Good urban connectivity creates cities that are sustainable, liveable and accessible–economically, socially and environmentally. Connectivity shapes urban form, which in turn, affects sustainability, liveability and accessibility.
This chapter will consider aspects of sustainability in urban transport systems and the interrelationship between transport connectivity and urban form. It will then consider three key concepts which are essential to both sustainability and the urban form—the ’30-minute city’, the role of public transport and the role of active transport (walking and cycling).
Technological innovation and their impacts—such as ridesharing, carsharing, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things—will be considered, alongside the need for governments to embrace innovation to promote connectivity and accessibility.
The final section of the chapter will examine the importance of freight connectivity in the urban environment and the need to effectively integrate freight storage and movement into and around the urban environment.
Sustainable urban transport systems
The lack of sustainability of current transport systems has been highlighted in the evidence presented to the Committee. The Committee for Sydney and Action for Public Transport NSW both emphasised the problems inherent in our reliance on car-based road transport. The Committee for Sydney cited US research which demonstrated ‘how low urban density goes hand in hand with increased road supply. Essentially, urban sprawl is encouraged by such programs when the need is to service urban concentration’. Action for Public Transport NSW observed that ‘densities are dramatically reduced when large amounts of urban land are given over to bigger and wider roads, big box shopping centres and car parking’. It stated:
This trend has yet to be arrested. Sydney is in fact in the grip of an orgy of roadbuilding, with funding from the Commonwealth. Its liveability and quality of life is being eroded by the increasing burden of heavy traffic flows.
In its submission, Uber suggested that the problem of private car use was in fact getting worse. It stated:
There are over 13.5 million cars in Australia today. Private car ownership has grown over 12 percent in the past five years, while population has grown less than 8 percent. Around eight in ten Australians travel to work by car, with the average weekly commuting time for full time workers in Australia’s largest cities increasing by almost 20 percent from 2002 to 2011.
Associate Professor Hussein Dia observed that ‘the traditional approaches we have taken over the past 50 years have met with really limited success’:
The solution that was prescribed to most governments was to build out of congestion by providing more roads for motorised transport without giving equal preference and priority to other modes of transport like public transport, active transport and even some of the policies that allow for densification rather than urban sprawl. All of these have led to some of the problems we are witnessing today.
Associate Professor Dia argued that ‘we really need to have a fundamental shift in the way we provide transport’:
Rather than focusing on the physical movement of people and goods, I think in the future we need to focus more on how we provide access to services at places, economic opportunity and so forth, regardless of the mode of transport. The mode of transport can come in at a later stage, but first we need to see what the access needs are for societies and cities and move from there.
Ms Romilly Madew, Chief Executive Officer of the Green Building Council of Australia, highlighted the alternative of densification around public transport (see Chapter 3).
Private car use also created significant environmental problems. The EDOs of Australia highlighted this environmental cost:
The need to integrate ecological sustainability in infrastructure decisions has only become more urgent with the rapid, ongoing rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector—both as a proportion of Australia’s carbon footprint (17% nationally, 19% in NSW) and in absolute emissions. Transport emissions have grown 52% since 1990 and the Government predicts growth will continue.
The EDOs of Australia argued that ‘reducing emissions and adapting to unavoidable climate change are two sides of the same coin’:
Reducing emissions now makes adaptation easier and less costly, as impacts will be less severe, causing fewer shocks to human and ecological systems.
Associate Professor Dia emphasised ‘that any prospects for decarbonising our cities will depend to a large extent on realising the opportunities for a reduction in transport energy use’.
Mr Ashley Brinson, Executive Director, of The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, highlighted the impact of vehicle pollution on cardiovascular health, telling the Committee:
I’m not an expert in medicine, but, like many of my engineering colleagues, I’m increasingly concerned about the advancement of our knowledge of the role of nitrogen oxides, NOx, and associated ozone and fine particulate matter, especially PM2.5, on human cardiorespiratory health. In the months since we submitted our paper, a number of governments have made announcements. In July, the UK announced that they would phase out sales of petroleum-driven vehicles by 2040 and, by 2050, all cars on British roads will be zero-emission vehicles. That’s about re-engineering a fleet of 2.7 million vehicles—the sixth largest number of vehicles on the planet. Scotland will phase out in 2030. In the previous months, France put forward the date of 2040; India 2030 for sales; Norway 2025; Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea and Spain have made announcements; eight US states have made plans; and China has said that they’re studying the matter, potentially aligning their domestic automotive industry with their own domestic emissions plans.
The health effects were noted in The Lancet, a highly independent British gold-standard medical journal. On 19 October 2017 it released its findings that indicate massive underestimation of the impact of air quality on human health. Internationally, many governments, especially city governments, are considering the effects of air quality on urban populations, especially in densely populated cities, at ground-level neighbourhoods where automobile tailpipe emissions affect the population. We are increasingly aware that the neighbourhoods most affected are socially and economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These health effects are in addition to the carbon dioxide global warming case to decarbonise transport.
The Queensland University of Technology stated that ‘the transport infrastructure within and connecting our cities—a major determinant of resilience and liveability, requires an overhaul that goes beyond incremental adaptation over the next decades’. It argued that ‘a clear signal from the Australian Government is required to lead Australia into this transition and to provide guidelines on the vision of the future connected and resilient Australian city’.
The Centre for Urban Research at RMIT said:
Transport and infrastructure provision in Australian cities has for too long failed to keep up with the imperatives of reducing carbon dependence and private transport use, and improving urban biodiversity. The Australian Government has a key role to play in setting a national agenda for an overall shift in the structure of Australian cities toward active and public transport as the dominant mode of transport, and mainstreaming the provision of green infrastructure into all aspects of city planning and development.
The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) identified a range of factors in sustainable urban mobility. It stated that sustainable urban mobility was about the ‘movement of people and goods within a region that delivers environmental, economic and social sustainability’. It ensured that noise and air pollution were minimised, improved energy efficiency, promoted economic development, and was ‘affordable to users and taxpayers’. ATSE argued that planning for sustainable urban mobility should prioritise modal shift ‘from driving to public transport, cycling, or walking, in order to reduce road congestion, and should prioritise people rather than a particular mode of transport’. A sustainable urban transportation system would optimise health and wellbeing, promoting ‘increased physical activity, reduced respiratory illness from decreased transport-related air pollution, and reduced mental and physical health problems associated with transport noise’. It would ‘prioritise active transport, such as walking and cycling, over motorised transport’. ATSE proposed greater investment ‘in technologies that address traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, health and public safety concerns and social inequality, including driverless vehicles, alternative fuels, high-speed internet, Internet of Things, and big data’. It argued that ‘future transport will be autonomous, battery-powered, and shared’, and that ‘governments should take steps in this direction as soon as possible, including a holistic approach to urban planning that incorporates transport, environment, land use, and health and wellbeing’.
Roads Australia asserted that ‘the age of prioritising cars in city centres is over’. It believed that ‘pedestrian-friendly city centres that offer comfortable walking environments, with active street frontages and safe cycle networks that weave across a connected network, are the cities of the future’; and suggested that ‘the urban canopy is beginning to return as people place importance on experience and natural surroundings to improve their wellbeing’. It urged governments to ‘challenge cities to develop visions that transform urban mobility and deliver carbon-cutting goals’.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet noted that the Australian Government is aiming ‘to improve accessibility and productivity in cities by supporting transport solutions that efficiently connect people with jobs and services, and goods with market’. Nonetheless, Associate Professor Dia observed that ‘the reform of urban mobility remains one of the major challenges confronting policy makers’:
Today, and despite decades of investment in transport infrastructure, mobility and access to economic opportunity is still hindered by high levels of congestion, long travel distances and unreliable travel times. These issues will become more pressing in the future with more people expected to live in urban areas.
Transport and urban form
Addressing sustainable transport is first and foremost a question of addressing urban form. The Committee heard that more strategic investment in infrastructure, particularly transport infrastructure, is fundamental to creating the development of a more sustainable urban form; but that increased connectivity and accessibility are just the beginning of urban sustainability.
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council observed that ‘the design of our cities can make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of Australians by encouraging active transport, liveable streets and high quality open spaces’. Associate Professor Hussein Dia, highlighted the ‘strong link’ that exists ‘between transport supply and demand, and urban form’. He stated that:
Mixed-land use developments reduce the need for travel and promote active transport. Quality transport connections between functional places and facilities improve access and increases functionality of each place, leading to a reduction in the distances and number of trips between origins and destinations. This can be achieved through creative planning and urban designs, combined with innovative infrastructure and transport engineering designs. For example, compact configurations complemented with transport-oriented developments reduce private cars while still making it viable for cities to invest in different modes of public transport.
Associate Professor Dia observed that ‘one of the key themes running throughout recent initiatives for reforming urban mobility is a recognition that past (and still current) practices in urban and transport planning are fundamental causes of the transport problems we face today’. He noted that ‘the policies and practices that were adopted in the past are now having widespread negative effects on urban form, liveability, health and economic productivity’. He argued that it was ‘important to commit to the premise that urban transport policies and practices can be transformed in a sustainable and socially equitable direction for the benefit of future generations’, but that achieving this required a ‘conceptual leap and renewed thinking of how we address the contemporary challenges facing urban mobility and accessibility in our cities’.
Associate Professor Dia observed that ‘cities that have been successful in implementing sustainable transport solutions have adopted simple but radical approaches to meeting the travel needs of their citizens’:
Rather than focusing on the infrastructure required to facilitate the movement of private vehicles, the emphasis was shifted towards the movement of people and goods, regardless of the mode of transport. And instead of focusing on operational strategies that promote longer travel and through movements of traffic, the focus was shifted towards providing access and accessibility to all groups of society.
The key point was promoting accessibility, where the ‘ultimate goal of city development is to enhance access to jobs, places, services and goods’. The focus was ‘shifting from “transport” to “mobility”, and more emphasis is given to “accessibility”’.
