On Tuesday 14 February 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about the results of our Ryan Transport Survey, and what we can do to fix transport issues. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.
E WATSON-BROWN: Like other Ryan residents, I know that traffic and travel can be an enormous daily challenge. Congestion, travel times and poor connectivity and frequency of public transport all affect the people of Ryan every day. Many have raised these issues with me. Federal money goes into transport via Black Spot safety funding and support for specific infrastructure projects. I believe the federal government should have a greater role in funding transport solutions so people can spend less time in traffic and more time with their families, and so our environments can be cleaner and our places more accessible for all.
My team and I recently conducted a comprehensive transport survey in Ryan, and the enthusiastic uptake and the results were very telling. We asked about congestion, street safety, public transport, footpaths and cycleways. The comprehensive and thoughtful responses have inspired me to propose solutions around how all levels of government could collaborate on broad, positive change to answer transport issues in Ryan and beyond.
The motivations for this survey and, indeed, for urgent action are manifold. Petrol prices, like the cost of everything, are going through the roof, and transport costs are a growing strain. Every year, Australian households spend over $50 billion on petrol, with the average Brisbane household spending $458.38 weekly, in total, on transport. Increasing road congestion causes many hours to be lost every day to sitting in traffic. Main roads in Ryan are amongst the most congested in Brisbane. Transport is the third-largest and, in fact, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, with emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles contributing 11.6 per cent of annual emissions.
In Ryan, which is quite representative of many Australian conditions—from dense inner urban areas to outer suburban areas and rural and bushland zones, and with a broad socioeconomic spread—our survey found over 55 per cent of people reported that driving was their main mode of transport to get to work or to the school drop-off or pick-up. So it's no wonder that a whopping 93 per cent of people reported road congestion. Unfortunately, only 32 per cent of people take public transport, and 13 per cent use active transport methods like walking or cycling.
But, unfortunately, as we uncovered in our survey, there are many barriers to the uptake of public transport. Inaccessibility, lack of connectivity, inadequate frequency of services and, not least, cost are all impediments to public transport use. In many areas of Ryan and, indeed, Australia, it's simply not safe to cycle or walk. It's clear to me that a robust public transport network would take cars off the road and reduce congestion and carbon emissions, and should be less expensive than travel by private car—it's a win-win. This is what we used to call in my previous professional life a 'triple bottom line solution'. There was agreement across Ryan that we need to move on this.
So how do we get there? What are the current barriers to people using public transport? They're myriad. Our survey respondents reported fundamental problems with our public transport network, with nearly half of respondents rating public transport as poor or very poor. People said: the system isn't connected enough, there aren't enough stops near where people live, the services don't go to where people actually want to go, the system is inaccessible in places—for example, we're still waiting for the Queensland government to move on train station upgrades in Taringa—and the services aren't frequent enough. An overwhelming 70 per cent of people said that fares are too expensive.
How can we reduce congestion and carbon emissions without building expensive infrastructure? Making public transport free would be a great way to increase uptake. Crucially, in a cost-of-living crisis, families would save money on petrol, parking and fares. The federal government could implement funding agreements with each of the states to release federal funds on the condition that states deliver their public transport systems for free. Public transport is already heavily subsidised by state governments. For example: in Brisbane, fares have covered less than 20 per cent of operating expenses since 2016, and that includes covering the cost of the privatised ticketing systems that enforce the fares. So it's not a radical idea, I believe, to fill in the funding gap that's currently covered by fares and make transport free for everyone to use.
The people of Ryan agree: 72 per cent of survey respondents supported the idea that the federal government should trial a period of free public transport across the country. Alongside this, making active transport safer and more attractive for people can make a huge difference. Sixty-four per cent of people say that cycling is fairly or very unsafe, and so it's no wonder that people aren't cycling more. Only about one in 20 people think that their local area is very safe for cyclists. Our survey showed that 83 per cent of people support more government investment in safe cycling infrastructure, so over the next few months I'll be advocating for broad systemic changes, as well as liaising with other levels of government for action on some of the specific issues that were brought up in the survey.
The recommendations I've made, based on the results, are as follows: council and state governments should collaborate with locals on integrated transport plans around schools, maximising safety and public active transport usage; we should investigate the possibility of undertaking a federally funded trial of free public transport; and we need to connect and expand safe cycleways on the west side. Some, but not all, key locations have state or local government projects already underway or in consultation, and on 1 April I will join the Greens state member for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, MP, for a community bike ride to advocate for the completion of the Indooroopilly bikeway.
In addition, we need more local public services and facilities, including a new school in the Moggill-Bellbowrie area to relieve congestion from school traffic on Moggill Road. The recent bus network review by Brisbane City Council has neglected the west side. We need an expansion of funding to improve routes, including updating or extending current routes and turning key routes into high-frequency services. We need a full accessibility review for the west side, with the findings to inform train station upgrades, bus stops and footpaths. Addressing these fundamental issues will bring enormous benefits to the community and to the environment. It's something that all levels of government should be collaborating on. I look forward to what we can achieve together.