By Howard Wong, AIA SaveMuni

With a population of 4.6 million people and an area of 3,800 square miles, Melbourne’s transit mode share isn’t particularly high but the system activates the city.  Ubiquitous trams reinforce Melbourne’s historic character, including a free tram zone in the Central Business District and a free tram loop that links railroad stations, harbor, convention center, stadium, Parliament, museums, stores, arcades, alleyways….  For San Francisco’s short distances within its 49 square miles, the palpable lesson is that bus rapid networks, trams and ferries can activate streets and neighborhoods—quickly.  Free Shuttle Bus Loops could link downtown to the waterfront, to neighborhoods and to transit hubs—for a fraction of the cost of subways and big infrastructure projects.

CLEAN TECHNICA  How Much Would It Cost Nowadays To Build A Massive Tram System Like Melbourne’s?  Melbourne, Australia, is home to what is by far the largest streetcar system currently in operation in the world — one that makes those found in the US cities where there is one at all seem like a fair ride in comparison. The urban streetcar system comprises roughly 249 kilometers of double-track and 487 trams in total.

You’re probably getting jealous now, and for good reason. So a good question to ask would be, why doesn’t the city I live in have such great public transportation infrastructure? And how much would it cost for it to develop a similar system?

The main takeaway from this all, though, is that maintaining and/or rebuilding or renovating legacy infrastructure is usually the most economical approach to public transportation infrastructure buildout… by far.  It’s just too bad that so many of these quite effective tram systems (which once covered the US) were done away with during the wild embrace of the personal automobile during the last century.

MAP:  Melbourne Tram Network

TRAMS OF AUSTRALIA:  Melbourne’s Tram History After the Second World War, when all that was shiny and new (like the motor car) was embraced, and all that was established and old-fashioned (like the tram) was rejected, Melbourne alone stood against the tide. The Chairman of the MMTB, Sir Robert Risson, far from having a taste for tramway closures like his opposite numbers elsewhere, stoutly defended the trams against a hostile press. He upgraded track by setting it in mass concrete (when this was still politically possible) and even the Government could see that removing trams would be a waste of the investment. He argued that trams would always attract more patronage than an equivalent bus service, and proved it in 1956 when the Bourke St bus service (which had replaced a cable tram line) was upgraded to a tram in time for the Olympic games, despite the wailing of the newspapers.

No doubt the cause was aided by an intransigent union, who were so determined that any bus which replaced a tram must have two-man crewing, that the economics was not really weighted in favour of the bus anyway. The other factor in Melbourne’s favour that is often mentioned is the wide main streets, which meant that there was less obstruction of cars than in other cities.

By the mid 1970s, Melbourne could see how lucky she had been not to follow the fashions of the ’50s, and even the conservative government, normally given to starving public transport to death, agreed to the purchase of new trams. These were the Z-class, which are a mixed success, but were good enough to be followed by the A-class and B-class trams in the 1980s.

DAILY KOS:  Bernie Sanders cracks up as Trump praises Australian healthcare after his evil bill Donald Trump praises Australian Universal Healthcare After watching the clip, both Bernie Sanders and Chris Hayes laughed almost uncontrollably. “Wait a minute Chris,” Sanders said. “The president has just said it. That’s great. Let’s take a look at the Australian healthcare system. Maybe let’s take a look at the Canadian healthcare system or systems throughout Europe.

COMMONWEALTH FUND:  Health Care System and Health Policy in Australia
The Australian health care system provides universal access to a comprehensive range of services, largely publicly funded through general taxation. Medicare was introduced in 1984 and covers universal access to free treatment in public hospitals and subsidies for medical services; Medicare is now sometimes used to describe the Australian health care system though precisely it refers to access to hospitals (hospital Medicare) and medical care (medical Medicare).  Health indicators are strong, for example Australian life expectancy is the third longest in the OECD.