Public transport cost cuts should remain in public transport

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Transport

The Herald reports that changes to the STA will allow Sydney Buses to maintain existing services with fewer buses and drivers via a more efficient allocation of buses between depots. Currently, many buses must travel long distances to the starting point of the bus route and then do the same to return at the end of their run, a process known as dead running because the bus is unable to carry any passengers.

Dead running bus

The changes will see buses spend less time showing “not in service” displays and more time transporting passengers around. (Source: Author.)

While commuters will not notice any differences with service levels, the reduced number of buses needed to maintain the same service levels means the STA will be able to retire some of its older buses, particularly non-accessible and non-air conditioned buses. No bus drivers will lose their jobs directly, though the STA plans to reduce staffing levels via natural attrition.

These changes were made possible by the reorganisation of the Transport Department into Transport for NSW, which also involved putting all government transport agencies directly underneath it and transferred responsibility for planning to Transport for NSW. This meant that rather than assigning buses to routes at a depot level, it is now done at a Sydney-wide level, allowing for efficiencies like these to emerge.

What is disappointing is that the savings that arise from these changes will be going into general government revenue rather than back into public transport. The same is true of the government’s share of station access fees on the Airport Line.

Finding savings in public transport (or raising extra revenue) should be encouraged as a way of expanding services without having to increase its budget. After all, public transport costs the state government billions each year in operational subsidies. But this cannot be done if these same savings are then used for other purposes.

  1. Steve says:

    Leaving the savings in budget doesn’t create a “popping” media release. Expect Gladys to issue a MR in a few months time saying the government is “investing” further $x in public transport.

  2. MrV says:

    To think all these buses have been driving around empty for so long is a disgrace. It also explains anecdotal observation where you always see “not in service” buses driving around in peak hour in the city and on freeways and wonder “what the f*** are they doing”.

  3. […] of the benefits of centralised planning can be seen in the recent decision to house metrobuses in separate depots in order to minimise dead running. This was not previously possible, as planning was done at the […]

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