Thursday, February 24, 2011


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Traffic: Analysis shows 7.4 per cent of heart attacks were down to air pollution

AIR pollution causes more heart attacks than alcohol, drugs or physical exertion, according to a new study.

Despite the popular belief that eating and drinking are the worst triggers, travelling by car or bus are greater culprits.

Analysis shows 7.4 per cent of heart attacks were down to air pollution.

This was higher than the 6.2 per cent caused by physical exertion and the five per cent caused by both alcohol and coffee.

The study, published in The Lancet, shows that air pollution triggers more heart attacks than even anger and lung infections.

The authors say their findings are important as many people are not aware pollution plays a role in heart attacks.

The research was led by Dr Tim Nawrot from Hasselt University, Belgium.

He said that, of the “triggers” studied, taking cocaine was most likely to cause a heart attack in an individual – but traffic affected more of the population as many more people are exposed to it than take the drug. 23/02/2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wifi on public transport if Labor elected

WIFI will be free for commuters if the Labor Party is re-elected next month.

It will be available on a bus, ferry or train for commuters to check their emails, read the news or do their banking.

The free wifi will be installed by the end of 2011 on all metrobuses and Sydney Ferries, with the rest of the bus fleet and CityRail trains to follow.

The Government has also announced that by the end of this month, all Sydney Buses commuters will be able to send a text message and receive up-to-the-minute information about when their next bus will arrive.

If is re-elected, the Labor Party will extend the next bus SMS service to every bus in the metropolitan network, including private operators.

What a great idea! Yes, there needs to be an all-out effort to make public transport user-friendly and attract the bulk of commuters - including:
  • free Wifi connections,
  • space for wheel chairs, push chairs, shopping & even bikes
  • comfortable seating
  • on-board 'ambassadors' to offer directions, assistance & to deter anti-social behaviour,
  • priority lanes & traffic signals for buses
  • more bike & walking facilities
  • easy transfers & links
  • colour coded routes & vehicles
  • very frequent services
  • 24 hour operation
  • passenger shelters that actually protect people from the elements
  • modern no-emission buses & electric trains & trams & ferries
.... the list goes on - but the central ingredient to really get commuters onto decent public transport & slash car-dependency, pollution & oil consumption big time: make it free to use and frequent with easy access - no waiting, no tickets, no money handling, no cash box robberies, no parking woes, no traffic gridlock, reduce road accidents & resulting medical treatment... modern, civilised stress-free mobility for people.

FareFreeNZ Editor

Time for public investment to fight climate change | Green Left Weekly

Time for public investment to fight climate change | Green Left Weekly: "3. Boost investment in public transport, suburban, regional and inter-regional services, high-speed intercity rail and rail freight.

The Socialist Alliance would cut passenger fares and transition to a free public transport system. We must do this to radically shift away from our dependence on cars.

Most people would respond that this is going to cost a lot. Yes, it will. But it won’t cost nearly as much as it will cost our society if we don’t respond effectively to the climate change crisis."

Friday, February 18, 2011

A timely review of Melbourne’s transport options: on obscenely uneconomical choices and underperforming assets.

Frank Fisher*, 17.02.2011.

If anything needs the critical light of review it is urban transport. In the light of a possible Baillieu/Mulder review of urban commuting, here are a few thoughts on cars an public transport.

1  The majority transport or DODO: Driver Only Driver
Owned urban commuter car.

Other than public transport ticketing, which i address below, there are few things as uneconomic as the DODO. Currently DODOs work at less than 1% efficiency. For every 100 litre of petrol less than one litre actually shifts the driver; 99litres+ moves the car and enables its necessary infrastructure. The average engine converts petrol to motion at something like 15%. But no one drives engines, we drive cars. Cars are roughly 15 times heavier than the average driver, so a driver-in-a-car moves at 1% efficiency. However, a car takes a lot of energy to make, deliver to its driver and maintain over its life, some say as much as half the energy in the fuel it uses in its life! Further, it takes energy to scrap and recycle cars and a vast amount to build and maintain the infrastructures that enable cars to move where we want them to. These are roads, government and private support organisations ranging from registration departments to taxation offices, police, insurances, breakdown clubs, hospitals, more insurances, automobile chambers of commerce and so on. So the car’s real efficiency is actually much less than 1% … but no-one cares because a) we’ve paid a lot for our car [Driver Owned] and for putting it on the road and keeping it there and b) petrol’s cheaper than bottled water!

