As I sit on the train embarking on my journey home from work today, I can't help but think, does it get any better than this?
In Australia, there has been a significant lack of investment in public transport over the last few years. It has definitely started to increase in recent times, but with so much to catch up on, are we doing enough? For me, public transport is one of the key identifiers of a good society or not. At a certain point, advanced societies must transition from a car-based model to a more sustainable one. For my particular commute, it takes roughly twice as long to complete the journey on public transport than in a car. It is also more expensive, even with the increase in petrol prices as well.
But is it fair to simply say that transport is getting worse because people are not using it? That seems to be something that people say. To be honest, I don't believe this is true. I think for far too long, government departments have been forced to squeeze out a public transport system with minimal funding. The buses I used to catch to work were the same ones that my father before me caught. Is this because the routes were the most superior? Unlikely, it is because we adopted a 'good enough' policy—a policy of if people aren't using the bus, why should we fund it more? Which I think misses the point entirely.
When I speak with my friends, the ones that don't catch public transport, the most common reason that I hear from them are that there aren't enough services for them. Obviously, there will always be some people who simply won't catch it, but for many of them, the main reason is that they don't see the options available, whether it be the need for another bus stop, an increased train service, or another bus route that doesn't simply go to the main hubs in the city.
So how would we solve it? When I go to other cities abroad, they seem to have higher public transport usage rates; what is the difference between them and us? Is it a cultural thing? Should we be focussing on funding a culture with public transport so we can reap the benefits in 15-20 years' time? I think it might be worth it. The roads are getting busier, the time it takes to get places is getting longer, and I cannot see how the answer is simply more roads. More roads only would work if there were more unconnected places to go. If it is more roads leading to the same location, then we are stuck with the same issue, just maybe worse; instead of the road ahead of me being clogged with cars, it's now the roads next to me as well.
I remember reading an article about a study that said that the creation of highways doesn't really have an effect on reducing traffic, the issue being that if you create a highway or road, you actually encourage people to use the road, meaning that result is actually more cars on the road rather than a simple distribution of the existing vehicles and this effect is felt relatively quickly, only a couple of years after the highway is opened. It's almost ironic that spending money on trying to fix a problem can actually result in a more significant amount of that problem instead.'
If that is the case, then we need action. We don't need neighbourhood protests claiming to block public transport options on the basis of undefined racism or elitism, but we actually need a concerted effort to address this issue. Because the solutions that actually work take a lot of time, years even. And if we don't act soon, we will end up stuck with an aging rail network that is worse than what we have at the moment, resulting in more cars on the road. That is the problem with this kind of civil problems; when the problem is noticeable, the time for action has already passed. My city has effectively two international airports, and I think it is ridiculous that you cannot get public transport between them. It has been continually halted, and it is time for enemies of public transport to sit down because it will be everyone complaining if it takes 4hrs to get to work. There are not enough podcasts in the world to cover that amount of being stuck in traffic.