In 1996, the Belgian city of Hasselt made public transport free. Between 1996 and 2006, usage of public transport increased by as much as 1300%. It is likely that such a step would have similar results in Australian cities.
Public transport in most Australian cities is already heavily subsidised. In 2008/09 alone, the NSW public transport system absorbed grants totalling $4.2 billion, according to the NSW Department of Transport.
The June 10 2009 Sydney Morning Herald reported on findings in a report commissioned NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). It showed that for every train journey taken, the broader community saves $6 in lower air pollution and less road congestion. When the alternative of commuters taking their cars is factored into the equation, the real social saving goes up to $15.80 for each train trip.
The average subsidy paid for such trips is $4.20. Each train trip represents a big social saving.
In Sydney, making public transport free would cost the state government about $1 billion a year.
When compared to the massive social and environmental savings from increasing public transport use and decreasing private car use, this spending is more than justified.
The extra costs of proving free public transport should be paid by those who would benefit most — employers. The Socialist Alliance supports a payroll tax on all employers of over 10 employees and a special levy on developers ho benefit from development near transport hubs.
The Socialist Alliance advocates:
- Free public transport
- Free carriage of bicycles on public transport
- Ending all tax concessions for company and company-purchased cars
- The imposition of a public transport levy on all CBD employers with more than 10 staff, along the lines of the French versement de transport.
- Special levies on developers who gain access to commercially profitable sites close to railway stations and bus interchanges.
- The reclassification and redeployment of all public transport staff whose job has been the sale of tickets to passenger assistance/security functions, with no loss in pay or conditions.
- Rebuilding public transport staff numbers to ensure safe, comfortable and efficient services.
The Socialist Alliance supports free public transport and will set up and run a national free public transport campaign which seeks to resource and support actions at the local level."