Is Australia about to copy our Transport Policies?
By Matt L, on September 16th, 2013
I can’t say I’m much of a follower of Australian politics so please forgive me if I don’t get the various intricacies right but it is definitely going to be interesting to see what happens with transport over the coming years now that Tony Abbott has been elected prime minister. In case you also haven’t been following the goings on across the ditch, back in April Abbott caused a bit of a stir when he said:
“The commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads.
“We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it is important that we stick to our knitting and the commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
This was particularly a concern as many of the major projects on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list have been rail projects in all of the major cities. Further while ruling out funding for rail projects he was also promising government funds for some motorway projects that in some cases hadn’t even been assessed which sounds eerily similar to what our government has done with the RoNS.
Of course just like in New Zealand and elsewhere in the western world travel demand in Australia is changing, especially amongst young people and one of the key differences is that the mainstream media are starting to pick up on the trends which is something we haven’t really seen here (perhaps we will have to wait for the census results to come out).
Sydney’s 20-somethings are fast ditching their cars for public transport, previously unpublished figures show, revealing the trend is widespread in the city.
An analysis of new travel figures from the Bureau of Transport Statistics shows the generational shift to public transport is not confined to well-serviced inner areas but also in outer Sydney, where public transport is more patchy.
The transformation in travel patterns, experts and surveys say, is likely caused by the cost and inconvenience of maintaining a car but also the widespread use of mobile devices, which are more attractive on public transport.
Ten years ago, people aged 21 to 30 in Sydney drove themselves on about 53 per cent of all trips on an average weekday. That share fell almost eight percentage points to 45.5 per cent in 2011-12.
Among people aged 31 to 40, the ”mode share” of driving trips fell from 64.2 per cent to 60.2 per cent in the decade. Sydney residents in their 40s and 50s are also driving less but the trend is not as pronounced and residents in their 60s and 70s are, on average, driving slightly more.
”The whole value proposition of a car is not what it used to be for young people,” said Garry Glazebrook, of the University of Technology, Sydney.
”It’s not the ticket to freedom it once was … And, in the inner suburbs, it is almost a menace because you can’t find somewhere to park.”
One of the interesting things about New South Wales is they actually have a whole department dedicated to producing transport statistics and if you go to the article the image below is also interactive.
But the trends are causing people in the media to ask if the government should be so quick to write off rail projects.
Here is another position Abbott will hopefully discard as retrograde and redundant – his insistence that the federal government should pay for motorways only and not for public transport.
For a party that professes allegiance to free-market principles, the Liberals are curiously insensitive to market demand for transport.
The ”market” – in this instance, moving people around – is clear. Commuters are trying to avoid using a car if they can help it. Saturday’s Herald report documented a steep rise in public transport use in Sydney, along with a slump in the rate of growth of car use. In the past decade, car use in Sydney rose by half the rate of population growth. Trips by train increased by twice the rate of population growth.
The trend is more pronounced among younger people. Inner west residents in their 20s are twice as likely to catch a train on an average weekday than was the case a decade ago. So, too, are twentysomethings living in St George or Sutherland or Fairfield or Liverpool. The trend is not confined to the inner city.
When politicians in multiple countries continue to ignore the trends that are happening and that have been going on for some time now you really need to question what is driving it. Is it adherence to ideology, being caught in the grasp of the powerful road lobby groups or a combination of the two?
I’m sure one senator the government can rely on for support in the road building plans is the one from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party who managed to win a seat in the elections.
It seems that for the time being at least, unless something changes it appears both countries are going to struggle when it comes to getting some good urban transport solutions.