The University of Melbourne also argued that ‘urban form is shaped by accessibility’, and argued for ‘investment in urban mass transport’ to shape ‘healthy centres and peripheries while counteracting the increase in car dependency, segregation and the undesirable consequences of laissez-faire urban growth’. It urged ‘the Australian Government to adopt a proactive approach to this important modal shift’, stating that ‘clear goals for infrastructure investment and planning policy are needed to achieve an Australia-wide shift from private cars to active, public and shared modes that reduce energy consumption and overall motorised distances travelled’. The University of Melbourne identified the need for a more sophisticated approach to urban connectivity and land-use planning to shape urban form:
With transport emissions making up a large portion of the carbon footprint of cities in Australia, sustainable urban development must include a focus on transport network planning, balancing land uses with associated travel distance. Use of measures of the spatial diversity in land uses within particular planning scales and areas would allow for a more sophisticated understanding of the purpose and distribution of concepts of ‘mixed-use’. These land-use mix ‘entropy’ measures can then be applied in urban intensification strategies and green-field development planning (see, for example, the University’s development of a Transport Walkability Index for Melbourne). Re-evaluating how we understand the interactions between land uses in existing, future, and evolving urban areas is crucially important to directing cities to more sustainable urban forms.
RMIT linked the ‘the shortage of public transport and the lack of social infrastructure on the urban fringe of cities’ to the prevailing urban form—low density housing in greenfield area. It argued that ‘dwelling density is therefore a critical factor to deliver healthy liveable communities’:
… it underpins the delivery of three other ‘D’s (i.e., distance to transit, diversity and destination accessibility) and is related to another ‘D’ (i.e., neighbourhood design). For example, without a minimum threshold of population density, public transport and local shops and services are not viable, nor is there sufficient population to create vibrant local communities.
The links between urban form, accessibility and health were highlighted by the Committee for Sydney. It noted that:
… the spatial differential across Sydney is also having health consequences. Areas in the West with low density development, poorly connected to public transport have dramatically less access to walkable environments. This means that they lack the environments which global research is showing are crucial to the future knowledge economy as places where knowledge workers agglomerate. Walkable precincts are now seen as more successful economically and where key ‘innovation districts’ are located in our cities.
It also highlighted the link between urban form accessibility and employment:
In Australian cities this divide takes the form of the ‘Compact City’ and the ‘Sprawl City’. The former, for example the area within 10ks of the Sydney CBD, is a thick and broad labour market with high effective job density (EJD) and high value knowledge jobs, better public transport connectivity and the high urban amenity that comes from employment and residential density. The latter has a lower EJD, lower residential development and less accessible urban amenities with long journeys required by car from home to work and indeed leisure opportunities. Both by international standards are residentially unaffordable with even a home in Oran Park 60 kms from Sydney’s CBD costing 12 times average salary for the South-West Sydney region though far more affordable than the areas closest to knowledge jobs in Sydney’s East.
The Centre for Urban Research at RMIT stated that ‘transport and infrastructure provision in Australian cities has for too long failed to keep up with the imperatives of reducing carbon dependence and private transport use, and improving urban biodiversity’. It argued that:
The Australian Government has a key role to play in setting a national agenda for an overall shift in the structure of Australian cities toward active and public transport as the dominant mode of transport, and mainstreaming the provision of green infrastructure into all aspects of city planning and development. A national strategy for green spaces and urban forests must set federal targets for urban greening. A national strategy for land value capture must be developed to guide local government in particular to appropriately leverage public infrastructure funds from rising land values. In concert with the strategies suggested above for controlling growth in land values and dampening speculation, this can be more sensitive to the potentially inequitable outcomes from urban greening programs.
Associate Professor Dia argued that ‘achieving low carbon mobility requires prioritisation in the choices of infrastructure investments, and that ‘it is not sufficient to pursue policies that ‘balance’ investments between different modes of transport’. He stated that ‘the current imbalance in funding and investments between private and public modes of transport needs to be corrected’, and that ‘more initial funding should be allocated to developing and expanding non-motorised and high-capacity public transport infrastructure’.
The City of Fremantle believed that ‘the heart of the future of liveable cities is in making them “cities of short distances”’—that ‘a short trip to the shops, a short stroll to the local park, a short commute to work, a walk to drop the kids off to child care are all key ingredients for more liveable cities’. It observed that Perth, however, was ‘a city of long distances exacerbated by low suburban densities and a lack of mixed uses in our communities’:
Many people in Perth spend around an hour a day commuting as (according to the RAC) Perth is the city that has the lowest proportion of residents living within 10 km. of their workplace of any Australian city. With uneven public transport access, it means many depend on their cars, which is the antithesis of a liveable city. Having no choice but to drive children to school or the shops is not environmentally friendly but does present a hook on which public mindsets can be changed.
The City of Fremantle also identified the need to closely link planning for density with housing policy (see Chapter 8), stating that ‘a “Cities of short distances” needed to be socially sustainable, which means (among other things) that governments (federal and state) have to play the lead role guaranteeing housing affordability’:
People need to be able to afford to live near their work or near a railway station.
Dignified and affordable housing has to be seen as a human right guaranteed by government, no less than education or clean water. There is some activity in this area but it is more directed towards second order measures to tackle housing affordability. Without a substantial investment in new social housing stock (not just recycling existing assets) there is simply no possibility of achieving housing affordability within a city of short distances.
Associate Professor Dia reiterated the link between infrastructure and land-use planning (see Chapter 3), stating:
The connection between land-use and transport needs to be re-built and strengthened to achieve sustainable urban mobility. An integrated approach to land use and transport shifts the focus of planning from placement of structures and designation of land use to that of enabling the realisation of people’s needs and everyday functions in the most efficient and sustainable manner. Within this approach, the key challenge is therefore not merely to overcome the separate handling of transport and land-use planning. Rather, it is to foster an integration of multi-modal mobility within a holistic and sustainable land-use system. The use of Land-Use Transport Integration (LUTI) models which combine transport planning and land-use planning into the one tool will increasingly become important for planning future cities.
30 Minute cities
An increasingly important concept informing urban planning is that of the 30-minute city, ‘where residents can access employment, education, services and recreational facilities within 30 minutes of home, regardless of where they live’. The concept is based on Marchetti’s constant, which theorises a daily travel budget within which people are happy to travel, but beyond which ‘it becomes a stress on people and it becomes counterproductive’.
Lake Macquarie City Council observed that ‘the concept of the 30-minute city suggests an optimal density for a sustainable city: it must be large enough to provide employment and public services; small and well-serviced enough to allow people to access day to day activities within a reasonable timeframe’. The NSW Government also acknowledged the impact of the concept on urban form, highlighting its incorporation into planning for the Greater Sydney region:
The re-direction of the existing trajectory of Greater Sydney towards the metropolis of three cities will allow land use, transport and other infrastructure to be planned around the three cities, responding to the needs to residents in all parts of Greater Sydney. This approach is consistent with a move to a ‘30 minute city’, which will allow an increasing number of residents to be able to live within 30 minutes by public transport to their nearest city and the services and jobs that they provide.
The Committee for Sydney observed that ‘a 30 Minute City is not yet a reality for all Sydneysiders’. It believed that ‘the 30 minute city symbolises the shift we need to see in transportation policy and planning mindset away from mobility (moving as many people and goods as possible as fast as we can) and towards accessibility (getting where you want to go). It noted, however, that ‘much of our current thinking about transport planning emphasises the reverse’. The ideal of the 30 minute city required an ‘increase effective job density’:
Effective Job Density is measure of the number of jobs accessible to a worker relative to the time taken to get to these jobs, adjusted by the current mode split of those workers in their travel to employment. In short—how many jobs can a worker access from their home by public transport or private vehicle? It is a commonly used proxy measure of the agglomeration economy—and how ‘connected’ into the benefits of the city a person is, as people who live in areas of higher effective job density can access more jobs and the consequent benefits of agglomeration.
The Australasian Railway Association supported ‘the concept of ’30 minute’ cities, particularly in regard to daily workforce commutes’, but also noted that ‘to maximise an individual’s social benefits and ensure quality of life will require further investment to improve public transport services, complimented with demand management’.
Role of public transport
A key factor in reshaping the urban environment is prioritising public transport. Roads Australia stated that ‘public transport alleviates congestion and provides a carbon efficient mechanism to move people beyond reasonable walking and cycling distances’. It also ‘brings people and markets together, and facilitates social inclusion’. Roads Australia believed that ‘the role of Government to minimise the impact of the daily commute and provide reliable and consistent access to public transport services is key to enhancing liveability’. It argued that:
Prioritising national investment in high capacity mass transit systems, and facilitating connectivity to and between regional, rural and metropolitan activity centres, offers vital support to the sustainable eco-system of cities across Australia.
The City of Fremantle stated that ‘a sustainable urban form is largely dependent upon (or at least greatly assisted by) upfront investment in public transport and cycling infrastructure’. It argued that ideally the investment would be made ‘before the first residents move in, thereby ensuring that ‘the best habits are embedded early on’. It noted that:
In Australia it is often the reverse: wait for patronage numbers to rise to justify the public transport investment or cycling numbers to rise to justify bike lanes and infrastructure. The experience from Europe turns this thinking on its head; again in Stevenage New Town cycle ways are a separate system built from the very start of a new neighbourhood.
