The impacts of political changes on public transport accessibility in Melbourne, 2008-2014
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The Spatial Network Analysis for Multimodal Urban Transport Systems (SNAMUTS) tool has been employed to quantify and visualise public transport accessibility in metropolitan Melbourne on a regular basis since 2008. Across a four-stage time line (2008-2014 in biannual steps), it documents changes associated with network expansion and service upgrades as well as underlying trends in the geographical distribution of residents and jobs. During the same period, Victoria experienced two changes of state government as a result of elections where, in the eyes of most political commentators, the state of public transport and proposals for future improvements played a decisive role in determining voter behaviour. This paper traces the evolution of public transport accessibility in Melbourne and link the documented changes to the political process. It shows that the Bracks/Brumby (1999-2010) government’s SmartBus initiative had the greatest beneficial effect on accessibility according to most SNAMUTS indicators, but we argue that this impact arrived too late to save the government’s electoral fortunes. The Baillieu/Napthine (2010-2014) government’s focus on frequency improvements on selected rail and bus feeder lines measures more modestly in accessibility terms, and moreover failed to sufficiently address public transport’s mounting congestion problem as Melbourne’s population continues on a rapid growth trajectory. In the context of these documented shortfalls, we conclude with a range of recommendations for public transport improvements that would be required to minimise the risk of another election fought over legitimate discontent with public transport in 2018.
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