I know its only human to take things for granted and to ask for more than what we already have. But I’d ask myself if that’s a valid excuse to be unreasonably demanding and whinge when things don’t go our way. (This post will be a slight deviation from my theme.)
What triggered this post was a (not so) sudden revelation about how Singaporeans love to make a big deal out of a tiny issue.
A couple of months back, there was a massive train breakdown (in Singapore) that resulted in delays. Singaporeans were so mad they demanded the CEO of SMRT (the transport company) step down from her position. That I don’t get. We’ve been blessed with transport stability for more than a decade and when ONE technical error crops up, they start making irrational demands that aren’t targeted at getting the problem solved.
Having experienced Melbourne’s transport system, I’ve come to realise that some of our complaints about the public transport is really trivial. Melbourne might have a good transport network system. But it’s not wholly perfect. It dawned on me when I overheard (yeap. I’m sneaky like that) 2 wheel chair bound Melbourne Uni talking at the tram stop. One of them was an exchange student from Europe and she was talking about how Europe is so much more wheel chair friendly. And both the girls agreed that Melbourne lacked disability friendly facilities.
I had the privilege of speaking to David Haynes, manager of the University of Melbourne Disability Liaison Unit and he confirmed that the average waiting time of low-levelled trams was between 20 to 30 minutes. In addition to the long waiting time, David explained there aren’t enough super stops (universally accessible stops) around to accommodate to the needs of these people. While there is a system in place offering discounted taxi fares, getting around the city is definitely a big expense for them.
“A lot of them would use taxis and there is sort of a discounted taxi system so it doesn’t cost as much. But it’s still quite a big expense, and it’s the inconvenience of having to wait for appropriate taxis. The city is doing a lot in terms of the super stops. Its still not a perfect system, there aren’t all that many super stops around the places. It’s a real issue in relation to how they can participate in the community generally because it’s just difficult for them to get around.”
“At the moment they are restricted to just where those superstops are. But if you still have to arrange a taxi to get to a superstop to be able to get into where you want to go, then that’s not much of an improvement. But I think there’s still a long way to go before somebody who is in a wheelchair would be able to feel they’ve got the same access to public transport as anybody else.” David explained.
When I rang up the Social Transit Unit of the Victorian Department of Transport, Helen Balcam (an officer at the department) was more than happy to offer her views on the matter. She revealed that there are some tram routes in the network that didn’t have any low-floor trams at all.
“There are some tram routes that don’t have any low-floor trams at all. There are time frames for us to make compliance around the accessibility of public transport. The tram network doesn’t have to be fully compliant till 2032. So that, at the moment, is the least accessible form of public transport.”
“There’s currently about 20 million dollars being allocated over 4 years for improvements to the accessibility of public transport. But, a lot more money will be needed long term. It will take a long time before everything is fully accessible.” said Helen.
In addition to the lack of disability friendly structures in the city, more needs to be done in the suburbs when there is a greater lack of appropriate infrastructure.
While Melbourne was rated the world’s most liveable city, it was also found in a federal funded nationwide study that Melbourne and Sydney had the worst city urban infrastructure. The study highlighted the lack of efficiency in city planning. The study also highlighted Victorian government’s failure to meet stipulated deadlines in development plans.
There is a need to address the needs of the marginalised groups in Australia. A lot needs to be done to improve on structures that can support this group.