australia's public transport - Australian Conservation Foundation
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australia's public transport - Australian Conservation Foundation


Right now the strong Australian dollar is the only thingprotecting our country from higher petrol prices.Should the value of the Australian dollar fall below its UScounterpart we face paying at least $2 a litre for our petrol.NRMA figures 1 show this could translate to around $2000 ayear extra in petrol costs for people living on the edges ofour major cities.Australia imports more than half its oil requirements at a cost of $16 billion a year. By 2015 it is predictedwe will import around 70 per cent of our oil. Since 2006, when petrol prices rose to the highest level yet,there has been a significant shift of patronage to public and active transport modes. However Australia is notinvesting adequately in infrastructure to support this trend.In any country, big or small, accessible and affordable public transport is central to the life of the nation.The efficient movement of people and goods is essential for a thriving economy, to enhance the social fabricof the community and as a means of minimising environmental harm from pollution caused by greenhousegas and toxic tailpipe emissions.In the 20th century, Australia went from having world class urban public transport systems and effectiverural rail networks to becoming one of the most car dependant nations on the planet. Investment in newpublic transport infrastructure has failed to keep pace with an increasing population and the continuedspread of cities.Among a swathe of economic costs associated with inefficient transport, traffic congestion alone costs theAustralian economy more than $12 billion per annum, money that could be better spent establishing a lowcarbon economy. Building more roads is not the solution. The answer lies in reducing our car dependencyand providing people with world class public transport services that give us the choice to leave our cars athome. We also need to develop a national strategy to enable Australia to wean itself off expensive oil.To help shield Australians from the impact of rising petrol prices, address our spiralling carbon pollutionand the transport needs of a rapidly growing population, we need greater investment in public and activetransport.1NRMA BusinessWise study 31 March 2011 at’s PUBLIC TRANSPORT: INVESTMENT FOR A CLEAN TRANSPORT FUTURE3

What this study showsResearch by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) shows that over the last ten years the amountof money spent on construction work by all levels of governments on public roads and bridges has been 4.3times that spent on public railway construction.GRAPH 1Australia: money spent as % of GDP2009-10Year2006-072003-04Total roads and bridgesTotal railway2000-010.00% 0.50% 1.00%PercentageSource: BITRE (2011) Australian Infrastructure Statistics Yearbook 2011, Canberra; and, ABS (2010) Gross State Product from Catalogue52200- 2009-10Graph 1 (above) shows national spending as a percentage of GDP over a ten year period.It compares spending on public sector road and bridge projects with public rail project spending.While $11.3 billion was spent on road construction around the country in 2008-9, $5.1 billion was given awayas subsidies by the Federal Government through the Fuel Tax Credits program (2007-08) 2 and more than $1billion was spent through the Fringe Benefits Tax to encourage the private use of company cars (2008-09). 3These high figures starkly contrast with the $3.3 billion spent in 2008-9 on rail construction.What has been happening around the country?AUSTRALIA’s PUBLIC TRANSPORT: INVESTMENT FOR A CLEAN TRANSPORT FUTURE4All Australian states and territories have a pattern of significant underspending on public transportinfrastructure. Due to years of neglect and deferred projects, Australia is ill equipped to meet the seriousand multiple transport challenges of this century, including congestion, carbon pollution, air pollution andrising petrol prices. Public transport has been and continues to be the poor second cousin, with a lack ofplanning and budgetary priority, despite policies that have seen Australia’s population grow rapidly.However, since 2005 the growth rate of car usage has slowed as the use of public and active transport hasincreased. Government action is out of step with patronage and more money needs to be spent on public andactive transport.In a separate analysis, Graph 2 compares spending in each state, including money from all levels ofgovernment, for public sector roads with that spent on public bridges, railways, and harbours averaged overa ten year period. (Note: bridges, railways and harbours are referred to as ‘Other’in the graph).2Australian Taxation Office, (2010) Taxation Statistics 07-083Tax Expenditure Statement 2009 D26, D44, &A61, data for 2008-9

GRAPH 210 year average spend on Roads vs Other as % GSPPercentage0.80%0.60%0.40%0.20%0.00%NSWQldNTSAWAVicTasACTRoadsOtherStatesNote: Other refers to bridges, railways and harboursSource: ABS (2010) Engineering Construction Activity from Catalogue 8762.0 including Electronic Tables 13, 16, 19, 22, 28, 31, 34Data that separates rail spending from harbours and bridges is not freely available and a comparison asmade in Graph 1 is not possible for individual states. Even with this limitation, we can easily see roadspending as a percentage of Gross State Product (GSP) still significantly outweighs that on bridges, railwaysand harbours.New South WalesAs the graph above shows, NSW has done better than most other states in spending almost a third of itstransport infrastructure budget within the bridges, railways and harbours category – at 0.29 per cent of GSP.This has included the building of the expensive Epping to Chatswood Rail link.However as Sydney is the most populous capital in Australia with the largest economy, it is importantthat the ratio of public transport to roads funding is properly balanced. Sydney, like all of our major cities,has continued to develop on its fringes without adequate investment in public transport infrastructure.And although Sydney has the highest patronage of public transport, residents have greater dissatisfactionwith their public transport system than those in other capitals. 4 While road projects have been consistentlydelivered in State budget after State budget, there have been at least a dozen promised but deferred publictransport projects. It is time for more public and active transport projects to be built.VictoriaVictoria’s poor spending on public and active transport is notorious. In recent years public transportpatronage has grown substantially but capacity has not kept pace. The state government spent less thanany other state on transport – with just 0.11 per cent of GSP within the ‘Other’ category in the last ten years.There has not been any expansion of rail to the outer suburbs for decades. While some lines have beenreopened, the state government has not put forward any new rail projects while committing more publicmoney to new roads. The state government needs to help Victorians prepare as petrol is not going to getcheaper. A number of feasibility studies have been commissioned but real action is needed and new raillines need to be built.4Property Council of Australia My City: The People’s Verdict survey Jan 2011AUSTRALIA’s PUBLIC TRANSPORT: INVESTMENT FOR A CLEAN TRANSPORT FUTURE5

