The Report for the Inquiry into Expanding Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone was released on 26th November 2020.
This inquiry investigated expanding Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone; how to make a cultural shift to encourage people to use public transport; new technologies; dynamic pricing; and free fares for seniors and students.
“This [Inquiry] was a missed opportunity that does not reflect Melbourne’s growth and the opportunity to encourage the use of more public transport.….. Reading the committee’s report, it is my view that we did not listen enough to students, businesses, tourism, seniors, local residents or the vulnerable”
I submitted a minority report in recognition of the need to create an accessible and high capacity tram network; the struggles of our most vulnerable seniors and students; and the benefits the Free Tram Zone creates for tourism, local residents and our CBD.
Over 400 submissions were made to the committee discussing the effects and benefits of expanding the free tram zone, dynamic public transport pricing, providing free fares for full times students and senior card holders as well as improving the tram system. Notably, 329 submissions indicated their support for extending the Free Tram Zone as well as free fares for students and the elderly.
Unfortunately at the public hearings, we did not hear from interstate or international examples, nor did we hear from a single vulnerable member of our society.
“Sadly, none of the public hearings heard from interstate or international examples and nor did we hear from a single vulnerable member of our society. This was a missed opportunity that does not reflect Melbourne’s growth and the opportunity to encourage the use of more public transport.”
It is clear that trams in Melbourne CBD are overcrowded and struggling to meet demand. Yet despite the outcome of this inquiry, additional support to increase tram efficient, supply and network will be needed to meet Melbourne’s growing population. As such, in considering the terms of reference, the committee must analyse a range of factors with the understanding that some issues are inevitable with growth.
The inquiry has revealed the publics concern on current fare pricing regimes as well as the lack of revenue available to support the public transport network. Considering dynamic pricing options is a key part of this inquiry. It is important that a balanced public transport system is achieved to assist individuals from low-socio economic backgrounds and groups as well as to ensure superior public transport capacity and efficiency.
Free transport for patients traveling to and from Hospitals would help to reduce the financial cost placed on patients. The Cancer Council highlighted in the public hearings that the “daily transport costs….are not subsidised” for those individuals staying in the city for treatment for an extended period of time. With the current funding scheme providing limited and insufficient transport support to patients in need.
Making transport free for students will help to create a cultural mindset about public transport and also reduce the financial burden placed on students. The public hearings in the inquiry revealed that there is a high financial burden, and stress, placed on students traveling to and from uni. As a community we ask our children, these young citizens, to juggle a full-time study load, extracurricular activities and study placements all whilst undertaking casual work to pay for their student fees, rent and living costs.
Additionally, there is currently no subsidised fare or concession for post-graduate or international students. Melbourne University highlighted in their public hearing that extending the free tram zone in Melbourne CBD or introducing free public transport for student would provide further marketing opportunities to increase international and post graduate education in Victoria. An industry which has been Victoria’s largest services export for over the last ten years.
I brought this inquiry to the legislative council in June 2019 and still believe that this inquiry is one step towards changing the way people move around our city.
Since the inquiry, the government has invested in 100 Next Generation Trams to provide more accessible, modern and energy-efficient trams services to Victoria. Roll out of the Next Generation Trams is projected to commence from 2025.
Due to Covid-19, there is now an off-peak discount for all metropolitan services to encourage a staggering of passengers. A 30% discount is applied to trips taken between 9:30 am and 4 pm or after 7 pm on weekdays. This discount ends on the 27th of August 21.
8 days of free public transport was provided to Victorian Senior Victorians and Carer Card holders in March 2021. This was aligned with Senior’s week.
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The minority report recognises the struggle of our most vulnerable seniors and students; identifies the need to create an accessible and high-capacity tram network; and the benefits the Free Tram Zone creates for tourism, students, seniors, local residents, and our CBD.
I urge the Andrews Labor government to recognise that it is not the free tram zone that is the problem but an ageing tram network that is poorly managed and lacking accessibility, high-capacity trams and the sufficient collection of data.