Facebook Google Menu Linkedin lock Pinterest Search Twitter

Advertisement

Transport - general

Feb 18, 2016

Will simply building more public transport seriously suppress car use?

The Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for cities is welcome. Now he needs to come to grips with the painful reality of how ineffectual most of the fashionable urban policy prescriptions are

Share

Mode share of motorised travel for five largest Australian cities, public transport vs private transport (source data: BITRE)
Not much to cheer about here – mode share of motorised travel (passenger kms) 1945-2014 for five largest Australian cities, public transport vs private transport (source data: BITRE)

Malcolm Turnbull should take a look at the exhibit above; it shows that public transport’s share of motorised travel in Australia’a five largest capital cities has been depressingly low for decades, while private travel (essentially cars) continues to dominate.

There’ve been some small blips but there’s no dramatic improvement notwithstanding the well publicised drop in per capita driving and, just the other week, a report that over-eighties are now more likely to drive than millennials aged 18-24 years.

Quite simply, public transport isn’t even coming close to winning the “fight” with the car. Back in 2002, Melbourne’s strategic plan set a target of 20% mode share for public transport by 2020. There was a well-publicised patronage surge over 2006-09 due mainly to unprecedented CBD jobs growth, but mode share stabilised since then at just 11%.

Mode share

I noted recently that simply building more mega public transport projects won’t, by itself, be enough to seriously improve public transport’s mode share (see Will politicians ever do anything real about cars in cities?).

That proposition probably sounds counter-intuitive and demands further explanation. So consider the impact the following proposed major rail projects would have on car use if and when they’re completed (1).

Sydney CBD and South East light rail: This 12 km line is estimated to cost $2.1 Billion however 75% of forecast patronage will come from existing bus users. It’s anticipated existing motorists will account for only 17% of users (see Is Sydney’s new light rail line about saving the planet?).

Doncaster Hill rail extension: The Victorian Government’s feasibility study for the proposed $4 – 6 Billion rail line in middle suburban Melbourne concluded that 98% of forecast patronage on the line would be diverted from existing public transport services (see Would a rail line to Doncaster really get cars off the freeway?).

Rowville rail extension: The proposed 12 km rail extension to Rowville in outer suburban Melbourne is likely to cost something like $3 Billion but the Government’s feasibility study found it would reduce the number of car trips on a typical weekday in 2046 by just 15,000; that’s trivial in the context of the circa 12,000,000 trips Melburnians currently make by car each day.

The study also concluded it would increase the share of all trips carried by public transport in the metropolitan area in 2046 from 12.6% to just 12.7% i.e. by 0.1% (see Do new suburban rail lines always make sense?).

Melbourne Metro: The latest estimate of the cost to build the planned 9 km tunnel under the CBD is $11 Billion. According to the Government, the project will provide capacity for an extra 39,000 passengers across the CBD during the peak. That’s a significant increase in CBD peak capacity (it’s bigger than the Westgate Bridge) and there’ll be network-wide benefits in terms of greater reliability. So it’s worth doing. (2)

But it’s the veritable drop in the bucket in terms of generating mode shift given the size of the total metropolitan transport task.

Although I don’t have formal mode change estimates, the proposed $2 – 3 Billion Melbourne Airport rail line would replace the existing SkyBus (note Brisbane’s established Airtrain has just 8% mode share). Brisbane’s proposed $5.5 Billion Cross River rail line, like Melbourne Metro, is aimed at increasing peak capacity through the CBD.

Why small impact?

My point isn’t to deny the benefits mega projects bring to public transport users; most of the current raft of rail projects touted by State Governments are worthwhile improvements. Rather, it’s to point out that even very costly rail projects – and this group collectively would cost $25-30 Billion – won’t by themselves have a big impact on car use.

Why would so much money have such a small impact on mode split?

In part it’s because most new rail projects serve work trips to the CBD, where congestion and high parking charges mean public transport’s mode share is already very high e.g. 80% of motorised trips in Sydney.

Most importantly though, it’s because Australia’s capital cities are highly suburbanised; more than 90% of the population and around 70% of jobs are more than 5 km from the CBD. Moreover, only around 20% of trips are for the purpose of getting to work.

Even shiny new rail lines can’t compete well with the car for local and relatively short trips in the suburbs e.g. for shopping, personal business, school.

Given the breath-taking cost of retro-fitting rail it’s implausible to suggest that low density Australian cities can effect a significant shift away from driving just by building more and more public transport infrastructure.

Nevertheless, while they wouldn’t look much like the Paris Metro, Australian cities can and should have modest but effective metro-style systems that work with our low density cities. These would be based largely on existing train lines networked with a “grid” of frequent bus/light rail services operating with priority in existing road space. (3)

But if the objective of policy is to effect significant mode shift (e.g. where, say, public transport at least has a larger share than cars across all trip purposes), much stronger policies that actively suppress the competitiveness of private vehicles relative to public transport will be required (see also What drives higher public transport use?).

In fact, unless we’re prepared to take road space and traffic light priority away from cars so that buses and trams aren’t caught in traffic, it’s doubtful Australian cities can achieve even a modest increase in the mode share of public transport.

And don’t get carried away by the mode shift potential of higher densities either. A study of US cities by Giles Duranton and Matthew Turner finds that a 10% increase in residential and job density would on average produce only a 1% reduction in driving.

Mr Turnbull is right to talk about investment in public transport and changes in land use. But it’s no where near enough; he should go beyond rhetoric and actively push policies, like those recommended yesterday by Infrastructure Australia (e.g. 5.3 – 5.7), that directly address the key underlying problems, especially cars.

________________

  1. I’ve selected these examples because the necessary data on future patronage is available publicly. Note that while Melbourne Metro and Sydney CBD and South East light rail projects are commitments, the Doncaster and Rowville rail projects remain long terms plans
  2. Update: the business case for Melbourne Metro released on 23 February shows the new line will have capacity for 12,000 passengers in the two hour peak; but it will “enable” additional capacity in other lines, providing a further 27,000 passenger capacity in the CBD in the peak.
  3. Public transport can win a bigger share in some locations like the inner city where density works organically to make driving less competitive, but note that in all capital cities less than 10% of residents live within 5 km radius of the CBD (which happens to be around the same area served by the Paris Metro).

 

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

The Urbanist is edited by Dr Alan Davies, a principal of Melbourne-based economic and planning consultancy, Pollard Davies Consulting.

Get a free trial to post comments
More from Alan Davies

Advertisement

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

52 comments

Leave a comment

52 thoughts on “Will simply building more public transport seriously suppress car use?

  1. Dylan Nicholson

    I don’t have any problem with cars being a favoured option for appropriate journeys, and those will always make up a decent percentage of the total – maybe a 3rd or a little more.

    It’s not necessarily that people are using their cars when they don’t want to (though it’s always going to be the case that a certain percentage of travel is done unwillingly), it’s simply that nothing like the amount invested into supplying infrastructure for motorists has been put into supporting attractive alternative options, so those alternatives tend to languish. If your neighbourhood is not pleasant to walk in because of the presence of cars everywhere (which are noisy and require constant deference to in order to cross roads etc.), or not safe to ride in because there are inadequate paths/bicycle lanes, or poorly equipped with public transport, then of course you are going to drive. But in neighbourhoods where those options are viable (see Alan’s recent post about Abbotsford, for instance, and even there there’s room for improvement), cars are used for a much much smaller percentage of trips.