QueenslandQueensland has also spent 0.29 per cent of its GSP within the bridges, rail and harbours category. Themining boom in Queensland has helped to build bridges, roads and tunnels to increase motor vehicle accessright across South East Queensland.Bridges are necessarily very expensive infrastructure and Queensland’s figures disguise the recent andunprecedented spending on the duplication of the Gateway Bridge to support the adjacent expansion of theroad network around the airport and into the city. Brisbane has also invested in urban rail and a Bus RapidTransit system that is recognised as world class. This investment by State and local government has resultedin a doubling of bus passengers in the last 11 years. Seven-and-a-half additional lanes of highway would beneeded if the South East Busway did not run. Train patronage has also grown in that time.These public transport projects are helping to serve the rapidly expanding urban population. From satelliteimages one can see the massive development right down to the Gold Coast – once thriving rural areasare now a conurbation from Brisbane to the border. This spread of population without incorporation ofalternatives to private vehicle mobility means it is going to be difficult for people to afford to get around bycar when the price of petrol really starts to hurt. If there is to be a significant reduction in car dependency inSouth East Queensland, more public and active transport projects must be built.Western AustraliaWestern Australia has continued to spend heavily on road building leaving Perth as one of the mostcar dependent cities on earth. Out of the largest 20 Australian cities, Perth has the highest level of carownership. 5 The opening of the Mandurah rail line and its immediate large patronage shows people arecrying out for better public transport. Perth now extends more than 140 kilometres along the coastal strip.This has meant more development around new railway stations. However, there appear to be inconsistentplanning approaches to the surrounding built environment and station designs that are not conducive towalking and cycling. As a result public transport has not been fully utilised in some parts of Perth. If thestate government incorporates active transport infrastructure with its public transport planning, morepeople will be able to leave their cars at home.AUSTRALIA’s PUBLIC TRANSPORT: INVESTMENT FOR A CLEAN TRANSPORT FUTURESouth AustraliaThe data for South Australia shows a very high level of spending on roads compared to ‘Other’ expenditurewith 0.61 per cent of GSP spent on roads compared to just 0.15 per cent on the rest. Adelaide has sprawledapproximately 90 kilometres in a roughly north-south direction. Social problems arise when people areforced to travel long distances to reach jobs where public transport options are inadequate and people whodo not drive cannot easily reach the services they want. At last the train line is being electrified and someadditional railway built, but much more needs to be done. A target of 10 per cent of all trips by publictransport by 2018 will not be enough to provide resilience for Adelaidians from the cost impacts of risingfuel prices.TasmaniaTasmania is unique among the states in that it does not have a passenger rail system and consequently thecontribution transport makes to carbon pollution is high by Australian standards (22 per cent in Tasmaniaversus 14 per cent overall). More than 90 per cent of people have access to a car so rising petrol prices willbe a big consideration for future travel. Making bus trips more attractive, enhancing a cycleway network andpromoting electric cycles to overcome the hilly terrain and dispersed settlement pattern will help people toshift modes away from cars.5ACF Sustainable Cities Index 2010,

Conclusion and RecommendationsAlthough the Federal Government has started to invest more in public transport, a great deal more needs tobe done at every level of government to catch up on years of neglect. National public and active transporttargets should aim to:double the number of trips made by public transport in all major cities in the next decadetriple the number of cycling trips made within ten yearsquadruple the number of walking trips within a decade.ACF recommends an overdue rebalancing of the transport budget: two thirds should be spent onpublic and active transport measures and one third should be spent on roads.Ongoing investment of this order will help Australia regain a world class public transport system.We can move from being a pollution dependent economy to a cleaner economy. People can be happier andhealthier. We can improve the resilience of our environment and our communities. We can do all thesethings by spending more on public and active transport while at the same time reducing our dependence onimported oil.ACF calls on Australian governments to commit to developing a national strategy to reduceAustralia’s demand for, and vulnerability, to imported oil.AUSTRALIA’s PUBLIC TRANSPORT: INVESTMENT FOR A CLEAN TRANSPORT FUTURE7

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF)is committed to inspiring people to achieve ahealthy environment for all Australians. Forover 40 years we have been a strong voicefor the environment, promoting solutionsthrough research, consultation, education andpartnerships. We work with the community,business and government to protect, restore andsustain our environment.Authorised by Don Henry, AustralianConservation Foundation, Level 1, 60 Leicester St,Carlton VIC 3053. Telephone 03 9345 courtesy of: iStockphoto, Julia Sakis, Martin Wurt and Kerstin ScheckenburgerPrinted on 100% recycled paper by PrintTogether, 7/252 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, VIC 3068

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