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Grand survey to guide Adelaide's remade public transport system


An “all-encompassing” three-year survey of Adelaide commuters will be used to judge the performance of the public transport system – and the state’s new public transport authority.

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The Government has issued tender documents for the “extensive and all-encompassing customer satisfaction survey”, to be taken in October this year, 2019 and 2020, to assess the performance of bus, train and tram services under the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and, eventually, the new South Australian Public Transport Authority (SAPTA).

The feedback is also likely to influence SAPTA when the yet-to-be-established authority provides it input to the Government’s re-write of the 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide and the Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan.

The centrepiece of the current Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan is an expanded tram network, AdeLINK, which has already been ruled out by the Marshall Government.

Just 10 per cent of Adelaide residents use public transport for their daily commute – a figure almost unchanged in a decade, and below that of other Australian cities – according to the 2018 Australian Public Transport Barometer, released last month.

University of Adelaide senior lecturer in geography Dr Jennifer Bonham, who specialises in urban mobility and processes, told InDaily there is nothing “innate” about South Australians that puts them off public transport, and that a more efficient system would attract higher patronage.

“It’s a bit of a fallacy that South Australians … don’t want to use public transport,” said Bonham

“I don’t think there’s any necessary internal desire just to use your car to get everywhere.

“People will use a good public transport system if it’s a good public transport system.”

She said high-quality services like the Adelaide O-Bahn and the tram network were popular because they were efficient.

But Bonham said Adelaide’s reliance on public buses more generally – a feature of the state’s public transport network that coincided with the removal of Adelaide’s extensive trams network in the 1950s – meant the city’s public transport network was always going to be less popular than that of other cities around Australia.

“Our reliance on buses hasn’t actually served us well, ever since the shift was made in the 1950’s, she said.

“Those buses get caught up in traffic.

“For a lot of people, they do work, but there’s still a level of not being as efficient … as if you actually had (more) dedicated bus lanes.”

Bonham said the survey would be a useful policy-making tool to discern how to improve the SA’s public transport network.

“People do have mechanisms to provide feedback,” she said, citing Adelaide Metro’s rolling online feedback survey.

“(But) who’s going to go on a website and into a survey form unless … you have had a really good experience, or a really bad experience.”

The opt-in survey will collect feedback from a sample spread across greater Adelaide, representative of the passengers by gender, age groups and diverse access needs.

A clause in the tender documents requires the “results of the survey to be kept confidential and, even after the results are made public, any requests for further information, especially from the media or the department contractors, should be referred to the department”.

Transport Minister Stephan Knoll told InDaily SAPTA would be designed and consulted upon over the next year.

“The consultation and design of SAPTA will take place over the next 12 months,” he said in a statement this afternoon.

“SAPTA’s ultimate goal will be to reform South Australia’s public transport network to make it more responsive and customer focused.

“We want to increase public transport patronage and we want to do that by providing better services that encourage people to hop on a bus, train or tram.”

The Liberal Party’s transport policy says “the CEO of SAPTA will not be “compromised by other departmental or political priorities”.

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