    Your definition of high density is somewhat at odds with anything I’ve seen before. But at any rate, we largely agree that high-rise apartment blocks aren’t what Australia really needs (nor does it make much sense, given the amount space we have). Medium-high (from townhouses up to 5 or 6 storey apartment blocks) to medium density is I think the appropriate and realistic way forward for our cities, and ideally centered around multiple hubs, with lower density living and green spaces in between. Which isn’t far off the way that something like the Netherlands and similar European countries are laid out (even though the ‘hubs’ are technically separate towns). Though admittedly the Netherlands isn’t perhaps the greatest example as surprisingly they have quite a high percentage of time spent commuting, but at least it’s not so heavily weighted towards huge freeways full of barely moving cars.

  2. drsmithy

    I’m completely unwilling to accept that 90% of Australians are inherently wired towards preferring to use cars for almost every single one of their journeys. For a start the evidence doesn’t support it.

    What evidence ? There are probably only a couple of dozen cities IN THE (developed) WORLD where cars are not the favoured transport option. You can’t argue with a straight face that the vast majority of people who have the option to choose a car, and do, are behaving “irrationally” just because you don’t like it.

    And almost every conversation I have with other people about needing a car comes down to this resignation that the other options are just not feasible for them.

    The plural of anecdote is not data. Most of the other options are almost certainly not options because of their inherent attributes, not because sufficient money hasn’t been sunk into them. Why are they using the car when they don’t really want to ? What is the car giving them that a bus, tram or train does not ? Is having to use the car a side effect of some other lifestyle choice they have made ?

    Would they be equally “resigned” if it was an autonomous car that they didn’t have to drive themselves ?

    Where did I praise the features of high density living? Perhaps you have a different idea of what “high density” means, but for instance in Melbourne, only the CBD+Southbank area comes close in my book. I don’t personally want to see that much more of that to be frank.

    I call high density pretty much anything that includes shared floors/ceilings (ie: apartments/units).
    Medium-to-high anything involving shared walls (ie: townhouses).
    Medium those long narrow houses they put on lots that have been subdivided down into the 200ish m^2 range.
    Medium-to-low the 400-600 m^2 blocks that are typical today.
    Low is 600-1200 m^2 blocks.

    Medium to medium-high density neighbourhoods can operate successfully without being so utterly dependent on a single mode of travel that is fraught with negative externalities. I really don’t think that’s such a controversial position.

    I lived in St Peters and Summer Hill quite happily without a car for several years (though I was happier once I got a motorbike). In that regard, those neighbourhoods – and similar ones – seemed to operate successfully.

  3. Dylan Nicholson

    “You seem very unwilling to accept that people might have a genuine preference to cars”

    I’m completely unwilling to accept that 90% of Australians are inherently wired towards preferring to use cars for almost every single one of their journeys. For a start the evidence doesn’t support it. It’s only in countries like Australia/the US where the lion’s share of all transport funding goes towards supplying infrastructure for motorists that you see such a reliance on them. And almost every conversation I have with other people about needing a car comes down to this resignation that the other options are just not feasible for them.

    Where did I praise the features of high density living? Perhaps you have a different idea of what “high density” means, but for instance in Melbourne, only the CBD+Southbank area comes close in my book. I don’t personally want to see that much more of that to be frank.
    Medium to medium-high density neighbourhoods can operate successfully without being so utterly dependent on a single mode of travel that is fraught with negative externalities. I really don’t think that’s such a controversial position.

  4. drsmithy

    I really do feel like you read each of my posts as though you’d never read any of the previous ones.
    I’ve already stated my complete agreement with you on decentralisation.

    Yes, but then you go on to rail against all the features of decentralisation and praise the features of high density living !

    The vast majority of us are likely to want to live in medium density areas and we can do a lot more to ensure that such areas don’t continue to be developed in such a way that residents feel like they little choice but to get around everywhere by motor vehicle. A successful neighbourhood is one that has been designed and developed in such a way that people don’t feel any “OVERWHELMINGLY” preference for any one particular form of transport – infrastructure and amenities to suit all options should be equally well supported, and we use whatever’s appropriate for each journey.

    How are you going to measure a “successful neighbourhood” ?

    You still haven’t really supported your central thesis that people don’t have a preference towards cars because they think they’re the best option. You seem very unwilling to accept that people might have a genuine preference to cars.

  5. Dylan Nicholson

    I really do feel like you read each of my posts as though you’d never read any of the previous ones.
    I’ve already stated my complete agreement with you on decentralisation. I would *much* rather that Australia consist of several cities with no more than 1-2 million population, and then a number of large regional towns, or even just self-contained satellite towns. That is obviously never going to happen but we can do a lot more to encourage people out of agglomerating into massive megalopolises by default and into more compact, self-contained communities.
    And I very much believe it *would* address our “obsession” with cars, because with such a population distribution, most people would be able to live close enough to their typical daily or weekly destinations that we wouldn’t need cars for many trips.

    Genuinely rural areas are really a special case, and I don’t actually think that use of cars in such areas is that much of an issue. In fact I’d be willing to accept that the best way to address road fatalities in that case is to invest more into better infrastructure. But we’re talking about a small (and decreasing) fraction of Australia’s population. The vast majority of us are likely to want to live in medium density areas and we can do a lot more to ensure that such areas don’t continue to be developed in such a way that residents feel like they little choice but to get around everywhere by motor vehicle. A successful neighbourhood is one that has been designed and developed in such a way that people don’t feel any “OVERWHELMINGLY” preference for any one particular form of transport – infrastructure and amenities to suit all options should be equally well supported, and we use whatever’s appropriate for each journey.

  6. drsmithy

    Wow, that has to win some sort of prize for bizarre logic. “Cars almost certainly improve the situation that people die driving them”. I see.

    The *OVERALL SITUATION* I said. See, now that people out in rural and regional areas have cars, they can easily get around to see doctors (pick up that heart flutter or cancer sooner), or other people (better mental health), get the kids to schools (so they can build friendships), etc, etc.

    Or do you think people in rural and regional areas should still be riding around on horses, maybe at most waiting for the twice daily bus run, rather than driving those hideous metal coffins around and inconveniently dying all the time ?

    Or maybe they should all come into the big smoke and live in tidgy little sky boxes, working at the local cafe serving coffees to each other ? What a life !

    People don’t die in cars because they’re in cars. They would still be dying even if they weren’t in cars. How’s the life expectancy in rural and regional areas look today compared to a hundred years ago ? Fifty ? Twenty-fice ? Are things getting better, or worse ?

    You’re right though – “survivability” is a problem in very lower density areas, and even the outer suburbs of our cities must have that problem to a certain extent, compared to inner suburbs where an ambulance can get you to the best surgeons in the country within minutes, or a neighbour can easily notice you need help and provide it. It’s no doubt part of the reason that most people generally prefer to live in moderately dense areas where there is the support and help of other people nearby.

