Making the mean streets a lot kinder
30 August 2011
“Hey, here’s a dirty little secret that nobody in politics is talking about”, said Joadja.“Car traffic is flatlining in every capital city in the country”. It was a grey, miserably slow, afternoon in the Brushtail Café and we were finishing a bottle of cider with Stan, the retired colonel, and Old Possum.
“Easily explained. Must be the GFC”, Stan opined.
“Nope. The trend started way back in 2004, four years before the GFC. And we’re talking absolute vehicle kilometres travelled – or VKT, as they say. In the same year, average personal car use started falling. By the time the GFC hit, in 2008, Sydneysiders were only driving as much as they did in 2002. In Perth, by 2008, they were back to levels of personal car use not seen since the early 1990s. Ditto Melbourne. Brisbane was back to 1980s levels. The only thing that’s keeping absolute VKT level is population increase and the mining boom.”
“Amazing. Where are you getting this stuff?”
“From the federal statistical mob, the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics”, said Jo, riffling through a fat research paper. “These figures must be giving the tollway companies the screaming heebie-jeebies”.
“But what’s this I hear that the O’Farrell mob aren’t going to construct the Greenway path thing alongside the Dulwich Hill light rail extension?” said Old Possum, eyeing another bottle of cider. “I thought all that had been settled.”
“From what I hear from political insiders, the Greenway is off, I’m afraid”, I said. “The excuse is that they want to save $30 million but you’d have to pave it with gold leaf to get the Greenway to cost anything like that. Ten to fifteen, absolute maximum, is more like it. That $30 million claim looks to me like Treasury’s up to its old trick of wildly exaggerating the cost of anything they don’t agree with.
“But that’s crazy. I mean, the Greenway will happen sooner or later but it’ll be much more expensive to build after the light rail has opened because they’ll have to work around tram operations.
“Those BITRE figures show people are trying to get out of their cars but in the peaks, public transport is packed. Apart from anything else, the Greenway will make access to the light rail stops quicker for thousands of potential light rail users, so cancelling it will have an adverse effect on patronage.”
“And then there’s the fact that there are over 20 schools within a stone’s throw of the Greenway.” Said Joadja. “That’s thousands of kids who could be safely walking or riding bikes to school rather than being chauffer-driven by mum in an urban assault vehicle.
“So here’s a vision: let’s turn the whole Inner West into a bike-friendly zone where it’s safe to ride to your local light rail stop, lock it up and catch the tram. And if you’re feeling especially energetic, you can cycle all the way to the CBD.”
“Hey, even better, what about actually building that City-West Cycle Link idea that’s floating around.
“Well you know how the Greenway, basically, would go alongside the light rail line from Dulwich Hill station to Iron Cove? The trouble is, it only goes to Iron Cove. If you want to cycle to the city, you have to cycle up the hill into Rozelle, stopping at numerous intersections to get across dangerous roads before you get to the Anzac Bridge cycleway.
“It’s a real bugger but there’s a plan to fix that. The idea is to widen the light rail tunnel under the City West Link, and the deep cutting there, just enough for a cycleway. Apparently a firm that does that sort of work reckons it would cost just $5 million.
“This thing would bypass 21 intersections and 2.5 km of roads and knock 40 vertical metres off a ride into the CBD. Add that to the Greenway, and suddenly, cycling to the CBD becomes a real breeze!”