Friday, December 19, 2014

Melbourne CBD will be a Free Tram Zone from 1 January 2015

Rarely does public transport bring a smile to commuters' faces, but from 1 January, 2015, that could change in Melbourne, Australia.

No longer will you have to be on heightened alert when you can't be effed touching on for three stops. Public Transport Victoria have announced free travel within a Free Tram Zone (note: it doesn't apply to buses or trains, only trams) stretching across the Melbourne CBD, the boundaries of which extend to the Queen Victoria Market, Victoria Harbour in Docklands, Spring Street, Flinders Street Station, and Federation Square. You'll be able to easily spot the zones with Free Tram Zone signs to ID the boundaries.

PT users won't need to touch on their myki unless their travel begins or finishes outside the Free Tram Zone, but even then there's good news. Travel on trains, trams, and buses across Zones 1 and 2 will be the price of a Zone 1 fare, and Zone 2 only travel will be cheaper as well.

PTV have cited "[making] it easier for commuters and tourists to move around the city" as their reason for implementing the change, and we definitely aren't complaining.

Read more about the changes here.

Article from 'The Vine' newsletter

We can't fix Auckland's traffic jams with more roads

By Matt Lowrie, NZ Herald opinion, 9 December 2014

Auckland shouldn't throw money at projects that are just about providing a little bit of extra capacity at peak times but sit under-used the other 20 hours of the day.

On Saturday (6 December), a single crash near the Central Motorway Junction in Auckland left much of the city's motorway network gridlocked for the afternoon. Many Aucklanders are asking why the impact was so large and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

The unfortunate reality is that crashes and gridlock are an inevitable part of car-based transport systems. We can't fix that by building wider motorways - all that will do is encourage more driving and thus increase the number of people sitting frustratedly in traffic. What we can do is build a transport system that minimises the number of people affected by giving them the option to travel congestion-free by bus, train, ferry, or bicycle.

Before I go into that, it's worth covering off some of the reasons the incident on Saturday was so bad. The crash happened on the Harbour Bridge, which is one of the busiest sections of road in the country - only Auckland's Southern motorway between Greenlane and Grafton carries more cars.

It also happens to be one of the busiest times of the year, with events, Christmas shopping and sunny weather all contributing towards a lot of people being out and about.

Furthermore, the location of the crash was close to the Central Motorway Junction. As traffic on this busy section of road quickly backed up it flowed back through the CMJ and at that point it started impacting not only those who were travelling to the North Shore but to other destinations such as the city centre or to West Auckland too.

As a result of the chaos we've quickly seen calls from a number of people for an additional harbour crossing to be built. In addition the New Zealand Transport Agency said the completion of upgrades to North-Western motorway and the Waterview tunnels would help. Yet observing of the effects of Saturday highlighted these projects are likely to have a limited impact.

As people flooded to the North-Western motorway to take the longer way over the harbour, that route too quickly filled up and it too took many hours to clear. Some of that congestion may have been due to drivers checking out the continuous 12km of roadworks being undertaken however the real issue is the route isn't designed to carry that many vehicles. The same fate would have befallen an additional harbour crossing as too many drivers tried to funnel into a tunnel.

Auckland needs smarter investment in infrastructure to help keep the city moving. We know that we only have limited budgets and there's even the possibility of tolls on the city's motorways. As such we need to be mindful that we're not throwing money away on projects that are just about providing a little bit of extra capacity at peak times but are under-used the other 20 hours of the day. No city in the world has managed to build its way out of congestion by building more roads.

With fewer vehicles travelling across the Harbour Bridge every day than there was a decade ago an additional harbour crossing would definitely fall into this category. Moreover it comes with a hefty price tag with some estimates putting it over $5 billion and that doesn't include new or wider motorways on either side of the harbour to support it. Unsurprisingly the last business case for a new harbour crossing was appallingly bad, returning just 20c for every dollar invested.

A resilient transport system should definitely be the aim of our transport agencies, but duplicating Auckland's motorways at great expense will not provide it. Fortunately, we have proven, albeit incomplete, examples of what's needed to provide that resiliency and we can once again look to the Harbour Bridge to see it in action.

The completion of the Northern Busway in 2008 has already had a dramatic impact in how people from the North Shore cross the harbour on weekdays. An NZTA report highlighted that in 2004 before the busway existed around 18 per cent of people who crossed the Harbour Bridge did so on a bus. By 2012 this figure was up to 40 per cent, as the busway provides a frequent and congestion free alternative to driving a car. According to NZTA's traffic monitoring data, buses are often able to reach the city centre from Albany in half the time of those still sitting in their cars. This is in spite of the fact that there is still no dedicated busway over the Harbour Bridge.

The busway and our rapidly improving rail network are the start of Auckland's future Rapid Transit Network (RTN).

If we invest in a high-quality RTN with the City Rail Link at its heart, Aucklanders will use it. Even with the current incomplete network, Auckland Transport's patronage data shows that trips taken on the RTN in the 12 months to October are up a staggering 17 per cent on the same time last year. This isn't surprising as dedicated public transport routes have been the key in making public transport more successful in cities all around the world for well over a century. If services on these rapid transit systems are fast, frequent and reliable then people will flock to them.

