Thursday, March 17, 2016

Qld Local Elections: The BCC Public Transport Policy Mosh Pit

By Tony Corbett

Its hard to know where to start with the public transport (PT) policy mosh-pit that has characterised the BCC election campaign.  There isn’t much point getting into the nitty gritty, we’ll leave that to Brizcommuter who provides a good assessment HERE. At a broader level the PT promise frenzy the mayoral candidates have engaged in tell us that the toxic relationship and blurred lines of responsibility between the BCC and the state government continues to cripple our PT system and stymie any improvement.

The two main candidates, the LNPs Graham Quirk and Labor’s Rod Harding have promised half baked, expensive metro and light rail systems with zero discussions with the state via Translink, who is allegedly responsible for PT.  Harding has also promised ‘free fare Fridays’ when the BCC actually, nominally, has no control over fares.  The ludicrousness of this proposal prompted Rail Back on Track’s Bob Dow to publicly call for legislation stripping the BCC of any control over public transport.  Both of the major parties were silent on cross river rail, the number 1 priority to get the city moving. The Greens candidate Ben Pennings has made some cheaper bus-based proposals, which are OK if taken in isolation, but that is what we believe is the critical point.  All of the promises and proposals have been rushed and developed in isolation, with little or no thought of system integration.

Meanwhile we have a new transport minister at state level, SH, who on early indications seems as useless and hamstrung as his predecessor Jackie Trad.  The vaunted fare review has supposedly been completed (?), but with no public consultation, no release date, ad hoc releases of more special fare products, and if the BCC election campaign promises are anything to go by, lukewarm or zero political support.

Brisbane’s public transport system remains woefully inadequate, with no indications of reform or improvement in the future.  None of the players at state or BCC levels seem to understand or care that political and institutional reform is the only way forward.  While they don’t seem to understand, they actually do understand.  What seem to us like a murky, opaque web of backroom deals between politicians and unions, and between state and BCC politicians combines to maintain the status quo of an unintegrated system that is expensive to use and run and stuck in time somewhere around Expo 88.

The state leaving PT to the BCC has had disasterous results.  The BCC only has control over buses, and inevitably they have delivered us to ‘peak bus’.  A single, state government controlled metro controlling all aspects of the system, with a focus on rail is the only way forward.  If the BCC genuinely cared about delivering good public transport it would recognise the need for integrating rail and bus modes.  For that to happen the BCC needs to stop acting unilaterally on major infrastructure and the state needs to prioritise PT and get on the front foot politically.  In other words, the BCC needs to step aside, and the state needs to step up.