Controversial plans for transport overhaul in Melbourne CBD

The Napthine government has announced major changes to the transport system in Melbourne ahead of the November election, including the capping of fares at Zone 1 level, and the commencement of free trams in the CBD from Jan 1, 2015.  As reported in The Age, the scheme is expected to cost $100 million per year, but the details of how it is to be funded will not be released until the May budget.  In what appears to be political manoeuvring, Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, has jumped on board, promising that the proposal would not be scrapped if Labor wins office.

The scheme is expected to benefit primarily those travelling from the outer suburbs, with Napthine suggesting it would make Melbourne a more attractive city for businesses and for shoppers, because there would be ‘‘no worries about Myki, about touching on and off when you go into the city’’.

Monash University transport expert, Graham Currie, has called the move “popular”, but suggests that the $100 million would be better used “to improve the system instead of just giving people a cheaper fare.”  Professor Currie’s own research predicts the move will increase passenger numbers, causing more overcrowding, and concludes that those living on the fringe would prefer better, not cheaper, public transport.

The Age also reported that the news came as a surprise to the train, tram and bus companies that operate Melbourne’s public transport system.  None of these operators were consulted or even advised about the government’s decision to change the ticket zoning system and provide free trams in the city centre. Melbourne University transport expert, John Stone, suggested that the surprise nature of the announcement indicated that “transport planning in Victoria had been hijacked by politicians seeking re-election in November.”

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