Friday, March 20, 2009

Op-Ed: Peter Newman, Message from Western Australia
- Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

Peter Newman, Perth, Western Australia

There are four messages we can share with you based on some of our best experiences in recent years:

1. Building fast trains to the car dependent outer suburbs will work.
The US city has almost no transit going to its outer areas where people are heavily car dependent. The sub-prime mortgage areas most hit by the oil crisis were in these areas. They are highly vulnerable now. Most transport experts say you can’t build rail to these low density areas so buses only are provided and few of these services work competitively. Perth built a fast train 80 kms south through such suburbs and it now carries 55,000 passengers a day when the buses in the corridor carried just 14,000. It is full at peak time. The train has a max speed of 130 kph and can outstrip the cars down the freeway where it runs. Most US cities have freeway space that could be used for such trains.
Ref: See Newman P, Beatley T and Boyer H (2009) ‘Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change’, Island press, Washington DC.

2. TravelSmart is a successful travel demand management system.
It was pioneered in Perth. It has gone across Australia and to the UK and is being trialed in 4 US cities. It works as an individualized marketing approach rather than a broad media approach. Eco-coaches are trained to go into people’s houses and help them to use their cars less. They concentrate on short local journeys which can be better done by walking and cycling which in most areas surveyed increase by around 30% with car use less by around 15%.
Ref. See Salzman R (2008) ‘Now that’s what I call intelligent transport’, Thinking Highways, 3(1)

3. Regional planning to ensure regional transit systems and associated TODS.
Transit Oriented Developments have begun to work well in US cities but they are scattered rather than in coherent corridors, rather like the transit systems which sometimes defy rationality in the routes they take. This is because regional planning is weak in US cities. The MPO system could be strengthened as in Denver and Portland where coherent regional solutions are now happening. Australian cities, and Perth in particular, has strong regional governance on its transit and land use planning. It works.
Ref. See and also Resilient Cities as above.

4. Renewable transport through electric vehicles and smart grids will green private transport. Even if all the above works cities will only reduce their car use by 50% at most. The rest needs to be greened too. The Li-ion battery has enabled plug-in electric vehicles to rapidly become the vehicle of choice. It is essential that these are introduced by linking them to renewable power and a smart grid to enable 100% renewable energy to power the city through the storage capacity of the electric vehicles. This technology is part of the green economy but will only happen if a clear policy is developed to encourage it as in the Better Place model in Israel, Denmark, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and in a new demonstration suburb called North port Quay in Perth.
Ref. See our paper ‘Renewable Transport’ on

Peter Newman,
Curtin University
Perth, Western Australia

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