    Yeah. Like those people who lie dead in their houses for months or years before anyone notices, usually from the smell. That kind of help ?

    People prefer to live where there’s social networks and work. There’s no reason whatsoever those require high-density residential areas today (unlike, say, a century ago when personal transportation was relatively uncommon), and even more so with where the world is going in the future (high speed telecommunications, remote workers, robotics, etc).

    But even in such moderately dense areas, cars are frequently a terribly inefficient and disruptive way for everyone to get around. But we do it because of social custom, because of poor alternatives, and significantly because our built environment has been constructed on the assumption that it IS the way people will always want to get around.

    If your measure of “the evidence” is what most people do – and it seems to be – then this argument is in direction conflict with what “the evidence” says. Because “the evidence” says people OVERWHELMINGLY prefer to drive.

    So please be consistent if you’re going to use ‘what everyone does’ as a benchmark.

    And no I’m not suggesting that everybody who buys a house on the urban fringe does so just because they couldn’t quite afford that tiny 2BR inner city terrace, but a very decent percentage of people that do live in car-dependent outer suburbs would almost certainly prefer not to be spending 2+ hours of each day commuting to work.

    This says it all.

    Your entire mindset is that all the work must be in some central area, and every day the worker bees have to trek in to that area. The biggest concession you’ll make is having multiple centralised areas.

    It is the thinking of a century ago. It does not need to be true in a modern world. If work is distributed amongst suburban and regional areas, then people can live close to those areas and have a 5-15 minute drive (or cycle) from their jobs.

    Yes, people would most certainly rather not be commuting a couple of hours to work. However, they only have to when you deliberately concentrate all the work in a central area, creating high density hell. Why, in today’s world – indeed, the world of the last half a century – would all the work need to be concentrated in central locations ? It’s just stupid.

    Decentralisation addresses nearly all the things you are talking about, except the only one you care about, which is the obsession with cars.

  7. Dylan Nicholson

    “Indeed, cars almost certainly improve the overall situation.”

    Wow, that has to win some sort of prize for bizarre logic. “Cars almost certainly improve the situation that people die driving them”. I see.

    You’re right though – “survivability” is a problem in very lower density areas, and even the outer suburbs of our cities must have that problem to a certain extent, compared to inner suburbs where an ambulance can get you to the best surgeons in the country within minutes, or a neighbour can easily notice you need help and provide it. It’s no doubt part of the reason that most people generally prefer to live in moderately dense areas where there is the support and help of other people nearby.

    But even in such moderately dense areas, cars are frequently a terribly inefficient and disruptive way for everyone to get around. But we do it because of social custom, because of poor alternatives, and significantly because our built environment has been constructed on the assumption that it IS the way people will always want to get around.

    “Urban sprawl” happens in this country to a significant degree because short-sighted governments find it easier (and to their short term advantage) to approve and provide the necessary infrastructure in undeveloped fringe sites than to work towards a) encouraging the development of regional centers and b) encouraging better use of already developed low-medium density suburbs. House prices alone give you a fair idea of the demand there is for housing in more densely populated suburbs where neighbourhoods are compact enough that walking, cycling etc. are feasible ways of achieving most journeys, and where provision of high quality public transport is economically feasible. But the absurd proliferation of laws that prevent development in most of those suburbs puts them out of reach for the typical Australian family, so they settle for what’s available. And no I’m not suggesting that everybody who buys a house on the urban fringe does so just because they couldn’t quite afford that tiny 2BR inner city terrace, but a very decent percentage of people that do live in car-dependent outer suburbs would almost certainly prefer not to be spending 2+ hours of each day commuting to work. It’s entirely possible to ensure that a city is developed in such a way that what we have now is not an inevitable outcome but very few governments seem willing to make any of the difficult choices necessary to achieve something that ultimately works better for everyone.

  8. drsmithy

    Um, have you read any of my posts? Do you have any idea what percentage of road fatalities happen in rural areas?

    I cannot even begin to fathom what your point here is.

    Survivability for car accidents in rural areas is worse for the same reason survivability for everything is worse in rural aras: help is a lot further away. That has nothing to do with cars. Indeed, cars almost certainly improve the overall situation.

    And no, urban sprawl is NOT what you get when you “let” people live the way they want to.

    Then how does it happen ? Why do people move to the suburbs ? Why do people want to live in detached houses with yards and swimming pools ?

    But there are plenty of solid objective reasons to move away from the idea that virtually every journey we make should be made in an over-sized, over-powerful, noisy and dangerous machine that requires huge amounts of infrastructure for it to be moved around and parked as necessary. That’s all I’m arguing for.

    I think there are plenty of solid and objective reasons why being able to live where you want and have the flexibility to travel wherever you want whenever you want for work and leisure delivers enormous social and economic benefits to society, as well.

  9. Tom the first and best

    42

    Land taxes would not make high density residential too expensive because it is very land efficient because there are more people for any given portion of land and thus the capacity to pay is higher.

  10. Dylan Nicholson

    “Cars are only really a problem…when density becomes high”

    Um, have you read any of my posts? Do you have any idea what percentage of road fatalities happen in rural areas?

    And no, urban sprawl is NOT what you get when you “let” people live the way they want to. It doesn’t just happen organically, it is specially planned and funded to happen that way, and the amount of public money put towards giving motor vehicles priority over every other form of transport is frankly pretty sickening.
    But actually if you wanted to point to something that did happen “organically” it would be the slums and barrios of third world countries. I certainly don’t want to see that either.
    I don’t pretend I know what the best solution is, and I’m even prepared to accept it’s subjective to a substantial degree. But there are plenty of solid objective reasons to move away from the idea that virtually every journey we make should be made in an over-sized, over-powerful, noisy and dangerous machine that requires huge amounts of infrastructure for it to be moved around and parked as necessary. That’s all I’m arguing for.

  11. drsmithy

    I don’t see any good reason for that assumption and I just want to see it challenged.

    It’s convenient, it’s cheap and it falls in line with the general Anglo cultural bias towards individualism, rather than collectivism.

    I suspect it is also strongly influenced by most of the Anglo countries being the the New World and having little reason to artificially constrain city growth in the same way old European cities would have been constrained by history (ie: cities that became prominent centuries ago). I don’t have extensively knowledge, only as a tourist, but presumably in the oldest American and Canadian cities, transport looks closest to European cities in the centre and inner suburbs.

    Cars are only really a problem (traffic jams, etc) when density becomes high. The best overall solution is less density.

    (Oh and I agree 100% with you about centralisation. But nobody seems to know how to prevent it…)

    Fundamentally, urban sprawl is what you get when you let people live the way they want to. It is at its “worst” in cities with the least or loosest growth and zoning control (either presently or in the past). Which is why I question your “irrational behaviour” premise. Ironically, (hypocritically?), the same people who will argue until they’re blue in the face that people are buying up those tiny, unliveable, inner city dogboxes “by choice” will argue just as hard that urban sprawl needs to be tightly controlled.

    There are some fairly easy ways to encourage decentralisation. One would be to move various Government organisations out into regional centres. The second would be large land releases to make housing dirt cheap in those areas you wanted to shift people to. Land taxes to make high-density (inner city) and unproductive (land banking) land relatively expensive would help as well.

