortunately, not everybody has a railway station to turn to when this happens.
Some of the advertisements now appearing on the backs of buses are demeaning, even derogatory, to bus passengers. You know the ones - "If all the people on this bus bought ****** instead of ******, they could afford to buy a car". Many of the people on the bus no doubt already own a car, or could afford one, but they are just sensible about where they take it.
Maybe the UTA could strike back. How about if all the people on this bus were driving their own cars, you'd be another kilometre further back.
It is now six months since the outbound Ryde buses at Railway Square were re-routed to go through the main bus stand instead of "round the back" via Regent and Lee Streets. However, nothing has been done to add information about the Ryde buses to the displays at the main bus stop. The detailed timetable list makes no mention of the Ryde buses, and all the summary information about bus routes that used to be displayed overhead has been removed altogether. This is in contrast to the speed with which Darling Harbour direction signs were added to the same spot at about the same time.
Our Expo 88 correspondent can recommend the public transport arrangements as an example of how it should be done: