The Committee for Melbourne, a not-for-profit think tank, started lobbying for an extension to the free tram zone in 2018. It argues extending the zone would build on the existing system’s success in making Melbourne an “attractive, globally relevant and distinctive system” and link to cultural and sporting venues.
It concedes there may be alternatives to extending the free tram zone, such as a free myki cards for visitors or a Melbourne tourist card with free transport and free admission to attractions.
Melbourne city council also wants the existing free tram zone and potential extension assessed.
“The City of Melbourne looks forward to receiving the Victorian Government evaluation of the costs and benefits of the existing free tram zone or any potential extensions to the zone to sporting arenas and hospitals on the city’s fringe,” a spokesperson said.
“Our transport network is a system and, should funding for an extension to the Free Tram Zone become available, consideration should be given to whether this investment will deliver the greatest benefits to the network, mode shift and user experience, or whether other initiatives may deliver higher public value.”
Daniel Bowen from the Public Transport Users’ Association says the entire issue of free tram zones should be reconsidered given overcrowding on city trams and the disadvantages it causes for fare-paying commuters.
“It may be called free, but someone has to pay for it and the millions of dollars a year [spent on free travel] could be used for public transport services in the outer suburbs,” he says.
“[In the city] regular public transport users who have paid their way can’t fit on the trams.”
The Rail Futures Institute’s representatives, David Hardy and Yarra councillor Jackie Fristacky, say that instead of subsidising more free tram travel, the money should be spent on buying more high-capacity trams.
They argue it is economically illogical to make a high-demand city public transport service free when passengers are charged for city loop trains and CBD buses.