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The debate between whether public transportation or private transportation is superior to the other has been going on for some time now as the efficiency, flexibility, and cost continually influence Melbourne’s transportation user’s decisions every day. Not only does this affect the general population but also affects the commuter who is planning their travels throughout Melbourne. The public transport system in Melbourne is extensive as the entire system includes multiple types of transit though the most common types include trains and trams. The private transport system often only includes personal transport such as cars or private transport companies such as Uber and Lyft. Both types of transport—public and private—include advantages as well as disadvantages when determining efficiency, convenience, safety risks and cost (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015).
Public transport provides the commuter with an efficient yet slightly inconvenient way to travel to and from destinations. The public transport system of trains and trams is efficient in that traffic is avoided as cars and pedestrians do not crowd the train and tram tracks. However, the trains and trams run on tightly timed schedules in order to achieve maximum efficiency. The non-flexible timetables often conflict with commuter’s personal schedules, as they need to precisely time when they have to depart while accounting for the time traveled to get to the train or tram and potential waiting time (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015).
As of September 2019, the percentage of times the metropolitan train was on time was around 89.9% while the metropolitan tram punctuality was slightly lower at 86.3% (Public Transport Victoria). The statistics for the reliability of the train or tram coming were much higher as the reliability of the metropolitan train in September 2019 was 98.4% and the reliability for the metropolitan tram was around 97.9% (Public Transport Victoria). The punctuality and the reliability of the trains and trams could potentially influence a commuter’s day to day travel causing them to possibly seek other options such as private transport. However, as the population increases and there is more congestion on the roads, the inflexible timetables may become less of a detriment to commuters (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Additionally, the public transport system provides the commuter with a cost-effective way to travel to and from certain destinations each day as MYKI cards can be used across multiple zones of transportation (Public Transport Victoria). The MYKI card also provides the commuter with cost benefits as each day the maximum amount charged is $8.80, regardless of the number of times a person accesses public transport (Public Transport Victoria). There are also free tram zones that allow people to ride the trams free of charge around Melbourne (Public Transport Victoria).
The public transport system has a network development plan to increase the capacity of the system. The plan that is currently underway allows for a larger number of people to provide a higher demand for the use of the system through growth “which if implemented in full could increase peak capacity by 50% in 2023 and 100% within 20 years” (Barrow, 2013). This plan aims for enhanced “connections with light rail and buses, and extending the network to areas not currently served by the suburban rail” (Barrow, 2013). The network development plan allows for a more innovative approach to avoid the increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic (Barrow, 2013).
Although public transport can be a more cost-effective and efficient way to travel, many people have questioned the safety risks that are present as public transport is more heavily and more often used daily by more people than private transport. This concern has been expressed and
“to ensure the safety and continued operation of the tram network system, many maintenance and renewal operations are regularly performed on the tracks. Unplanned maintenance activities are expensive and would cause low service quality. Therefore, the track condition should be inspected, and when it has degraded beyond some acceptable limit, it should be scheduled for maintenance before failure” (Moridpour & Hesami, 2015).
This states that extensive planning and time need to be predetermined as the wear and tear of tracks happen over time although the specific time of breakage is unknown. As a result, if the cost and planning do not go accordingly, the train and tram systems could be a potential danger to the average commuter (Moridpour & Hesami, 2015).
On the other hand, private transport provides the commuter with different benefits and drawbacks than public transport. Private transport has proven to be less cost-effective as personal cars generate additional costs that public transport users do not have to pay. For example, maintenance costs, gas prices, insurance coverage, and parking costs add up as the operator of the car uses the car more frequently (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015). Additionally, private companies such as Uber and Lyft provide base fares as well as the additional cost of the transport to the user’s destination which in turn can be more expensive than public transport (Uber). The cost of private transport could motivate the consumer to choose more cost-effective options such as public transport.
Although the cost of private transport can be higher than the cost of public transport, private transport has proved to be more convenient for some consumers. For example, with a personal car, a commuter can make multiple stops on their way to their destination (Currie & Delbosc, 2010). This “implies that if trip chains continue to increase in complexity, public transport use will suffer as more people rely on their cars to cater for their complex travel needs” (Currie & Delbosc, 2010). Therefore, there is a direct correlation between the increase in the number of stops and the decrease in the use of public transport. However, based on projected population growth the convenience could decrease due to increased traffic patterns (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Circling back to the private transport companies of Uber and Lyft, although these private companies can be more expensive than public transport options, they can also be more comfortable and convenient for the commuter. Uber and Lyft have many personalized options that cater to the user’s specific needs. For example, on the Uber app, the size of the car can be chosen to provide more room for additional users or more space for a comfortable trip (Uber). A premium option is also offered if the user wants a more luxe experience (Uber). Another option that is provided is a wheelchair accessible Uber that allows people who are handicapped to still have a private transport option that is available (Uber). Private transport companies may not be impacted as drastically due to population growth because of the need for a private car in certain situations. For example, if a person needs to be at a specific place at a specific time, a private car would be more useful.
Much like public transport, private transport users also have to deal with the safety risks involved when using their personal or another form of private transport. They risk car mechanical failure as well as driver error. For example, although a driver may be extremely safe and aware of their surroundings, other drivers may not and can easily cause an accident—completely out of the safe and cautious driver’s control.
In total, the percentage of Australians in Melbourne who use private transport as their main form of transportation is around 75% while the amount of Australians who use public transport is around 15% and another 10% of Australians use another form of transportation (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015). However, these percentages vary throughout different areas of the city of Melbourne. For example, in the outer part of the city, around 85% of people use private transport while only around 10% of people use public transit leaving the remaining 5% of people to use another form of transportation (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015). These percentages vary greatly from the statistics collected from inner city transport users as only around 43% of Australian’s use private transport and around 30% use public transport leaving 27% of people to use another form of transit (Vishwanath, Arun, 2015).
In full, public and private transport both offer many different conveniences as well as inconveniences when it comes to cost, efficiency, flexibility, and safety which all depend on the personal views and comfort level of the user of that specific type of transportation. Private transportation can seem more comfortable and convenient for some people but also much more expensive as compared to the more cost effective prices of public transport. The same argument can be made that public transport can seem more cost-effective and more efficient yet slightly more inconvenient due to the inflexible timetables. Both forms of transport—public and private—have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to traveling on each one. Therefore, the superior type of transportation depends heavily on the projected population growth as well as the individual’s preferences and convenience to their specific agendas (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
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