    The problem is not knowing how to decentralise. The problem is that nobody running the show *wants* decentralisation. Quite the opposite.

  12. Dylan Nicholson

    (Oh and I agree 100% with you about centralisation. But nobody seems to know how to prevent it…)

  13. Dylan Nicholson

    I have to admit what I read about Japan’s traffic statistics don’t mesh with my personal experiences there – while I’ve never driven personally through any of the truly major cities (unless you count Sapporo), I’ve observed a fair amount from the window of a taxi or as a pedestrian, and it’s honestly never looked as bad as it regularly gets in Melbourne.
    But yes, exactly, there is a huge cultural difference between the way Japanese get about and the way Australians do. Some of it is due, as you say, to very high densities and ethnic homogeneity, which will never happen here. And no, I wouldn’t really look to Japan for answers as to how to do things better here – to be honest many Japanese cities aren’t particularly great places to walk or cycle through either, and I don’t think extreme high densities are either desirable or sensible in Australia. My point is merely that Australians don’t just choose to encase themselves individually in oversized automobiles then use up huge amounts of space using them to travel around often at very low speeds due to congestion purely because they think it’s “rational”, or objectively assess the alternatives as being inadequate – to a large degree that has become our “culture”, and “just the way we do things”. The whole car-fixation thing seems to be a peculiarly Anglo phenomenon as that wikipedia article (biased as it may be) points out. But I don’t blame individuals for making the choices they do when government after government for decades at every level have been providing infrastructure and planning our towns around the assumption that the logical/default way to get from A to B is always by private motor vehicle. I don’t see any good reason for that assumption and I just want to see it challenged.

    (BTW no, the environmental argument is a long long way from irrelevant, when you look at everything that goes into manufacturing and supporting motorised vehicles, creating infrastructure, and its tendency to spread people over very large areas of land/natural habitat. And cars will be polluting, or using electricity from polluting sources for a long time yet.)

  14. drsmithy

    But car driving is one that has serious negative impacts on *everybody* (both now and into the future), so it’s worth trying to find ways to encourage people to be “more” rational about it.

    It also has significant positive impacts. Access to cheaper housing (well, until the land supply was choked up), greater employment opportunities, escape from rentseekers, the freedom to travel anywhere they want anytime they want.

    The automobile is one of the key reasons for post-WW2 prosperity.

    Why do you think, say, the Japanese much prefer being, as you say “jammed in check-to-jowl…in a train”, but Australians don’t?

    Probably history and culture (particularly cultural homegenity).

    It’s pretty hard to argue that’s the result of a conscious rational choice (driving’s generally *easier* in Japanese cities because there’s often less traffic – though parking is a different matter).

    I’ll admit I’ve only been to Japan a couple of times – Tokyo and Osaka – but they are not places that looked like driving would be a pleasant experience.

    However, the comparison is absurd. Japan is a tiny country with incredibly high population density. They have entirely different social, economic and geographical drivers. Australia is not Japan. Australians are not Japanese. The best countries to compare us to are the others in the Anglosphere, particularly the USA and Canada, as they are culturally similar New World countries. This might not give you the answer you want, but it is the honest thing to do.

    A good summary of why suppressing car use is a worthwhile goal.

    That wiki page is ridiculously biased. You’ve only got to look at the loaded language. “Freedom of choice” (particularly hypocritical from people trying to prevent exactly that) ? “Addiction” ?

    It’s also very American-centric in its description of strip malls and town centres being replaced. I’ve lived in Phoenix/Scottsdale – probably one of the poster children for this effect – so I’m well aware of what it looks like.

    As someone who grew up in the country, I take particular offense at the suggestion that “social capital” is impaired by low-density living. Especially since most cities are starkly divided along cultural and socio-economic lines, and city dwellers tend to be phenomenally cliquey and antisocial. It’s hilarious that whoever wrote that page thinks these divisions are somehow different to gated communities. The only non-middle-class people the writers of that wiki page ever see in their inner-city and CBD streets are probably the house cleaners, beggars and the homeless.

    I lived happily in Sydney and Zurich for years without a car, and if I wanted to I’m quite confident I could in Brisbane as well. My “freedom” to do this for the two Australian cities is not constrained by their “car centricity”. I’d simply pick an inner-city or CBD location that’s got the necessary local amenities.

    The environmental argument is rapidly becoming irrelevant. In a decade, a substantial fraction – maybe even a majority – of new cars sold will be electric. In less than two they will be a comfortable majority of all vehicles on the road.

    At a higher level, the problem with centralisation – small numbers of huge cities – is that it inherently means concentration of wealth, which leads to concentration of power. This is nearly always bad for the majority, as contemporary Australia demonstrates. The irony is that the bigger and denser a city becomes, the less self-sufficient and more reliant on regional suppliers of goods it becomes.

  15. Dylan Nicholson

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_dependency

    A good summary of why suppressing car use is a worthwhile goal.

    I’d be interested which specific points you disagree with (I’d disagree that for me personally it’s primarily about “environmental sustainability” – even if cars/roads could be somehow be shown to be more environmental sustainable than towns/cities were all types of getting around were pleasant, safe and well-supported and we generally made sensible choices on a case-by-case basis, I’d still choose the latter)

  16. Dylan Nicholson

    drsmithy, I’d never suggest it’s brainwashing, and I don’t think car driving is all that much different to many of the other things we spend much of our life doing – much (if not most) of our behaviour isn’t really the outcome of a particularly rational thought processes.
    But car driving is one that has serious negative impacts on *everybody* (both now and into the future), so it’s worth trying to find ways to encourage people to be “more” rational about it.

    Re “they might find it preferable than being jammed in cheek-to-jowl with dozens of other people in a train for hours every day”

    Why do you think, say, the Japanese much prefer being, as you say “jammed in check-to-jowl…in a train”, but Australians don’t? It’s pretty hard to argue that’s the result of a conscious rational choice (driving’s generally *easier* in Japanese cities because there’s often less traffic – though parking is a different matter). At any rate that’s a pretty false dichotomy – plenty of Japanese also choose to walk, ride bicycles, even stay in hotels in order to avoid spending long hours stuck between the wheels of their cars. From what I’ve observed there’s nothing much more fundamentally attractive about those options in Japan than here.

  17. drsmithy

    I still stand by my statement that a good 50% of the time that people living in our larger cities choose to use their car, they’re not being particularly rational about it.

    You might stand by it, but you haven’t really justified it. 🙂

    I’d say I drive about 2-3 hours a week these days, and even then a percentage of that I do not necessarily because it’s the most rational choice, but every now and then I do enjoy the comfort and pleasure of driving, which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, but is hard to see how anyone could have sitting stuck on a barely moving freeway for hours everyday.

    Because they might find it preferable than being jammed in cheek-to-jowl with dozens of other people in a train for hours every day ? Because they think it’s a reasonable sacrifice to make to live in a detached house with a yard big enough for kids and pets to play in ? Because they hate high-density living with a passion ?

