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Infrastructure Australia calls on Federal Government to provide more leadership on cities

Infrastructure Australia calls on Federal Government to provide more leadership on cities
Infrastructure Australia calls on Federal Government to provide more leadership on cities

Infrastructure Australia after the release of its Future Cities: planning for our population growth paper is calling on the Federal Government to take a leadership role in the development of Australia's cities.

The paper's executive summary starts with "Australia’s largest cities are facing a watershed moment in their growth and development."

In the coming 30 years the size of the Australian population will grow substantially. Between 2017 and 2046, Australia’s population is projected to increase by 11.8 million people. 

That’s equivalent to adding a new city, roughly the size of Canberra, each year for the next 30 years.

This paper identifies the choices facing our largest cities and the best pathways to respond.

Infrastructure Australia - Future Cities: planning for our population growth, Executive Summary

While citing the four largest cities in Australia will see 75% of the growth in that period, the paper has an added focus on Melbourne and Sydney.

For both cities, Infrastructure Australia has provided three different growth scenarios - low-density development (effectively business as usual laissez-faire growth), concentrated high-density growth (toward the inner regions of each city) and a balanced growth scenario which in Melbourne's case would see the inner-city still see a significant amount of development but the western suburbs would pick up the slack and be the focus for growth.

Each of the three scenarios is then scored against four performance indicators: a) performance of the transport network, b) access to jobs, c) access to and demand for social infrastructure (hospitals, schools) and d) access to and demand for green space.

Melbourne and Sydney get extra special treatment in the documents and tools that Infrastructure Australia released last week with both getting an interactive map which walks you through the scenarios and their respective performance scores.

The paper's analysis of the 'Melbourne of today' points to the uncompetitiveness of public transport in relation to private transport for those who live outside and don't work within the centre of the city.

It says "the dominance of private vehicles is enhanced by uncompetitive travel times, compared to private vehicles, provided by public transport."

Figure 2 shows average trip times in inner, middle and outer-Melbourne, by mode. It shows significantly higher trip times for public transport than any other mode.

This is partially because public transport journeys are skewed to commuting, which are generally longer than leisure trips. Journeys by private vehicle also tend be for a broader range of purposes, such as short trips to the local shops, which would reduce average times.

Nevertheless, in order to increase its mode share, public transport will increasingly need to compete with private vehicles.

To do this, travel times will need to improve.

Infrastructure Australia - Future Cities: planning for our population growth, Melbourne now and in 2046
Infrastructure Australia calls on Federal Government to provide more leadership on cities
Average trip times by mode and region - Infrastructure Australia

The paper's analysis of the three scenarios and their various performance rankings paints an alarming but not an altogether surprising picture that flies in the face of government media bites about 'fixing congestion'.

"Under all scenarios, private vehicle use and congestion increase". 

Other quoteworthy passages from the analysis section include "the increase in demand across all scenarios affects road and public transport congestion levels"

The data shows that in contrast to public transport, additions to the road network under the three scenarios do not decrease overall congestion from the reference case.

This indicates that while targeted road construction remains important, the scale of capacity enhancements required to meet demand and in turn to moderate congestion, particularly during the peak, is not achievable through construction alone

Under a centralised high-density growth scenario, the burden of moving so many people around shifts from the heavy rail network - which would still remain radial & focused on still moving commuters from the suburbs - to the tram network.

More broadly across the three different growth scenarios, Public Transport mode share only increases from 14% today to 22-23%.  This might be explained because projects such as Melbourne Metro 2 - that Infrastructure Victoria has done some initial work on - were not included in the list of projects that were modelled by Infrastructure Australia.  Curiously, the now defunct East-West Link was included in the modelled projects.

The top 3 key findings for Melbourne are: unplanned growth delivers the worst outcome for Melbourne, public transport is crucial to improving accessibility for a city of Melbourne's size and private vehicles will continue to play an important role in Melbourne however, across all scenarios congestion significantly increases, and adding new roads is only part of the solution.

To view the interactive maps and documents, see www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au

Lead image credit: flickr.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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