MOTION - NOTE REPORT INTEGRATED SUSTAINABLE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM IN SOUTHERN TASMANIA
Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr President, I too shall make a short contribution. Before I start, the member for Windermere asked me to mention something he had forgotten during his contribution. He wanted me to mention that between 1999 and 2000 - and I imagine that was probably the time he would have been the commander of police in Launceston - there were many assaults. It was probably the time that assaults peaked in Launceston , particularly late at night. One of the changes made to try to alleviate the assaults was that Metro put on more buses. It did help because the feeling was that people were stuck in the city after probably long periods of drinking late at night; they could not get home and they were thereabouts and assaults occurred. It was something he meant to mention when he made his contribution but unfortunately forgot, so it is certainly worth saying.
I thank the committee - I think it is wonderful - I have not read it all, I will admit that, but I have been through quite a bit of it and the pertinent points.
Mrs Taylor - It is really the findings and recommendations that are the important part.
Mrs ARMITAGE - It is, and it is also interesting to see who were the witnesses. I note that the minister, Mr McKim, might have been there, having read some comments that he made, and it is probably an opportune time to read a couple of the comments that were made by Mr McKim back in March 2010 when the Greens were standing for government - some of the things that they were going to do. I am not too sure if they have done all of these things and there might be some questions I could ask the leader in future. They committed to $1 million over three years to develop and implement a comprehensive IBUS timetable and ticketing system that includes both public and private operators.
Mrs Taylor - We might still be waiting for that.
Mrs ARMITAGE - This was 2010. Also $500 000 to develop and expand a mini Metro flexi-bus branch system for regional areas, whether they are serviced or not by the main arterial Metro tracks; $300 000 from the Launceston Base Wireless Bus Pilot Study - I am not sure about that one, I have not heard about that one either but I will have to check that out - and $8 million to retrofit and redevelop public sector workplaces with end-of-trip facilities to improve cycling to work options. So there were a few things that were going to happen around the northern area. I look forward to some questions, probably on notice, that I can have for the leader.
The member for Windermere also mentioned cycle racks on buses, and while I cannot find anything about Launceston - and I know we did bring it up and it was thought of by Metro - I notice a statement by Mr McKim in 2012 that they were looking to trial those on Metro buses in Hobart. The unions had a concern that if a bike were to fall off one of the racks it could injure someone. They were worried that the drivers could be sued. So the fear of litigation - we have become a very litigious society - could still be the problem.
As in Hobart and all around the state, Launceston is not alone with problems to do with public transport and lack of public transport. One of the main issues is that we have so few buses. When we do catch a bus they take such a long route home. My mother recently caught a bus - the first time for a long time - and she said, 'I couldn't believe the suburbs I went through'. She lives probably, by car, 10 minutes from the city but the bus took her 40 minutes because the bus -
Mr Valentine - I was going to say half an hour.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Over half an hour because it had to go through a variety of suburbs to get her home. That is probably one of the reasons that people - because we are a time-poor society now - use their vehicle rather than get public transport. You cannot get directly home. In some of our northern and north eastern suburbs, particularly Waverley, St Leonards, the buses take a long route, particularly schoolchildren, so you are not getting on the bus and getting home within the 10 to 15 minutes which you would in the car. It is taking you a good half hour or more to get home and that is a concern.
In Launceston , as Hobart, we had the Gehl report and one of the things that Gehl found was that we were a very traffic dominated city whereas we should really be people oriented but we are not. That may be one of the issues that we have when you look at the reasons for the lack of use of public transport.
The member for Elwick in her initial contribution last week mentioned the Tiger Bus in Launceston. We have a free bus that travels around the city and the idea of that bus - there are two buses - one starts quite early in the morning picking people up from the Inveresk area where there is free parking plus charge parking. We have an area where they can park for nothing, walk 100 metres to the bus and come to the city, and it is reasonably well used but not well enough used that the cost outweighs the cost of the bus.
If you look at how much it would realistically cost each person to travel, they could probably get a cab to go down to pick them up and bring them back cheaper, when you look at the numbers. Unfortunately, it is not eligible for state government funding because of where it goes, which was one of the issues we had. Hobart has a free bus, and in Launceston the Launceston City Council puts a free bus on, but how much longer it can continue I do not know. While they have picked up, and they pick up at Christmas time and times of heavy traffic in the city, all year round the numbers are not really significant. It is a large bus and sometimes you see it going past with one or two patrons, which does not go down well with the ratepayers - to see a free bus with one or two patrons. Where is their money going? It is a difficult situation.
