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Almost three-quarters of commuters would save money if cheaper off-peak fares were introduced, according to a report from Infrastructure Victoria. It could also ease congestion and encourage people to return to the City of Melbourne when restrictions ease.
Varying the pricing of transport depending on the time of the day could also help avoid congestion, which will be crucial in a post COVID-19 world, according to Infrastructure Victoria chief executive Michel Masson.
"Cheaper fares can also encourage people to return to the city and other shopping centres as restrictions ease, supporting Melbourne's economic recovery," he said.
A new report from Infrastructure Victoria proposes creating a peak fare time of 7:30am to 9:30am, and 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
A trip from most Melbourne suburbs into the city during the morning peak would cost $5, while an off-peak trip would be $2.50.
Off-peak pricing would also apply to commuters going against the main flow of people.
"Our research finds many commuters would benefit from the option of off-peak fares, especially during the COVID-19 era, as it creates an incentive to choose less crowded services and support social distancing," Mr Mason said.
The report is only a recommendation from the independent body, but Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Government would consider it.
Households on low income will benefit the mostInfrastructure Victoria is also proposing to abolish the free tram zone in Melbourne's CBD, and introduce a city zone, which would include all train stations on the city loop and the yet-to-be-completed metro stations.
Fares within the new city zone would be subject to the peak pricing.
The new tram zone would link all stations in the City Loop.(Supplied: Infrastructure Victoria)The report suggests 71 per cent of people would pay less under the proposal.
It suggests households in the lowest incomes would benefit the most, with a 26 per cent saving on their transport costs.
Poorer households would also benefit from a drop in bus fares, with modelling showing that 47 per cent of bus users come from the bottom 40 per cent of household income.
Trains and trams are being used proportionately by wealthier households, with the top 20 per cent of incomes being the largest group of public transport users.
"Cheaper prices for under-used services such as buses and all off-peak travel gives public transport users power to decide how much they want to pay for public transport, based on when and how they travel," Mr Masson said.
Today, the Premier said Melbourne's road and public transport networks would look different as coronavirus restrictions eased, because of consumer preferences and social distancing requirements.
"I'm not necessarily agreeing with that specific proposal," Mr Andrews said.
"But we will certainly look at it because we are in the process of looking at lots of different things."
The report said other cities that have emerged from lockdown are seeing a boom in the the number of commuters driving to work, up 15 per cent in Perth and 10 per cent in Brisbane on pre-COVID levels.
The numbers of people catching public transport are 70 per cent and 63 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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