This paper by Pucher and Buehler compares public transport in 16 countries, with a focus on Germany and the USA, and lists five main reasons that make German public transport heavily used (all these reasons resonate with my observations from Switzerland).
- A comprehensive network (88% live within 1km of public transport)
- Attractive fare structures (Perth with the Smartrider could do this so well)
- Intermodal coordination (little waiting…) (… and of course bikes on trains)
- CAR RESTRICTIONS (this will never happen in Perth, but the researchers think that this is the biggest single factor!!!!)
- Land use policies (Spatial planning is integrated with transport planning)
In terms of getting people out of cars and on to sustainable transport, it is relevant to note that countries with high usage of public transport or cycling have comparatively low obesity rates (e.g. 8% in Switzerland vs 25% in Australia and 33% in the USA). Of all the countries examined, Switzerland had the highest number of trips per person, 10 times higher than the USA, and with usage increasing.
And in their conclusion they point out “Without the necessary policies to restrict car use and make it more expensive, American public transport is doomed to remain a marginal means of transport, used mainly by those who have no other choice.” Would this comment also apply to Australia?
There is a discussion on the paper in the Atlantic Cities pages, written by Eric Jaffe
And Alan Davies in the Melbourne Urbanist is also discussing the research. He comments “One of my consistent themes is that a significant shift toward more sustainable travel will not be achieved simply by improving public transport. The cost of owning and operating a car has to increase too.”