The craziness of this equation doesn’t end there. Owning our private “gutter decoration” [the DODO’s primary occupation] means that we spend many weeks of each year engaged in earning the money to pay for the privilege. Add this time to that actually spent in driving, parking and maintaining your DODO then divide that total into the number of kilometres travelled annually and you’ll find that the average speed attained is much less than that achieved by a combination of bicycle and public transport.

As if this inefficiency were not bad enough Americans and Brazilians compound it by feeding DODOs with biofuels made from human foodstuffs such as corn and sugar. So in addition to using less than 1% of these foods to move drivers, biofuels are themselves produced inefficiently in terms of the fuels etc. required for the farming and refining processes that make them!

Given all this, why one would bother to own one’s own car beats me. Once one’s disowned that generalised vehicle-for-all-purposes one can easily afford to rent the appropriate vehicle for the task and, for urban commuting, the appropriate vehicles are shoes, bicycles and public transport. These three being appropriate for our own health, our city’s health, the planet’s health and the health of our public and private purses. Moreover, there are currently a billion cars on Earth. Most Australians believe that all people deserve the right to live as we do. That means 9 billion cars driving some 20,000 km/year by the time human population tops out. So even if we all switched to little Indian Nanos, three times more efficient than our current auto-fleet we’ll be three times worse off than today – a totally unsustainable option.

2.  Ticketless Public Transport.

Even with the prospect of myki working “glitchlessly”, it is not hard to demonstrate that ticketing will not pay for itself for a long time let alone make any contribution to public transport itself. Aside from the fabulous cost of myki and its predecessor [$B3] there are many hidden costs involved with having the public pay public transport fares. I list some of these below but here i’d like to draw attention to some quite unrecognised costs that arise from the deliberate exclusion of our railways’ extensive real-estate assets from the public domain as a result of the necessity to exclude the “in-valid” [those who haven’t paid a fare] from our stations. In addition to the costs of vandalism control and damage restitution, site insecurity for passengers leads to reduced patronage, especially at night. But the most serious losses arise from the site rents foregone by excluding commerce and community activity from nearly all of our metropolitan area’s two hundred railway stations.

Tickets, as the old “Metcard” warning stressed, require public transport users to be “validated” before entering the system. To viscerally impress this requirement upon passengers, we surround our stations with high fences, excluding them from commercial and community use. Unstaffed buildings, often quite handsome, are locked and vandal-proofed. And, as if to say “no station is sacred”, the very open friendliness of pre-myki Southern Cross is now ruined by fences and barriers erected where never intended. Staffed stations themselves are under-utilised; Flinders St. Station being the most notorious example. The associated losses are not simply directly financial, they also manifest as losses to community and personal amenity. Instead of being friendly islands of community, stations have become isolated black holes literally avoided as such by late-night travellers.

Failing totally “free” public transport, an enlivening alternative to the present vacuous, destructive, fare-collection-related employment scheme called myki, is the public transport levy [PTL].

By collecting an annual Medicare-like PTL from all urban wage-earners, we’d know we’d paid something toward our urban public transport and then be able to use it free of demeaning encumbrances like barriers and ticket inspection. Where machines do the inspection, the demeanment is of concern. To argue against the veracity of machines takes determination and our tacit permission to be tracked financially, and more worryingly spatially, raises questions about the openness of our democracy.