Mr Valentine - I'm not sure Hobart's bus runs every day. It might run to the market on Saturday.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Ours is every day. We have two - one that runs every day, and one that runs on extra days for going to work.
Western Australia was mentioned by the member for Rumney, and it is interesting. I have four children in Western Australia. We talk about the drain of people from the state - out of our six children, four are in Western Australia. So two-thirds have already left. One has bought a house and one is looking to buy a house. When we talk about transport over there, my son's partner is just buying her second house and she is buying it in an area that, as she said, does not have transport yet, but will by the time the development is up - the rails are already on their way. They look ahead - they have the transport going there and by the time the development is moving ahead and the subdivision is up and running, the trains will be in that area. It is interesting to see what other jurisdictions do, and how they cope. I noted the comments from the member for Windermere about New South Wales - the difference of being able to get on a bus and have easy access to transport.
Mr Valentine - It's transport-oriented development that they do in Western Australia.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Absolutely. It really makes a difference and when we talk about population decline, there are a lot of reasons for population decline, and transport could be one of them. It is difficult, and it is difficult for Metro and I accept that. Metro does a great job, because it is hard when people do not catch your buses. I see buses going past my house and there might be one person on them, late at night. My husband will say, 'Fancy having a bus with only one person on it', but the fact is that one person needs to get home. It is a very difficult situation - people do not tend to use buses because they run at hours that are not convenient. They do not run every 15 minutes but, of course, they cannot afford to run them every 15 minutes with the population we have. It is impossible to weigh up how they can keep the service going when people are not supporting it and it comes back to the convenience.
The member for Rumney mentioned that we are a convenience society - we want to be able to park close, we want to be able to get home quickly and so we are not prepared to wait for a bus that might be another 15 or 20 minutes, and it might take half an hour to get home. Therefore we do not have buses, and the buses cannot afford to run if the people do not catch them. It is the chicken and the egg - which comes first? If you do not get on the bus, there are not going to be buses when you want them, so it is a really difficult situation. I appreciate the report and the depth that has been gone into with many of the issues that have been raised.
One last thing I will mention - I attended the science dinner last week and sat with some people from IMAS to hear about the new IMAS building at Salamanca. I was told that while it will employ 250 staff, there is no parking. There are 15 parking spots for visitors, but where will the 250 people who are going to work there be parking?
Mrs Taylor - They will use public transport.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Is the public transport good enough, though?
Mrs Taylor - It will get better, the more people that have to use it.
Mrs ARMITAGE - It will, but it is interesting that it was allowed to be built without already working out the public transport or how they are going to get there.
Ms Forrest - Would it happen in Launceston ?
Mrs ARMITAGE - No, it would not. I do not believe that something would be built on the outskirts of the city for 250 staff, with nowhere to park.
Ms Forrest - It's the inner city.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Well, on the outskirts of the city, which is not far. It depends what you are talking about when you say 'inner city'. I talk about Inveresk as being on the outskirts of the city which would be about equivalent to the distance from the IMAS building to the centre of the city. It is all perception.
Mrs Taylor - Yes. And attitude.
Mrs ARMITAGE - It is. It comes down to attitude and perception and it comes down to what we are used to. We are a convenience society. I know, in talking about Launceston , that many people will not come into the city unless they can park outside the building they are going to. We have the free parking at Inveresk where people can park and walk to the city but that would take them 10 to 15 minutes and many people do not park there.
Mr Dean - Bring the trams and trolley buses back.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Trams and trolley buses are great, as are the bike lanes, if you have the width for them. That was one of the problems with the Gehl report. It is all very well to say we need the bike lanes and trams but a lot of our roads will not accommodate them. That is one of the problems particularly with the bike lanes that we have had. I am sure the member for Windermere will remember the problems we had with Normanstone Road when it was decided that we would put bike lanes in Normanstone Road which put the traffic into the centre of the road and it put the bike riders into the gutter on one side. Sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease. We have to be very careful to look strategically at what we are doing and try to foresee any problems that may come. I support the report and I think it is excellent.