The City of Fremantle believed that there was ‘a role for federal government to support efforts to change transport behaviour by providing better transport options (not just for private vehicles)’. It proposed ‘capital investment in new services, but also improving existing services and increasing capacity / frequency to meet demands in more dense and sustainable cities’. It also believed that the Commonwealth could ‘influence the issues of transit through targeting infrastructure funding to encourage states in developing and implementing a cohesive transit system and direct money away from road building at both state and federal levels’.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) noted that ‘rail provides the backbone of public transport systems in Australian cities’, and observed that the ‘continued improvement of rail in our cities through technology, infrastructure investment and expansion will increase the service and capacity offering and position rail as a viable alternative to the car’. The ARA stated:
In 2015, private vehicles accounted for 87 per cent of Australia’s total passenger transport task in urban areas. Continuing to clog our roads and cities with vehicles will impact Australia’s economic productivity and gross domestic product (GDP).The Bureau of Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Economics continue to calculate the cost and impact of road congestion. In 2015, time stuck in traffic in Australian cities cost the Australian economy $16.5 billion in lost personal and business time, extra vehicle operating costs and additional transport emissions. Business as usual projections put the cost of congestion at $30 billion in lost productivity by 2030. Public transport, in particular rail is part of the solution. One passenger train takes 525 cars off the road, and a freight train takes 110 trucks off the road. Research shows that building more roads does not reduce congestion, and therefore there is no economic (or social) justification for this approach. In fact increased road traffic can often be a cause of induced demand as opposed to population growth.
The ARA suggested that ‘passenger rail provides extensive access opportunities for people with all levels of ability or inability’, and that ‘integration of all modes of transport so that a seamless transport journey is available and helps position public transport as a viable alternative to the car’. It argued that ‘transport modes must work collaboratively to maximise the service offered to customers’:
There is a need to ensure that the passenger rail sector is effectively integrated with other modes of public transport (buses, ferries), paratransit (taxis, car sharing) and active transport (walking, cycling). Only in this way will passenger rail and other complementary modes of transport provide a seamless, complete mobility package that will drive mode shift from cars to public transport over the longer term.
The ARA noted that ‘public transport has broader benefits beyond reducing road congestion’, stating:
Public transport has broader benefits beyond reducing road congestion. It is proven that public transport is cheaper, safer, and more environmentally responsible and enables older Australians, people with a disability and those in lower socioeconomic situations, to access basic services and reduce their isolation. Australians who travel by public transport are proven to be more active and healthier. Deloitte Access Economics calculated for the ARA that the social benefit for each new rail journey averages $5.70 per individual.
The Committee for Sydney argued that maximising productivity in cities, while ‘promoting spatial and intergenerational inclusion’, could only be achieved ‘by a strategy of modal shift towards public transport/mass transit’.
This is not because we have an ideological preference of one mode over another. It is because as the economy is now shifting decisively to being an urban one based on the benefits of agglomeration economies in the knowledge era, the new challenge becomes to enable large numbers of workers to access such agglomerations without bringing the city to a halt via congestion. When the economy was dispersed transport programs which supported that dispersal—road programs—were most relevant. Now the economy is more concentrated and urban, we need a shift towards modes which service agglomeration. Further, while we believe that this shift is important now to make the city we have work better it is clear to us that the Sydney not of our current 5 million but that of 8 million by 2056 at the latest simply cannot be sustainable on a ‘business as usual for Sydney’ basis.
The Committee for Sydney emphasised that ‘modal shift is required to make our cities more productive, liveable, healthier and equitable for more people notwithstanding the other environmental benefits such a shift brings, including lower emissions’; and that ‘the low-density city is a low productivity city as well as being a low social-mobility city’. It argued that ‘the modern knowledge economy is an agglomeration economy not a dispersed one such as we saw in the manufacturing era’:
This means we need a mass transport network that gets more and more workers to the places where large numbers of knowledge workers are agglomerating. The road network cannot achieve this outcome, and the attempt to do so exacerbates congestion and actually disperses residential development further. Public transport tightens a city up and road programs loosen them. We need to tighten this city up so that as we grow bigger we become a better city. That also means greening this city—not least because a city that grows greener as it grows bigger will command support for growth from a sometimes oppositional community.
Professor Sue Holliday urged a pattern of urban sub-regions, ‘strengthening the employment nodes outside of the CBD, and enhancing a sub-regional transport network, with fast links between sub regional centres, the city will be able to grow in a more sustainable way’. The key was the development of fast rail services linking centres outside the CBD:
In my view we need to think of a metro system as a circular loop connecting people and jobs and providing interchanges to link them to other transit links in the system. This kind of thinking could offer Sydneysiders a real ‘big city’ metro running without timetable every 4 minutes or so.
We have a great opportunity here to move the focus of growth and connectivity west. We can of course have a circular inner metro going through Rozelle as originally conceived and linking the Olympic Park, and Bankstown. It would service those job hubs and distribute people to and from other parts of the system. But for the next stage of Sydney’s development, we should extend that concept through Chatswood, Macquarie Park, Epping and to Parramatta fulfilling the ambition to link Parramatta to the ‘global arc’.
The NSW Government highlighted the Sydney Metro City & Southwest rail link as an example of urban connectivity. It would ‘enable a higher intensity of land use and greater opportunities for transit oriented development’ and ‘facilitate more intense use of the surrounding precincts’. The NSW Government noted that ‘higher density residential areas can improve housing affordability through greater supply, coupled with better access to services and employment, and more liveable, vibrant communities’. It concluded that ‘successful development of international cities is a “virtuous cycle”, where higher living standards draw global talent, attract global businesses and investment, and boost international trade opportunities’.
Active transport—walking and cycling—is another important aspect of connectivity and accessibility in the urban environment. Promoting active living is a key aspect of promoting personal health, and the urban environment underpins—or undermines— people’s ability to use active transport as part of their regular routines.
Professor Anna Timperio, Research Fellow at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University, and Member of the Physical Activity Committee and Future Leader Fellow with the National Heart Foundation of Australia, explained:
The Heart Foundation’s key recommendation to the committee is for the implementation of national urban design policies that enable active living for Australians of all ages and abilities in cities and towns. Currently, 44 per cent of Australian adults and 80 per cent of Australian children don’t do enough physical activity to meet government recommendations and walking and cycling to school is not the norm. The link between physical inactivity and increased cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions is well established, and prevention efforts through active living or building physical activity into daily life is essential to reducing the burden of disease in Australia. Increasing rates of walking and cycling through pedestrian- and cycle-friendly design is an important part of this and can also have other important sustainability benefits via decreased reliance on motorised transport.
There’s widespread recognition that the built environment plays an important role in encouraging or discouraging active living across all age groups. The Heart Foundation has a long history of working with the planning industry to develop evidence based resources to guide policy and practice for developing livable places and spaces that support active living. The Healthy Active by Design resource is an excellent recent example of this.
The National Heart Foundation argued that ‘active living and built environments that support physical activity play a key role in the broader economic and social goals for our nation’. It stated that:
Fit and active workers are more productive, take fewer sick days and make a positive contribution to our economic wellbeing.
Walking, cycling and public transport are affordable and sustainable solutions to traffic congestion.
Cleaner air, reduced carbon emissions and sustainable living.
Active neighbourhoods and cities are more liveable, with higher levels of social capital and community cohesion and lower levels of crime.
Active neighbourhoods and cities enable older Australians to live more independently with reduced risk from disabling falls and costly chronic diseases and stay socially connected.
It also argued that ‘urban environments that support active living tick many of the boxes for quality of life’, such as:
… less congestion, a transport network that is served by active and public transport modes, easy access to workplaces and services, green and open public spaces, local access to healthy food, reduced car dependency, reduced crime, higher social capital and improved air quality.
The National Heart Foundation also observed that ‘the principles for active and sustainable urban environments are applicable in the development of regional centres and planning of regional communities’. It urged that the ‘Healthy Active by Design principles should be incorporated into the development and planning of regional communities so that they can enjoy the health and social benefits of built environments that support active living’. It stated:
Getting the right structures in place from the start is important to create town and neighbourhood centres that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport, provide adequate public open space and create mixed-used neighbourhoods that are pedestrian and bicycle friendly and reduce car dependency. It is more cost-effective to build active infrastructure from the start than having to retrofit existing communities.
The importance of incorporating active travel into urban design was highlighted by Mr Stephen Hodge, Government Relations Manager for the Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation, who observed that more people would cycle for transport ‘if the conditions were safer’:
People’s lack of separation and being forced to ride on busy roads with large amounts of high-speed traffic are key factors that are stopping them riding. We’ve seen that participation in cycling in areas of Sydney that have put in separate bikeways is about double the rate of greater metro Sydney. Probably one of the best results out of that is the number of kids that are now riding to school where there are these cycleways.
Associate Professor Matthew Burke made a similar point, stating:
We also all but wiped out cycling as a transport option by the turn of the Millennium. Our mode shares for cycling fell to some of the lowest in the world at around only 1% though we have seen sharp rises in the inner-cities lately where we have started to invest in cycling infrastructure and demand buildings install end-of-trip facilities for cyclists.
Mr David Rice, a Committee Member of the Sustainable Transport Coalition of WA, observed that the linear nature of road and rail infrastructure could easily present an obstacle to active travel:
… the transport planners that I’ve seen … look at TODs, transit-oriented developments, like beads on a string. You’ve got a railway line, you have got the station, you have got some area around it and so on. The problem with that is that the string is actually either a railway line or a busy road, and it is difficult to get across. Even in a traditional railway line like the one that runs from Perth to Fremantle, which has been there for decades, can be up to 500-metres wide effectively, because you have to walk across to get to a crossing and back again. If it is in the freeway, the freeway can be effectively two or three kilometres wide—it’s only a 100-metre wide reservation, but it’s effectively wider.
Another obstacle to active travel was the question of personal safety of vulnerable members of the community. In its submission, LeadWest stated:
Promotion of active living in the region will be greatly assisted by advances in efforts to address perceived community safety. Studies on subpopulations of women, children, older adults and people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds show a stronger positive correlation between real and perceived danger to personal safety and sedentary lifestyles. Active transport and public transport become more attractive options when they are perceived as safe options. Policies and investments in our region that enable safety, security and crime prevention will contribute to achievement of better community health and wellbeing outcomes.
