Opinion is divided on whether it’s better to use cars or public transport in Perth. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Travel on Perth’s bus and train network has fallen for the fifth year in a row, with five million fewer trips taken last year.
Use of Transperth services peaked in 2012-13 with 149,697,303 rides taken. Since then, journeys have fallen steadily each year, with 140,856,706 taken in 2016.
That is an average of just 70 journeys a year for each of Perth’s two million residents.
Only the ferry service bucked the trend, with rides between South Perth and Elizabeth Quay up by 25 per cent.
While some of the decline can be blamed on the state’s economic woes, with fewer workers in the city, an ABC Radio Perth Facebook discussion also revealed an intense dislike of buses and trains.
More than 450 people added their voices to the discussion, describing in detail why they preferred to stay in their cars.
For many, the cost of fares doesn’t add up
“Public transport for me is about $90 per week or $35 in fuel.” — John
“It’s not efficient enough, and it’s expensive if you don’t have concession/student fare. It used to cost me $50 a week to get to work when I was working full-time, and it was only costing my friend $10 more to fill up her tank in her car.” — Jazmin
“It’s expensive. Over $8 a day just to travel one zone, plus it takes an hour to get somewhere 20 minutes away because I’d have to take two buses and a train — I live in Subiaco, not the sticks.” — Marty
Despite the traffic, many listeners say they prefer to drive rather than use public transport. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Paying for parking at train stations still rankles
In 2014, the Barnett government introduced a $2 fee to park at train stations on weekdays, outraging commuters who until then had been able to drive to the station and leave their car all day free of charge.
Three years on, it seems the anger has not abated and some travellers have decided it is not worth it.
“If you park at the train station it will cost you $2, then almost $5 travel each way, from within a 20km radius of the city — crazy. It is actually cheaper to drive.” — Tamantha
“Paid parking at the train station tipped it over the edge for many people. Oats Street used to be a bustling station. Now it’s empty due to the parking meters. More people using public transport makes everyone’s journey better. Don’t slug the people doing the right thing.” — Andrew
Public transport doesn’t take people where they want to go
Perth’s train network is based around taking people in and out of the city centre, with buses offering connections between suburbs.
The McGowan Government has an ambitious, and expensive, plan to expand the rail network, announcing $1.34 billion over four years in the recent state budget for its flagship Metronet program.
Ellenbrook residents, in Perth’s outer north-east, are still waiting for the train line promised by both the Liberal and Labor parties before the 2008 election.
The Barnett government reneged on the commitment after the election and the McGowan Government has not allocated funds to the project, despite insisting it will still go ahead.
In Perth’s outer suburbs, it can take numerous connections to reach your destination. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
But for the moment, many people face a choice between a series of bus and train connections or a ride in their car.
“A 35-minute journey in my car each morning would take three hours, four separate train changes and a seven-kilometre walk. Then do it all again in the evening to get home. I don’t fancy six hours travel time each day just to get to and from work.” — Amelia
“The fact that I would have to take three buses to get from Scarborough to Floreat; that is a seven-minute drive in a car.” — Paul
“Everything is geared towards getting people in and out of the city. To get from my place in Beechboro to my work in Joondalup is a 22-minute drive. But to take Transperth, I’ve got to go into the city and back out again.
“So that’s two buses and a train for a combined total of an hour and a quarter. So while both my house and work are really close to public transport options, it’s just not feasible.” — Shannon
“Perth is basically just suburbs. The city centre is incredibly small. This transit system needs to be updated to accommodate that.” — Jazmin
“Despite living within 500 metres walk to a train station, I only use it occasionally to get into the city on Friday night and weekends. Problem is that the network is still slower than car travel, so you still need to own a car, which means you need to pay huge fees for licensing no matter how much you use your car, so what’s the point of paying for public transport?” — Bonita
Some don’t feel safe
A number of users said they didn’t feel safe using public transport due to the behaviour of other passengers, the crowding in peak hour, or the unfortunate tendency of Perth buses to catch fire during journeys.
At least 14 of the gas-powered buses have caught fire over the past eight years. (ABC News: Robert Koenig-Luck)
“Safety. The people on the trains range from inconsiderate to full-scale dangerous.” — Rowen
“Buses bursting into flames is not reassuring.” — Bill
“Everyone gets sick on public transportation and no-one can afford time off.” — Bev
But not everyone hates public transport
While many people have reasons for avoiding public transport, it seems the views of regular users are far more positive.
“I love the trains. A 25-minute trip for me which is an hour by car. Costs $7 to $8 a day, but that is a lot cheaper than driving and parking in town. I get a seat every day in peak hour and it isn’t crammed.” — Matthew
His views are backed up by a recent Public Transport Authority survey of 4,000 passengers which showed that 89 per cent of bus users and 94 per cent of train users were satisfied with their service.
“I think the line from Butler to Perth is great and everyone is so polite to OAPs (old age pensioners) — I will always be given a seat.” — Maureen
“I think the public transport system is wonderful for me. But I have been lucky enough to live on main lines most of the time. There is lots of room for improvement, but for those who can [there is] minimal driving, no parking fees, no peak-hour traffic frustrations, no increased vehicle maintenance.” — Eddy
The State Government is also hoping to encourage more people to leave their cars at home through a $500,000 public awareness campaign.
It’s a campaign that users like Hannah are hoping keeps the system on the rails.
“As a person who is unable to drive, I rely on our public transport system. I have noticed fewer people catching buses and trains. I feel worried that this may mean services are reduced. So my plea is to those who can drive, please consider using public transport.”