Australia's love affair with cars is leaving public transport behind

 
  melbtrip Chief Commissioner

Location: Annoying Orange
http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/18/australia-cars-melbourne-east-west-road

The Melbourne east west road link is likely to cost $8bn. Proponents of roads claim that Australian cities simply aren't like London or Paris, but public transport is still needed
 
Australia's love for cars is deeply entrenched. Photograph: Alamy  


Having one of the lowest population densities in the developed world has given Australians a lot of space to play with. And, broadly speaking, Australians don’t merely enjoy this space - they positively wallow in it.

Arriving, blinking, into the Victorian summer five years ago from London, I was immediately struck by how open everything was. I found myself living in a spacious house without, shockingly, an upstairs. This certainly wasn’t a cramped English-style bungalow.

This indulgence of space caters to Australia’s love affair with the car. I could drive on the huge, US-style highways that snake across the country, invariably finding generously sized car parking spaces exactly in front of the place I wanted to visit.

Tellingly, my Australian father-in-law built a sprawling, aircraft hangar-style shed for his cars and motorbikes before he constructed his new house – the Mustang and the Norton got priority over the bedroom and kitchen. If I wanted to walk to the shops from my house, however, I’d have to contend with the fact there was no actual footpath. And any attempt to catch a bus or train in Geelong, Victoria’s second city, was a laughably futile exercise.

It’s unlikely that public transport in Victoria will see any revamp in the foreseeable future given the Melbourne east west road link, unveiled yesterday, is likely to cost $8bn, leaving very little cash for trains and buses. The massive new toll road, aimed at relieving road congestion, will see 92 houses demolished and half of Royal Park, one of Melbourne’s key inner city green spaces, dug up.



Legal action from outraged residents has already been threatened. "We can protest, and I intend to do all I can against it," said Collingwood resident Helen Bonanno, who is set to lose her home of 24 years.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has ruled out rail funding in favour of roads should he win power, today pledged $6.7 bn to upgrade the Bruce Highway in Queensland. The rule of the car is such that proposing spending more on two individual roads than the entire national Gonski education reform barely raises an eyebrow.

It’s fairly obvious where this kind of money could be spent: on public transport, even if Australia doesn’t build the inter-city high speed rail that most other advanced nations take for granted.

Melbourne, for example, doesn’t have a train service to and from its airport. Visitors new to the city have to negotiate a bus or taxi, as well as the woefully inadequate Myki ticketing system, which charges you $6 for a plastic card which you then have to add funds onto at a random selection of 7/11 outlets and stations, rather than on trams, trains or at stops. Of all the things I expected to miss from London, I didn’t think the admittedly wonderful Oyster card was going to be one of them.

Only a third of Melbourne is reached by train, a quarter by tram. Signalling problems and incomprehensible route planners abound. The story is same across Australia - the public regularly calls out for better public transport but is given more roads instead – often increasing the congestion instead of alleviating it.

“If you sow roads, you harvest traffic,” says Dr John Stone, transport specialist at the University of Melbourne. “It’s clear in Australia and around the world that when you build more roads, you get more congestion. And when you stop spending on public transport, you double the problem.”

Proponents of roads claim that Australian cities simply aren’t like London or Paris. People don’t live in high-density here, they argue, so they don’t need trains, trams and ferries. But, as Stone points out, even if you accept the vision of Australia’s cities as expansive, loose-knit suburbs, you can still put a decent bus service in place.

“There’s lots we can do without having to bulldoze everything first,” he said. “Look at London. It said ‘to be a global city, we have to get public transport right.’ And it did. People go there and elsewhere in Europe and come back here and ask ‘why can’t it be like that here?’”

But the cult of the car is entrenched. Our cities have been built at the altar of car use for the past 50 years, with post-war planning policy shunning run-down public transport in favour of the bracing liberation of the motor vehicle. It’s a trend that’s accelerating. There are 53% more car drivers in Sydney than there were in 1976. In Melbourne, the figure is 66%. In all, four million cars a day trundle along our vast, multi-lane roads to get to work.

“I certainly don’t want us turning into a Los Angeles-style car environment,” said Jackie Fristacky, mayor of the City of Yarra council, which is vigorously campaigning against the east west link. “Each train takes around 800 cars off the road, but what we’re getting is another new road. The whole vision is topsy turvey. I’ve seen people in tears at the idea of having their houses demolished. What kind of city are we really building here?”

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  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
This is news?

It's been going on for at least the last thirty years.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
What is not clear to me is now these politicians (liberal) are getting away with these major road projects which are not adding any value to the city.  Why on earth would we not be building an intermodal terminal near dandenong ?  Surely this is far more important than building an $8b+ road network across the inner north.  The idea should be to remove trucks from the road not to add more.

