Do you need to drive to the station?

But you need to drive to the station anyway. This always crops up as an argument against public transport, the most recent example by Mr Duncan Gay the NSW Roads Minister;

“They conveniently forget that thousands of commuters each day need to drive to rail and bus stations, ferry wharves, hospitals, schools, shopping centres and sporting grounds,” Mr Gay said.

But do you really? Looking at any suburban railway station in Australia’s major cities and you will see hundreds of cars struggling to find parking space. But as Crikey Blogger The Urbanist, Alan Davies has discussed here and here, the majority of train travellers walk a short distance <1km with a smaller percentage driving using “Park and Ride” spaces, which poor use of space anyway. This suggests that people living outside of a 1-1.5km radius of a train station will either drive to the station or seek alternative transport, unfortunately in Australia that alternative is usually a private car. But what if we could extend that easy walking radius distance just a bit further, would we see a higher uptake in train trips?

Bicycle Dutch’s post and video of a 2.3km bicycle commute to the train station got me thinking, in the Netherlands 40% of all train journeys begin with a short bicycle ride to the station. So why don’t we have this here in Australia? Are our cities so sprawling that a bicycle ride to the station is too far for most people?

I thought I’d have a look at some of our capital cities, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and plot a 3km radius from all metro train stations. 3km at a very leisurely 15km/h cycle is a 12 minute journey – well within the reach of most people.

Have a closer look at the maps below, they are fully interactive so you can click, zoom and turn on/off the layers. Sydney has quite a dense coverage with some obvious gaps. Brisbane’s train network is clearly not as dense as Melbourne’s but the bus network fills in some gaps, and Melbourne has some obvious gaps (hello Doncaster and Rowville Rail lines..)

So looking at the maps it’s clear that distance isn’t a major problem, most people live within 3km of a train station. So why don’t people ride? Lack of secure bicycle parking is one problem, but lack of safe bicycle infrastructure to get there is the major problem. In short the answer is no, you don’t need to drive to the station. 

I’ll be looking at a few local train stations in more detail to try and find a solution, stay tuned.

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