Here is what it could mean:
·         public transport free at point of access with all the liberation that would imply.
·         shedding some of the taxes that are currently used to pay for public transport.
·         public transport free to rural visitors and tourists, just like water. Along with fast and regular rural rail, this would provide an incentive to use rural public transport to commute to the cities.
·         a built-in incentive for urban residents to use public transport – annual payment would remind us that we’d paid and therefore that we may as well use what we’d paid for.
·         an improvement in the status of travel on “The Met”. It would no longer be seen as the DODO’s “poor cousin”.
·         a dramatic decline in the deaths and injuries from crashes and the many diseases directly attributable to DODO-commuting (in Melbourne some 600 deaths annually).
·         a friendly, welcoming system where the stresses associated with requiring a ticket, along with the threats associated with not being able to produce one, were removed.
·         removal of favours to those wealthy enough to afford congestion taxes such as city parking fees [usually paid for by others] and fines. Thereby, avoidance of the resentment such favours generate.
·         the usual Medicare-like support for people for whom the levy would be an excessive burden.
·         removal of barriers to the poor to use public transport.
·         the “disarming” of the public transport system [as already outlined] with transit assistants replacing “fare police” and the return of the space & vacant buildings around railway platforms to commerce and the community.
·         a welcoming and attractive system, partly arising from the greater density of users that a ticketless system would bring!
·          removal of the threat to monitor citizens’ movements by tracking us through myki.
·         enhanced participation rates. These would provide the political constituency for dramatically improving the current carrying capacities of our metropolitan transit. Relieving rail-congestion is, at least in the long run, so much cheaper and healthier than relieving road-congestion. Consider the neglected costs of making good the planetary damage caused by global warming and the many other negative pollution and land degradation effects of DODO commuting. Currently these are not priced and go unpaid by present generations.
·         a more open and equitable system in which payment for the system was overt rather than covert as at present where real payment of public transport comes from consolidated revenues. An annual PTL bill could indicate the proportion of the total cost of metro-transit that the levy actually covered.

For all this it must be recognised that dramatically increasing the capacity of our urban rail systems is no small feat. It will cost billions, take time and create substantial public disruption. Indeed, an argument against the PTL is precisely the government’s fear of overloading the current system! For all that, we live in a representative democracy and the government requires constituency before it acts, so overloading the system is in a sense the only language it can hear.
One of the most valuable implications of a PTL and a dramatic improvement in public transport availability would be the support that it would give to Melbourne’s best kept secret: the effectiveness of the bicycle-rail collaboration. Long ago, Alan Parker pointed out that the fastest, cheapest, healthiest and most sustainable way to get around much of the Melbourne Metro Area was [and today still is] a combination of bicycle and rail. I.e. bicycle to and from rail. It requires improved bike parking facilities at stations and an improved capacity to carry bikes on trains. With bike-rail, Melbourne becomes translucent. No peak hour traffic jams, no parking problems, no need for fuel and maintenance, no depreciation on the car, no speeding fines and, most of all, two to three times faster than the DODO because there’s no time wasted earning the money to pay for it, to park it or to service it!

* Professor, Faculty of Design & National Centre for
   Sustainability, Swinburne University of Technology.

Penrith to get free shuttle bus

PENRITH’S major attractions will be more easily accessible from next month when the city’s new free shuttle bus service begins.

State Transport Minister John Robertson announced the new service on Tuesday night, a week after a report appeared in the Press questioning why Penrith had been overlooked.

Mr Robertson said the bright green shuttle buses - which begin operation on March 14 - would provide services for up to 9500 people a week in Penrith. PenrithPress

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Free buses a huge success - service expanding

Metro taken for a ride Tasmania News - The Mercury - The Voice of Tasmania: "FREE bus services in Hobart were so popular over the weekend that Metro had to add an extra 20 runs to its Hobart timetable.

Metro's 'Have a weekend on us' campaign encouraged hundreds of locals and tourists to take advantage of free public transport in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie.

Metro chief executive Heather Haselgrove said it was too early to give exact numbers, but a contingency plan to roll out more buses if needed was applied on Saturday with the company adding 20 extra services in Hobart.