    Personally, I’m happy at this stage of my life to spend 30-45 minutes getting to and from work if it means I can live on acreage. Not everyone wants that, but it’d be nice if the people who do want to live in apartments recognised there are perfectly valid and rational choices other than theirs. I’ve lived literally a five minute walk from work, as well as several in between situations from a short tram ride to a half hour cycle. So don’t try any more of that “you’re brainwashed into driving” crap. I know what the alternatives are and I know what I want and what I’m prepared to trade off to get it.

  18. drsmithy

    Many studies have shown actual costs per block for outer suburban development are far higher than infill.

    Where ?

    What’s it cost for a farmer to split up a few dozen acres and run some power between them ? Ten grand a lot ? Why can’t he do that at his discretion ?

    The actual costs developers pay for services varies by state but it is almost never the full amount, and only includes local council services, not trunk state infrastructure. Where the latter is charged, it is usually a flat average rate that sees inner blocks subsidise outer.

    What mechanism are you talking about where the State Government is charging costs to specific locations for “trunk infrastructure” ? Given the higher concentration of income and wealth in “inner blocks”, should they not pay a greater contribution anyway ?

    Infrastructure development costs are outrageously high in Australia anyway, largely I’m sure due to corruption and rent-seeking. It is literally close to an order of magnitude more expensive to build infrastructure here than in other countries.

    The link between land restrictions and housing un affordability is a furphy. We had tougher restrictions in the 80s and 90s but much cheaper housing.

    Cheaper, maybe, but still expensive. It’s been 30+ years since housing was affordable (~3x median individual income) in major Australian cities, and close to twenty for most of the country – and that’s before considering dramatically shrinking block sizes (600m^2 is now “big”, even in Brisbane), narrowing streets & green strips, etc.

    You would have to work pretty hard to convince me NIMBYism was as bad in the ’80s as it is today, or that fringe and rural land was harder to subdivide and sell.

    The problem is crazy tax policy – negative gearing and capital gains concessions – that incentives over bidding for houses.

    There are plenty of places in the world that had (and have) enormous property bubbles with neither negative gearing nor capital gains concessions. They multiply the effect, but they are not a cause.

    Developers always try to run the lie that open slather would reduce prices, but it remains just that – a lie.

    Developers don’t want open slather, they want predictable and limited land releases so they can buy it all up and drip-feed it into the market to maintain obscenely high prices.

    The *last* thing developers want is for land supply to become plentiful.

  19. Dylan Nicholson

    drsmithy, the public transport options in Germany at least are actually pretty expensive (esp. between cities), and except in the bigger cities, not fantastically better than here from what I’ve observed. But their towns and cities are generally much better suited to walking and cycling too, and when a car really is the most practical choice, people can plan their trips better to keep it to a minimum. It’s fair to say that if you’re used to living in a city like Melbourne which has basically been built to serve the automobile, it can be frustrating trying to drive/park in the built-up areas of such cities, but I’d be surprised if you presented them with a choice between one and the other that very many would “prefer” what we’re used to here.

    I still stand by my statement that a good 50% of the time that people living in our larger cities choose to use their car, they’re not being particularly rational about it. They do it because a) it’s what everybody else does, and always has done, b) they’ve become overly accustomed to not having to exert any physical effort to get around c) because everyone else is driving around in cars, walking or cycling are less than pleasant or safe experiences, and d) they’ve spent a lot of money on their car and feel like they want to get the most out of it (given the marginal cost of each extra km driven isn’t high).
    I’d say I drive about 2-3 hours a week these days, and even then a percentage of that I do not necessarily because it’s the most rational choice, but every now and then I do enjoy the comfort and pleasure of driving, which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, but is hard to see how anyone could have sitting stuck on a barely moving freeway for hours everyday.

  20. Socrates

    Smithy 30

    Wrong, wrong and wrong!

    1.Many studies have shown actual costs per block for outer suburban development are far higher than infill. Your statement about cheaper greenfield construction would be true if the edges of our cities were green fields. But they are not. We have not preserved such corridors in most places. Our cities are surrounded by a fog of rural residential land that makes infrastructure provision costly. Plus their spread out nature means the actual use of services per person is much higher than inner urban. So they end up needing more infrastructure per person, and it costs just as much.

    2. The actual costs developers pay for services varies by state but it is almost never the full amount, and only includes local council services, not trunk state infrastructure. Where the latter is charged, it is usually a flat average rate that sees inner blocks subsidise outer.

    3. The link between land restrictions and housing un affordability is a furphy. We had tougher restrictions in the 80s and 90s but much cheaper housing. The problem is crazy tax policy – negative gearing and capital gains concessions – that incentives over bidding for houses. Developers always try to run the lie that open slather would reduce prices, but it remains just that – a lie.

  21. drsmithy

    The vast majority of Dutch, Danish and German households own cars too, but they don’t rely on them anywhere near as much as we do in Australia, because they “prefer” the other options for much of their travel. But if governments in those countries over the last few decades had ripped down the parts of cities and towns that were deemed not to be suitable for cars, or covered them with freeways, then I’ve no doubt you’d see a difference in the preference for using cars.

    So do you think public transport options in those countries are better, or worse, than Australia ?

    drsmithy – to take one extreme, people used to “prefer” to watch people be publicly hanged at the king’s whim rather than have alleged criminals be tried in court and given prison sentences commensurate with the degree of their crime.

    Indeed. Today we send people off to tropical concentration camps instead for having the temerity to run from persecution. We’re heaps different.

    That’s begging the question – what determines what’s appropriate?

    Er, they do (of course) ?

    But as it is I disagree, people still continue to use cars in Australian cities in many circumstances where by any rational observation they’re not appropriate at all.

    And you wrote that after accusing me of begging the question ?

    Your “rational” may not be their “rational”. For example, I know a few people who drive to work even though it is quicker for them to catch a train. Completely irrational, right ? Well, no, because they have to drop off and pickup their child from daycare, which is utterly impractical for them without a car.

    Why would people drive cars when it makes no “rational” sense to do so ? Remember to apply Occam’s Razor to your reasoning.

  22. Dylan Nicholson

    drsmithy – to take one extreme, people used to “prefer” to watch people be publicly hanged at the king’s whim rather than have alleged criminals be tried in court and given prison sentences commensurate with the degree of their crime.

    The vast majority of Dutch, Danish and German households own cars too, but they don’t rely on them anywhere near as much as we do in Australia, because they “prefer” the other options for much of their travel. But if governments in those countries over the last few decades had ripped down the parts of cities and towns that were deemed not to be suitable for cars, or covered them with freeways, then I’ve no doubt you’d see a difference in the preference for using cars.

    “People use cars when they find them appropriate”

    That’s begging the question – what determines what’s appropriate? But as it is I disagree, people still continue to use cars in Australian cities in many circumstances where by any rational observation they’re not appropriate at all.

  23. drsmithy

    Very spread out cities have many costs, not only transport. Longer lengths of all infrastructure are required, at very high cost.

    But that infrastructure is (or should be) cheaper per distance unit to create because it doesn’t have to work around existing infrastructure.

    Putting a kilometre of road into other empty land is a vastly cheaper proposition than putting a kilometre of identical road through an inner-city suburb.

    t only makes sense if you are the developer of a parcel of urban fringe land and you don’t get charged the true cost of infrastructure. Flat connection fees for water, power, sewer etc and none for arterial roads ensure you don’t. So we keep mindlessly carving up more land on the urban fringe, our cities sprawling ever larger. Developers lobby and donate to both major parties to ensure our stupid financial settings do not change with governments.

