Wednesday, May 31, 2006

State budget: Good for country, little for metro

I spent some of yesterday going through the Victorian State Budget as it applied to public transport.

In summary, the document is good for country Victoria but generally disappointing for Melbourne. Though there is a 7% increase in public transport expenditure, except for some socially-useful additional bus services and improvements to accessible transport, it's hard to see what extra value or patronage this above-CPI increase will deliver.

The Government has lowered some of its performance targets after it failed in meeting many of last year's. Key examples include passenger satisfaction and on-time running. The fine print states that previous targets were 'stretch targets' and that the revised targets are more achieveable.

This year's patronage targets were similarly modest and barely meet population growth. With car trips growing faster than population, even if the targets were achieved, modal share for public transport would still fall. This is a far cry from the government's much-repeated '20% by 2020' mode share target it set as part of Melbourne 2030.

Here is a quick rundown, in point form.


- 1.1% increase in metro train services (ie barely population growth)
- 0% increase in metro tram services
- 4.2% increase in metro bus services (20 routes boosted soon)
- A lower target for train service delivery (from 99.5 to 99.2%). Thus the increase in actual train services is not the 1.1% quoted above but nearer to 0.9%)
- Forecast patronage growth approx 1.5% (more for trains, less for trams)
- Performance targets for passenger satisfaction and train on-time running lowered to last year's actual figures.
- Payments to operators up roughly 10% for buses and trains and a whopping 20% for trams (despite there being no extra services added for trams)
- Reduced taxpayer value for money and likely lower cost-recovery ratios. This is due to above-CPI cost increases for negligible additional service and patronage increases (especially for trams).

Country Victoria

- Nearly 20% increase in V/line train/coach services & 5% more country buses
- 9% increase in country patronage
- Introduction of more performance measures for service delivery
- Slightly lower target for train timeliness

Accessible transport

- 30 tram stops
- 3000 tactile indicators at bus stops

To repeat the previous comments, it's pretty good for country Victoria but represents a 'standing still' budget for Melbourne. 'Boring' and 'minding the shop' are adjectives that come to mind. This budget is not the sort of thing that substantial efficiency improvements, mode shifts and patronage increases are made of.


Daniel Bowen said...

When do the after-midnight trams (Fri/Sat nights) start? Wouldn't this count as extra tram services. Or is that not this coming financial year?

Peter Parker said...

You'd think so, but page 128 shows that tram service kilometres are a constant 23 million km for 2005-6 and 2006-7.

Maybe they're hoping that tram priority will allow them to save a few trams at other times?

Daniel Bowen said...

Hmm. But if it were tram priority savings, the total service kilometres would still go up.

Peter Parker said...

Yep, you're right.

The other thing I was thinking was that all these figures are under the heading of 'performance measures', which sounds sort of rubbery and not tightly tied with actual planned services.

The addition of late night services will make achievement of the 'performance measure' easier rather than harder, even if there is a fall in service reliability (which for trams, in my experience over the last year has been pretty good).