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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Funding Alternatives to the Private Car

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The RAC ('Job shift out of CBD could ease traffic', West Australian, 30 December) rightly draws attention to the failure of the planning system in Perth to achieve its own aspirations for development of strategic regional centres that are effective alternatives to the CBD of Perth.

The West Australian's editorial ('Overcoming our city's love affair with the car', West Australian, 30th December) supports the RAC's statement and adds that there is also a need "to provide a better standard and more frequent public transport to give commuters a viable alternative to their cars".

The Sustainable Transport Coalition of WA (STCWA) strongly supports the need for better public transport but adds that bringing employment closer to where people live would also make cycling and walking feasible alternatives for more people - provided cycling and walking facilities are direct, convenient and safe.

A key to getting out of unnecessary reliance on the private car is a more equitable funding approach to transport.

At present, only roads have a reasonably assured long-term funding allocation for investment. 

Public transport funding is often sporadic and, as we have seen from the recent Government response to the loss of the AAA credit rating for the state, subject to deferral and changes in priorities. Most important, though, the Government needs to get ahead of the game, providing capacity before it is forced by congestion to provide it.

Bicycle infrastructure funding is, at least in principle, committed four years ahead, but the current level of annual funding is less than one-third of that required to complete the Government's own bicycle network plan in the next ten years.

And as for walking, the State Government largely leaves this to local government, with the result that provision is patchy and subject to local priorities and funding capability. There are too many suburbs where even a footpath on one side of the street is a rarity. And walking access to train stations is often poor, creating the demand for ever more car parking at stations. 

The STCWA suggests that an inquiry into transport funding in WA should be undertaken as a matter of urgency, to identify the most efficient means of allocating resources for transport infrastructure and services.

Posted by Ian Ker, Deputy Convenor, STC.

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