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With WA in the middle of a $4 billion spending splurge on public transport, debate still rages on whether public transport, or the car, is the best way to get around Perth.
The State Government has committed to spending billions on its Metronet project over the next few years even though patronage on public transport has declined year-on-year since 2014-15.
Despite a small uptick in users this year, the Public Transport Authority (PTA) said the level of patronage was still lower than what they would like.
For those travelling into the CBD for work during peak hours, buses and trains are seen as a viable option.
But those who use cars point to excessive journey times on public transport, safety, cost and multiple transfers as justification for their choice to stay loyal to their vehicles.
Passengers on the Midland and Fremantle lines will from this week spend up to an extra five minutes in the peak hour commute due to the cancellation of express services.
This is to bring services in line with the new Forrestfield-Airport link, due to open in 2021.
The new line will cost $1.9 billion and initially cater for an extra 20,000 daily passenger trips, growing to 29,000 within 10 years.
An extension of the Butler line to Yanchep will cost $520 million and connecting the Cockburn and Thornlie stations is anticipated to cost $536 million.
The Government will also purchase 246 new rail cars over the next 10 years, at a cost of $1.6 billion.
Car beats train for cross-city travelGraham Hardy lives in Parkerville, and travels to Cockburn for work daily.
He used to drive to the Midland train station, catch the train to the city, board another train to Cockburn and then walk a short distance to work.
"And that took about three hours out of my day, an hour and a half each way, whereas driving took only two hours, so I save that extra hour," he said.
Car vs train: the comparison
|Option A: Train||Option B: Driving|
|Driving distance||42.2 kilometres||111 kilometres|
|Fuel used||2.9 litres||7.6 litres|
|Total per day||$13.34||$10.63|
|Total per week||$66.70||$53.15 (saving of $13.55)|
Based on $1.40/L petrol, 14.62km/L and Smartrider discount.
Mr Hardy said he was surprised to find out when calculating the differences that he saved $13.55 per week by driving.
"I thought the public transport was very good, and I actually would have preferred to do public transport," he said.
"But at the end of the day it's cheaper and I save an hour out of my day.
"And you just can't put money on that free time to spend with your family and friends."
Inner-middle suburbs neglectedPublic transport patronage has been declining in Perth since 2014-15 and transport experts said investment needed to be directed to other areas currently being neglected.
EMBED: Transperth visitor numbers
Curtin University sustainability Professor Peter Newman said both inner and outer suburban transport needed attention.
"We've got Metronet with a very big commitment to servicing the outer suburbs, which are rather scattered and less oriented to public transport," he said.
"And the inner and middle suburbs have not had much investment for the past few decades.
"So I think we need to think again about all this, and get a new perspective — an integrated one — perhaps with new technology, to try and see if we can get a better service that definitely would compete with the car."
Professor Newman said he faced a similar dilemma to Mr Hardy when travelling from Fremantle to Curtin.
"I can go to Curtin in an hour and 10 minutes on the bus or I can drive there in 30 minutes. This is an issue facing many people," he said.
"I'm suggesting that trackless tram is a solution. It is like light rail but much cheaper.
"And it can enable us to do the urban integration in the centres that really need it.
"The city needs it, and the public transport needs to be part of that solution."
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said Metronet was a long-term vision to sustain the liveability of Perth and its suburbs, both inner and outer.
"If you travel through the northern suburbs and north-east suburbs, when you go down to Byford and see the enormous growth in housing, I would ask anyone to argue that those people don't deserve world-class public transport," she said.
"We need to make sure we deliver world-class public transport in the new suburbs …"
Train a relief from freeway 'nightmare'Jill Roberts, who lives in Rockingham and commutes to Leederville for her work, has the opposite experience.
She said it did not make sense to sit in traffic when the train trip was only 34 minutes.
"I leave my car at the station, it's only a five-minute drive, and head up to the city, past the city — I don't have to change trains which is really a bonus for me," she said.
Ms Roberts said she used to drive her car when free parking was available, but now took the train.
"The freeway is pretty much a nightmare," she said.
"It's just more relaxing to sit on the train and check your emails, and text your friends and have conversations."
Ms Roberts also said she had never felt unsafe using public transport and regularly caught night time trains into the city.
"I know people always come up with that [excuse]," she said.
"I've taken the train to work every day, I take the train if I'm going out at night in the city, I've never had an issue and I've never felt unsafe."
Customers satisfied, so why no passengers?In February, Transperth pointed to research showing their passengers were the most satisfied in Australia.
"Transperth was given five-star ratings — the highest possible — in the overall satisfaction, service reliability, timetabling, trip comfort, cleanliness and ticketing system categories," a spokesman said.
In its 2017–18 annual report, PTA managing director Mark Burgess heaped blame for patronage dropping on the end of WA's mining boom and major improvements in road infrastructure.
Mr Burgess noted figures suggesting about 40,000 jobs were lost from the CBD and if half of those people used public transport, it equated to more than 10 million extra trips per year.
"There were some other reasons behind the slip, not the least of which was an improvement in traffic conditions following the completion of several major road projects," he said.
"Congestion eased as a result of this … which made private vehicles relatively more attractive."
New roads, quicker travelState and federal governments have invested billions in major road projects, including extensions and widening of the Mitchell and Kwinana freeways and the redevelopment of Tonkin Highway through the northern corridor.
Professor Newman said that had led to quicker driving times.
"It's always been easier to get in a car, but then if you're stuck in a car on the freeway or you just can't get along the road system, then you really worry about it," he said.
"And we were like that during the boom for a lot of the time, but it eased up, and public transport lost a lot of passengers.
"But that's going to get stuck again. The road system doesn't have the capacity to increase substantially and big highways are very expensive to build.
"So I think we're likely to have an increase in public transport again, but it does need to be faster than the traffic."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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