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There’s nothing new about the idea that greater investment in urban rail will help ease the traffic congestion that is plaguing Australia’s capital cities.
But it is important to remember that even when governments deliver new rail projects, the job isn’t necessarily over.
In parts of Australia in 2018, a lack of car parking at train stations is emerging as an unwanted impediment to efforts to tackle traffic congestion, which costs the nation about $16 billion a year in lost productivity.
Across our big cities, workers who commence their daily commute by driving from home to their nearest train station are struggling to find car parking.
Desperate to catch their trains, the commuters park on nearby streets, causing localised traffic congestion and often inconveniencing local residents.
Take for instance, the community of Mango Hill, in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.
It’s not very long ago that Mango Hill was little more than a pine forest, a few farms and a couple of roadside fruit stalls.
But over the past two decades, intense population growth has transformed the area into a vibrant residential community which Federal and State Labor governments connected to the Brisbane passenger rail network via the new Redcliffe Peninsula Line.
However, less than two years after this new train station opened, demand for its 221-space car park is outstripping supply.
In the same way, when the NSW Government opened the Leppington train station in the city’s south-west in 2015, it took less than a year for the station’s 850 car parking spaces to be full by 9am each weekday.
Unless governments act on parking, we risk creating a situation where commuters give up on public transport because it is too much trouble. That’s the last thing we want.
Federal Labor has part of the solution.
In Government we would create a $300 million Park and Ride Fund to work with state and local governments to expand community car parking at public transport hubs.
Already, we’ve announced eight park and ride projects, including at Mango Hill and nearby Narangba in Queensland; Gosford, Woy Woy and Tuggerah on the NSW Central Coast; Riverwood and Schofields in Sydney; and Frankston in Victoria.
The rationale is simple – if we want commuters to use trains, train stations must be accessible.
Their population of about five million is expected to climb to 7.5 million… To deal with traffic congestion, we must ensure we provide the infrastructure investment needed to support this growth.
It’s not enough just to build rail networks. We must also ensure they are easy to use.
In an ideal world, commuters would live within walking distance of train stations and have no need to park and ride.
Indeed, that is the situation in many long-established urban areas of Australia.
But outer suburban areas are often served by a single train line that draws in commuters from far and wide.
When it’s too far to walk to the station, parking becomes critical.
That’s where government needs to step in with practical measures such as our Park and Ride Fund.
Traditionally Federal governments have left car parking to state and local governments.
But after five years of underinvestment in infrastructure by the current Federal Government, traffic congestion looms as a genuine threat to national economic growth and is eroding living standards.
All levels of governments must work together to address the problem.
Responses should include increased investment in rail and roads, job creation closer to where people live, increased population density along established public transport corridors and greater efforts on regional development and decentralisation to take some of the pressure of growth off capital cities.
The emergence of the parking problem points to a broader challenge relating to population growth and development in urban Australia in coming decades.
As our cities continue to grow, much of that growth will happen in outer suburban areas.
The National Growth Areas Alliance, made up of local councils representing such areas, states that their population of about five million is expected to climb to 7.5 million between now and 2031.
That’s twice the national growth rate.
To truly deal with traffic congestion, we must ensure we provide the infrastructure investment needed to support this growth.
Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Cities.
This article first appeared on thebigsmoke.com.au
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