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Make public transport accessible to all

Everyone should be able to get to work, education and participate in community life – but the sad reality is access to public transport in Victoria is haphazard. Too often, whether people can use public transport depends on where they live, where they’re going, when they’re travelling, their income, or their mobility restrictions.

Access to any public transport services can be limited in rural and regional areas, and accessible public transport even more so. Even Melbourne performs well below our accessibility targets – less than a quarter of tram stops currently meet the Australian Transport Standards.

DRC Advocacy talked to more than 450 Victorians, finding over two-thirds said inaccessible transport means they miss out on opportunities in life.

It’s not only physical barriers stopping people getting on public transport – communication systems, last-minute schedule changes, construction works and equipment breakdown all lead to transport disadvantage for Victorians with disability.

In last year’s election, while political parties were making many transport promises, little was said about access and inclusion. As we’ve said before, improving public transport accessibility has many benefits for the people of Victoria, including:

  • improving the ability of people with mobility restrictions to make the most of employment opportunities, gain skills and education, access social services and maintain connections with the community.
  • supporting positive and healthy ageing as Victorian society undergoes a demographic change.
  • helping families with young children by expanding their transport choices and assisting them in managing family budgets.
  • expanding mobility options for everyone, including when travelling with trolleys or luggage, or when injured, and thus assists in reducing car dependence.

However, these benefits will not materialise if the current ad hoc, uneven, and fragmented approach to accessibility is maintained. Only by making co-ordinated, informed, and widespread changes to the public transport system can we realise the value generated by accessible public transport.

While the Victorian government has begun complying with the standards in new vehicles and buildings, a large backlog of legacy infrastructure must be brought up to scratch. Long-term funding and planning for this is essential. Lack of funding certainty affects how resources are managed and leaves limited time for good planning and sequencing.

The Victorian Government must begin seriously investing in public transport accessibility. Establishing a dedicated government investment fund will ensure legacy infrastructure is systematically retrofitted to maximise public transport access. This process should begin with upgrading Victoria’s least accessible tram stops and train stations to provide more access to transport for all Victorians.

Transport accessibility is a key pillar of the collaborative systemic advocacy platform, Empowered Lives: Securing Change for Victorians with Disability. Empowered Lives has been endorsed by more than 35 organisations across the Victorian disability community. You can download the platform and sign up for more information on our website: http://empoweredlives.vcoss.org.au/.