Off the bus and back into cars

CANBERRA has been slammed as “a spectacular transport policy failure”, according to a recent report.

In “Transport Policy at the Crossroads: Travel to work in Australian capital cities 1976-2011” RMIT academics Paul Mees and Lucy Groenhart say the share of Canberrans driving cars to work – at nearly 80 per cent – is the highest recorded for the city since 1976. This is at a time when commuting by car is in decline across most other major Australian cities. Canberra is the only city to have seen a reduction in public transport use in the five years to 2011.

The ACT Government in 2004 set targets for increasing sustainable transport use as a way to travel to work. While we have seen some significant and positive roads infrastructure development since then there has been almost no corresponding focus on innovative public transport policies.
Canberra (with Hobart) does have the highest rate of “active” commuting – cycling and walking to work – across the country. But at a time when Civic and other employment nodes have seen significant densification, our percentage of commuting pedestrians has surprisingly stayed the same.

Mees and Groenhart suggest that most transport policies have failed to consider ways to persuade people to walk to work. Instead, policy makers concentrate on cycling as a sustainable choice – a commuting option that across Australia is dominated by “male, middle-class and inner-city” riders. More than 70 per cent of people riding to work in Canberra are men.

Catherine Carter is the ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia

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