The benefits of active transport, however, justified the investment in active transport infrastructure. LeadWest stated:
Cycling infrastructure can support de-congestion, complement public transport use, and improve community health and wellbeing with long term population health impacts. Population and transport planning should therefore support connected cycling infrastructure for the western region, including the completion of several significant trails in Melbourne’s West.
Mr Rice also linked cycling to public transport use, observing that ‘it’s so efficient to be able to cycle to public transport or to be able to cycle to an activity centre or a CBD’, and urging that ‘catchment areas for active transport become a formal part of assessing any public transport or any activity centre type of development’.
The Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation highlighted the health benefits of being able to combine regular physical activity with regular travel, stating:
Making active travel and physical activity the norm in communities across the country is a fundamental aspect of this strategy.
87% of participants of the cycle to work scheme we surveyed noticed a health benefit from their more active commute to work. By using the scheme, people are able to make exercise an everyday activity, rather than having to find additional time for it, changing their behaviour and ensuring that exercise becomes part of their daily routine.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) cited a report by the Heart Foundation which:
… identified that public transport users in metropolitan Melbourne average 28 minutes walking to and from public transport each day, plus six minutes walking for other purposes. In contrast, car travellers average only six minutes in total. Just 2,000 steps a day can lead to an eight per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease. 4,000 steps a day can lead to an 18 per cent reduction making those extra minutes very valuable.
The Committee for Sydney observed that:
Recent academic research in Australia has modelled the impact of urban planning on health, measuring a compact city model against a sprawled one, to assess the impacts of policy changes by governments in 6 cities around the world. The results are directly applicable to Sydney and the message is clear: people who live in higher density neighbourhoods tend to walk more, cycle more and use public transport more often. In contrast, suburban sprawl discourages active transport—walking and cycling. The study revealed that a concerted policy effort to encourage compact cities (through major infill densification) results in significant health gains.
It argued that ‘major land-use changes are needed to promote density and diversity of uses to encourage a modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport’, and that ‘Local and State Government should consider policies that encourage active and public transport as a major health and environment policy, not just a transport or planning one’.
Roads Australia argued that ‘for all new city infrastructure and property developments, upgrades and renewals, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure should be mandatory component of the planning approval process and be represented completely in project scope where practicable’. It urged that ‘higher relevance should be given to the enhancement of national public health, road safety and completing community access to an active travel network that integrates with existing city public transport networks’.
Queensland Walks urged that ‘federal funding of transport projects should always include walking links (where appropriate)’. It argued that ‘fringe benefits for company cars and novated leases encourage wasteful car use, especially when other modes exist’, and suggested that either the tax breaks be removed,’ or these benefits extended to more sustainable and walk-friendly modes of transport, such as public transport and cycling’. It urged the collection of data about walking and the development of a national walking strategy ‘to improve the walking environment everywhere’.
The GBCA noted that it had incorporated active transport into its environmental ratings system, stating:
The Green Star Communities ‘Healthy & Active Living’ credit rewards projects that provide footpaths and bicycle paths, spaces for bicycle parking at train stations and major bus stops. It also rewards projects that feature parks and sporting facilities. The ‘Walkable Access to Amenities’ credit encourages and recognises projects that have walkable access to diverse number of amenities that reflect the predicted demographic of the projects whilst the ‘Sustainable Transport and Movement’ credit encourages and recognises integrated responses to transport and movement that encourage a people-focussed hierarchy.
A range of transport innovations were presented to the committee with the potential to significantly change the way we move about the urban environment. Some, like ridesharing and carsharing, are already with us; others, like electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, are starting to make their presence felt. Rapid changes in technology—such as the development of the Internet of Things—are already transforming travel and have the potential to achieve much more. The critical question is whether governments are ready to respond to the opportunities and challenges being presented by transport innovation.
Electric vehicles have the potential to bring health and environmental benefits, and are starting to change transport policy internationally. Mr Ashley Brinson, Executive Director of The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, stated
Internationally, many governments, especially city governments, are considering the effects of air quality on urban populations, especially in densely populated cities, at ground-level neighbourhoods where automobile tailpipe emissions affect the population. We are increasingly aware that the neighbourhoods most affected are socially and economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These health effects are in addition to the carbon dioxide global warming case to decarbonise transport.
He noted that since the Warren Centre had made its submission to the inquiry, a number of governments had made announcements regarding the phasing out of petrol driven vehicles.
Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) urged that, ‘to assist in addressing emissions reduction targets, drivers should be actively encouraged to adopt electric vehicles through incentives such as subsidies, lane priorities, and charging stations’. It noted that ‘the switch to electric vehicles will be a long process, so strong exhaust emission standards will need to be enforced to ensure environmental sustainability for private motor vehicles’.
The Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action stated that ‘the Federal Government has a critical role to play in growing the industry for electric vehicles and other low emissions vehicles, through a combination of incentives and standards’, and highlighted examples of local action in support of electric vehicles in Melbourne. It noted:
Electric vehicles suffer from a demand-infrastructure conundrum, as there is little incentive for people to buy EVs until there is appropriate supportive infrastructure, while those that may be willing to invest in the infrastructure will hold back until there is enough vehicles on the road to support the investment. Industry analysis suggests that in other jurisdictions where EV uptake is strong, such as Copenhagen and California, success has been underpinned by legislation and government incentives to reduce emissions.
The EDOs of Australia noted that ‘while Australia is one of the sunniest countries in the world, electric vehicles have very low penetration compared with Northern Europe, the UK and some parts of the United States’. It argued that ‘Australia should seize its strategic advantages to plan an electric, renewable-powered transport network’.
Mr Brinson noted that ‘more international standards are being made to allow a more rapid progress up the economy-of-scale curve with the more cars that are made’, and that as ‘each manufacturer’s product becomes more standardised and similar, there’s greater competition and there’s greater interchangeability and prices will continue to fall’. He believed that in the next decade or so, ‘an electric vehicle will be just as cheap as the capital cost of a petroleum-driven vehicle’.
The switch to electric vehicles also demanded the development of relevant infrastructure, especially for recharging. The Downer Group observed that:
Smart cities will also support electricity and renewable energy operated cars. “Plug-in” ready cities will facilitate the expansion of a Public Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure that ensures the safe, reliable, and efficient integration of EV charging loads with the power grid.
It recommended the creation of ‘city infrastructure benefiting from renewable energy and facilitating continued uptake of electric vehicles’.
Alongside electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles have the capacity to transform road transport. Roads Australia observed that ‘new forms of shared and automated mobility will offer cities on-demand transport services for inner and outer suburban communities’. It suggested that ‘outer suburban and city fringe growth areas where mass transit services are not as frequent stand to benefit the most’, with ‘infrequent bus services’ being ‘replaced to save cost’. Roads Australia also anticipated that the introduction of automated vehicles would ‘ encourage a review of the size, shape and development of city roads to use less road space, use varied materials and re-align the streetscape to accommodate all road users safely’. This would ‘have a profound impact on road design and how roads interact with city spaces’.
ATSE also stressed the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles, stating:
The predicted increase in uptake of electric and driverless vehicles in the coming decades will necessitate a change in road and parking infrastructure. In particular, uptake of driverless vehicles has the potential to reduce car park space requirements in cities, reduce infrastructure requirements, increase road safety, decrease road fatalities, increase mobility, and improve traffic flow. The space freed up from revision of the transport system to incorporate autonomous transport could be devoted to footpaths, bike paths, and increasing green spaces. Adapting to these changes in transport will require integrated land use and transportation planning through coherent and consistent policies.
The Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action made a similar point, observing that:
With careful planning, this technology has the potential to contribute to the reduction of transport-based emissions through the creation of a more efficient and integrated transport system. In this scenario, autonomous vehicles would require less on-road space and off-street parking as they would be in near constant motion; this, in turn, could free up currently under-resourced land for other uses such as increased housing and open spaces.
It warned, however, that without careful planning and policy development, ‘there is a danger that autonomous vehicles could increase on-road congestion as they compete with public transport’. It suggested that ‘Federal-backed research and guidance could assist Australian city planners in responding effectively and sustainably to this emerging technology’.
Mr Brian Haratsis, Chairman of MacroPlan Dimasi, also warned of the threat of autonomous vehicles to the road system—that unless they were properly integrated into the transport network they would actually increase private vehicle use. He told the Committee:
The whole point of automated vehicles is that we need to integrate them with public transport in Australia from day one. Failure to do that means it will be another freeway-building era. There’s no doubt about it.
Likewise, Professor Sue Holiday stated that ‘autonomous vehicles will only work with a very good transport system. All the literature and pilots that have been done around the world so far indicate that. So, we have to invest in public transport, even if we have autonomous vehicles.’
Carsharing company GoGet cited modelling ‘undertaken on behalf of the Queensland Department of Main Roads’ which demonstrated that ‘a future in which autonomous vehicles are privately owned and operated similar to vehicles today is likely to be the worst possible outcome’, with ‘reduced patronage on public transport, while increasing urban sprawl and congestion’. It proposed integrating autonomous vehicles with ‘shared mobility and the rise of a “sharing” culture’, suggesting that ‘the best autonomous roadmap will require the scaling and wide uptake of existing shared mobility options’.
Another aspect of automation that needs to be considered is its technological requirements. Mr Tim Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for Sydney, observed that ‘you can’t do electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles without a big fibre backbone’; while Roads Australia highlighted the need for ubiquitous technology to make connected and automated transport systems work. It advised that ‘the need to connect, share and automate transport and city services will rely heavily on the exchange of data between individuals, and public and private enterprise’.
Dr Jed Horner, Policy Manager with Standards Australia, emphasised the importance of developing technology and standards around the use of autonomous vehicles to make them effective. He stated:
The other thing I would mention is, if we look at autonomous vehicles, standardising line markings. So across Australia there’s different terminology we use, in terms of the investments we make in infrastructure, and that cascades down even to the markings we have on roads. So it is making sure that, if we’re going to onboard autonomous vehicles—and that’s happening at a state and federal level, those trials, those testbeds—let’s make sure we’ve got that infrastructure right, and a standards-based approach works in that respect.
