The New South Wales government welcomed figures released by the state transport department on June 28 showing a slight increase in the proportion of trips taken by public transport in NSW over the 2008/09 year. “In 2008/09 travel by train increased by 3.1 per cent and travel by bus grew by 2.4 per cent whilst car trips fell by 0.8 per cent”, the government website said.
There has been a small rise in public transport trips. However, the Household Travel Survey, conducted by the NSW Transport Data Centre, shows that private vehicles still rule in Sydney. “Vehicle remains the dominant mode of travel for Sydney residents”, the report said.
“About 8 million vehicle driver and 3.6 million vehicle passenger trips are made each weekday. Vehicle travel has remained fairly stable in recent years, while train, bus and walk trips have grown at a faster rate than total trips.”
Compared with more than 11 million trips per weekday being undertaken in cars (whether as driver or passenger), less than 2 million are taken by public transport. The total number of trips taken by public transport has increased slightly. But the total distance travelled by public transport peaked in 2007/08 and fell in 2008/09.
Most vehicle trips also continue to be made by the driver alone. “In 2008/09, average vehicle occupancy per trip was 1.45, the report said. For trips to work the average occupancy was 1.10”.
While there has been a slight increase in public transport trips overall, car usage has grown for commuters, the report says. Two thirds of commuters use private cars to get to and from work, most of them riding alone in the car. Only 23% of commuters use public transport — a slight decline since 2007/08.
“The small changes in choice of vehicle are hardly surprising”, Kevin Eadie, convenor of Action for Public Transport (NSW) told Green Left Weekly. “The important point to make is that there has been no significant shift to public transport, despite increasing traffic congestion.
“The reasons are twofold”, Eadie said. “Over the last 10 years Labor governments have been full of rhetoric about egalitarianism — giving people a choice — providing better public transport so people don't have to buy a second car. But as the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out on July 5, ‘The RTA [Roads and Traffic Authority] still runs transport planning in NSW. When governments promise railways, the public gets promises; when they promise roads, the public gets roads.’
Eadie said: “Treasury is also part of the problem. There's something wrong with Treasury's modelling, which fails to justify expenditure on public transport, except at the cheap end — buses.
“The second reason is the ever-effective roads lobby — the RTA combined with the NRMA.”