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Do you think your $321 a year to pay for ACTION is worth it?

By johnboy 23 February 2011 42

action buses

The Liberals’ Alistair Coe is poking the bear that is the huge amount of subsidy for the ACTION bus service:

Every ACT adult pays an extraordinary $321 every year for ACTION buses, whether or not they use the service, Shadow Minister for Transport Services, Alistair Coe, said today.

“For too long the Government has talked about improving the efficiency of the ACTION network, but these figures highlight just how much each voter is paying every year for a service government figures estimate only around 8 per cent of Canberrans use,” Mr Coe said.

“Every year Canberra taxpayers subsidise the ACTION network by approximately $80 million. However the actual cost per capita, or per adult, really highlights the massive amount each ACT adult pays for a network that doesn’t suit the needs of many Canberrans.

So Rioters, how would you fix this?

Or are you happy just as it is?


What’s Your opinion?


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42 Responses to
Do you think your $321 a year to pay for ACTION is worth it?
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boneymaloney 12:16 pm 15 Aug 11

zippyzippy said :

Ok, so he’s saying we shouldn’t subsidise Action. ie defund it. What? It needs more funding! What does Alistair think we should do instead to make sure Canberra has a good public transport system?

Quite. “It has to be better! And it also has to be cheaper!” Doesn’t everything? How are you going to run more buses at higher frequencies at lower cost? Outsource them to China? :/

housebound 11:44 pm 28 Feb 11

Sorry to revive an old thread, but having buses that actually turn up would be good. The school kids and workers in our extended family have had buses regularly failing to show in the past week. That 8% must be the poor and desperate, or simply those who don’t mind waiting for another half hour (or more) for a bus to show up.

merlin bodega 2:03 pm 24 Feb 11

Well get used to it being as bad as it is.

At a semi-delusional presentation to the Belconnen Labor Party Sub-Branch last week the Chiefly Minister ran up the white flag on ACTION. “I just can’t get the share of the transport task up from 8%!” he cried. The only option he can see is to double the price of parking and force people on the bus. People like mothers in childcare, the elderly and poorly paid I presume.

Yeah right!

Buses that go where nobody wants and take forever to get there is all he can come up with. Wait for the bite of this one after the next election.

Gerry-Built 1:38 pm 24 Feb 11

georgesgenitals said :

Hit everyones rates by a few extra bucks, and make the buses free. Then we won’t have to pay for ticketing services, accounting for ticket sales, and usage will almost certainly increase.

Those who want to drive can still do so. I still will.

+1… I don’t see a problem with that…

Erg0 11:12 am 24 Feb 11

housebound said :

That $321 is worth it if it would cost more to NOT have buses. It’s shouldn’t be a hard thing for a moderately competent treasury department to estimate this. More personal transport infrastructure – wider roads, more parking – is a good place to start. Just to pick a completely random example, would it have been a better proposition to invest the money spent on the GDE into the public transport system?

And then there’s road maintenance. What is the marginal cost of that for each passenger that would otherwise have driven (a theoretical number, but a basic economic calculation).

And then there are some social costs that should be easy to estimate if you start to look at the costs to government if they had to help the poor with no cars in a world with no buses.

The difference between the $321 and all those factors is then the number we should be debating.

In that context, childcare costs are irrelevant.

You don’t think there’d be a cost to the community of not subsidising childcare?

housebound 9:51 am 24 Feb 11

That $321 is worth it if it would cost more to NOT have buses. It’s shouldn’t be a hard thing for a moderately competent treasury department to estimate this. More personal transport infrastructure – wider roads, more parking – is a good place to start. Just to pick a completely random example, would it have been a better proposition to invest the money spent on the GDE into the public transport system?

And then there’s road maintenance. What is the marginal cost of that for each passenger that would otherwise have driven (a theoretical number, but a basic economic calculation).

And then there are some social costs that should be easy to estimate if you start to look at the costs to government if they had to help the poor with no cars in a world with no buses.

The difference between the $321 and all those factors is then the number we should be debating.

In that context, childcare costs are irrelevant.

JC 8:03 am 24 Feb 11

clp said :

BTW I don’t get the comparison with child care centres – have you seen the fees they charge? I don’t know of too many heavily subsidised child care centres around the place.