    We already have huge restrictions on land development in Australia, and costs of infrastructure must be met up-front by them. That is one of the single biggest reasons we have a property bubble.

    Free up restrictions on land development, particularly at the fringe, and watch land prices – and property prices – plummet through the entire city.

  24. drsmithy

    People behaved in all sorts of ways in the past that we’d consider horrifying today, but as far as we can tell did so because that was their “preference” at the time.

    Preference, or because of limited options ? What examples are you thinking of ?

    The “preference” of many people to use cars is very much a product of governments over the last 50-60 years choosing to build our cities so that it’s very difficult to operate without one, and distorting the costs of using them so that people that already own them often feel compelled to use them for every journey, regardless of how appropriate they might be.

    The preference of people to use cars is because it provided access to cheap land (and therefore housing) and vastly greater employment opportunities.

    People use cars when they find them appropriate. I guarantee you the vast majority of public transport users also own a car.

  25. Dylan Nicholson

    Alan, but “pretty well” is simply not how I’d describe the way I see cars working in our cities. I’d accept that in smaller towns and rural areas they work well enough in terms of doing the job of getting people/things from A to B efficiently, though still not without considerable costs and downsides. But in larger cities they don’t even do that job well much of the time, and the costs are considerably higher too. Unfortunately successive governments have dug themselves into this hole, because at least 3 generations have become so used to being able to get everywhere quickly with minimal physical effort and a very small per-trip financial cost, that traffic congestion becomes a problem that politicians are roundly blamed for not doing enough to fix, but any time anyone propose solutions that would actually help encourage us to think outside the single-occupant noisy-metal-box-on-wheels they’re considered to be out-of-touch.

  26. Alan Davies

    Smith John #26:

    Unfortunately, experience suggests there’s a lot of pressure for projects that are good at ticking political boxes but not so good at meeting transport objectives e.g. US light rail experience.

    Re Jarrett Walker’s comment, transit does indeed work (much) better in dense cities, but in Australia 90% of the population live at relatively low (suburban) densities. They nevertheless want good public transport and it’s a challenge to get it working well in places where cars work pretty well.

  27. Smith John

    Will building more public transport seriously suppress car use?

    Probably not, *on average*, as long as all the other things that have created our car-dependent cities continue (development patterns, road building policies, PT-inaccessible stret layouts and activity centres, minimum parking restrictions, etc.)

    But that conclusion has little relevance to judging whether any particular public transport project is worthwhile. Because naturally you will focus your PT improvements with priority in areas where PT is most prospective and does most good in moderating the effects of traffic congestion, by giving more people a chance to avoid being in the congestion.

    I comment a recent post by Jarrett Walker on this point at http://humantransit.org/2016/01/how-to-read-randal-otoole.html#comments

    “Never, ever pay any attention to national statistics about transit, because transit works or doesn’t for entirely local reasons. Most Americans don’t live in places where transit works really well — dense cities, mainly — so of course not many Americans use transit. This says nothing about transit’s popularity in the places to which it’s suited.”

  28. Socrates

    Alan

    True I would agree that range of policies is needed to suppress car usage, not only building PT and better urban planning. Parking is an obvious place to start. The continued approval of yet more parking in the Melbourne CBD under Napthine was very counter productive.

    I take your point on Stockholm density being higher than Melbourne. Still as you say it is similar to Sydney. The two compare quite poorly in transport terms.

    Smithy

    Very spread out cities have many costs, not only transport. Longer lengths of all infrastructure are required, at very high cost. It only makes sense if you are the developer of a parcel of urban fringe land and you don’t get charged the true cost of infrastructure. Flat connection fees for water, power, sewer etc and none for arterial roads ensure you don’t. So we keep mindlessly carving up more land on the urban fringe, our cities sprawling ever larger. Developers lobby and donate to both major parties to ensure our stupid financial settings do not change with governments.

  29. Dylan Nicholson

    Also drsmithy your last post ignores that the fact that preferences are not something that just happen “out of the blue”, they’re very much the product of social expectations/conditioning etc. People behaved in all sorts of ways in the past that we’d consider horrifying today, but as far as we can tell did so because that was their “preference” at the time.
    The “preference” of many people to use cars is very much a product of governments over the last 50-60 years choosing to build our cities so that it’s very difficult to operate without one, and distorting the costs of using them so that people that already own them often feel compelled to use them for every journey, regardless of how appropriate they might be.

  30. Dylan Nicholson

    drsmithy, I wouldn’t want to live in a city dominated by trams either! Or trains.
    Interestingly the primary reason the Netherlands decided to make a huge investment into encourage cycling was none of those reasons, but simply because too many people (especially children) were getting killed by cars.

  31. drsmithy

    The likelihood of future electric cars misses the point on several grounds. The electricity has to come from somewhere. That is true for electric cars, buses and trains. In terms of KW per passenger the latter two are far more efficient.

    Solar. There’s abundant energy falling from the sky.

    Moreover, the whole pollution argument is not the real issue. We have run out of surface roadspace. With our cities still growing we need to find more capacity.

    That is because “we” are obsessed with packing as many people into as small a space as possible. Which in the largest, emptiest country in the world is simply insanity. The real solution there is decentralisation.

    We are attempting to build a network of very expensive freeways, which is insanely expensive, and they are not paying for themselves.

    “Paying for themselves” is a furphy. Few PT systems “pay for themselves”. Most require heavy subsidies to operate.

    Taxation pays for roads, as it does – and should – for PT.

    We need to insist on all new suburbs having adequate walking and cycling facilities, rather than adopting yet another voluntary and not enforceable code of practice. To achieve this, we really need to get land developers money out of the political system. As Eddie Obeid and Matt Guy proved, both major parties are guilty on that score. As for trams, give them traffic priority the way they do in France and Germany and they are fantastic. But that requires Vicroads and RMS to take them seriously.

    Developers will not “waste” money on “valueless” uses of land like wide streets, sidewalks and bike paths while land prices remain inflated. It’s bad for business.

    Ultimately, if you want to reduce car usage, you need to examine the reasons why people prefer to use cars. You should be aiming to build a PT system that provides *more* amenity than cars so people *prefer* to use it. Not attacking cars so they deliver *less* amenity than existing PT systems and people are *forced* to use it.

  32. Alan Davies

    Socrates #19:

    Apart from density, I think the critical factor in the higher public transport and walking/cycling share of Euro cities compared to Australian cities is policies that suppress car use e.g. high fuel taxes, high parking charges, etc. That in turn helps drive demand for other modes.

    BTW while the Stockholm urbanised area is similar in density to Sydney (it’s about 20% denser) it’s a lot denser than Melbourne (75% more).

  33. Socrates

    Drsmithy

    The likelihood of future electric cars misses the point on several grounds. The electricity has to come from somewhere. That is true for electric cars, buses and trains. In terms of KW per passenger the latter two are far more efficient.

