Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do transport bureaucrats and activists use the same language?

To answer this question I decided to do a crude text analysis of documents from the State Government and the Public Transport Users Association. Both are freely available and can be downloaded from the respective organisations' websites.

The first document is the State Government's Meeting our Transport Challenges that came out last week (pdf 4.4M). The second is It's Time to Move by the PTUA (pdf 1.5M). In both cases I use the word search function in Adobe Acrobat to count the number of times important transport terms are mentioned.

Counts are presented as follows: Meeting our Transport Challenges - It's Time to Move

mode share: 0 - 3
mode shift: 0 - 2
tram priority: 1 - 5
bus priority: 4 - 3
frequency: 3 - 18 & frequencies: 2 - 16
integration: 5 - 1 & integrated: 9 - 7
transfer: 5 - 17
patronage: 7 - 28
coordination: 4 - 18
passenger information: 1 - 1 & information: 11 - 7
timetable: 8 - 19 & timetables: 2 - 13
2020: 0 - n/a
Melbourne 2030: 9 - n/a
sustainable: 18 - 4
interchange: 23 - 16
passenger: 25 - 95
smartbus: 25 - 1
planning: 32 - 48
roads: 39 - 70
connections: 44 - 3 & connect 103 - 13
equity: 0 - 1
disabled: 0 - 1
accessible: 18 - 3
access: 97 - 27
infrastructure: 51 - 30
network: 143 - 63
pedestrian: 11 - 3 & walk 20 - 23
cycle: 12 - 10 & bicycle 9 - 4
car: 66 - 236 & cars 15 - 62
train: 97 - 160 & trains 29 - 57
tram: 63 - 163 & trams 20 - 63
bus: 132 - 193 & buses 20 - 46
public transport: 116 - 266

Terms searched for but used in neither paper include scheduling, marketing, service planning, route review, modal share. Melbourne 2030 and 2020 (in reference to the 20% modal share target) were not counted in the PTUA paper, which came out before these became policy.

Patterns evident

The PTUA paper (ITTM) mentions transport vehicles such as cars, buses, trains and trams more than the State Government's paper (MOTC) with the only exception being bicycle.

MOTC gives somewhat more weight to infrastructure and much more weight to accessible (as in disabled access).

Key transport planning issues such as frequency, transfer, timetable, co-ordination (and indeed planning itself) rate higher in ITTM. These are all essential if good connections are required. However MOTC has many more mentions of 'connect', 'connections' and 'network'. 'Interchange' also gets more emphasis in MOTC.

Patronage is a higher priority for ITTM than MOTC. The PTUA also mentions roads and cars more. However this greater emphasis is mostly in the context of the need for a significant mode shift away from the private car and for resources to be diverted away from road building to provide conditions and services conducive to higher patronage. Government policy (Melbourne 2030) also supports such a mode shift (20% by 2030) but the failure of the MOTC paper to even mention mode shift or the 20% target seems to indicate that it may have since gone cold on the idea.

Overall the PTUA paper covers the specifics of planning, timetables, and co-ordination more comprehensively than MOTC, which seldom goes deeper than numerous references to connections, network, and, to a lesser degree, infrastructure. It also would have been helpful if the MOTC paper showed more evidence of starting with a desired modal share target, prescribing specific service levels and only then documenting what operating resources and capital expenditure items are required to bring these about.

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