Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Make PT free all the time!

On New Years Eve 2010, free public transport was offered to all. Authorities were surprised to find an overwhelming number of people of all ages taking advantage of this rare occasion. This illustrates that when public transport is offered for free more people will use it.

The government are seemingly trying to make public transport more accessible to everyday people. Yet they have not extended the system, nor have they improved connections between different forms of transport.

With rising traffic congestion and the looming threat of climate change due to the amount of greenhouse gasses produced, more has to be done to get people out of cars and into trains, buses and trams. Car use contributes about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria every year.

Traffic congestion is a frustrating thing for drivers to deal with everyday, however building more roads is not the answer. The answer is making the public transport systems in Australia more accessible, integrated and free.

While public transport was free on New Years Eve, there were tens of thousands of people queuing up at the major stations to catch a train home. There were people squeezed like sardines into packed trams and the bus services finished too early for most revellers.

This shows that we need more services to accommodate the growing number of people who would be willing to switch to public transport. The city loop in Victoria is only running at a capacity of 80% at the current time; without even building any more tracks we could increase the numbers of trains and make improvements immediately!

We do however need more than simply more trains on the tracks to accommodate for people in the outer suburbs and rural areas. Serious investment in public transport infrastructure is required in these areas in order for it to be a real and reliable option for people.

The main barrier to these changes being implemented is the privatisation of public transport. Since privatisation in 1997 the price of public transport in Victoria has tripled, yet no substantial improvement to the system has been made. This shows that profit is more important to these private companies than providing a decent service.

According to The Age, it would cost about $340 million to run the public transport system for free annually. Metro was paid $3.8 billion in 2009 for their 8 year contract.

If we eliminated the profit motive by nationalising the public transport system this could mean redirecting these funds into improving the system and making it free, rather than lining the pockets of big business.

By Socialist Party reporters