This is already the focus in our jurisdictions around the world and even Sydney has been moving to create new rail terminals. We have a rail freight network which is substandard and needs investment.

My god, Victoria is surely the only 3rd world jurisdiction I have ever lived in!

There is no centralised planning of industry parks with rail sidings in Victoria.  Ever time I read about a new intermodal terminal going ahead, it never happens.  What about GIFT?

The network is desperate for space around the docks so what does this moron Mulder announce?  The e-gate project, even less space now.



Regards
Brian
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
bevans, the explanation is quite simple.

Take a look around the Victorian parliament - there's not half a brain between all of them. It is obvious to the legendary Blind Freddy that the east-west tunnel is going to do nothing except move the traffic gridlock from one place to another.
It is equally obvious that mass transit has to be the answer, and this means rail.

The pollies can't think, and the bureaucrats, who are busy planning their retirements, don't want to think about anything which might disturb their cosy lifestyle. Ergo, there is no initiative at all.  One person in the Public Service whom I know well has said that "Yes, Minister" isn't a comedy; it's documentary. Look at the recent enquiry into the dredging of Port Phillip and it's effect on Portsea. Expert scientists say it is very likely that dredging contributed to the Portsea beach erosion. The conclusion isn't what the pollies wanted to hear, so the enquiry and it's results are rejected. No explanation of why it's rejected, of course.

Every so often, we change the title of the department(s) that run public transport, keep or re-appoint the same tired old mob, and nothing changes.
There's been talk of an airport rail line for 25 years, and it's no closer. Doncaster is so blindingly obvious that it has no chance either.
The song and dance that went on when the electrification to Craigieburn was completed was unbelievable. What a big deal that was! Take a look at Sydney- how far out can you go under the wires?

I'd love to see just one really intelligent pollie who can think outside his own little square, but I'm not hanging by my thumbs.
  Plan B Junior Train Controller

The 5:45pm train to Doncaster has been delayed.  It is now expected to depart in 40 years.  This is due to a number of defective brains at Spring Street
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
The 5:45pm train to Doncaster has been delayed.  It is now expected to depart in 40 years.  This is due to a number of defective brains at Spring Street
Plan B

This reminds me of a quote from the english comedy come fly with me.

I recall a family of passengers arriving 12 months late for a flight on flylo only to be told by the check-in staff member don't worry the flight has been delayed you can still get on!

Regards
Brian
  Bullucked Assistant Commissioner

The pollies can't think, and the bureaucrats, who are busy planning their retirements, don't want to think about anything which might disturb their cosy lifestyle. Ergo, there is no initiative at all.  
Valvegear
The above is closest to the truth, pollies will only do that which will get them re-elected at the next election. The real problem is the utterly stupid general public who care nothing about anything other than themselves. I've said it before and will keep on saying it, rail projects are not sexy like road projects. Until the General public have a mass culture change away from the beloved car and  towards that which the original OP alludes to in London, nothing will change.
Stupid is as stupid does
  Some rail man Junior Train Controller

Location: CIA Headquarters in Washington D.C
Next thing I expect to see on the news is that Federal Labor has allocated billions of dollars for the east-west link if re-elected.
  ixlr8 Station Master

Location: Melbourne
The Vicroads study shows that the EastWest Tunnel will magnificently connect the two most congested sections of roadway in Melbourne to each other. That should fix the gridlock.
  ChoooChoo Chief Train Controller

The above is closest to the truth, pollies will only do that which will get them re-elected at the next election. The real problem is the utterly stupid general public who care nothing about anything other than themselves. I've said it before and will keep on saying it, rail projects are not sexy like road projects. Until the General public have a mass culture change away from the beloved car and  towards that which the original OP alludes to in London, nothing will change.
Stupid is as stupid does
Bullucked

I don't think in this case (for once!) it's as simple as that.

  1. The public aren't actually demanding a connection from the Eastern freeway to the western suburbs, unlike when an extra lane was added to the Monash (which was because of worsening congestion on the road and which benefited a dozen suburbs the lane crossed through). So I don't see it adding extra votes. The eastern part was obviously constructed first (against advice) to win the support of the generally Liberal voting eastern suburbs, yet you don't really hear or read any of them in the media saying "it will be great" "we need this".
  2. The Age had a great article which showed poll, after poll showed the public wanted more public transport investment. That being said, you'd think if you want votes, come up with all these affordable, cheap and easy to do public transport changes which would attract votes and could be implemented rather quickly. Here is a similar link:
    http://www.danielbowen.com/2013/07/17/transport-priorities/
  3. I don't think the public would vote for Liberal if they can't see the East-West link under construction or finishing in a short time frame. It's not like a government in its second term announcing something and so the public would be behind them knowing they could implement it in their third term. This government doesn't really have much to show for previous big projects.

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