The benefits of automation would not just apply to cars, however. Public transport was set to be transformed as well. The Australasian Railway Association observed that:
To maximise the service offering on existing rail networks, modern technologies and integrated systems such as automated train control, intelligent transport solutions and asset management tools will allow operators to run trains closer together while increasing safety and infrastructure capacity to accommodate patronage growth, current and forecast.
On the other hand, Mr Michael Apps, Executive Director of the Bus Industry Confederation, observed that automation made it possible for buses to compete directly with rail:
Autonomy is going to drive a whole different outcome … platooning bus seats, or platooning vehicles that operate on a dedicated route but have the capacity to hive off to service individual suburbs or whatever. Inefficient rail lines within cities that are not the major mass trunk systems might be retaken and the reverse might be done; they might be re-bitumened.
Ridesharing is another innovation transforming urban travel. Roads Australia viewed ride-sharing as ‘an efficient first and last mile extension to complement existing public transport networks’, and suggested that ‘with increased population growth ride-sharing increases capacity of existing infrastructure’. It proposed that governments ‘remove any remaining regulatory barriers to this innovative mobility option early, to enhance the advantages of the shared economy and benefit from increased ability to move people in and around cities sooner’. It also urged creating ‘appropriate planning frameworks with key principles to integrate public transport into a new shared mobility network’, to ‘better network connections in metropolitan and regional cities’. It noted that in the United States, governments ‘subsidise ride-hailing and ride-sharing services to key customers to reduce cost and improve customer service’.
Uber is the principle ride-sharing company in urban Australia. It argued that its technology ‘has the power to transform the way we think about transport, infrastructure and urban development, and improve urban mobility and the quality of life for people living in cities around the world’. It also suggested that ‘ridesharing complements and extends the reach of public transport, and for the first time, makes carpooling a reality at scale, reducing congestion and emissions’. It observed that:
In Australia, over 60 percent of Uber trips start or end in a public transport desert. And almost half of all trips are one-way, implying that for some suburbs, for at least part of the day, public transport is unavailable to cover either the outbound or return leg. In this way, ridesharing complements public transport where reliable service is unavailable. Ridesharing provides a flexible and scalable solution to the ‘last mile’ problem, connecting riders from their door to a transport hub.
Uber noted that ‘some governments are already exploring how other models of shared transport can positively impact urban mobility’, citing the example of a New South Wales proposal for an ‘on demand transport trial’. Uber believed that ‘at scale, on demand services like this have the capacity to dramatically increase the efficiency of existing public transport networks’. Uber also referenced its UberPOOL service, a carpooling service, which ‘makes it easy for people headed in the same direction at the same time to share the journey, getting more people in fewer cars’. It cited an OECD report which ‘predicted that such a model would result in congestion disappearing, a 33 percent reduction in traffic emissions, and that the distance driven by shared cars would be 37 percent less than today, even during peak hours’.
Uber, believed that the ‘cities of the future will be moved by shared, self-driving technology and will as a result be less congested, less polluted, and more affordable and accessible for everyone’. Benefits of shared, self-driving rides included:
Significant safety benefits, with 1.3 million people dying each year as a result of car crashes, 94 percent of which are due to human error.
Models built by the International Transport Forum (ITF) demonstrate that a city that moves to a shared, self-driving future will require a vehicle fleet less than 10 percent its current size.
Self-driving vehicles will be able to operate at higher efficiency than today’s cars, which sit parked 96 percent of the time. Increased utility rates will lead to a subsequent decrease in the requirement for car parking, which in turn will mean more land to develop into commercial, residential and public spaces.
Because of the more intense utilisation and more rapid fleet turnover, the adoption of self-driving vehicles will enable faster adoption of electric vehicles. Because of these factors, a Berkeley study estimated that the use of self-driving technology in combination with electric vehicle technology could help reduce emissions per vehicle mile by more than 90 percent.
Research conducted by University of Texas has indicated that 100 percent adoption of self-driving vehicles could lead to cost savings of $1.4 trillion per year in avoided car crashes, productivity gains and reduced congestion delays.
Carsharing is a model of transport where drivers pay for access to vehicles on a subscription basis rather than owning or renting them. The vehicles are provided by the service provider at predetermined locations leased by the service provider. Vehicles are booked, driven, and returned to their original location. GoGet, a carsharing company, characterised carsharing as ‘“the missing link” within our transport system, allowing residents and business to increasingly live car-free’. It stated that:
Reducing car ownership should be an important strategic goal to set as the ownership of a private vehicle is one of the greatest barriers to increased uptake of alternative modes of transport. Because of its convenience and perceived low cost per trip (although in truth much of the actual cost of owning a car is hidden) the private car is often used for trips which would otherwise best be suited to walking, cycling or public transport. As such car ownership is perhaps the greatest inhibitor of a wider modal shift towards more efficient and sustainable transport patterns. In contrast by revealing the true cost of each trip, carsharing effectively acts as an opt-in road pricing scheme and therefore incentivises users to shift trips to public transport and walking/cycling, resulting in a healthier modal split and overall transport system than would otherwise occur.
GoGet cites examples of cities where carsharing was being incorporated into transport models, such as San Francisco, Vancouver and Port Phillip in Melbourne. Regarding the latter, GoGet stated:
The city of Port Phillip has recently endorsed a new Carsharing Policy for their local area. This policy has been the first of its kind in Australia to fully integrate the council's carsharing policy within the overall long terms strategic goals of the area. This has resulted in a policy which is well considered, but also ambitious by setting an overall target of halting the growth of the residential private car fleet at 2015 levels despite significant expected population growth. Council worked closely with operators including GoGet on the formulation of this policy, to determine what was feasible for both operators and council, as well as the needs of carshare members and the wider community. GoGet supports this policy and believes it is a good example of Australian ‘best practice’.
GoGet urged that carsharing be incorporated into government thinking and planning on transport, recommending that:
… the Commonwealth Government should take the lead in this space and stipulate that future Infrastructure, Transport and Urban Development projects in our cities which receive Federal funding or support, must demonstrate some level of consideration around shared mobility integration. The flow on effect of such a mandate is likely to ensure that even noncommonwealth funded projects, consider shared transport in their planning.
It also recommended that governments look at carsharing as a way of managing their own vehicle use and the manner in which they incentivised private car use. GoGet encouraged the Commonwealth Government:
… to investigate how they can instead develop policies and regulations to ‘level the playing field’ and ensure shared transport services are able to effectively compete against private car ownership. Such an approach could examine how existing regulations around policy/taxation it ems such as Fuel Excise, Company Tax, GST and others are inhibiting the development of this new industry. We also think there is an opportunity for Government to use changes in regulation and tax incentives to encourage the growth and uptake of shared mobility services by individuals and organisations.
The benefit of taking steps to ‘future proof’ our cities on this front would also, of course, have benefits in the here and now as shared transport , such as carsharing, has been shown to have direct and important impacts on improving both the efficiency and sustainability of our cities, and on their economic competitiveness.
Associate Professor Hussein Dia emphasised the importance of incorporating ride sharing and car sharing into planning frameworks and policy objectives. He stated:
A package of measures, collectively known as the “avoid, shift and improve” approach, have been proposed over the past 12 years as necessary policy instruments to achieve sustainable transport improvements. This framework was proposed with the aim of (1) avoiding motorised travel when possible; (2) shift travel to more efficient modes; and increase the energy efficiency of vehicles, fuel technologies and maximising the utilisation of existing infrastructure. The framework has recently been extended to include the recent developments in car-sharing and ride-sharing services (Figure 1). Recent evidence suggests that these collaborative mobility-on-demand services have started to influence car ownership models and are reducing the total number of vehicles required to meet people’s demand for travel. In the case of ridesharing, there is also increasing evidence that ‘car-pooling’ types of ridesharing services are increasingly being introduced in cities around the world and resulting in substantial benefits in terms of reductions in the total number of vehicle-kilometres of travel and reducing emissions and pollutions. Together, these policies can help to achieve significant reductions in emissions, while also addressing urban transport issues such as congestion and access to services and employment. The key characteristics of these policies are outlined next.
The Internet of Things
Improved urban connectivity does not rely just on particular new technologies or transport modes. Increasingly, according to Downer Group, it will depend on the combination of new technologies and their interaction with each other. Downer Group stated that ‘liveability can be enhanced by encouraging high-quality and innovative energy efficient public transport, including integration between all transport modes and active mobility solutions’. It noted that ‘critical to achieving liveability will be smarter mobility that can be classified into three major areas: sustainable transport, connected transport, inclusive transport’. Looking at how citizens would move around in this sustainable, connected and inclusive ‘smart city’, Downer Group observed that:
A commuter’s day begins not with an alarm set for their usual wake up time, but instead they will be woken at the time required for their best journey plan for that day.
Depending on where they live and work, the resident of a smart city will be woken up earlier if their usual route they drive to work is undergoing road works or facing expected delays from a incident on the road. They won’t be tuning in to the traffic report, it will be tuning in to them, advising them of best they should travel that day.
If commuters need to allow extra time due to disruptions on their personalised route, then their alarm will automatically go off earlier to allow them more time.
Commuters may also be advised of an alternative route and/or mode of transport to get to work that day.
Within this scenario, commuters would be given various transport options—bicycle, carpooling, optimum route by car, or optimum route by public transport.
Downer Group highlighted other advances in smart cities:
Smart cities will also support electricity and renewable energy operated cars. “Plug-in” ready cities will facilitate the expansion of a Public Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure that ensures the safe, reliable, and efficient integration of EV charging loads with the power grid.
Additional investment in hydrogen refuelling stations to be incorporated as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles increase in usage over the coming years.
With additional commuters accessing the public transport network on the road, the signalling system would prioritise the city’s trams and trains.
