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This week's news that Metro ticket prices are about to jump by twice the rate of inflation reinforces what I've suspected for some time: despite all good intentions, it's just not worth catching the train to work.
And I think thousands of Melburnians in zone-2 suburbs might have arrived at the same conclusion. Even loosely, the maths just don't add up. And it's a simple equation:
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A Metro daily ticket from a zone 2 station into the city? $11.90 from January 1.
Petrol from home to work and back? two to three litres. Parking: less than $10 a day on the city's edge.
For all the focus on traffic congestion and reducing carbon emissions, for all the billions poured into public transport systems and rolling stock, it's getting quicker, cheaper and easier to hop in the car and pay for petrol and parking than catching train from middle suburbia, particularly once comfort and time are factored into the equation.
That, of course, depends on where one is in middle suburbia, but for many people in a significant band of Melbourne, there is no financial incentive to make the most of the public transport for which Victorians have, as taxpayers, already paid.
And that is especially the case after yesterday's announcement of an 8.6 per cent fare increase that comes into force in a few weeks.
A quick scan of a map of this sprawling metropolis' rail lines shows what could be seen as significant discrepancies. Live in Pakenham, 57 kilometres from town? That daily ticket'll be $11.90.
Live in Crib Point, near the Stony Point station at the end of the line and 73 kilometres from Flinders Street? That'll be $11.90.
Live in St Albans, near Ginifer station where zone 2 kicks in on the Sydenham line? Well, that's $11.90 too. And it's 17 kilometres from town.
Works out well for the people in Pakenham and Stony Point and even Ballarat, where a friend buys a 10-week ticket that averages $60 a week, and good for them. Not so much for the St Albans resident ï¿½ and I here declare my self-interest on that front. (The calculations in the first few paragraphs are based on that journey.)
But it is not commuters ï¿½ well, potential, would-be commuters ï¿½ on only the Sydenham line who are affected.
Rosanna station on the Hurstbridge line is hardly in far-flung, compass-and-a-cut lunch land. Admittedly that is where zone 2 starts, but a commuter cannot get into the city without paying a zone 1 and 2 fare from there.
And this leads to another set of problems as people drive a little closer to town before they board the train. Why wouldn't you, if you were reasonably close? ï¿½ traffic jams and lack of parking around zone 1 stations ï¿½ worth the trip for some to make a $4.30-a-day saving. Calculated weekly, that is $21-plus in the wallet. Yearly, $1120. In other words, the bulk of the car registration and insurance bills, if not the total and some change.
Once you are in the car, it can be pretty easy to stay there. Cold, wet mornings, crowded platform, sardine tin-like carriages and delayed trains versus the personal capsule, equipped with radio and heater.
Meanwhile intersections become increasingly clogged as people living in new estates cram onto a road network designed for a different time. People need a reason to leave the car behind and many probably would if the reasons were good enough. But they are not. Time, cash, comfort. If it doesn't balance out evenly between public transport and private transport, it often falls in favour of the car.
In yesterday's front-page article in The Age, the president of the Public Transport Users Association, Daniel Bowen, was quoted as saying the Baillieu government "had promised to cut the cost of living so increasing transport fares like this is going against that pledge.
"No public transport user will welcome having to pay so much more for getting around."
Indeed. And here's a punt: They won't attract any new users either.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/zoned-out-why-cars-are-better-than-trains-20111207-1ohvg.html
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