Free bus rides will reduce car use

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Free bus rides will reduce car use

By Coral Wynter

A national survey of car drivers has shown that the private use of cars is increasing at an alarming rate. At the same time, drivers are even less inclined to use public transport, and general concern over the environmental impact of cars had decreased since 1995.

The survey of car drivers was conducted by ANOP Research Services for the Australian Automobile Association. Some 91% of Australian motorists said the car was important in their day-to-day lives. In regional areas, it was higher, 94%.

The reasons given were: the car was necessary for work (46%), problems with public transport (23%) and family and domestic transport (22%). The survey also found that 90% drove their cars on most days of the week, an increase from 83% in 1995. Less people intended to use public transport.

Only 11% of motorists said they caught public transport at least once a week and only 7% said they were likely to use public transport more. The trend has been that, over the last four years of the survey, those already using public transport will increase their use while those driving will continue to do so.

The car is even more important to those living in regional and country areas. They have less access to public transport and the car is essential to their daily lives.

The main two issues of concern were increasing motoring costs and driver behaviour. Other concerns were road conditions, road safety and traffic congestion, which was of concern to 18% in the cities and only 2% in the country areas. Those particularly concerned about the cost of petrol were older pensioners, those from lower income groups, those outside the workforce and those who live outside major urban centres.

The condition of local roads was seen as being only average and was of great concern to those living in country areas. Many were appalled that only 6 cents out of every 35 cents of tax collected from the state fuel tax is actually spent on roads.

While 75% are worried about the effect the car has on the environment, motorists believe the best way to reduce the impact is to have cleaner fuels and emissions rather than use cars less. A vast majority rejected the idea of governments increasing the cost of petrol to force people to drive less.

In Brisbane, the state government has spent a massive $1.5 billion on adding several bus lanes to the South-East Freeway, with associated on and off ramps. It is intended that several fast buses will run only during peak hours on these bus lanes from the outer suburbs and can guarantee a fast ride into the city in the morning and out again at 5pm. This is the carrot for getting people onto buses and out of their cars.

The cost was originally estimated at $700 million and may blow out to even more than the $1.5 billion now estimated. The roads have been totally congested while building has taken place over the last six months and this will go on for another six months. The special fast bus lanes will not be available to taxis.

The $1.5 billion would have been better spent on free bus transport, employing more bus drivers and buying more buses. The survey of motorists proves that our transport and environmental problems won't be solved until governments introduce free buses that go in all directions, every ten minutes, not just for one hour during peak times on freeways.

[Coral Wynter is a Democratic Socialist candidate for Central Ward in the Brisbane City Council elections on March 25.]