Sensors would monitor for bottlenecks or other disruptions and intelligently adjust the signals for traffic lights and level crossings. Autonomous vehicles use real time traffic information to adapt to the best routes that keeps traffic moving. Automated monitoring will better manage traffic flow across the network in real time.
With smart street lighting, at night LED lights will dim when there are no cars or people on the street. The inbuilt CCTV cameras monitor safety and traffic incidents using Artificial Intelligence.
Networked Building Management Systems (BMS), system will manage cooling, heating, and lighting use when areas are not being utilised, and accommodate utility companies demand side power management by widening temperature set points, during peak demand.
Advanced vehicle monitoring supports asset tracking and predictive maintenance by actively monitoring vehicle measures such as overheating, tire pressure, passenger loads.
Downer Group noted that ‘long term integrated and coordinated planning is the key to planning more sustainable cities’; and argued that ‘we need to look at infrastructure from a holistic perspective, looking at how we can leverage one piece of infrastructure to support others, plan for infrastructure to match population growth and ensure we leverage appropriate technologies’. It made the following recommendations:
1. Increased utilisation of technology in infrastructure and services for improved asset management.
2. Mobility as a service, with multi modal connectivity in transport allowing seamless and fully informed choice by commuters.
3. City infrastructure benefiting from renewable energy and facilitating continued uptake of electric vehicles.
4. Grow public transport infrastructure to support ongoing reduction of traditional car ownership models, with the change to mobility as a service model.
The Australasian Railway Association observed that transport operators are already ‘embracing new technologies to improve existing infrastructure resilience and effectiveness and the customer experience’:
Mobile applications that use real time data made publically available by operators are increasingly providing customers as well as station staff with access to real time information on the service and any unplanned disruptions. Better data usage will drive greater productivity in service delivery and assist in identifying and implementing improvement opportunities.
Technology, social media and improved service delivery of travel has had a significant positive impact on patronage and customer experience.
While technologies can assist in optimising the service offered by existing infrastructure, expansion and upgrades to infrastructure is still a vital piece of the puzzle in meeting the needs of our growing population.
Operators continue to improve fuel usage and energy efficiency to decrease operating costs and improve environmental performance. Continued Government support of these programs will ensure sustained improvement in this space.
Roads Australia highlighted the importance of data collection and management to transport connectivity, stating:
Connected cloud-based information offers improved value-added services for city customers, however there is a need to define what information can be collected, harvested, used and shared for public benefit.
A consistent set of principles that guide decision-making around the nature of government access to open data sharing and security would offer clear direction as to how the nation wishes to protect its citizens, and enhance their city/urban living experiences.
The University of Melbourne highlighted the way that new transport technologies—‘connectedness of modes, shared forms of mobility, mobility-as-a-service’—would be able ‘to contribute to the objectives of sustainable access and mobility by complementing enhanced mass transit for infra-city and inter-city travel’, and argued that ‘infrastructure investment needs to reflect this opportunity’. It stated:
Emerging social technologies in particular have the potential to fill the gap in areas facing a transport infrastructure deficit. They can improve access and mobility immediately and reduce private car use and dependency. Such technologies should cater for shared mobility that is deeply integrated in public transport. The integration should be delivered by mobility-as-a-service technologies, integrating the hierarchy of modes down to the last kilometre, and explicitly including private shared forms of mobility such as ride-, car-, or bike-sharing.
This mobility-as-a-service technology, which increasingly must serve a sharing economy as well, needs to consider micro-cost sharing models, and trust measures. Neither of these are required for traditional transport, and thus are not considered in commercial mobility-as-a-service solutions.
The IoT Alliance Australia urged a strong and positive response to emerging technology and systems, stating that governments should ‘aggressively pursue’ funding for new models of transport, ‘including Mobility as a Service, autonomous vehicles and EV charging stations as well as investigate the land-use and behavioural implications that new business models will have on the future of our communities’. It also urged investigating and prioritising those areas likely to have the biggest economic impact, drawing on international experience.
Promoting and managing innovation
Acknowledging innovation is one thing; actively promoting and adopting it another. The University of Melbourne observed that:
Increasingly, cities in transition are being shaped by emergent technologies that require immediate regulatory planning responses to avoid inefficiencies due to ad-hoc and post-hoc legislation. One example of this is new transport technologies (autonomous, connected and shared), which are already beginning to disrupt twentieth-century models of transport provision and modelling.
The Australasian Railway Association observed, however, that ‘politicians, regulators and procurers need to be mindful when developing legislation, design specifications and standards, that they are not too prescriptive to inadvertently restrict innovation and the most optimal operational outcomes’. The principle role of government was to support innovation to sustain improvement.
Standards Australia emphasised that governments had a clear role in facilitating innovation by setting targets, and seeking standardisation and interoperability of technology. Dr Jed Horner, Policy Manager with Standards Australia, observed that currently there was a tendency in Australia to develop policy on connected issues in isolation, stating:
So we take electric vehicles, which is simultaneously a question about mobility and infrastructure—bracket that off. Then we have another discussion about smart lighting, which is on the horizon, where there are already standards and where we need to have a discussion and move on. And then we have another separate discussion on IOT standardisation—another silo. So, at the end of the day, when other countries are adopting a more coherent approach, we are breaking it off into our clusters and silos. I wonder where that will get us in five years’ time. Indeed, we did some of these road maps years ago, but the action has been slower in uptake and execution.
Dr Horner highlighted the example of Singapore, which had adopted ‘a cohesive approach to building a smart city’ through its Smart Nation program. Standards Australia suggested that ‘detailed standards mapping, which is future-focused and places the unique needs of Australian cities first, can unlock further benefits for the Australian community, improving mobility, ensuring interoperability and supporting social sustainability’. It recommended that the Australian Government ‘make strategic investments in the development of a connected cities blueprint, to complement the work already underway through the Cities Framework’. It proposed a staged process, encompassing three activities:
1. Thought leadership involving all sectors and resulting in a sophisticated blueprint of minimum requirements for a connected Australian city;
2. The development of a standards roadmap for Australia, identifying the work that needs to be undertaken in each sector to unlock the benefits of a connected Australian city; and;
3. Detailed standards development work in strategic priority areas (for example, infrastructure and ICT) to enable learnings from proof of concept trials, for example, to be reflected in the development of standards.
Using the example of ride sharing, Associate Professor Dia highlighted the need for policy makers and regulators to effectively engage with innovation:
Policy and decision makers in many cities around the world are still struggling to regulate these new business models which are increasingly playing a crucial role in people’s mobility in cities. Yet, these services are still considered illegal in many cities and blunt policy instruments are used to discourage rather than support disruptive modes of transport that have potential to curb private vehicle use. By improving or introducing regulatory policies that support innovations in transport provision, policy makers can increase transport system efficiency, improve the quality of transport services while influencing the shift to more efficient travel modes.
Transport connectivity is an essential element of the development of cities. It defines the urban form, determines accessibility to employment and services, and has significant economic, environmental, social and health implications. Indeed, the private car, with all its attendant benefits and costs, has defined the urban form for the last 60 years. Creating a more sustainable urban form will involve developing more sustainable forms of connectivity.
The evidence presented to the Committee indicates that cities require fast, efficient, reliable and accessible public transport networks, integrated with various forms of active travel, in order to be sustainable. The ideal is the 30-minute city, where residents can access employment, education, services and recreational facilities within 30 minutes of home, regardless of where they live. This is consistent with a denser pattern of urban settlement, the development of polycentric cities and the agglomeration of industry and employment (see Chapter 3).
The need to enhance public transport has been a theme of several parts of this report. High speed rail has been presented as an answer to the need to promote connectivity at a national level and promote a redistribution of population and employment. Similarly, fast and reliable mass transit has the potential to transform the urban environment at a local and city level. Rail is seen by many as a key element of this change, although it was also emphasised that other forms of mass transit, such as light rail and buses, had a vital role. Indeed, it was observed that buses retained an inherent advantage of flexibility that fixed rail modes lacked.
The Committee is of the view that regardless of the transport mode chosen for any given space, it must be part of an integrated network of optimum solutions designed to promote the highest achievable level of connectivity and accessibility. In most localities, a mix of modes will provide the optimum outcome.
It is also important to incorporate active travel into location and transport network design. The social and health benefits of walking and cycling were identified by a range of stakeholders. Walking and cycling have natural synergies with public transport, and these should be exploited to their fullest in the design of public transport networks and related spaces. Once again, integration of different transport modes is seen as the key to success. It was emphasised, however, that the uptake of active transport was dependent on the creation of safe and appropriate spaces. Pedestrian and cycle access within and between precincts needs to be part of the original design, not an afterthought, and safety has to be a paramount consideration. Cycling, in particular, has to cater for a range of user levels. While road access is often essential for commuter cycling, recreational cycling by younger and older age groups is best served by separation from motor traffic. Cycling is best facilitated by high levels of both on- and off-road access.
Technological innovation has played, is playing, and will continue to play a significant role in the development of urban transport connectivity. Ride-sharing and carsharing in conjunction with the development of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles have the potential to revolutionise car use, making it much more efficient at using space and resources and significantly reducing its environmental impacts. Achieving these benefits will require effective policies and the development of ubiquitous technology in the urban environment.
Autonomous vehicles will be at their optimum efficiency if they are part of a technologically enhanced environment and used as shared transport within an integrated transport network. The nightmare scenario is high levels of personal ownership of vehicles that spend much of their time on the road without transporting anyone anywhere. The ideal is a fleet of shared vehicles transporting people between mass transit nodes more or less on demand, significantly reducing the need for individual vehicles, the fuel to power them or the places to park them.
To gain the benefits of technological developments, governments must embrace innovation and actively facilitate it through legislation and regulation.
Transport connectivity has the power to transform the urban environment. The Committee is of the view that in order for this transformation to take place, governments must:
Commit to a more sustainable model of urban transport connectivity than currently exists.
