Want to get more people on public transport? Facilitate more driving

Which means facilitate more driving intelligently. But hey – now that you’re here…

A critical shortage of commuter car parking is forcing thousands of would-be train users on to the roads adding to Sydney’s already chronic congestion, an NRMA report says.

More than 40 per cent of motorists who otherwise drive all the way to work would rather park at a station and commute if there were an adequate number of parking spots at the station.

The NRMA’s audit of Park and Ride facilities, released today, shows some of Sydney’s busiest transport interchanges provide parking facilities so poor that public transport becomes untenable.

“Currently most motorists are left with no choice but to drive to work, which adds to traffic congestion, increases the weekly fuel bill and leads to more carbon emissions,” said the president of the NRMA, Alan Evans.

A report last year by the NSW Auditor-General discovered that in 2004, with so few dedicated parking stations at train stations, Sydney had the greatest number of cars parked on residential streets of any Australian city – 32,000 compared to 10,900 in Melbourne.

The report criticises the ad-hoc provision of these services, especially near poorer areas of Sydney where there are few effective public transport options.

I take issue with the suggestion that “most motorists are left with no choice but to drive to work”, but I’m an insensitive, non-driving, hippie scum. So.

I certainly understand the problem. Driving/parking and public transport are, in some ways, substitutes: we expect people to take the train to work, rather than drive. However, they are also, in other respects, complements: as more public transport is consumed, the demand for private transport (of a certain type, in this case passage to, and parking at, train stations) will increase.

People’s behaviour being what it is, we can see parking spaces being a necessary condition for the use of publc transport. People drive for convenience, for privacy – they will take a train to work, but they won’t (or won’t at all happily) take a bus to the station to take a train to work. In places like Woy Woy:

woy woy

(and, yes, people commute that distance – crazy people, but people) that bus probably doesn’t exist. In most inner-city suburbs bus services exist but, having built our environments around our cars, many people just don’t live near these amenities (or, rather, sufficiently near for them to countenance using them).

Is this irrational? Oh, possibly. Driving to work, the frustration of the traffic and finding parking, the costs thereof – to me, the non-driver, the money, time and frustration are very high prices to pay. I’d sooner just take public transport and be a permanent passenger. People value their perception of “freedom” that their car affords them, though, and, if we want them to join our game, we do need to make the game itself appeal to them.

Just ask Tim Hartford (or any economist at all, actually – but he’s the famous one): for a driver, going through all the shit of driving to, and trying to park in, the city simply because it’s (most likely less) hard to do so 5 minutes from their house, is perfectly logical. If we can’t beat their logic, we need to accommodate it.

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