The first-time initiative was launched as a way of encouraging people who had not used public transport for many years to get back on buses."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fare-free weekend buses in Tasmania

Tasmanian government minister launches fare-free buses in the weekends to "reduce traffic and parking congestion" and to "encourage more people to use public transport." Great! - but aren't these valid & compelling reasons to make it free every day?

Editor, FareFreeNZ

Fare Free Weekend on the Buses

Metro is offering free travel on its buses on the weekend commencing February 12.

Launching Metro’s “Have a Weekend on us” campaign today, the Minister for Sustainable Transport and Alternative Energy, Nick McKim, said the fare free weekend aimed to encourage more people to use public transport.
Mr McKim said by offering a weekend of free travel on regular services and routes, Metro was giving Tasmanians a chance to experience bus travel.
He said the free service would also reduce traffic and parking congestion on what was one of the busiest weekends of the year.
“This particular weekend is packed with major events and travelling on Metro buses provides a safe, convenient and enjoyable alternative to taking your own car,” Mr McKim said.
Events over the weekend include Festivale in Launceston, the Hobart Regatta, Hobart Cup, the Wooden Boat Festival and a Sheffield Shield cricket match at Bellerive Oval.
Metro Chief Executive Officer Heather Haselgrove said the “Have a Weekend on Us” campaign sought to encourage people who did not generally ride on buses to consider switching to Metro for future travel.
“Our aim is to increase public transport patronage in Tasmania and the fare free weekend gives people, especially those who haven’t ridden a bus in many years, the opportunity to see what it is like,” Ms Haselgrove said.
“We’re encouraging people to use buses not just to go to and from major events on this weekend, but to use regular services between other destinations – to see family and friends, go to the beach, go to shopping centres and so on.
“We believe that by showing people how easy and convenient it is, they will be more likely to see buses as a sensible alternative for daily commuting.”
Mr McKim said increasing the use of public transport had enormous long-term environmental and road safety benefits for the community and in the long-run would save people money.
The availability of the free fare services varies from region to region. In Hobart where there is a public holiday on Monday 14 February, it includes Saturday, Sunday and Monday; in Launceston the free services operate Saturday and Sunday and in Burnie the free services will run on Saturday.
For people attending Festivale on the evening of Friday 11 February, there will be free bus services on major routes from City Park (Cimitiere St before Tamar St) from 11.05pm to get people home from the event.

Tasmanian Government Media Release
Nick McKim MP
Minister for Sustainable Transport & Alternative Energy.
3 February 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Free Shuttle Buses in Liverpool City Centre

Free Shuttle Buses in Liverpool City Centre

Free Shuttle Buses in Liverpool City Centre

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by StreetCorner Staff

The State Government will be operating free daily shuttle services in Liverpool City Centre as of Monday 31 January 2011.

The new buses will be provided in line with the NSW Government’s $50.2 billion Metropolitan Transport Plan and signifies a $1 million investment in free public transport, on top of more than $3.4 million already invested in free shuttle buses in Sydney and Wollongong.

Coloured a distinctive green in order to make them easily identifiable, the new buses provide families and shoppers with more public transport links between key destinations such as train stations, shopping centres, hospitals and other community hubs. Each bus is air conditioned and low to the floor – providing easy to use public transport for parents with prams, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The free ‘999’ Liverpool Shuttle will make travel around the Liverpool city centre faster and simpler, and will run as a continuous one way loop connecting locations including Liverpool Station, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool CBD Library, medical centres, Westfield and the post office.

Services will operate during the following times:

+ Monday to Friday between 9am and 2.30pm, every 20 minutes.

+ Saturday and Sunday between 9am to 5.45pm, every 20 minutes.

While the free bus service is considered a positive step in improving transport options available in Liverpool, the bus operates outside of peak hours and as such does not serve the needs of commuters and school children and is mainly targeted at shoppers. In terms of the bus route, Council notes that there is no bus stop at the Lachlan St portion of the loop or at Council’s offices at 33 Moore St, and will be providing feedback to the State Government on the route once the service is operational.