Actively promote investment in the development of a public transport network that is capable of meeting the goal of the 30-minute city.
Actively plan for and promote the integration of active transport within the transport network.
Ensure that transport infrastructure planning is consistent with planning for a more sustainable urban form and conforms to integrated planning at local, regional and city levels.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, as part of the system of master planning under the national plan of settlement, ensure that governments at all levels:
Commit to a more sustainable model of urban transport connectivity than currently exists.
Actively promote investment in the development of a public transport network that is capable of meeting the goal of the 30-minute city.
Actively plan for and promote the integration of active transport within the transport network.
Ensure that transport infrastructure planning is consistent with planning for a more sustainable urban form and conforms to integrated planning at local, regional and city levels.
The freight task is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, with significant implications for urban planning and development. Ports Australia cited Australian Government figures which show that ‘the total road freight task in all capital cities is forecast to increase by two-thirds between 2008 and 2030, from 40.15 billion tonne kilometres (tkm) to 66.60 billion tkm’. This represented ‘an average growth rate of 2.33 per cent per annum, outstripping the current population growth of around 1.5 per cent per annum’. Another perspective on this was placed before the Committee by the Hon Michael Gallacher, Chief Executive Officer of Ports Australia, who stated:
To put that into perspective, Australia's shipping container freight movement is expected to grow by 165 per cent over the same period. Non-containerised freight is projected to grow by 138 per cent over the same period. Currently, the overwhelming majority of containerised freight will be delivered to one of the four major capital city ports—Melbourne, Port Botany, Brisbane and Fremantle—with Sydney and Melbourne accounting for around 70 per cent of containerised freight. In total, the domestic freight task of the nation—that is, moving freight around the country, which includes exports and imports, natural resources, shipping containers, bulky goods such as machinery, imported motor vehicles, agricultural goods and general cargo, to name a few—in 2016 totalled 738 billion tonne kilometres. Fifteen per cent of this was moved by coastal shipping, 56 per cent was moved by rail and 29 per cent was moved by road. Of those figures, rail's contribution over the last 25 years to moving the domestic freight task has grown by 210 per cent; road has grown by 61 per cent; coastal shipping has grown by one per cent.
While much of the evidence around transport connectivity focused on passenger movement, the evidence presented to the Committee also highlighted the importance of freight movement to economic wellbeing, and the importance of integrating freight and logistics into urban planning.
Mr Kerry Corke, a policy consultant with the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) expressed concern that ‘the movement of our freight in our cities is often overlooked’. He argued that it was ‘economically and socially vital that freight be able to be transported around our cities efficiently’, noting that ‘the essential items most Australians take for granted, such as food, household appliances, clothing, medication and cars, are generally not grown or manufactured close to the cities in which most of us live’. Likewise, Associate Professor Russell Thompson, a transport engineering expert at the University of Melbourne stated:
Freight transport in capital cities is of national importance since our capital cities are the engine of our economy and freight is considered to be the economy in motion. Australia’s capital cities are growing fast resulting in increased road freight movements. This is leading to health and safety problems. Low levels of consolidation led by the rise of e-Commerce (eg. B2C and B2B) and logistics sprawl is threatening the efficiency, reliability and sustainability of freight movements in Australia capital cities. The Federal Government needs to become more active in freight related planning in capital cities to address these issues.
His submission highlighted a range of key issues relating to urban freight where the Australian Government could ‘contribute towards our capital cities becoming more sustainable’:
1. Protecting major freight terminals and key freight areas
2. Planning intermodal terminals and public logistics terminals
3. Planning and managing freight routes
4. Promoting uniform noise & emissions standards for freight vehicles
5. Providing incentives for High Productivity Vehicles and (HPVs) and Low Emission Vehicles (LEVs)
6. Promoting new infrastructure such as Urban Consolidation Centres (UCCs) and shared parcel lockers
7. Providing a clearinghouse for freight data
8. Developing models for evaluating changes in land use policy and transport infrastructure projects.
One of the key issues identified in the evidence presented to the Committee was the need to protect freight facilities from urban encroachment. Professor Thompson highlighted the problem and its impacts on the supply chain:
There is a need to ensure that major freight terminals and key freight areas within capital cities are protected and not threatened by encroachment or redevelopment. Freight terminals and key freight areas are vital for ensuring that freight can flow efficiently in and around our capital cities.
Logistics sprawl is occurring in our capital cities where inner areas that were traditionally used for freight and logistics activities are being redeveloped for commercial and residential use. This creates a huge increase in the number of freight trips within our capital cities. There is a trend for warehousing and processing sites to locate on the fringe of cities. This leads to extra trucks trips to and from ports to warehouses in the outer areas to service the growing populations in inner and central city areas.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) also noted that ‘urban encroachment is one of the greatest challenges affecting the longer term operation of freight infrastructure’, and argued that ‘a truly safe and efficient supply chain needs to be able to operate round-the-clock, so that freight movement is able to occur at all times and operators can take advantage of off-peak road traffic volumes’. It observed, however, that ‘current trends in planning policy tend to favour the interests of residential development over freight efficiency’, resulting in ‘lost economic opportunities and, very often, higher costs for freight operators’. The ALC highlighted the case of Port Botany, where increasing residential development around the port was creating conflict between the port and residents. ALC was concerned that ‘the political response invariably results in decisions that favour residents over freight operators—despite the fact that the port was there long before the residents were’, and observed that one flow-on effect of this development was the ‘increasing scarcity of industrial land available to unload and redistribute freight’. The ALC argued that ‘too often, inadequate planning processes produce situations where the full economic potential of a newly-constructed piece of transport infrastructure is placed at risk’. Mr Kerry Corke, a policy consultant with the Australian Logistics Council, observed the tension between urban densification and freight access. He stated:
The compact city is also an increasing planning refrain, as is the need to bring jobs closer to where people live. But if this is to be a reality, infrastructure such as ports and airports as well as the logistics facilities within employment lands must be able to work with maximum efficiency if those jobs for the future are to be available.
Mr Corke emphasised that:
For cities to be sustainable, all forms of industry must be able to thrive near population centres if employment opportunities are not to be pushed to the fringes of the city. If you do that, you create commutes. With commutes, you create congestion. So there have to be sensible planning instruments put in place to ensure that there are sufficient buffers between residential zones and transport infrastructure so that efficiency and employment continuity can coexist in harmony with residential amenity. The same applies to transport corridors.
It was, Mr Corke stated, essential to get this right, because ‘between 15,000 and 18,000 jobs, for instance, are intrinsically linked to both Port Botany and Sydney airport’.
Mr Duncan Sheppard, General Manager, Freighted Contractors, for the Australasian Railway Association, also urged governments to beware of the risks of encroachment. He stated:
I think it’s also important to point out that from a freight perspective as well care and caution has to be given when it comes to densification around urban freight lines. Whilst there is a valid argument for value capture mechanisms to support the construction of infrastructure and train facilities, significant care has to be given when there is urban encroachment and densification around freight facilities—not just freight lines but also intermodal facilities—that that urban densification doesn’t impact on the ability of freight facilities to operate 24/7.
Managing freight movement
The need to better manage the movement of freight was also highlighted in the evidence before the Committee. This includes identifying and facilitating more efficient transport of freight through different transport modes, and managing the conflict between freight and passenger transport. Associate Professor Russell Thompson urged a focus in intermodal facilities and a greater emphasis on rail:
A network of intermodal and public logistics terminals needs to be planned to reduce the amount of road freight movement in our capital cities. Currently a large number of container movements between industrial areas and ports are undertaken by truck. Rail can be used to transport containers efficiently in urban areas. There are however, serious issues associated with access to rail networks and terminals as well as planning and managing adjoining facilities. The Federal Governments needs to ensure that the benefits of rail freight can be exploited in capital cities to improve sustainability.
He also identified a need for ‘public logistics terminals to be established where goods can be consolidated to reduce the amount of empty running and increase load factors’. This could ‘dramatically reduce the number of truck movements in our capital cities’. He argued that ‘due to the economic importance of major freight routes in capital cities the Federal Government needs to become more involved in ensuring that they are adequately planned and managed’. He stated that ‘vital links between key freight areas and terminals require long term planning and investment’. He also observed that there was a significant problem around freight movement and toll roads, stating:
High tolls for trucks are leading to a large number of freight vehicles avoiding toll facilities which is creating significant externalities (costs borne by non-users), including social problems (such as safety and noise) and environmental problems (especially emissions) that are impacting communities in Australia capital cities.
Most carriers cannot pass toll costs onto shippers or 3rd party brokers and tolls increase the company’s overall transport costs. Many carriers have a limited ability to absorb additional toll costs, so they pass these costs onto the shipper or receivers. This adds to the price of goods and affects the competitiveness of our exports.
Toll rates are typically determined by distance (not travel time) and there is little discrimination on the type of freight vehicle and the utilisation of the weight and volume capacity of vehicles. Incorporating these factors would make a stronger link between tolls charged, road maintenance costs and efficiency. There is also a reluctance to explore discounts during off-hours that would encourage more large trucks to use toll roads in Australian capital cities at night.
Professor Thomson urged ‘more uniform and higher standards relating to the noise and emissions produced by freight vehicles’; and incentives established to promote ‘the uptake of innovative and low emission vehicles’.
Mr Ian Bell, Director of Financial-Architects.Asia, was also a proponent of rail over road for freight movement. He argued that the development of high-speed rail lines would free existing rail lines for freight movement, thereby making movement of freight by rail easier and more cost competitive with road transport. He noted that on the existing rail network freight movement was often restricted by the need to prioritise passenger movement.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) argued that ‘in a perfect world, the infrastructure used to transport freight would be entirely separate from the infrastructure used for passenger and private transport’. Trucks, buses and cars using the same roads, for example, led to congestion and increased the risk of accidents. The ALC suggested that ‘separation of freight and passenger transport infrastructure should be a desirable outcome’, and that ‘the benefits of separation, for both freight and passenger transport, include travel time savings, increased efficiency and increased safety’.
