Monday, July 14, 2008

My Eddington report submission - EWLNA

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the East-West Links Needs Assessment (EWLNA), as transport is an essential feature of the livability of Melbourne and one of the main areas that require urgent action as part of a coordinated response to climate change.

I preface my feedback with the observation that I believe more urgent and profound action needs to be taken to prevent the economic, social and ecological collapses being caused by climate change.

While the EWLNA has some proposals with merit, such as improvements to public transport and cross city cycle links, it overwhelmingly fails to tackle the massive and urgent problems of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and the challenges introduced by peak oil.

The focus on public transport in the EWLNA is welcome, and I strongly support increased investment in public transport. However, the EWLNA is largely a “business as usual” document, based on outdated ideas, at a time where business as usual means climate catastrophe and remaining unprepared for continual increases in oil prices.

It is unfortunate that the EWLNA has no vision for a sustainable transport future for Melbourne and therefore fails as a document that the State Government should use to guide its actions and decisions.

Transport policy cannot assume a “business as usual” case. Transport policy development must lead to a drastic reduction in reliance on oil, and a massive, rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it should be one of the major aims of transport policy to achieve these outcomes – and with these outcomes improvements in the amenity of our suburbs will be created. This is the best way to ensure prosperity and livability into the future.

The key points of I make in this personal submission are:

  • The original scope of the EWLNA was too narrow – transport needs for Melbourne need to be considered as a whole rather than arbitrarily separated into segments and/or corridors.
  • The EWLNA’s “business as usual” approach to transport planning is flawed as it does not take climate change or peak oil into account.
  • I support an order of magnitude increase in public transport funding from the State and Federal governments, and I therefore broadly support the EWLNA recommendations that achieve this.
  • Given the narrow scope of the EWLNA, it is not clear whether the proposed rail tunnel would be the most effective rail infrastructure project. A broader study of opportunities for rail network improvements is required, taking into account the possibility of building railway lines to poorly serviced suburbs, a metro system for inner Melbourne, and a rail link to Melbourne Airport.
  • I oppose the construction of the proposed road tunnels or any new freeways – which history show us encourage more personal and freight road traffic which inevitably leads to increased road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Past transport studies and experience have shown that building freeways does not solve congestion, and they will in fact increase congestion in the long term.
  • The assumptions made to make up the EWLNA reference case with regard to oil prices, carbon pricing and road pricing are incorrect, and greatly exaggerate the case for supporting private car use and the road tunnel.
  • The EWLNA ignores the now apparent climate emergency we face and ignores the pressing need for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Any new transport infrastructure or plan needs to have emissions reductions as a central aim.
  • The propensity for people to shift to public transport when high quality services are available is underestimated and the recommendations are consequently poorly targeted.
  • The recommendations in the EWLNA will result in a 1% modal shift from cars to public transport by 2031, in contradiction with the Brumby Government’s 11% shift (by 2020). We need a much more profound shift if we are to retain Melbourne’s liveability and reduce our emissions.
  • The EWLNA did not assess the modal efficiency of transport options with respect to carbon emissions or factor this into the recommendations made.
  • Shifting transport journeys from road trips to lower carbon emission options is compatible with Melbourne 2030 strategy goals, the Kyoto Protocol, and with our need to reduce Australia’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The following assumptions made in the EWLNA reference case are flawed:
  • No real increase in fuel prices beyond 2006 (petrol prices have now risen to around $1.65 per litres and could be $2.00 or higher by the end of 2007)
  • No carbon price on transport emissions (which have now been flagged for inclusion in Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme scheduled for introduction in 2010).
  • No road pricing before 2031 – which is likely to be introduced well before then
  • A gradual shift to hybrid cars will offset carbon emissions associated with increased motor vehicle usage. (A modal shift from cars to less carbon intensive transport such as rail and bicycles is required).
There is currently a transport crisis in Melbourne, with roads and freeways now suffering chronic traffic congestion. Rather than build the proposed road links, a cheaper, more effective alternative to the issues identified in the EWLNA is to upgrade and extend the public transport system, take move freight from road to rail, institute more efficient freight handling practices and introduce incentives for people to reduce car use.

The cross-city cycle connections recommended would greatly facilitate bicycle travel and make it safer within inner Melbourne. However, to be effective, these routes need to link with equivalent high quality and safe bicycle paths transecting adjacent suburbs. For example, there is currently no safe and efficient bicycle route through Hawthorn and Camberwell towards Box Hill.

Cycling is the most carbon-efficient form of medium distance personal transport. However, low safety and convenience factors are major barriers preventing people from cycling in urban areas.

The current Principal Bicycle Network needs to have routes added to connect with the proposed cross-city cycle connections. Integrated planning for cycle paths and routes is essential to get the best outcome. Improved safety at a local level is also crucial to enable safe access to the Principal Bicycle Network and to activity centres and public transport.

Conclusion


I hope that the State Government uses this opportunity to change course and focuses on shaping a transport system that will help us meet the challenges of climate change, peak oil and improving the amenity of our suburbs.

“Business as usual” transport planning and construction of freeways will cause us more pain in the future.

A sustainable future involves cutting emissions and creating a massive and permanent modal shift from cars to public transport, walking and cycling.

External link: CEN Eddington Report Submission

1 comment:

RVB said...

Excellent, work Peter. I was going to make a submission - but VCE bogged me down.