Kelly in the Media

Public transport needs a boost

The Weekender Herald: herald comment

Last week the South Australian Government handed down its first State Budget since Election 2014.

The new Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, was keen to lay blame on the Federal Government for cuts to health, education and infrastructure spending.

What should be noted is that many of these budgetary pressures existed well before the new Abbott Government had Treasurer Joe Hockey hand down his first Federal Budget in May.

Decisions by Premier Weatherill and his Infrastructure Ministers on transport and roads spending has long shown a focus on roads ahead of more sustainable transport spending on public transport and cycling.

For people with disabilities, getting around Adelaide on public transport is still a lottery when it comes to accessibility. On some bus routes, less than 60 per cent of the vehicles used are accessible to wheelchair and other mobility-aid users.

It really isn’t good enough that more than 20 years after Maurice Corcoran first challenged our transport system through the Disability Discrimination Act, people with disability are still unable to confidently navigate our transport scheme.And if you commute via bike and live in the Hills, you’ll know there aren’t many options to get back up the hill after work or other activities on the Adelaide plains. An affordable and simple option such as retrofitting bike racks to our buses is a practical solution and would encourage Hills residents to leave their cars at home and use bikes and public transport to get around.

This is why it’s disappointing to Dignity for Disability that the state government has chosen to spend $160 million on a tunnel for the O-Bahn that will save drivers on one road just four minutes of travel time.

Certainly, given our interest in advocating for social justice for disadvantaged South Australians, this is troubling.

Given that such a large chunk of the state’s budget is to be spent on one piece of infrastructure, particularly in such a tight fiscal environment, you’d want to see a rapid uptake of public transport.

I doubt that will occur as the priority is once again clearing just one arterial road for cars. How many accessible buses or bike racks could we buy with $160 million? Or how many wheelchair accessible bus stops or bike lanes could we build in the Adelaide Hills with that money – creating jobs in the process?

Sure, there are plans for a Mount Barker Interchange, but overall there’s no integrated plan to encourage public transport and bike use amongst Hills residents nor tourists. It’s time to see the government invest here.

Kelly Vincent, MLC, Dignity for Disability