During November Urban Melbourne presented Guiding Melbourne's Urban Growth ('GMUG 2013'), an event as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2013. Today's article focuses on the presentation given by William McDougall, principal and Public Transport practice leader at global consulting firm SKM.
If Melbourne is to fulfil its own motto of gaining strength as it grows, planning policy must shift away from the auto-centric low-density suburban growth patterns of the past. Cities which encourage diverse human interaction through policies which enable increased residential and employment densities benefit from increased localised economic and social activity. With the great Australian dream of owning a home becoming increasingly unattainable where spiralling congestion and travel distance to employment and services offset the lower prices of new fringe suburban development, how can Melbourne make medium and high-density living more attractive to individuals and families at a price they can afford?
In my presentation I was highlighting that we urgently need to accommodate change and flexibility in urban planning for Melbourne (and elsewhere), perhaps more than ever before. The main reasons for this are to ensure that we can take full advantage of technological and social change – which are both expected to accelerate enormously – instead of assuming some sort of ‘business as usual’ (which is jargon for ‘no change’) when we’re predicting the future and trying to plan for it.
The example I quoted (which is just one of many) – autonomous vehicles – is quickly becoming the hottest topic in transport. All the major vehicle manufacturers are developing self-driving capabilities and collaborating with Google and its competitors in the process. With this industry investment, self-driving cars will be a reality very quickly. Initially this will be in high-end models but eventually in all new cars, and even in modular form to retrofit into existing vehicles. The traffic efficiency, safety and social benefits are potentially enormous and we must ensure that our urban planning and regulatory systems facilitate, rather than obstruct, their progress.
Coupled with revolutionary changes in transport energy sources and efficiency (electric vehicle technologies in particular), and integration with fast-changing internet and social networking technologies, a new paradigm of automated, efficient and smart transport systems will evolve rapidly from this groundswell.
- William McDougall, January 2014.
The editors of Urban Melbourne would once again like to thank William for taking time out his Friday night to share his perspectives and similarly would like to thank The State Library of Victoria team and our partners at The Video Agency for filming the entire event.