I’ve concluded before that the most plausible scenario in the forseeable future is that cars will continue to be used for the majority of trips in Australian cities. Increasingly, these cars will tend to be powered by clean energy sources and will be slower and more civilised than today’s vehicles.
I expect growth in public transport and cycling will be much faster but the absolute number of cars will very probably still increase. It is therefore inevitable that there will be continuing pressure for new freeways.
So is there any sort of case for freeways or should all new infrastructure funding be reserved exclusively for public transport, as proposed by the Independent Inquiry into Sydney’s long-term transport needs?
The key criticisms of freeways, most of which are pretty familiar by now, are that they:
- generate more car travel and higher speeds, which in turn produces more emissions and pollution and consumes more oil
- promote a sprawled, car-dependent urban form – the higher speeds provided by freeways mean people tend to live further away from activities
- undermine the viability of public transport where they compete directly
- impact on neighbouring uses – the amenity of adjoining land uses is diminished by noise and pollution
- crowd out investment in transit – governments prioritise funding to roads and investment in public transport is neglected
- sever social linkages and networks when they’re superimposed on existing communities
- cannot deliver very large numbers of people to concentrated locations, like CBDs, without becoming congested relatively quickly
In fairness, it should be acknowledged that efforts have been made to ameliorate some of these issues. Much of the investment in freeways over the last twenty years has been by the private sector. Governments have built sound barriers along new and existing freeways and the almost mandatory use of tunnels in built up areas means severance is no longer the issue it once was. Read the rest of this entry »