    Moreover, the whole pollution argument is not the real issue. We have run out of surface roadspace. With our cities still growing we need to find more capacity. That has been coming from PT projects or road tunnels. The new road tunnels are actually more expensive than PT lines. A high frequency LRT line costs around $60 million per line-km and has the capacity of a six lane freeway (can be more). A new six lane freeway costs around $120 million per km on surface, not counting land cost, or up to five times more in a tunnel. All the freeway projects being discussed are costing in the billions. The PT ones are in fact cheaper. Of course, rail projects can be done badly too; Sydney SW rail was far too expensive, while the recent problem with tight track and wheel wear in Melbourne betrays a fundamental lack of technical skill in the relevant authority.

    We are attempting to build a network of very expensive freeways, which is insanely expensive, and they are not paying for themselves. We should be aiming to build a network of line haul PT, LRT or metro/heavy rail, and having feeder buses to them. Not token lines into marginal electorates.

  34. Socrates

    I agree with the basic premise of this article that PT investment is not sufficient. But it is necessary. Never mind high density megacities; there are good examples of low density, liveable cities that do have comparatively much lower car usage than Australian cities. They still have double or more the PT mode share of most Australian cities. Stockholm is a good example. See this source for mode share data.
    http://www.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/doc/J14Nov_p54ReferenceModeShares.pdf

    Cycling is useful but in most cases walking is even more important. We do not walk much; less than we used to do, especially kids not walking to school. I think road pricing is only part of it. Our land use planning is bad (sometimes preventing more efficient mixed use) and our service planning is worse. Every time a health or education department decides to centralise into a smaller number of bigger hospitals and schools, our car mode share goes up, unless those schools and hospitals are on PT corridors, and are in walkable areas.

    We need to build new PT lines to places where services will be. We need to insist on all new suburbs having adequate walking and cycling facilities, rather than adopting yet another voluntary and not enforceable code of practice. To achieve this, we really need to get land developers money out of the political system. As Eddie Obeid and Matt Guy proved, both major parties are guilty on that score. As for trams, give them traffic priority the way they do in France and Germany and they are fantastic. But that requires Vicroads and RMS to take them seriously.

  35. drsmithy

    Fair question but taken as a given for the purposes of this article.

    Ok, but I would have thought if you were making an argument for a particular kind of policy direction and large infrastructure investment, “why” would be a pretty key question to answer before “how”. 🙂

  36. drsmithy

    I’d still vastly prefer to live in a city NOT dominated by large noisy hulks of metal moving around at high speeds.

    You mean like trams ? 😛

    It’s not hard to create localised areas where car use is seriously curtailed simply by removing necessary amenities like street parking or, indeed, streets that private cars are allowed to enter at all. The catch is of course that you need to find enough like-minded people to sustain such a local community.

    It is another matter entirely to try and implement wide-scale policies that impose your preferences on people who do not feel the same way.

  37. Alan Davies

    drsmithy #14:

    Fair question but taken as a given for the purposes of this article.

  38. Dylan Nicholson

    drsmithy, even if cars were completely non-polluting (and didn’t contribute towards various health issues etc. etc.), I’d still vastly prefer to live in a city NOT dominated by large noisy hulks of metal moving around at high speeds.

  39. drsmithy

    Why do you want to suppress car use ?

    If it’s pollution, in ~25 years most vehicles on the road will be electric. Money would be far better spent accelerating that outcome than punishing people who drive sufficiently that they stop.

  40. En Quiry

    1. Policing – Sydney trains beat Melbourne on the frequency and attention of train police. Tickets checked and infringement notices issued, even if the person is smartly dressed on a flashy route. Minimal convivial chat with passengers and amongst the police themselves in the presence of passengers – more of a no nonsense attitude. And a lot more police full stop.
    2. Cleanliness – possibly due to the imminent appearance of police, feet on seats is less common in Sydney. Recently traveled on a Melbourne line where men were even putting shoes on the seat backs. Interior of trains is cleaner in Sydney, virtually no internal graffiti, and there are more newer trains.
    3. Melbourne trains stop just outside the station for lengthy periods. At other times they proceed for long periods at a crawl. This indicates that signalling is not adequate.
    4. Use car registration revenue to reduce train ticket prices.

  41. Woopwoop

    Easy. Very high petrol tax, a win-win situation.

  42. mike westerman

    Perhaps our cities will be able to do the techno leap frog that the developing world managed in telecoms: if you can get people out of cars, then make car traffic efficient by taking over the driving. Self drive, in self drive optimised RoW would enable a quantum leap in density or in flow rates, by getting rid of the most inefficient element in the navigate-from-A-to-B equation. In an ideal world, our planners would be looking at our over investment in roads and proclivity for cars and looking at ways to bring in self drive vehicles and low clutter routes asap. But sadly we live in country run by the timid and blind.

  43. Patrick Reynolds

    Or, more succinctly, the poster cities for Road Pricing: London, Stockholm, Singapore all have mature and multilayered Transit networks. It is hard to see Road Pricing working, being possible, or not being too regressive without these high quality and widespread alternatives. But pricing is the key, because driving as we organise it is an underpriced good, and is therefore over bought.

    Here is a good summary: https://nextcity.org/features/view/war-on-cars-winnable

    London is particularly interesting right now, because not only is driving well priced, especially in the centre, but Transit is also very expensive and crowded, so we are now witnessing a huge boom in cycling, a much cheaper way to move, now that amenity for that mode is improving:

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/02/central-london-rush-hour-bike-car-tfl/459774/

  44. Patrick Reynolds

    It isn’t clear why you would ask this outcome of public transport by itself; provision of alternatives is only half the answer if ‘suppressing’ traffic is the aim? We know how to suppress driving; fail to build amenity for it [road and parking supply] and price it [the vehicles, the fuel, the space, licences, everything, as in Japan and Singapore]. These factors of course also require effective alternatives; investment in Transit + Active modes, and place quality [Proximity trumps Mobility]. But the existence of these alone are not sufficient.

    Transit provision alone won’t kill off driving in a new world anglophone city like Mel. where everything else is focussed on amplifying traffic growth.

    In fact, all else being equal, investment in Transit systems, especially those on separate RoWs, such as underground or elevated rail, primarily have the effect of enabling driving in denser parts of cities to remain functional. If all those Transit riders drove; driving would infarct instantly. Furthermore Transit say in Melb, enables the growth of the urban services economy to occur on the back of agglomeration economies which, perhaps ironically, helps provide the economic growth to keep building endless driving systems and to further spread the eco-system that demands it; suburbia.

    So you have, increasingly, the 21C city model I call The Mullet [one head; two hairdos]. And Melb. is almost the perfect example: an increasingly intense, diversified, walkable, bikeable, Transit-rich, vertical, wealthy, vibrant city core, surrounded by an expanding auto-dependant, low density, horizontal, at times desperate, socially underserved suburbia.

    In this circumstance the infrastructure investment arguments spilt between city and suburb [Totonto recently shows this so well]; between Transit and Auto [parking becomes a huge obsession], but also becomes about which areas get to be connected into the centre’s Transit network, because having the option to not take part in congestion while maintaining access to the rich core is intensely valuable.