Many cities are now rushing to install or expand rapid transit systems as well as invest in dedicated walking and cycling routes in a bid to tackle congestion. By themselves these high quality alternatives to driving won't solve congestion but when implemented properly what they will do is allow people to opt out of congestion.

A network of busways and rail lines across the city - like we've suggested in our Congestion Free Network - would do this and do so within the city's existing transport budget.

Matt Lowrie writes on transport issues at

*FareFree NZ would of course add that if such an enhanced public transport network was also free at the point of use, this move would greatly increase it's popularity & efficiency. Editor

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Aucklanders caught between a tarseal-addicted government and a weak mayor

 Auckland mayor Len Brown

By John Minto, Daily Blog, October 30, 2014

Len Brown’s proposal for motorway tolls to reduce congestion and provide funding for better public transport is a weak response to a critical issue.

The $12 billion dollar shortfall on transport funding he talks about is mainly for projected new road projects with less than a third of that amount for improving public transport. And yet city planners freely admit that even if Auckland builds all these new roads the government wants congestion will continue to get worse.

In fact no city anywhere in the world has tarsealed its way out of congestion – it simply doesn’t work.

The bigger a city gets the more cars that use the roads and building new roads just mean you get to the traffic jam quicker.

The answer to Auckland’s traffic problems is to increase public subsidies for [buses] and trains from 50% to 100%. In other words make public transport free of charge. This would cost less than half the projected spending on new roads which would not be needed as commuters get out of their cars in droves to use modern, free and frequent buses, trains and ferries.

It provides a win-win outcome for Aucklanders with benefits to the environment and giving all of us up to an hour a day extra at home instead of crawling along a motorway.

Even the most right-wing reprobate who would never sully a seat on a bus or train would benefit by being able to drive on congestion-free motorways.

The worst thing about Brown’s proposal is that those paying the most for tolls will be families living the farthest from their jobs. This is typically low-income families from South and West Auckland who are car-dependant because public transport option are so poor. One mum I met last year worked four hours a day cleaning the central library after driving in from Mangere (cheaper than taking the bus). She and other low-income workers would pay the lion’s share of the tolls needed to fund Len Brown’s transport deficit.

In private Len Brown is happy to talk about free public transport and sees its immediate benefits but he’s not a strong leader and his lack of courage means he prefers to front a right-wing, user-pays solution than a bold public transport policy.

So is the government (which is on Aucklanders’ side against the proposal) really concerned for the impact tolls will have on low-income families as Transport Minister Simon Bridges says?

Not a chance. Bridges and former Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee both speak against tolling existing motorways because they are worried at the reaction from Aucklanders. If public opinion moves further against tolls they don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the argument.

So what’s John Key’s solution? Reduce the amount of the transport deficit by scrapping or delaying public transport initiatives and keep pouring money into new roads. Yes it’s brainless and self-defeating but it will keep business happy in the short term.

Bridges put it this way yesterday –

    “…the National-led Government is spending more than ever before to help build the city’s transport network; around a billion dollars a year. These include very large projects like the Waterview Connection, the widening of the North Western Motorway, the electrification of commuter rail, and the acceleration of motorway projects on the Northern and Southern Corridors.”

National’s priority for roads, roads and roads when the answer is to abandon new roading projects and use the money to decongest Auckland overnight.

- See more at:

International Free Public Transport Conference in Zory, Poland

Report from the Tallinn City (Estonia) website:

On 6 November 2014, Zory hosted an international conference of free public transport.

Zory became an international arena for exchanging views on free public transport. The conference was addressed mainly to representatives of local governments, but also research institutions, movements and companies involved in the management of public transport. The purpose of the conference was to disseminate knowledge about free transport. Cities that have implemented such solutions, presented their case.

The forum was opened by the Mayor of Zory, Waldemar Socha. Other presentations were given by representatives of Tallinn (EE), Trentino (IT), Academy of Social Sciences in Chengdu (CN), Saxion University of Applied Sciences (NL), as well as Zabki, Gostyn and Żory (PL).

  Free public transport in Polish city boosts passenger numbers fourfold


By Alan Mwendwa, Urban Gateway, 20 Aug 2014

Following the introduction in May of free public transport, the Polish city of Żory says that the number of people using its local buses has jumped fourfold.

Passenger numbers in the southern Polish city (pop: 62,625) had been falling over the past few years, partly due to rising ticket prices. Concerned that this was resulting in increased car usage and many citizens being unable to engage in educational, cultural and recreational activities the city introduced free bus travel earlier this year.

'Based on the observations of drivers and our officials, up to four times as many passengers travelled on the buses in July compared to May,' Anna Ujma, a local government spokesperson, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Residents were also encouraged to suggest how to improve the bus network. Ujma said that the three most common requests were to introduce larger buses, adjust timetables to the needs of students and increase the number of bus stops.

The city has been quick to respond. Two out of the seven free bus lines now have larger buses, and locations for three new bus stops have already been identified.

Urban Gateway - journal of the International Urban Development Community.

Source: ELTIS

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shift to mass transit could save $100 trillion "More than $100 trillion in public and private spending could be saved between now and 2050 if the world expands public transportation, walking and cycling in cities, according to a new report released by the University of California, Davis, and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Additionally, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions reaching 1,700 megatons per year in 2050 could be achieved if this shift occurs."