Hmm about all of them get a subsidy, or the users get subsidised through rebates as well as charging for use, so in essence the comparison is pretty fair, because the buses get a subsidy as well as charging for use. In the grand scheme of things $321 for buses isn’t too bad. Would love to hear what other ‘services’ cost us.

fun size 7:02 am 24 Feb 11

Public transport being funded by both fares and taxes (aka ‘running at a loss’) is not exactly isolated to Canberra or Australia. The efficient and successful high-speed rail networks in Europe and Asia do not cover their costs solely through fares, but the benefits to the public at large are seen to be important enough for taxes to be spent on them. So too are facilities in Australia such as public roads, public parks, public schools and public hospitals. I have never driven on Gellibrand Street, Campbell, but I accept that maintenance to its road surface will be required every now and again and that the taxes that I have paid to the ACT government will be used to pay for this public service, of which I and the majority of ACT residents will never see direct benefits from.

Ian 10:47 pm 23 Feb 11

Thoroughly Smashed said :

Ian said :

I accept that a public transport service will normally require some level of taxpayer support. What I object to is it costing $321 when it could and should be (for arguments sake) $150 if it were actually run efficiently.

If you think it’s run inefficiently, what do you think could be improved?

Also I’m not sure you’ve correctly used the figure of speech “for argument’s sake”…

Well, looking at reports of the benchmarking done last year by consultants, their opinion was that there are $21m of inefficiences in ACTION’s labour costs and $10m in overheads. This is just on the cost side. Total costs in 2009 were $108m, so take $31m out of that, gives $77m. On the revenue side, total fares (and a few other “commercial” revenue sources like charters and advertising) were $21m, or about 19% of costs. I have seen in one of the ICRC reports that the government’ long term objective is to recoup 30% of costs through fares. Assuming the cost of $77m is achieved, the revenue would need to grow to $23m to achieve 30% recovery.

Currently the taxpayer subsidy is ($108m-21m) = $87m. To get from here to Coe’s $321/adult implies 271k adults (which strikes me as too high, but I couldn’t find any data on the adult population as opposed to the total). Achieving the efficiencies plus increased fare revenue would get us to ($77m-$23m) = 54m. Assuming the same denominator that Coe used, this gives us $199/adult.

OK, so I plucked the $150 out of the air. It’s closer to $200. Still doesn’t alter the central argument which is that I should be paying a lot less than $321 to subsidise public transport.

olfella 10:17 pm 23 Feb 11

georgesgenitals said :

Hit everyones rates by a few extra bucks, and make the buses free. Then we won’t have to pay for ticketing services, accounting for ticket sales, and usage will almost certainly increase.

Those who want to drive can still do so. I still will.

+1 Make it a lot easier for families to. Now it would be cheaper to take the missus and kids by car than by bus. make them free and fill them.

51modelBloke 7:46 pm 23 Feb 11

I don’t object to paying an extraordinary $321, which I digress is an extraordinary amount given that not all adults contribute to tax. What I do object is contributing 40 cents per year, my rough calculation, to nitwit Coe’s salary.

No doubt he will save the Territory a huge amount of money if Lib’s get in power. How would he survive, he’d have nothing to fault

Felix 4:56 pm 23 Feb 11

You know, Gungahlin Al, light rail needn’t be all that expensive – Venice recently installed a system, using French-built trams, for roughly 9 million Euros per kilometre – which translates to about $12 million Australian dollars – most main road construction in Canberra costs at least $10 million per kilometre – Parkway is way more than that and nobody has ever built a parkway that can carry the kind of people numbers of light rail – so it’s actually not unreasonably expensive – if someone can scrape up the starter capital and the nerve to do it.
Given that all the evidence from every city in the world is that, beyond a basic minimum level, building bigger roads solves congestion problems for about six months at most, then th eincreased usage cancels the benefit and you’re stuck on an upward spiral – so it certainly IS a good thing to sink serious money into public transport.
And it’s worth checking out RMIT transport researcher Paul Mees’s work – he argues with quite strong evidence that you actually CAN run really good public transport in lower density cities like Canberra – the Swiss manage it – you just have to be very well-organised and careful in the way you plan and run the system, so that you maximise network linkages to make it convenient to use and therefore competitive with private cars. And the LAST thing you do is sell it off or split it up, as they so diastrously did in Melbourne under Kennett!

