I’m not usually one to plan in advance nor buy in bulk, but with regards to Melbourne’s public transport, I might be convinced otherwise. Last week’s announcement of the upcoming 9% increase in train tickets (as well as bus and tram) has compelled me to buy my 2012 train tickets at what are still genuine 2011 prices.
Over the past two decades, Australia has kept inflation between 2 and 4% per annum. And yet, I find myself reminiscing the days when I could purchase a book of 10 bus tickets for $4.50. Being mindful of the concession price variable, and the fact that I was still wearing Brut (high school boys’ top selling deodorant!) the $4 per ticket I will be paying come January still appears a little inflated. To get a better idea of how this latest increase fares, I compared it to previous movements. With public transport data going as far back as 1972, the ABS’ CPI shows an interesting trend over the past few decades.
Throughout the 70s and 80s the increase in public transport prices mirrored that of the overall basket of goods. That is to say, the price of catching a train increased at similar rates to most other common goods. From 1990 onwards, however, the cost of buses, trams and trains has increased at a rate much higher than inflation (which includes housing costs, education, bananas, recreation and health, etc etc). While the cost of living in Melbourne increased 79% since 1990, by the time I sober up on New Year’s day, Melbourne’s public transport will have increased 190% in the same period.
Public transport’s elevated inflation is not only a Melbourne issue. Public transport has outgrown inflation by 97% across all of Australia’s capital cities. The graph below shows how Australian capital cities fare in terms of transport inflation compared to the overall Australian CPI.
(this google motion chart is not currently working… attempts will be made to reinstate it)
In the meantime… here is a temporary graph with similar data.
This phenomenon is made more remarkable when considering that the inflation for private motoring costs (including vehicle costs, fuel, parking, registration etc) has been lower than the total basket over the last few years. While the increase in cost of public transport is almost twice that of the overall basket, private motoring costs have increased 15% less than CPI since 1990.
I won’t speculate as to the reasons for this divergence. Suffice to say that if we’re trying to encourage people to jump on the public transport bandwagon, a little economic incentive wouldn’t hurt.
Nice graph. Questions, questions, questions…where are the solutions? How does Oz compare to other countries? What about the influence of a privatised transport system? And while we're banging on about public transport, it is farcical how the melbourne tram service regards an ~80% punctuality rating (as defined by 0.5 mins before to 4.5 mins post scheduled departure) to be worthy of on-board advertisement. Our trams can only be brought out of the dark ages when they have unfettered access to track.
Solutions very much depend on what it is you want to achieve. Public transport inflation is only an issue if you believe governments should provide greater subsidies for transport. This is a service which unfortunately is not available to most. Suburbs serviced by train lines are more expensive, hence subsidising transport appears to benefit the wealthy (or at least not the poorest).
The only city to be semi-privatised (yet heavily subsidised) is Melbourne. Sydney and Adelaide have some privatised bus routes, but these represent a small percentage of the services. From the CPI data it is hard to see any effect from privatization. Also, what ever impact there is could very easily be hidden by changes in the subsidy rates. These are hard to capture as the transport departments don't make subsidy rates easily discoverable.
Agree re: punctuality gloating. Especially as they could be using that advertising real-estate to lower our costs.
Trams are a topic for another post.
As for International comparisons… no idea, perhaps some of our international readers could comment on that.