Thursday, September 4, 2008

Melburnians ignore trams, trains and buses -

Mary Bolling

PUBLIC transport crowds may be swelling, but nearly a third of Melburnians say they never get on board.

A Metlink survey has found that 30 per cent of Melburnians never use public transport, and large numbers say they don't know how, or can't access it.

New passengers flocked to public transport at a rate of an extra 100,000 trips a day last year, but Metlink chief Bernie Carolan said the system was leaving others behind.

"We've got really strong patronage growth, but against that, there's still a decent percentage of the community who have literally never used public transport, or not for some years," Mr Carolan said.

"We know, in outer suburbs in particular, frequency and density of public transport services is not the same as in the inner suburbs."

But when neglected areas do get new connections, the shift is immediate -- Metlink figures show two of the top 10 most popular bus routes in Melbourne last year were new.

Route 901 from Ringwood to Frankston, introduced in March, averaged 5915 trips a week, and Route 900, introduced from Caulfield to Stud Park in October 2006, averaged 3616 trips a week.

Overall, last year bus patronage went up 7.8 per cent, while across all modes the figure was 7.7 per cent.

"If we introduce high quality services, people then have more confidence in the system, and the uptake is obviously there," Mr Carolan said.

"If we're trying to induce people to use public transport instead of their car . . . it's got to be frequent enough to attract them."

But Mr Carolan said for many Melburnians, leaving the car in favour of public transport needed a leap of faith.

"People get habitual -- they haven't used public transport for some years, and then they get nervous about using it."

He said that in spite of soaring patronage pushing some services to capacity, there was still plenty of scope for getting more Melburnians on to public transport.

"There are plenty of options for using services outside of peak, and in counter-peak directions," he said.

"We'd encourage people to use public transport, not just for daily work commute but for a whole range of things."

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