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September 14, 2020

Free public transport is bringing the fight to driver’s month

The City of Adelaide has supported two motions that would see subsidised tram, train and bus tickets and free bike-riding lessons in the CBD. Councillor Robert Simms proposed the ideas and says it's a good result following “the disappointment of driver’s month.”

  • Words and pictures: Angela Skujins

On Tuesday, 8 September, the Adelaide city council passed two motions raised by Councillor Robert Simms: subsidised train, tram and bus tickets for CBD-goers and free bicycle lessons offered to those looking to start riding into the city.

Simms told CityMag the environmentally friendly and accessible initiatives would draw patrons to the city.

He also thinks the ideas together combat the “disappointment of driver’s month”.


The City of Adelaide is offering free bicycle lessons every week starting from October.

Keep an eye on the council’s website for more info.

“I’m really pleased we’ve got two initiatives over the line on Tuesday that I think are swinging the pendulum a bit more towards active transport in our city,” Simms said.

“[Free public transport] is a common-sense initiative, and an outbreak of common sense in Town Hall after the idiotic decision to proceed with driver’s month that was taken at the last council meeting.”

The public transport motion only asks council administration to investigate possible avenues for free travel and publish it in a report. Council will then go through the findings with the administration in a workshop.

Last month, the Adelaide city council approved driver’s month – another initiative intended to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of driver’s month, scheduled for November, the City of Adelaide will offer $100 parking vouchers as lottery prizes to those who use the council’s parking app, and will push the state government to increase speed limits through the Parklands to 60km, as a congestion-easing measure.

The idea being that the council should support patrons who visit the city, and that they do so predominantly in cars.

Councillor Jessy Khera put forward the driver’s month motion and told CityMag he didn’t interpret Simms’ two motions as an affront to his, but the council was displaying a spirit of “live and let live”.

“Rather than attacking a parking and driving scheme to [help] small businesses who have been smashed by the exodus of workers due to COVID-19, it would be good to see more of that shown from certain quarters,” he said.

Simms said the free public transport scheme partly came from the public via Facebook.

“When that [driver’s month] initiative was supported by the council, I took to social media and asked members of the community their views on what they’d rather see council do instead, and I got inundated with feedback,” he said.

One of the themes that came through very strongly was, why isn’t council looking at free public transport to encourage people to come into town?”

Simms’ motion was supported by councillors Anne Moran, Phil Martin, Greg Mackie and Helen Donovan.

Councillor Mary Couros also offered her support, breaking ranks from Team Adelaide, while Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde and councillors Arman Abrahimzadeh, Jessy Khera, Franz Knoll and Simon Hou voted against.

Councillor Knoll didn’t support the motion, despite putting forward a similar idea in May.

He told CityMag the issue with free public transport is the inability of the ticketing system to track passengers and minimise the potential for it to be abused.

During the council meeting, he said “80 per cent of people come here by car”. He explained to us later this meant “80 per cent are the shoppers that come to the city” as opposed to commuters. He did not provide the source of this data.

The City of Adelaide’s most recent survey of city users found 36 per cent of traveled to the city by car, while a greater chunk opted for alternative forms of transport, including buses, trains, trams, walking and cycling.

During the council meeting last Tuesday, Councillor Helen Donovan noted this data, saying if the city council’s primary aim is to attract patrons, they should try to reach all of them. She also questioned the 80 per cent figure.

“If we know the majority is coming by public transport, why would we not make that easier in the same way we are looking at incentivising car travel or funding or supporting in some way?” she said.

The cycling lessons will occur once a week for three months starting from October. Simms said this will provide an option for people who live in the city, or visitors, to improve their skills and safety cycling through the CBD.

(For those who’ve already taken off their training wheels, EcoCaddy has tailor-made an app that includes mapped rides through Metropolitan Adelaide.)

“From my perspective, I was really pleased with the outcome. I think it was an outbreak of common sense in Town Hall. Let’s hope it continues,” Simms said.

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