For your information, a route map and brochure for the Liverpool Free 999 Shuttle Bus is attached to this memo. More information on this service can be accessed on the Transport Infoline website at

Should you require any further information on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Milan Marecic, Acting Director Strategic Planning and Development, on 9821 9

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Canada political candidate advocates removing fares from public transport

Larsen as premier would let you ride transit for free

Dana Larsen, long time activist, founding editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, announces that he is running for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, on Dec. 29.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

Dana Larsen wants you to ride the SkyTrain for free.
Larsen, who’s running for the leadership of the NDP, floated the free-ride concept Monday, comparing the SkyTrain line to the highway system.
“As premier, I would designate the SkyTrain as part of B.C.’s highway system, and then get rid of fares for users,” said Larsen. “We don’t charge a tariff to use the road, and we shouldn’t charge a tariff to use the SkyTrain.”
While cutting fares for SkyTrain would put a giant hole in the transit budget – 2010 TransLink estimates for SkyTrain fares collected are $155 million - Larsen maintains it’s similar to the subsidy now enjoyed by drivers.
“BC spends hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing a free road system for car drivers, meanwhile SkyTrain has a fare, and a lot of that money is spent on the fare-collection system,” said Larsen.
“Why should we selectively subsidize car travel, but not SkyTrain?
“We don’t have a toll on our roads – why should we have a toll on the SkyTrain?”
Larsen credits, in part, the research of environmental consultant Dave Olsen, who has studied free transit services as far away as Hasselt, Belgium and as close as Whidbey Island, just south of the border in Washington state.
“We’re paying people to drive, but we’re not paying them people to take transit,” said Olsen, who has a masters in environmental studies from York University. “A simple way is to make transit fare-free.”
Olsen said transit police on SkyTrain cost $13 million per year, and the government is spending millions to install barriers at SkyTrain stations and on advertising campaigns to get people to take transit.
“Instead, they can just stop charging fares,” said Olsen. “In Hasselt, transit ridership went up 1200 per cent when they made it fare-free.”
While Larsen is considered a long shot to become NDP leader – let alone premier – he’s happy that his idea has started a fresh debate on fares.
“I see a lot of discussion on the Internet – people are Tweeting about it,” he said.
“People are really interested in this.”

Make ALL public transport frequent & free


Monday January 31, 2011 - Local state election candidates for the Socialist Alliance have welcomed the news that passenger numbers on the free CBD shuttle bus are increasing. They have repeated calls to expand the shuttle service to other areas in NSW and to make all public transport frequent and free.

Paola Harvey, Socialist Alliance candidate for Keira, said: 'The news that nearly 5 million passengers have used the free shuttle service really vindicates our position that if you make public transport frequent and free, people will make the switch. The CBD shuttle initiative has been a wonderful departure from Labor's decades long neglect of our public transport system, particularly our rail.

'Dramatically improving public transport would give people the option of leaving the car at home. It's a socially just response to the chronic problems of traffic congestion, lack of parking and lack of mobility faced by poorer sections of the community. It would also reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the transport sector, which contribute roughly 14% of Australia's total emissions', Harvey said.

Jess Moore, long-time public transport campaigner and Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council, said: 'We campaigned for frequent and free public transport during the 2007 NSW election campaign. Given the social and environmental benefits of public transport use, all public transport in NSW should be made frequent and free.

'In the Begian city of Hasselt, within a year of introducing free and frequent public transport, patronage increased by 870%. And their government found they saved money overall, given subsequent savings on health, road maintenance and construction, and also on ticketing.

'We stand for publicly owned public transport, not public handouts to private companies. The current Wollongong CBD shuttle service is publicly funded but privately run. This reduces the number of public sector jobs, and needlessly complicates planning, especially across an entire state.

'Any income generated from the public transport system should immediately be directed back into the system, not into private pockets.' Moore concluded.