Saturday, December 15, 2007

Melbourne now Freeway capital of Australia - a Disaster for Climate and Sustainability

A new report from University of Melbourne on travelling to work says that car travel in Melbourne is the "worst performing city over the three decades. It has the biggest increase in car driving and the biggest declines in public transport, car pooling and walking. More cars are driven to work each day in Melbourne than in Sydney, despite Sydney’s much bigger workforce. The share of workers who drive is now higher in Melbourne than in Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and even Canberra. This appears to be a result of Melbourne having constructed more urban freeways and tollways over the last 30 years than any other capital."
Related: Travel to work in Australian capital cities, 1976-2006 |

Victoria Envirowatch: one year in

The report’s principal author, Dr Paul Mees, said that despite the recent focus on climate change and the push towards more sustainable living, city based workers remain unconvinced with many driving to work. "There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cars driven to work each day in Australia capital city – a 70.1% rise over the past 30 years. That’s more than 1.4 million cars on the road each day since census data began recording work travel information. The result has been a huge increase in greenhouse emissions."

According to the report just over 78% of Melbourne workers drive each day, while just 13.9% use public transport. Cycling accounts for just one per cent of trips everywhere, though the figure is higher in Canberra (2.5%) and in the innercity suburbs of capital cities. Although increasing its profile as sustainable transport for urban workers, cycling is growing from a very low base.

The report says that "The census data show that treating traffic problems by building more roads is an ineffective response. The main result has been to shift travellers out of environmentally friendly modes and into cars. By contrast, the performance of public transport and walking can be improved more cheaply and would produce superior environmental outcomes."

The federal government comes in for criticism over its funding priorities: "The Auslink scheme is exacerbating urban transport problems, because it is biased in favour of new roads and against urban rail infrastructure. Investment needs to be redirected away from urban motorways towards more environmentally friendly modes, particularly public transport and walking. This is the only way Australia can meet its international environmental obligations in the transport arena."

The report recommends that "State governments also need to change their transport policies, which remain dominated by motorway-building. In addition, they need to reform the governance and management of public transport, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, both of which lack competent, dynamic regional public transport agencies."

Big Carbon emissions Projects in the Pipeline

Victorian Premier John Brumby has just come back from the Climate Change talks in Bali and undoubtedly we will see pronouncements about his Governments green credentials and projects to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. But Kenneth Davidson has just written a scathing column in the Age titled Big projects taking us all for a ride.

Davidson points out that:

* Melburnians are growing more dependent on cars to get to work, and going backwards in terms of comparative trends in other Australian cities. (See Melbourne now Freeway capital of Australia - a disaster for climate and sustainability)
* In 2005 the State Labor Government extended the life of the Hazelwood power station from 2009 to 2031, even though it is the dirtiest power station in the country.
* Building a highly energy intensive desalination plant under a public-private partnership, thus ensuring that we will get and pay for deslinated water and profits for the plant operator even when there is sufficient natural supply in our water reservoirs. In other words profits from selling water will take priority over CO2 emissions and climate change.
* The Government is considering an east-west tunnel connecting the Eastern Freeway to EastLink, running under the Melbourne Cemetery at a time of rising oil prices with the onset of Peak Oil which will make "tollways redundant long before their economic life ends."
* There has been no significant heavy rail extensions since the opening of the Glen Waverley line in 1930. According to Davidson Melbourne's public transport system has been mismanaged since its privatisation in 1999 with subsidies to Melbourne's public transport operators having doubled in real terms since 1999.

According to Environment Victoria half of the Victorian Government’s environment election promises are at risk of not being delivered or have already been broken. The report says that the State Government has broken three of its 68 pre-election environment promises, while another 31 show little or no signs of progress. It has so far kept seven of its pre-election promises, while another 27 are on target to be delivered. The broken promises relate to the decision to raid rivers of their legal water entitlements to provide water for urban use and agriculture. Over 50 per cent of the Government’s climate change promises are at risk of not being delivered.

Ms O’Shanassy from Environment Victoria said the Government would need to significantly boost energy efficiency and renewable energy programs over the next three years to meet their election promises. "Unfortunately, even if all these promises are met, they are unlikely to ensure Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions actually fall," she said. "What we’re really missing is a short-term target to reduce pollution that informs all government decisions."

Don't hold your breathe. Our politicians are stuffing up in not funding major public transport infrastructure building in reversing car dependence. This particularly affects outer suburban areas. The crunch will come with Peak Oil as petrol prices increase as demand soars. Transport is second to Electricity production in its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The greater the intransigence now the greater the social cost downstream to our children and grandchildren.


* Travel to work in Australian capital cities, 1976-2006: an analysis of census data | Press Release
* Envirowatch: one year in

Originally published at Melbourne Cyclist by Takver