Firstly, apologies for not having updated in the last couple of weeks – I’ve developed a pretty serious West Wing addiction that’s been consuming most of my time.
More importantly, I read on the weekend that restricting first year drivers to carrying one passenger is back on the cards in the form of an RACV submission to the State Government. This is mainly an issue on Friday and Saturday night, when young drivers take 3 or 4 drunk friends home from parties. Friday and Saturday nights are when a substantial of road deaths involving young drivers occur.
I was a P plater not so long ago, and can vouch for the fact that driving intoxicated friends home at ungodly hours of the morning is a serious distraction to any driver, especially a young one. However, I’m not entirely comfortable with restricting passenger numbers because reducing vehicle occupancy may well require more young people to drive, negating some or all of the benefits. But if the evidence suggests it is a good way of lowering the road toll then I’m all for it.
What I don’t understand is why public transport is not mentioned more often as a potential way of reducing road accidents. The problem is that the very time that public transport could most benefit young drivers most (from a road safety perspective) is when it is least available. The government’s 1 hour extension of train and tram services on Friday and Saturday nights was a step in the right direction and seems to have been received well. I caught the last tram to Kew Depot on a Friday night few weeks back and was amazed at how busy it was. We really need to consider further extending these services another 3 hours to get a viable all night service.
Interestingly, the 2006 late night service extension really didn’t cost very much. MOTC figures put the cost at $130 million, although this appears to be a 10 year figure. Annually, we’re looking at about $13 million for every extra hour of train and tram services provided on a Friday and Saturday night. Extend the services an extra 3 hours, and the cost would be $52 million per year, assuming constant returns to scale. That’s not a lot of money to pay for a massive expansion in services. Put into perspective, it’s about 13% of current total annual train and tram operating expenditure (excluding new capital works).
The only problem is that the taxi industry would hate the idea, just as they hated the idea of an airport rail link.