The next decade will present the government with significant transport challenges throughout South Australia. The expectation is that Adelaide’s CBD population will double by 2031 – with increased visitors, construction of new dwellings and employment growth being the major drivers.
In regional South Australia, public transport patronage doubled in the 6 years leading to 2011, and from a low base. By 2026, the prediction is that there will be more than 40,000 new residents, and an ageing as well as growing population will create different challenges. With South Australia having Australia’s oldest population, there will be an increased demand for transport services that support the mobility needs of its elderly residents.
Regional connectivity and social inclusion are challenges the government must address. It is particularly relevant for those in the country who cannot afford a car or are unable to drive a car for some reason. South Australia contains six provincial cities, five of which are located alongside or near the coastline. The populations of these provincial cities range from around 10,000 to 25,000.
There are a high number of small towns and communities interspersed throughout the broad-acre and livestock grazing part of the state. Out of these, only 11 have more than 3,000 residents. The majority of the remaining communities have less than 1,000 residents. South Australia requires agreed minimum service levels for passenger bus services to meet the mobility needs of people living in regional South Australia. This includes in and around where people live, as well as connecting them to Adelaide for health, education and other services.
As the population increases, it is estimated that loss of productivity through urban congestion will cost the South Australian economy $1 billion by 2020. As congestion adds to urban travel times, we will need to implement solutions that provide reliable and efficient transport alternatives to assist people to perform their day-to-day activities. Building more roads alone does not solve congestion. Adding capacity to public transport services and protected cycling lanes in conjunction with creating additional road capacity is an important part of the solution.
Continued investment in passenger transport infrastructure and services throughout South Australia will be required to keep up with the needs and demands of a growing population, and these initiatives will have a positive ripple effect on health, emissions and pollution, energy security and social inclusion.
In 2010, buses accounted for 77% of passenger boarding by mode in the Adelaide CBD. It is highly unlikely the government will invest significantly in other public transport modes. We may never have the elaborate underground train networks or tram networks found in other Australian capitals and abroad. Therefore, bus will continue to be the workhorse of the South Australian public transport system in the future.
Read more on our Bus SA recommendations page.