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Author Topic: A habit we just can’t seem to quit  (Read 1375 times)

Offline Jonno

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A habit we just can’t seem to quit
« on: February 12, 2014, 10:50:26 PM »
http://www.railexpress.com.au/archive/2014/february/february-12-2014/a-habit-we-just-can2019t-seem-to-quit

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A habit we just can’t seem to quit
by Rail Express — last modified Feb 12, 2014 12:17 PM
— filed under: Weekly Top Stories, Rail
A recent report by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) finds that urban rail based solutions can provide significant costs savings when it comes to reducing congestion in our major cities, but at the same time research seems to indicate that despite soaring patronage over the last decade on our suburban rail networks our love affair with the car is far from over, Mark Carter writes.
   


Research group McCrindle last week released an analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data suggesting that at least when it comes to the daily commute, public transport is only keeping pace with car based commuting.
 
The analysis found that the percentage of workers who commute by private car has risen very slightly to 65.5%, up from 65.3% 5 years ago, and that just 1 in 10 Australians rely on public transport to get to work or their place of study.
 
More than half of Australians (54%) state that the reason that they don’t use public transport is that there is no service or none at the right time for them. Apparently only 1 in 10 says it is because they need their own vehicle for work and just 1 in 12 needs it to carry work items or other people.
 
This is nothing new really. Some 20 years ago a survey conducted in Adelaide by the lobby group People for Public Transport found that frequency and comfort were the two key factors influencing people’s choice – far outweighing cost as a factor. 
 
The McCrindle analysis suggests that there are 18.3 million Australians aged 17 and over, and 13.3 million registered passenger vehicles in Australia, which equates to 1 vehicle per 1.37 people of driving age. Less than 1 in 10 households get by without a car while most (54%) have at least two cars.
 
It makes the argument in favour of rail over road funding for urban transport solutions that much harder to make, but the ARA has not been deterred and at the end of January released a study it commissioned – The Value of Action versus the Cost of Inaction – which shows that investing in rail is the most cost effective transport solution to reduce road congestion in Australia’s two fastest growing cities – Brisbane and Perth. 
 
The study concludes that in Brisbane and Perth, a substantially smaller investment in rail would gain the same congestion reduction benefits as investment in roads – it would cost around 57% less in Brisbane and 38% less in Perth to achieve optimal congestion.
 
If we were to maintain our addiction for the car, then congestion relief in Brisbane and Perth will require almost 2,300 additional lane kilometres in Brisbane and almost 2,000 lane kilometres in Perth.
 
Specifically in Brisbane, a $20 billion rail investment would achieve the same congestion reduction as a $46 billion road investment, while to halve Perth’s current traffic congestion by investing in roads, $40 billion would be required, but the same result using rail a $25 billion or 38% lower investment would be needed.
 
All pretty simple stuff it would seem, but unlikely I feel to sway the current Federal administration away from its currently held stance of virtually ruling out any funding for urban rail projects.
 
In previous columns I have highlighted Tony Abbott’s views on car ownership from his book Battlelines which advocates a mechanised Nirvana for the masses taking us into the future, likely to be even cheaper now as the last of Australia’s car manufacturing capability moves off shore.
Abbott suggested, “The humblest person is king in his own car.....”, and that, “In Australia’s big cities, public transport is generally slow and expensive....”
 
The ARA study goes to say that, “the detrimental impact of congestion on the liveability of our cities is well known and importantly, it reduces productivity.
 
Alleviating congestion by investing in public transport is therefore imperative to ensuring future productivity growth, as it is the most efficient way of connecting people with jobs in the high productivity nodes in our cities.”
 
If no action is taken to invest in public transport, by 2031 the annual cost of congestion is expected to reach $5.5 billion per annum in Brisbane (currently $2 billion per annum) and $3.8 billion per annum in Perth (currently $1.4 billion per annum).
 
How anyone can feel like a king in their own car when stuck in a traffic jam is beyond me, especially when commuters in Brisbane and Perth forgo up to 11 million and 14 million hours per year of time respectively being delayed in traffic.
 
The study suggests this time could be applied to work or leisure or family time. The average commuter in both cities would gain around 73 hours per year – or nearly an additional two weeks annual leave each year.
 
Unfortunately, despite its simple logic, one report on its own is not going to reverse current government policy, and only a long and sustained lobby campaign from the rail industry and the wider community can achieve that.

With large population increases projected for all or major cities over the next two to three decades, the costs of feeding our car addiction are only going to get higher – can you afford the habit? 

 

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“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” -- Erol Ozan