Top priority to public and low-carbon commuter transport.

Step 6) Investing in Public and Low Carbon Transport

Action: The Tasmanian Government must commit to a radical overhaul and major investment in public transport across the State, with the ultimate aim of reducing the demand for travel and achieving emissions-free transport. Key elements would include:

  • a major investment in safe walking and cycling infrastructure connecting key dormitory suburbs with urban and employment centres;
  • a major investment in a low-emission bus fleet and related infrastructure (bus shelters, bus lanes, etc). Bus fares must be set at a nominal level (not exceeding $1 for an adult fare) in recognition of the climate, public access and congestion benefits of public transport and to encourage ridership;
  • a major renewal of rail services in the state, encompassing both freight and, where viable, rapid passenger transit services. As with the bus system, and in recognition of their environmental and public benefits, rail services must be rapid, reliable and affordably priced to encourage usage;
  • a concerted strategy to discourage private car use for commuting, involving encouragement for car-pooling, higher parking fees, financial incentives for workers and employers that promote public transport, and an expansion of bus and cycling lanes;
  • the State Government should work with the transport industries to encourage a rapid and progressive move away from fossil fuels to renewable electricity or (at a limited scale) genuinely sustainable biofuels and lower-carbon fuels (such as natural gas) where necessary (for example in heavy vehicles).

Rationale: Public rail transport fulfils a social need, reduces traffic and can contribute to the reduction of unnecessary road deaths in Tasmania. Fares make up only 25% of Metro's income. For a modest cost, the Tasmanian Government could remove one of the barriers to public transport uptake, gain immediate increase in public transport patronage and promote public transport as a preferred mode of travel.

Public rail transport is a lower emissions and climate friendlier option than private road transport and contributes to liveable cities and towns. Electric rail is a mainstream technology, while electric vehicles are becoming more widely available and more user-friendly due to innovations in battery technology and weight-saving materials. At the same time, vehicle manufacturers are being slow to bring products to the market for fear of the commercial risks.

The Government has the opportunity to partner with appropriate companies to lower these risks by guaranteeing investment in the necessary infrastructure and by leading the market with the conversion of its own vehicle fleet. The Government could also provide positive incentives for the conversion of private fleets and vehicles, such as preferential parking for electric vehicles and investment in recharging infrastructure. This action is complementary to Step 5 - sustainable cities and regions, and Step 2 - 100% Renewable Electricity by 2020, in particular.