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car dominated cities « Previous | |Next »
June 30, 2008

Australia has a strong history of car centric transport planning, where the overwhelming majority of transport funds are allocated to car based infrastructure. Transport planning has resulted in car dominated cities, rising levels of traffic congestion and transport pollution being the world's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

If transport planning has mostly concerned itself with facilitating the movement of vehicles (more and better roads), rather than walking, cycling or public transport, then the consequence of the planners historical preference for car centric planning has reduced the quality of urban life. Market forces and financial considerations ruled.

There was little recognition of the importance of good planning for transport and urban form in the last Federal election campaign or 2020 Australia. Indeed the word ‘livability cities' was barely mentioned outside of more investment in transport infrastructure for cars and trucks. There was little talk about sustainable Australian cities needing to be developed around integrated land use and sustainable transport planning.

Those in favour of suburban sprawl argue that sprawl has brought ‘privacy, mobility and choice', all of which are consistent with a climate, culture and ideology of individualism and predicated on mobility by private car. If privacy is socially desirable what about its flipside, social isolation? If sprawl is low density, then the implication is that the distance between homes, workplaces, schools and parks will be long. As it is not possible to disconnect suburban sprawl from car-dependence (i.e. land use from transport planning), so low density suburban development does contribute to global warming.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:16 AM | | Comments (8)


strongly agree. except (and this reinforces the argument) it's wrong to say 'Market forces and financial considerations ruled'.
As you note, the overwhelming majority of (public) transport funds have gone to car-based infrastructure - that's govt intervention in favour of the car, and it's been hugely expensive. It may have been politically easier, but even that consideration involves a lot of path-dependency.

good point. Criticism taken on board. Do you many signs of government intervention moving away from being in favour of the car to roll back the car's domination of our cities?

Flight from the suburbs is starting to happen already it seems. Though I am not convinced it is other than the normal ebb and flow between urban/suburban where one dominates for a while before the other gains popularity again.

there was a big shift from the dirty city to the clean suburbs from the 1950s to the 1980s in Australia that was premised on the car. That meant empty, dreary CBD's in the evening.

In Australia there is a marked shift back to the living in the city. it is noticeble in Adelaide where a lot of the old industry, warehouse, workshops are being pulled down to make for apartments as well as offices. This changes the dynamic of the city and transport in terms of rolling back the car.

It as well to remember that suburbanisation didn't begin with the car but with the advent of affordable and efficient public transport - from about the 1880s in Melbourne onwards, earlier in a number of US cities. The inner city in the C19th century was a long way from being the pleasant place it is today. The car of course accelerated suburbanisation, particularly after WW2.

The idea that the suburbs imply vastly longer journeys-to-work needs to be treated with caution. Most jobs are in the suburbs in Australian cities and have been for a long time.

that's right---trams and trains enabled the suburbs to grow and so people could move out of the city slums to garden suburbs. So we have the Garden city, developed by Ebenezer Howard.

The idea on behind the Garden cities movement is that they were to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by greenbelts, and containing carefully balanced areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. So we have Adelaide and Canberra in Australia, and Christchurch in New Zealand.

I am always comparing Athens to Austrlian cities.

Athens, until recently had a HORRIBLE public transport system. One linear train track, no trams and mainly just diesel spewing buses (plus some trolley buses).

The ever-expanding metro is making things easier. But the increasingly 'affluent' Athenians are also using car travel more often so that the roads are STILL as busy as ever.

However, the high density of Athens allows the athenian leaders the opportunity to turn their city into a jewel of the public transport world.

Unless Australian cities were to bulldoze all post WW11 buildings and build higher density abodes, then I believe our cities are to a large extent doomed to be just clones of American cities.

Good post.

Suburban sprawl is the natural outcome of an Australian state that has been agressively increasingly the population while the Australian way of life has championed your 1/4 acre blocks and your own little 'mansion' (individualism).

This individualism mixed with aggresive population growth is leading towards masses of housing estates that must cram as many blocks of land and McMansions into a geographical space as possible, as they take up alot of room.

Result: No room for community shops, so one has to drive to a centralised shopping mall. No proximity to activity centres, so one has to drive to work. No interaction with your community because when you leave your house its simply to get into your private car!