    Melb. and Sydney both have the good fortune to inherit Victorian and Edwardian rail systems that largely survived the post-war neglect, but both cities have now expanded beyond the reach of these systems…. Interesting times. Yes Transit must reach more of the city, but also we have to stop building for driving, and introduce real Road Pricing; the question is how to do that politically, and one way is to make it revenue neutral. And at the same time a huge effort has to be made to retro-fit sprawlburbia, to make it fit for purpose in the 21st . But I digress….

  45. Norman Hanscombe

    Anyone who has studied public transport knows that,as you say, “simply building more public transport” isn’t enough. It has to be combined with costs for private transport which force us to use the public transport.
    Anything else is useless, but vested interests throughout society will combibe to prevent decent policies being attempted.

  46. Alan Davies

    Tony Morton #6:

    Predicting the future is a fraught task and elaborate transport models don’t always get it right; neither for that matter do climate models. But the attempt to think through a problem logically and identify the range of variables that influence the likely outcome is a lot better, I think, than guesses or, more usually, wishful thinking, prejudice, hope, or political convenience.

    Notoriously wrong traffic forecasts like the Brisbane and Sydney tunnels were primarily the result of distortions from commercial incentives. The modelling work done for the Rowville and Doncaster lines however was done directly for Government. Note that the modelling done by Veitch Lister, who did non-commercial modelling on the Clem 7 tunnel, was pretty close to the mark.

    Re Perth projects, some will do reasonably well if they tap fast growing outer areas where there was effectively no public transport before. However I don’t think 25% mode shift is a noteworthy achievement.

  47. Tony Morton

    Alan: the computer models that were used to predict the effects of the Doncaster and Rowville rail extensions are the same ones that fail to predict induced traffic from new road projects, and instead forecast travel time savings that are never realised. At worst they actually beg the question – so it may be that the rail lines are forecast to attract almost all their usage by diversion from existing services because someone effectively programmed that into the model as an assumption.

    Similar arguments were also made against the Joondalup line in Perth back in the 1980s. As we now know, when the line was actually built it caused patronage to soar – and it was conservatively estimated that 25% of the new users were former car drivers.

    There is fairly obvious historical evidence attesting to mode shift from public transport to car use in response to road expansion. In that case it took decades for any ‘induced traffic’ to appear on public transport, which is readily explained by the fact that service provision remained stagnant or declined. As a matter of simple logic it is conceivable that the same process can be driven in reverse: the key is to make big improvements to public transport while resisting the temptation to expand road capacity at the same time.

    The reason we don’t see much mode shift in Australian cities is that aside from Perth – which required a huge effort to build it up from a very low base – there has been next to no effort to actually bring it about. Even Melbourne’s train boom from 2005 to 2010 came about by accident; the State Government had done nothing at all to make it happen, which is why it became such a problem for them politically.

    What you’re quite correct in saying is that big city-wide changes won’t come about through individual big projects. That’s part of the reason the PTUA was lukewarm about the Melbourne Metro tunnel for a long time – valuable as it is, it can easily serve as a distraction from the need to boost the less visible components of the transport network (suburban buses in particular). But big projects are sometimes required as part of a process of broad network planning.

    Meanwhile, to Dudley Horscroft #3: it’s not quite correct to assume that people’s decision to drive cars comes at substantial cost. Day-to-day decisions are based on marginal costs, and the marginal cost of car use is comparatively small. (Indeed, it’s often less than the public transport fare for the same trip.) It’s the decision to own a car rather than to drive one that involves substantial cost, and that involves a quite different set of factors. The value of individual car trips can be very high or it can be very low, and the value is often unchanged if the trip is made by public transport instead. The main barrier to the latter is simply that adequate public transport is not provided.

  48. Tom the first and best

    Improved suburban bus services (mainly frequency, interchange with railway and route improvements but also traffic light priority), combined with parking levies at major shopping centres would improve the PM mode share.

  49. Jacob HSR

    You could charge non-citizens higher fees for number plates.

    After all, they cannot vote. 🙂

  50. Dudley Horscroft

    The real questions to answer are “Why would one want to “seriously suppress car use”? Are the various PT measures you refer to aimed to do that?

    I suggest that what is really intended is to provide better transport on routes where demand is high and investment can do this. Presumably, since people drive cars at a substantial cost, each trip made is valued higher than not making it, or by making it by an alternative mode, if such be available. Ergo, suppressing car usage per se means a net loss to society.

    As you point out in your link “it’s estimated more than half of all benefits from the project [the CSELR] will accrue to existing and future public transport users in the form of faster, more comfortable and more reliable travel than provided by the buses they would otherwise use.”

    Of course, the CSELR is far more expensive than it should be – probably 3 times more – but this is what TfNSW wanted. They tried for the perfect, employed “the best advice”, and came up with a lemon. The same criticism can be laid against “the proposed $2 – 3 Billion Melbourne Airport rail line” where about 2/3 of the track is already there. The Brisbane “established Airtrain has just 8% mode share”. Not surprising, it is a 30 minute interval service through most of the day (15 in the peaks); consider adding another 30 minute express service from Ipswich, Darra, Indoorapilly, Toowong and CBD stations to the airport. Is it not plausible that mode share may double – at a comparatively low cost – no need for additional track, and if in off peak hours only the trains are already there, the only need is extra drivers. Sounds like a net benefit to QR.

    Congestion, as has been pointed out many time, is inherently self limiting. If additional cars are added, then speeds will slow to the point where people take alternative routes, use other modes, or do not travel. If there would be a reasonable demand, then additional infrastructure can relieve congestion, but in so doing it will also make travel more acceptable. To paraphrase Parkinson “car travel expands so as to fill the road space available for its use”.

    If, in a city like Sydney, there are a near infinite number of origins and destinations, and paths connecting them, for road travel, and the cars have filled the roads, only in the most major traffic corridors could tunnels be justified – and IMHO WasteConnex is not justified. Buses also have to use road space – hence there is no point in adding more buses (Military Road already has bus lanes along its length but congestion is a problem.)

    Solutions (1) make car travel so much more expensive or difficult that congestion is reduced so buses can be used to best advantage, or (2) provide an alternative mode in the highest demand corridors or (3) both. Expensive and difficult means charging by the kilometre for car use, plus restricting parking. This is surely only justified if the net benefits is suppressing car traffic and shifting travel to buses is positive. The only alternative mode means light rail, at ground level where space is available (Military Road replacing the bus lanes) or elevated above footpaths (Warringah Expressway, Victoria Road to Gladesville and Ryde, for example) where at grade space is not.

    Heavy rail tunnels can only be justified when expected demand is extreme, or local conditions rule out at grade or elevated trackage. A rail tunnel from Strathfield to Central may be justified, but only if it is absolutely impossible to add more trains to the existing tracks.

  51. Keto Vodda

    So in Australia good public transport is so that:

    – workers can get into the CBD
    – those without cars get around (old, poor, disabled, drinking, bike riders)
    – major public events can move large amounts of people quickly
    – inner city residents don’t need cars

  52. Dylan Nicholson

    I’d think everyone here agrees that it’s a necessary but certainly not sufficient part of a solution for excessive car dependence/usage/congestion. Probably most of the other parts require more political guts than most of our leaders seem to have, and are inevitably going to be initially unpopular.

Leave a comment