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Transport Minister Michael Ferguson’s call for expressions of interest to trial a ferry service between Bellerive and Sullivans Cove is welcome news.
The one-year trial on the major route will give time to ascertain the real demand for an expanded ferry service and its effects on road traffic.
Too much comment in the past has been based on wishful thinking without real analysis of changing travel patterns.
Generally, people support public transport, such as light rail, cheaper bus fares and ferries, but when push comes to shove the demand fails to materialise.
People use cars for very good reasons and many support public transport in the hope it may be attractive to others and reduce congestion for themselves.
The RACT’s Greater Hobart Mobility Vision included a scenario to convert Hobart into a water-centred city (“River City”) using the River Derwent as “the primary means of mobility”.
The concept was based on a comparison with Brisbane.
Brisbane has an urban population of 2.3 million, compared with Hobart’s less than a quarter of a million, but there are other important differences.
Brisbane straddles the lower reaches of the Brisbane River. The river’s extensive meanders mean that cross-river distances are often much shorter than the road distances.
Hobart is situated at the estuary of the River Derwent, drowned as sea level rose in the past 15,000 years. Cross-river distances are much longer and more subject to storms compared with the Tasman Bridge road crossing at the narrowest point.
Ironically for a motoring organisation, the RACT selects for its advisory expert panels planners with a history of trying to get people out of cars and on to public transport.
This approach has not succeeded in reducing congestion and low density residential expansion anywhere in the world.
The planning profession is not scientific in trying to understand how the real world works. It is idealistic in prescribing how we ought to behave. Changing travel behaviour and land use are ignored.
The illustration accompanying the RACT scenario of River City shows no private car nor is there any indication of what activities people are trying to achieve.
According to the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Brisbane’s annual motorised passenger task in 2013 was 27.62 billion passenger-km (bpk), of which private motor vehicles contributed 25.28 bpk while ferry services contributed just 0.02 bpk. Buses contributed 1.27 bpk and heavy rail 1.05 bpk.
Melbourne’s much vaunted tram system, beloved by the anti-car brigade, contributed just 0.73 bpk compared with 49.97 bpk for private vehicles.
Infrastructure Australia estimated the proposed $1 billion Stage 3A of Gold Coast light rail would increase public transport’s share marginally from 5.3 per cent to 5.9 per cent by 2041.
A PwC study found a proposed light rail for the Sunshine Coast would deliver a mere 2.4 per cent reduction in vehicle kilometres by 2041.
Maybe Hobart is different to other Australian cities. Maybe we like queuing up on cold mornings for the privilege of a bouncy trip across the harbour to reach Sullivans Cove.
But what would we do then? How would we link up all the other activities we need to do during the few hours available if we leave our car at home or in a remote carpark?
That’s why a one-year trial is important. After the novelty of experimenting wears off, the trial will provide valuable data on the long term demand for ferry services in urban Hobart.
And the evidence will be well worth the expense of a trial.
This article first appeared on www.themercury.com.au
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