Ride with me
By Sean Hua
Car drivers are apparently significantly more stressed on their commute than those that use other means of transport, as observed in this study in Montreal. Having to budget more time for their commute and the unpleasantness of the journey contributed to unhappy commuters. Have drivers have been conditioned to believe driving is the best way to get to work, and more importantly, do they have no other choice but to get to work by car? Would commuting drivers switch to public transport if they had better access to it?
Another study in Denver, Colorado, looked at the travel patterns of commuters, to see what impact accessibility to a station played on a person’s desire to use public transport. They assessed whether home or a workplace’s proximity to a station provided bigger impetus to use public transport. The results indicated three significant conclusions:
- People are more likely than average to take public transport to work, if only their workplace was close to a station.
- People are more likely than average to drive if their workplace was far from a station, even if they have a station close to home.
- People are much more likely to take public transport if both ends of their commute are close to stations.
In Melbourne, both the road and rail networks appear to be near capacity. Frequent jams on the freeways and packed trains on the morning commute are symptomatic of this. Simultaneously, the polls during the recent leadership spill indicate the general public consensus is for Australia to act more on climate change. One important means to do so would be to use more efficient sustainable mass transport than a private car and its associated road infrastructure. The proposed Melbourne Metro Rail Project could be a step in the right direction, even if completion will be far into the future. Why? Read on.
This body of research suggests that the better penetration of the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs by the Melbourne Metro Rail Project could significantly increase ridership. This is due to the CBD and the inner suburbs being areas with a high concentration of businesses, significantly higher than the middle and outer suburbs which are predominantly residential. As the evidence suggests, proximity to workplaces are a greater attractor for transit use than closeness to home.
However, increased connections around the CBD only focus on one end of the commute journey. Simultaneous residential development close to the stations and activity centres would allow both ends of a commute trip to be attractors. If the uptake of public transport occurs faster than the growth of population, it stands to reason that roads themselves would be more free of congestion, and that emissions would be reduced.
Both hard and soft incentives should be deployed to keep the now-excess road space from inducing driving demand and to promote public transport. With cleaner air, less noise, less stress and less lost-time, what more could you want?
Of course, combating climate change has many more facets than just switching from cars to trains, but for this at least… I’m all for it. Just one question though: if and when this change occurs, what do we do with all the roads?