Peak-hour traffic starts to build up as drivers leave the Brisbane CBD. Picture: Adam Head
Peak-hour traffic starts to build up as drivers leave the Brisbane CBD. Picture: Adam Head

The key indicator our public transport sucks

GREATER Brisbane's public transport is the worst of any Australian capital city, with one million people missing out on good services, a damning new report reveals.

Research by Infrastructure Australia found that a huge swath of outer suburbs is being left behind, creating a divided city of haves and have-nots.

"While existing transport infrastructure serves inner city areas well, people living on the outskirts of our major cities are being disadvantaged by a lack of access to frequent public transport services," executive director of policy and research Peter Colacino said.

"This impacts their ability to access jobs, education and other opportunities to get ahead.

"And whether it is a young mum at home or an older Australian, access to transport for social interaction is crucial in life."

 

The report says 1.2 million people - half of the region's 2.4 million population - live 20km or more from the Brisbane city centre.

But four in five of those do not have access to frequent public transport services within walking distance - defined as 800 metres for rail and 400m to a bus stop.

By comparison, 93 per cent of inner-city dwellers within 10km of the CBD can walk to rail, bus or ferry stops, and just under three-quarters of residents in the middle zone 10 to 20km from the centre.

"We've known for quite some time that there is a gap in access to public transport … this report quantifies it for the first time," Mr Colacino said.

Brisbane was the nation's worst, with 80 per cent of outer suburban residents missing out, compared to 62 per cent in Melbourne and 42 per cent in Sydney.

"Our public transport networks are designed so that routes merge closer to the city centre,"' the report says. "As a result, the further away a passenger is from the centre, the more likely they have poor frequencies."

 

Mr Colacino said Brisbane's outer suburbs - like those of other state capitals - were caught in a vicious cycle.

Poor access and frequency meant low public transport use, which led to poor fare revenue which meant little investment in services, which resulted in low patronage.

So residents were forced to own cars, battling and adding to traffic congestion and pollution, and faced higher travel costs.

"They shoulder the burden of additional vehicle operating costs, leaving less money for other household expenses compared to commuters in inner suburbs," Mr Colacino said.

Some 63 per cent of outer suburban households own two or more private vehicles, compared to just 42 per cent in inner suburbs.

The report calls for governments to consider new transport models as cities face ''unprecedented population growth in coming years".

Greater Brisbane's population is forecast to reach 3.3 million in the next 20 years.

Mr Colacino said transport systems needed to be flexible, changing or adding routes and services for new housing, employment and shopping and recreational areas.

 

The Infrastructure Australia report recommends more on-demand mini-buses or shuttles, such as one now being trialled in Logan City, should be used in outer suburban areas to link between people's homes and transport hubs.

And it urges bringing rideshare services such as Uber into the public transport system for ''first and last mile'' trips between home and mass transit and extending the Go Card to include them.

"Subsidising Uber could be more cost-effective than running a bus," Mr Colacino said.

And it says planning should be better integrated to encourage more residential and employment development adjacent to public transport.

"We also want governments and transport operators to do more to encourage people to transfer between public transport services," Mr Colacino said.

"This includes investing in well-designed interchanges, extending integrated ticketing systems to new modes and introducing fare incentives that actively encourage people to transfer between modes to get to their destination."

The report follows an exclusive poll during News Queensland's Future SEQ series which showed that 90 per cent of people would be encouraged to use public transport more often with lower fares, access to more routes and stations, faster travel times and greater frequency.



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