Pork Hunt 4:37 pm 23 Feb 11

frontrow said :

Can somebody tell me the difference between an extraordinary $321 and an ordinary $321?

If you find $321 in the gutter it’s extraordinary but if you are the loser of $321, it’s pretty ordinary….

ML-585 3:43 pm 23 Feb 11

basketcase said :

It would be better to hand Action over entirely to Deans (sic) at no charge. We would all be $321 a year better off so it would be a good investment strategy.

Good idea. Because privatising Public Transport has worked so well everywhere else it has been tried!

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/private-operators-raid-public-transport-purse-20100923-15otb.html

shadow boxer 3:20 pm 23 Feb 11

Erg0 said :

frontrow said :

Can somebody tell me the difference between an extraordinary $321 and an ordinary $321?

Political affiliation.

ex·traor·di·nar·y/ik?strôrdn?er?/Adjective
1. Very unusual or remarkable.
2. Unusually great

Seems pretty straight forward

Erg0 2:49 pm 23 Feb 11

frontrow said :

Can somebody tell me the difference between an extraordinary $321 and an ordinary $321?

Political affiliation.

KB1971 2:42 pm 23 Feb 11

Genie said :

verbalkint said :

I think $321 is eminently reasonable, given the size of the budget and the necessarily inefficient layout of Canberra (for public transportation purposes).

I use ACTION every day and the services are on time, clean and efficient 98% of the time. I saw last year that action has a 90% approval rating (or perhaps even higher) for those that actual use the service but a very low approval rating for those people who don’t use it.

Seems to me like people that don’t use the busses dislike the service on principle because it makes them feel better about driving their cars every day…

Do you catch buses in peak time !? I dont think my buses are ever on time.
Yesterday the 5pm bus didn’t arrive until almost 5.10, which meant everyone waiting for the 5.15 bus also got on thinking the next bus was early. No standing room on a long bus is usually a sign the bus is late.

And this morning my bus was roughly 5 mins early… at almost every stop after mine I watched people running to try and catch the bus.

As for clean most def never clean in the evenings… they are usually quite gross and disgusting.

Everybody definately has a different experience. I dont expect any bus in the middle of its run to be exactly on time. Up to 5 minutes either side of the designated time is reasonable as far as I am concerned as I always organise myself to be ready at least 5-10 minutes prior to getting on the bus. I guess my expectations are less.

As far as cleanliness is concerned, a bus that has been on the road all day from 5:30 in the morning doing say a 3 series run from one end of town to another would probably see close to one thousand passengers per day (correct me if I am wrong given they seat 56 & stand 15 at any given time but they tend to squeeze more on than that), it could be forgiven if its a little dirty/messy. In the 7 years I have been travelling at peak times I cant say I have actually ever been on a bus that I can say was filthy enough to disgust me.

They are certainly cleaner than any Melbourne tram or train I have been on.

Davo111 2:31 pm 23 Feb 11

Genie said :

No standing room on a long bus is usually a sign the bus is late.[/QUOTE]
So basically its because people take ages to buy a ticket. MyWay (or whatever its name) should fix it.

Genie said :

And this morning my bus was roughly 5 mins early… at almost every stop after mine I watched people running to try and catch the bus.

i will admit that’s frustrating.

Genie 2:14 pm 23 Feb 11

verbalkint said :

I think $321 is eminently reasonable, given the size of the budget and the necessarily inefficient layout of Canberra (for public transportation purposes).

I use ACTION every day and the services are on time, clean and efficient 98% of the time. I saw last year that action has a 90% approval rating (or perhaps even higher) for those that actual use the service but a very low approval rating for those people who don’t use it.

Seems to me like people that don’t use the busses dislike the service on principle because it makes them feel better about driving their cars every day…

Do you catch buses in peak time !? I dont think my buses are ever on time.
Yesterday the 5pm bus didn’t arrive until almost 5.10, which meant everyone waiting for the 5.15 bus also got on thinking the next bus was early. No standing room on a long bus is usually a sign the bus is late.

And this morning my bus was roughly 5 mins early… at almost every stop after mine I watched people running to try and catch the bus.

As for clean most def never clean in the evenings… they are usually quite gross and disgusting.

frontrow 1:31 pm 23 Feb 11

Can somebody tell me the difference between an extraordinary $321 and an ordinary $321?

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