Ports Australia identified similar issues. Mr Ashween Sinha, Policy Director for Ports Australia noted that congestion in road and rail traffic was hampering the movement of freight. He stated:
The great example with it being at Port of Brisbane, or whether it be Sydney or Melbourne, is obviously there are rail lines connected to the ports, but they’re sharing the rail line with commuter traffic, and commuter traffic gets priority. That’s why freight does not move very well over rail at the moment in the current settings. There’s a push, and I think there’s funding allocated for the duplication to the Port Botany rail. That’s exactly for that purpose—to allow the reliability of freight movement while not hampering commuter traffic. But that’s not the case around the country, especially in regional areas, where you won’t even see direct access to a lot of ports.
The Hon Michael Gallacher, Chief Executive Officer of Ports Australia, acknowledged the role of the inland railway in addressing this issue, but highlighted the potential of ships and ports to contribute to the movement of freight on the ‘blue highway’:
We believe that embracing the use of our nation’s coastal routes—or, as we call it, the ‘blue highway’—can deliver the following: a cost effective and efficient method of moving freight, particularly non-time-specific freight, around the country; help reduce long-distance truck movements, which commence within our cities, and thereby reduce congestion; reduce unnecessary long-distance truck movements from country and regional roads by moving the heavy vehicle collection point closer to the delivery location; improve health and safety of truck drivers by reducing long-haul distances; improve road safety and travel time by reducing the number of trucks on our city roads; reduce degradation of country and regional roads and associated repair costs by reducing long-haul heavy-vehicle travel along major freight routes; improve environmental outcomes, both noise and air quality, particularly in capital cities and regional towns on major road freight routes; increase job opportunities in regional port cities or nearby communities by increasing job demand through port expansion and diversification; limit the migratory flow from regional centres to our cities through job creation; and help alleviate housing affordability pressures through a more sustainable population growth in our cities, whilst attracting some to regional centres.
Mr Gallacher observed that currently:
Ports are the gateway for over 98 per cent of Australian’s imports and exports, yet no strategic focus or funding is allocated towards improving the maritime network of this country to facilitate further economic growth and ensure sustainability of our cities and regional centres. Clearly, the impact of the nation’s increased freight task will hamper the long-term benefit of infrastructure investment if we, as a nation, fail to think alternatively about how we move freight and increase the longevity of the government-sector investment in that road and rail infrastructure.
The Australasian Railway Association was also interested in the question of freight management and movement, but highlighted the fact that the separation of passengers and freight was not just about dedicated freight corridors, but also about dedicated freight precincts. Mr Duncan Sheppard, General Manager, Freighted Contractors, for the Australasian Railway Association, stated:
Wherever possible we advocate for the separation of freight and passenger lines in our cities. But it’s one step before that: it’s actually identifying, for example, freight precincts. It’s ensuring that freight precincts, the generation of freight, are in certain areas and that freight lines only move to freight-generating areas in the longer term, rather than being dispersed across the city. By having specifically zoned areas for freight generation and by having freight corridors and long-term plans to link freight corridors to ports, then you will achieve the outcome of having less integration on the network with freight and passengers.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) highlighted the difficulties of moving freight within the urban environment, particularly in ever more congested CBDs:
The growth in CBD traffic congestion—stemming from significant residential and employment growth in inner-city areas—presents significant challenges for freight operators undertaking deliveries in CBD areas.
Increasing competition between passenger and freight vehicles in a congested road network is significantly adding to business costs. This circumstance flows directly from a lack of investment, and from insufficient consideration of freight movement in our current planning schemes.
Problems included ‘a lack of adequate street loading zones, as well as new residential and commercial buildings with poor (or non-existent) freight delivery facilities are likewise making CBD freight delivery a more cumbersome and costly exercise’. This was exacerbated by ‘the continuing imposition of curfews or outright bans on vehicle movement in parts of our major cities’. It noted that ‘perversely, this is occurring during a period where growth in e-Commerce is fuelling expectations among many consumers of faster delivery timeframes, and lower shipping costs’. The ALC argued that ‘Australian governments must consider how to deal with these issues, to ensure that the needs of freight operators are given proper weight in CBD planning and infrastructure decisions, so that freight operators are not faced with unsustainable cost pressures’. The ALC was concerned that ‘current planning regimes fail to take account of this simple reality, pursuing the ‘path of least resistance’ by ranking the needs of residents above the needs of freight movements when it comes to decision making’. It recommended that
The Australian Government establish a dedicated Freight Strategy and Planning Division within the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. This Division would be staffed with appropriately qualified personnel to provide it with the quality advice necessary to provide national leadership and better policy outcomes in planning.
Mr Kerry Corke, a policy consultant with the ALC, also observed that ‘with high density accommodation, the capacity to deliver goods to those residences has not been properly planned. The capacity to gain access to them is again somewhat problematic.’ One proposal to reduce freight movements in urban areas was the creation of urban consolidation centres—’ an area where bulk deliveries can be put into the cage and then delivered into the city’. Professor Thompson also endorsed this proposal, stating:
New logistics infrastructure such as Urban Consolidation Centres (UCCs) and shared parcel lockers need to be provided to ensure that unnecessary freight movements are minimised in capital cities. UCCs and shared parcel lockers provide facilities to exchange goods between vehicles and modes. Such facilities are vital to dampen the rising demand from e-commerce.
Part of managing the freight task is better understanding the movement of freight, especially through the collection and analysis of freight data. Associate Professor Russell Thompson noted that ‘there is currently a lack of analysis and predictive tools for understanding freight demand’ and that ‘this is inhibiting evidence based policy development and project evaluation relating to freight initiatives in Australian capital cities’. He indicated that ‘ongoing programs of data collection are required to improve the performance monitoring of freight within capital cities’. He observed that ‘consistency between States will ensure that trends can tracked efficiently and successful policies and programs can be translated to other cities’; and argued that the Australian Government ‘should support the development of tools for understanding the effects of new policies and transport infrastructure on freight movement patterns in capital cities’.
Mr Ben Damiano, Policy Officer with the Australian Logistics Council, noted that a National Freight Performance Framework had been proposed as part of the Australian Government’s inquiry into national freight and supply chain priorities, being undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. The proposal would consolidate new and existing data and inform infrastructure investment. He observed that to date a lot of data on transport has been passenger focused. ‘There has been a bit of a lack of data on freight. I think that is going to change as technology is able to more readily capture where trucks are moving and what they are moving.’
From the Committee’s perspective, freight connectivity is no less important than passenger connectivity. The efficient movement of freight is essential to the economy and employment. The rapid rise of the freight task with increasing population and economic growth is already presenting challenges for a system of freight transport that is structured around urban sprawl and roads. The consolidation of the urban space, especially around critical transport nodes such as ports and airports, has the potential to bring the movement of fright into direct conflict with residential development. There is already concern about the mix of passenger and freight transport on our roads and railways.
Future planning of the urban environment needs to incorporate freight connectivity in a variety of forms and levels. This is essential for the continuation of economic prosperity (the movement of goods at scale) and individual wellbeing (access to goods at a personal level). The critical issues around freight connectivity are urban encroachment, managing the movement of freight and CBD delivery.
Urban encroachment is leading to existing freight infrastructure coming into conflict with residential development and being forced to operate at less than optimum levels. There clearly needs to be policy development to protect essential freight infrastructure and routes from the effects of urban development. There also needs to be careful planning of new freight facilities to ensure that they are well-distributed in the urban environment, and sited to avoid conflict with other uses. In other words, freight storage and distribution must be an essential part of any scheme of urban land-use and infrastructure planning. Moreover, where residential development comes into conflict with existing freight and transport facilities, or planned freight or transport facilities, the freight and transport facilities should be considered. Care must also be given to the location of freight management facilities—simply shifting intermodal hubs to the outskirts of cities increases carriage time and distance at the expense of efficiency and increased traffic.
Consideration must also be given to the way freight is moved. Rail freight is currently constrained by the need to coordinate freight and passenger movements on the same lines. Road freight competes for space on congested roads and causes competition between light and heavy vehicles. The Committee is of the view that the ideal would be a complete separation of freight and passenger traffic, and that transport solutions which facilitate this outcome should be sought. Ideally, more freight would travel by rail, freeing up roads for lighter vehicles. This can only happen if the rail network is capable of facilitating the movement of freight in a timely and efficient manner. Part of the solution is the development of dedicated passenger lines, capable of rapid transit (fast rail and high speed rail), freeing up existing rail lines for freight movement. The transfer of freight to rail would also be assisted by a deliberate focus on multi-modal integration. As with passenger transport, there needs to be a focus on freight movement through an integrated multi-modal network rather than just a series of point-to-point movements. Consideration should be given to the development of freight nodes at a regional and local level through the use of Urban Consolidation Centres and shared parcel lockers.
Government should also give consideration to the development of the road freight fleet. The Committee supports providing incentives for fleet modernisation to make trucks safer, quieter and cleaner. The Committee also supports the development and consolidation of freight data through the National Freight Performance Framework.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, as part of the system of master planning under the national plan of settlement:
Require all levels of government provide for the accommodation of and access to dedicated freight facilities, that planning at all levels include freight access as a matter of priority, and that in the planning of areas consideration be given to prioritising the needs of existing and approved freight terminals. This should include provision of Urban Consolidation Centres and shared parcel lockers at a regional and local level.
Give priority to the development of a national freight network, with a view to creating a strong system of multimodal integration based on dedicated freight nodes, prioritising the movement of freight by rail, separating freight and passenger movements where possible, and developing dedicated fast-rail and high-speed-rail passenger rail lines to relieve the congestion of existing networks.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop incentives, including tax incentives, promoting fleet modernisation to make trucks safer, quieter and cleaner, and proceed with the development of the National Freight Performance Framework.