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After COP21 in Paris, maintaining cities as places for cars is even more laughable

The climate change denialists have had a giant 'bird flip' thrust in their faces by the national governments of the world with the support of the climate agreement at COP21 in Paris.

COP21 was negotiated and agreed by national governments however in an Australian context much of the hard work of adapting - future-proofing - our society and economy will lie with state governments.

And it is to the state governments of Australia we must now focus on.

Under the COP21 agreement nations have now committed to reducing their carbon emissions over a period of time. Australia had a pledge and working toward it (and hopefully beating it) will require a multi-faceted approach to altering the way we live, work and transport ourselves around cities and regional areas.

On the Climate Change Authority's web page, it states that 16% of Australia's emissions come from transport and that figure is apportioned as follows (percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding according to the Climate Change Authority):

  • 2% from buses and motorcycles
  • 3% from diesel-powered rail services
  • 3% from sea transport
  • 8% from aviation
  • 18% from trucks
  • 57% from "light vehicles": cars.

Did you spot the elephant in the list? It is at the bottom if you missed it.

If we were to switch to electric cars overnight we would probably not be all that better off given power still overwhelmingly comes from fossil fuel sources and it does not address the core problem: various policies, many in the planning realm, focus on the housing and movement of cars rather people.

If we are going to reduce transport emissions, surely state government policy must now focus on reducing overall car usage; yes, even in a high growth scenario. Whether it is focusing on infrastructure to support increased usage of sustainable modes of transport like walking and cycling, reallocating road space for public transport services or both; policy must surely now focus on creating greater transport freedom for more people in every city, no matter how big or small.

The perennial "balance" transport investment spruikers like our current state treasurer and his opposite - and the bureaucracy that supports them - are now nothing but a laughing stock. Yes, we will need a new Western Distributor, upgraded Monash Freeway or Western Ring Road project every few years if we maintain the status quo in terms of mode share because we will need more road space for the growing population.

With the Paris agreement and the national emission reduction targets looming over us and the titans of the global automotive industry no longer interested in manufacturing "Aussie" cars, now is the time for a transport - and therefore economic - revolution.

The previous ALP state government had a target for 20% of motorised transport mode share on public transport by 2020, and as a first step it is now time for the Andrews government to commit to new targets and allow Infrastructure Victoria to guide the way so as our emissions from transport rapidly reduce and we fully embrace cities as places for people, not cars.

From 2014: 40:40:20-2035, Striking a real balance in transport policy.

Lead image credit: ABC.

6 comments

Ash Register's picture

Umm.....who is Alastair Taylor?

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SYmlb's picture

The problem is that to fix congestion in Melbourne it is simply cheaper to upgrade the freeways. I agree that the solution is not to build more roads but the latest batch of upgrades, the Monash out at East Link and Clyde Road, you simply could not spend $400m or whatever the figure is to upgrade any other transport option other than the Monash to achieve the same result. What would it cost to upgrade the rail lines or "alternative" options out in suburbia? This is where the majority live and sadly it's a lot of money required to solve it.

It would be an ideal world to spend on other transport options but in this case with the Western Distributor I agree it is needed. So long as it's private money and not public I see no issue. We are already spending billions on the Melbourne Metro already and although it would be great to see more of that, Melbourne would need to see higher population densities to justify spending in outer suburbs and alternative transport options.

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Llib's picture

It is not cheaper to upgrade freeways, it is just were the motivation is to spend money. Freeways are more expensive because you require more money to move less people. MM1 may sound expensive but it will allow capacity increases on the entire rail network. Adding a lane on a freeway only moves the traffic elsewhere down the network.

This is also why the Western distributor will not move many cars from the Westgate bridge because it will be tolled. It will also result in a big bottleneck in the Burnley tunnel as there is still only one route going from the West to the East of the city.

$400 million would go a long way to extending many tram lines that need to be linked up with train services or spending it on an extra 100 buses to boost services where they are needed in busy areas such as routes serving Chadstone SC, Doncaster Hill and Box Hill SC which are rapidly increasing in density.

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Steve Raider's picture

The steady removal of level crossings brings with it the potential for a much greater frequency of train services which will help with current peak time crowding and for more convenience overall. Waiting half an hour on a platform for a train you just missed is brutal. Why not run shorter trains more frequently?

Building new rail lines Is certainly desirable but these kind of projects come along once in every 20 or 30 years. I feel a lot can be done to make improvements to the existing infrastructure to make public transport a more attractive option to Melburnians.

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SYmlb's picture

How would having more trams solve the issue of getting trucks off the West Gate Bridge? And how would more trams in the inner city solve traffic congestion on the M1 at Berwick?

I completely agree we need to spend more money on other transport options, but in these specific situations I agree the money is justified for these projects. Not everything can be solved by public transport and like I said before, the amount of money required to upgrade the freeways and to increase the capacity of the existing freeway infrastructure would far outweigh the costs of upgrading trains or other transport options.

On a personal note, I'd like to see them enforce right lanes on freeways as T2 or T3 express lanes to encourage more shared car usage and speed up bus transit.

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krzy stoff's picture

@Ash Register in answer to yout question, this is from linkedin:
Alastair Taylor
Editor and Site Administrator at urbanmelbourne,
Urbanist, Director of Alamar AV Communications Pty Ltd and Site Admin & Editor of urbanmelbourne dot info - an online community which aims to bring the wider Melbourne community and property development industries closer together for mutual benefit.

Analytical background in the Systems Testing and Business Analysis spaces with a focus on Telco and Banking/financial systems with exposure to instrument trading systems (Spot Foreign Exchange).

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