Monday, September 28, 2009

Free public transport 'would raise money'

By Matt Johnston

Herald Sun (Australia)

September 21, 2009 12:00am

  • FREE public transport in the Melbourne CBD would boost state coffers, say backers of a plan to scrap tickets in the city.

A group of city leaders on the Committee for Melbourne have used the state Government's economic modelling to show free public transport in the City Saver grid would improve Victoria's economy by $20 million a year.

The City Saver precinct runs from the Shrine in the south to north of the CBD, and reaches to the Docklands in the west and parts of the Yarra Park sports precinct in the east, Melbourne's Herald Sun reported.

But the Public Transport Users Association says the plan would do little for most travellers because they still must pay to get to the CBD.

The committee used the Government's Melbourne's Integrated Transport Model to analyse the benefits of free transport. Results showed free trips would eliminate more than 1500 short car journeys a day, boost tourism spending around the CBD and cut carbon emissions.

Committee spokesman Campbell York said the "Free in the CBD" team had met state government representatives and was now working on a detailed business plan to present to the Government by the end of the year.

He said visitors to the CBD would find it easier to navigate the tram network if it was free, and people working in the city would use cars less.

"My in-laws live in country Victoria and they are a bit daunted by the system because they aren't familiar with it. To take that barrier out for anyone visiting is a benefit," Mr York said.

The Grand Prix and Melbourne Commonwealth Games were examples he cited of when free public transport worked effectively.

A free network has also worked effectively overseas.

Committee for Melbourne chief executive Sally Capp said the system would enhance the city's liveability.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen was less enthusiastic about the concept.

"It's just a big benefit for people at the big end of town who are already driving into the city," Mr Bowen said. "It's better to spend the money on upgrading the services."

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