It is mystifying that the state government forgoes almost $600 million a year in exemptions and concessions for property and payroll taxes but won't part with a lousy $13 million to ease traffic congestion.
It will cost almost $580 million to replace the Bridgewater Bridge plus a new dual carriageway across the causeway.
They will spend $40 million on a roundabout at Hobart Airport, to rival anything in North America and a further $350 million on a package for south-east Tasmania traffic solutions.
Yeah, this is great for jobs, better roads and highways and maybe an easing of the nightmare approaches to our gridlocked cities.
Good on them for at least being seen to upgrade our antiquated transport system.
I was gob-smacked when I first saw the $50 million Perth Bypass.
I thought I was in California.
Anyone in government reading this will know what comes next.
I've written this before in an opinion piece two years ago and I still have not a clue why they won't take it up and save taxpayers a mountain of money, building and rebuilding more roads each year that reach right up to heaven.
Make. Metro. Free.
The simple mathematics of this proposition is that taxpayers give Metro $42 million a year to run a bus service in the major centres.
Metro collects a mere $13 million a year from customers, although more than two-thirds of passengers are on a concession or students.
Only 15 per cent of first boarding fares in Launceston are full fare-paying adults.
So, we are looking at no more than $13 million a year to scrap fares and make it a free service.
I'm sure there would be initial hesitancy from the snobs who wouldn't be seen dead on a Metro bus, or those who love their car and will break the law to park as close as they can to the entrance of a supermarket, school or theatre.
In time the hip pocket will succumb to the lure of a freebie.
My son lives about 35 minutes from the city, and has a bus stop right outside his house, but he and his wife did the sums and found that a commute with their own vehicle was cheaper than the bus.
If the bus ride was free it would save them more than $70 a week.
Sure, the state and federal governments are spending huge sums of money to modernise our transport system and ease traffic congestion, but really it will take years to solve, and all the while our population keeps growing.
Tasmania has become a sanctuary for Australians trying to escape the rat race of the big cities, and international immigrants who can't believe there's a last frontier, where life remains relatively simple, safe and uncluttered.
Trouble is, that uncluttered sanctuary is lumbered with a neglected road network in the two major cities, with one-way streets that complicate peak hour traffic congestion.
We once had it all.
Clean green trolley buses and trams in Launceston and Hobart, and from Brighton to the middle of Hobart a light rail service we're now trying to revive.
Dumb, opportunist politicians of the era got rid of it all in a visionless quest to prop up budgets and regard bitumen and more bitumen as the panacea for their unpopularity.
Now it's almost too late.
The roads are clogged and people drive like crazy as if their life depended on reaching the destination.
I love buses.
I've got my Metro Green Card and I'm smiling, probably creepily, at fellow patrons, and standing up for little old ladies, who mutter "what a nice man" as I shrug nonchalantly at their gratitude.
I'm the Mr Bean of the commute.
I can zip across town for a few bucks and I'd probably zip around endlessly if the trips were free.
The government won't trial a free bus service because metropolitan councils and wealthy car park owners will do anything to protect their racket.
Imagine empty multi-storey parking monoliths gathering dust as a free bus service gathered steam.
In the latest State Budget the government has earmarked $615 million for social and affordable housing, which is wonderful news for the needy.
But, just imagine the social benefits for those battling families living in Mowbray, and at Gagebrook in the south, if they could catch a free bus for the city, or nearest town centre.
All it would cost is a lousy $13 million.
Okay, the government has to maintain and replace the bus fleet.
The fleet numbers 223 vehicles and employee expenses total about $36 million a year.
But those costs will always be there.
The only difference is, Metro currently earns a paltry $13 million a year in fares and other revenue.
It's spare change, when compared to the billions of dollars in future infrastructure savings.
- Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal adviser