Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 April 2022) . . Page.. 861 ..
mine from last term, and today the Liberals are copying themselves from within the same term.
I do understand the intent and, like Ms Clay, I believe that Mr Parton is genuine in wanting to increase patronage. I think we are all united in wanting to have the very best public transport system possible. But what is proposed in this motion is not the solution.
Minister Steel highlighted some of the areas in the Productivity Commission’s report that go to the heart of this. To assist this debate further, it is worth drawing out some of these statements. In order to save members having to read all 241 pages, the commission, in its research paper, has effectively refuted the motion. Indeed, on its first page, in the foreword, it says:
In the febrile climate of the COVID-19 crisis—
this might sound familiar—
some have been tempted by the seductive idea that zero fares would be a good way of reviving public transport. One insight from our work is that this would not be effective in achieving that goal. Instead, it would divert funds better spent on service quality, often to people with higher incomes who do not need the subsidy.
I note that Ms Clay drew out this point in some detail in her speech. Page 12 also flags, with respect to free transport—and I quote:
As suggested by global experiences, these benefits are largely illusory. Where free fares were introduced, patronage increased, but usually made little difference to road congestion and sometimes had the perverse impacts of shifting people from walking and cycling to public transport.
Mr Parton asked in his speech how many cars have been taken off the road in the Tasmanian trial, and he equated the increased number of passengers on public transport with people who are leaving their cars at home. But this is a false equivalence. As the research paper flags:
IPART modelled free public transport in Sydney, finding that demand would increase—
not by 13 per cent—
by about 40 per cent. But the reduction in car use was far less—between two and five per cent. This is because car use is far greater than public transport, so even sizeable percentage increases in public transport will not have similar percentage impacts on car use. Moreover, the proportionate effect on congestion is not equivalent to the effect on car use because some roads are not congested in the first place, the substituted travel is not all at peak, and the number of car trips and their length are different. Overall, the evidence suggests that at the low prices that already exist for public transport, free transit would usually not make additional inroads to congestion.