CEDA's Public transport in Victoria: Thinking outside the lines event provided attendees with a valuable insight on the challenges and solutions to meeting Victoria's public transport demands.
With a growing population, unprecedented use of the public transport system and the prospect of higher energy costs, attendees heard that public transport may get worse without a long term vision and investment based on the acceleration of these trends.
Speakers agreed about the importance of delivering a safe, efficient and affordable public transport system but recognised that customer expectations are not being met.
Arup Principal Planner Bruce Johnson outlined the current under performance in public transport and urged that a 'cities and system wide' planning system, focused on public need, was required to integrate public transport with homes and businesses.
Mr Johnson believed that buses could play a much greater role in relieving the pressure on current transport systems, meeting future demand and increasing connectivity between other transport modes.
Mr Johnson said that transport planning needed to begin within a framework looking at network wide objectives, rather than the current project based model that dealt with transport in isolation rather than as a whole.
While acknowledging that transport policy is beginning to move in the right direction, Mr Johnson urged faster action in implementing it to meet growing demands.
In what was described as a 'perfect storm' of rising petrol prices, surging demand and population expansion, Victorian Department of Transport Secretary Jim Betts said we are now confronted by the history of car centric planning.
Providing a retrospective of patronage and planning policy, Mr Betts highlighted that the last major rail infrastructure expansion took place in 1930 with the construction of the Glen Waverly line. Mr Betts said yesterday's planning, based on unrestrained car use, had exposed the under investment and inefficiencies in Melbourne's public transport.
Mr Betts described the difficulties in matching the lead times required for capital investment with growth in patronage, but outlined improvements to the existing network and new public transport projects currently underway.
While acknowledging that delivering fit for purpose public transport faced a number of challenges, including funding, he was extremely positive about the progress made so far and the political consensus around continued investment and improvement.
Monash University Chair of Public Transport Professor Graham Currie described a lack of vision and funding around public transport as a major hurdle and believed the public should brace themselves for more pain in the future.
Highlighting energy security, rising energy costs and population growth, Professor Currie stated that planning processes for the delivery of public transport will need to keep pace with and take into account rapid change.
Describing the expense of providing efficient public transport, Professor Currie pointed towards international best practice, such as congestion charging, to fund transport infrastructure critical in underpinning Victoria's economic success.
Click here to listen to the event audio