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Without reliable, affordable and accessible transport, people may not be able to fully access opportunities around them. People need good transport options to attend education and training, go to work, attend appointments, access health and community services, see friends and family, and take part in social and recreational activities.
Not everyone has their own car, and to ensure everyone in Victoria can access opportunities, a range of transport alternatives are needed. To ensure these options are affordable and accessible for people facing disadvantage, they should include high quality public transport, point-to-point options including taxis and community transport, and good pedestrian infrastructure for walking or use of mobility aids.
The Victorian government is investing significantly in transport, including in major public transport projects. It has also signalled a more consultative way of working to improve people’s experience of the transport system. These directions are welcome.
For new services to offer benefit to all Victorians, they must be universally designed so that a wide range of people can use them, including people with disability, older people, parents with prams or strollers, or people carrying luggage or groceries.
Work also needs to be done beyond major projects. By examining the best use of the bus network, including in regional Victoria and outer suburban Melbourne, ensuring ticketing, fares, concessions and revenue protection practices do not prevent people using transport, and upgrading existing public transport infrastructure to make it fully accessible, the state government can help a range of people facing disadvantage use public transport to access opportunities and live meaningful lives.
The Victorian government can help all people access public transport by adopting universal design principles
in new and existing public transport projects. The government has announced a ream of new major public transport projects, including the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel, extending the South Morang railway line to Mernda, and new trains and trams.
By adopting universal design principles, from planning through to construction and operation, including in infrastructure and carriage design, the government can help ensure these new transport services meet people’s diverse accessibility needs.
At the same time, making new infrastructure universally accessible will fall short if problems with existing infrastructure are not addressed. People need their whole journey to be accessible, from beginning to end, and any barrier along the way means the journey cannot be made. If existing stops or stations remain inaccessible they will prevent people using the network. While there have been some small, welcome initiatives, progress remains slow. Public transport agencies appear increasingly willing to consult and engage people with disability. However, Victoria remains behind Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) targets, especially for the tram network, and is unlikely to meet 2017 targets.
There is also some concern over the direction the Australasian Railways Association, of which Public Transport Victoria is a member, has taken in regard to accessibility standards. Instead of working with people with disability to enable them to use public transport, the association has argued for ways to exempt itself from doing this, and to lower the standard people should expect of public transport services.
The Victorian government can help people in rural and regional areas access work, education, community and health services and activities, by investing in transport improvements in regional areas.
VCOSS welcomes the state government’s commitment to developing a Regional Transport Development Plan, as people living in rural and regional Victoria are highly car dependent, with fewer public or alternative transport options. This creates additional disadvantage for people who cannot drive, afford to run a car, or those who wish not to. People may have to rely on friends and family for transport, or simply not make the journeys they need to at all.
Every part of regional Victoria is different, and solutions will need to be developed through consultation. It is likely that more detailed consideration of the use of assets, timetable and service coordination, and flexible transport options, including local buses, school buses, community transport services and taxis will be needed to improve transport options in regional and rural Victoria.
The Victorian government can improve transport options for people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and in rural
and regional areas, by expanding and improving the bus network to more areas, offering faster and more frequent services over expanded hours of operation.
Parts of Melbourne’s outer suburbs and rural and regional areas experience high levels of disadvantage, while also being poorly served by public transport. This contributes to high-income groups using public transport more frequently in Victoria than low-income groups. Victoria has invested significantly in its train and tram networks, however, these do not reach every locality. Given the extensive road network, it is often more cost effective to expand bus services, which can reach more people, more often, and connect them to local destinations and rail and tram networks.
Victoria’s bus network remains difficult for people to navigate, and often duplicates train and tram services. It could be redesigned to provide more services in underserviced areas, better connect with other transport modes, and run faster and more frequently. VCOSS welcomes the state government’s decision to defer implementing recent bus network restructure proposals, as these often replicate journeys to Melbourne’s CBD, rather than linking to the rail network.
By consulting further with the community, the state government can improve Victoria’s bus network to provide services that are more useful to people, and attract greater patronage.
The Victorian government can improve people’s ability to access transport by expanding the eligibility and options available through the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP). VCOSS welcomes the current review of the MPTP, as this program can be further expanded and reformed to improve people’s access to affordable transport.
Broadening the MPTP to enable program members to use funds for transport services beyond taxis, such as hire cars and community transport, would give people more options to better meet their transport needs. VCOSS suggests considering ways of expanding services able to transport wheelchairs.
VCOSS has also advocated that people’s eligibility for the MPTP be assessed more holistically than just on medical grounds. This means not only considering a person’s physical characteristics, but basing eligibility on people’s individual needs, including their resources, the availability of private motor vehicles, and their local access to public transport options.
The Victorian government can help people facing disadvantage access public transport by boosting emergency relief transport assistance, and reviewing fares, concessions and fare evasion responses.
People on low incomes face tight budgets and financial hardship. Emergency relief organisations spend significant resources providing people with public transport assistance. This is compounded by a ticketing system that remains complex and sometimes difficult for people to understand, as well as a complicated fare and concessions structure. Approaches to fare evasion can also discriminate against people facing disadvantage, such as the $75 evasion penalty fare, which is only available to adults who have capacity to pay $75 immediately using a credit or debit card, while those who cannot do so are required to pay a much higher fine.
By expanding the resources available to emergency relief organisations, and making it easier for them to provide public transport tickets, they can provide more people experiencing hardship a valid ticket for travel. By reviewing and streamlining the ticketing system, and fare and concessions structure, more people may be able to understand the system and ensure they purchase tickets at the lowest cost for their travel. By reviewing the penalty fare and fine structure, as well as improving the interaction with authorised officers, more people can be helped to use the system correctly, directed to appropriate support, and minimise their accrual of unnecessary fines.
Develop community transport
Compared with other jurisdictions, Victoria’s community transport services are underdeveloped. The community transport system can provide people more individualised, innovative and cost effective mobility solutions through mechanisms such as the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program review, the NDIS, and the Home and Community Care program.
Extend travel training, education, promotion and assistance
Many people do not use public transport because they are unfamiliar with services. By improving awareness of public transport, and providing opportunities for vulnerable groups to try it in a safe environment, more people can be helped to use the service. Community organisations are well-placed to provide travel training support for people facing barriers in accessing public transport.
Improve access to school buses
The school bus network provides Victoria’s most extensive public transport coverage, especially in rural areas. Many people who could benefit from using these services such as tertiary students or apprentices and trainees are prevented from doing so by the current structure. Expanding access to school buses could expand people’s transport options in areas where there are currently, very few, if any, public transport alternatives.
 Victorian Council of Social Service, Australasian Railways Association application for exemption from DSAPT: Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 2015.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Water and Energy Use, Victoria, Data Cubes: Public Transport, October 2011.