LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News Vol 2 no 4 Spring 1994.  ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Car-use Reduction Strategy Pinpoints the Problem

by Anne Roberts, Total Environment Centre

Total Environment Centre (TEC) has developed a car-use reduction strategy which sets out simply and clearly the problems associated with a car-dependent society, and how to overcome them.
An extract from TEC's Car-use Reduction Strategy follows:

Car Dependence is not Inevitable

It is important to realise that there is nothing pre-ordained about the dominance of the car. If cars predominate over public transport, and cities are planned around their use, it is a result of deliberate decisions, usually on the part of government or business. Los Angeles is a prime example of a city whose infamous smog and traffic are a result of car dependence imposed by business, acting for its own ends. (See Frank Stilwell, Reshaping Australia, Sydney, Pluto, 1993, p6O.)

In Australia, planning decisions and an imbalance of funding in favour of roads have led to urban sprawl and car dependence. More road length per capita is devoted to roads in Australia than anywhere else in the world, including the USA. (See Newman and Kenworthy, Winning Back the Cities, Sydney, ACA and Pluto, 1992, p 10)

Why something has to be done to reduce the number of cars on the road

Air pollution has declined in Sydney and other Australian cities over recent years as a result of restrictions on backyard burning, together with the introduction of catalytic converters to motor vehicles. Experts warned these improvements will be temporary if the number of cars on the road continues to increase. (McPhail NSW EPA, Sydney Morning Herald 17.8.94; Johnson, in Summit on Air Quality 1991). In the two years to March 1994, 200,000 more vehicles were registered in Sydney and there are signs that Sydney's air pollution is beginning to worsen (Total Environment Centre, June 1994).

The Adverse Effects of Car-use

Car use needs to be considered from the point of view of its 'total impact'. In addition to air pollution, the 'total impact" of car use includes:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions (21% of Australia's Greenhouse gas emissions are produced by motor vehicles.)
  • Lead fall-out from exhaust emissions, with long-term residues in soil
  • Destruction of urban bushland • Urban sprawl
  • Destruction and disruption of city and suburbs
  • Noise
  • Deaths and injuries
  • Wildlife killed on the roads
  • Economic burden on the individual motorist
  • Health infrastructure costs on society
  • Anti-social and intimidating behaviour generated by the car

What has to be Done to Reduce Car-use?

  1. Share the "trip". Reduce the number of single- occupancy vehicles, and the number of vehicles used for the same "trip purpose."
  2. Reduce the number of trips undertaken by car, by reducing the necessity for such trips. Proposals include increasing the density and diversity of suburban areas, and telecommuting.
  3. Provide alternatives to the car. Alternatives include a comprehensive public transport system.
  4. Introduce incentives and disincentives, to encourage car use reduction. Disincentives must only be introduced when alternatives to car use exist.
  5. Explore minor, but radical options, such as shared ownership of cars beyond the family unit.

We will very briefly discuss items 1 and 3 of the above list. (A copy of the full Strategy may be obtained from Total Environment Centre, Shop 1, Gloucester Walk, the Rocks - at the back of the Immigration Dept building. Postal Address: 1188 Cumberland Street, Sydney 2000.)

1. Sharing the ride: the journey to work lends itself to large-scale car-pooling ("ridesharing") schemes. People who work in large companies, say with upwards of 50 employees all starting work at the one site at approximately the same time might consider asking the employer to set up a car-pooling scheme. (TEC calls on the State Govt to require large firms to set up such schemes). Smaller schemes can be set up for taking children to school, or to sport. Organisers of social events could put drivers in contact with one another to 'share the ride."

3. Alternatives such as a comprehensive public transport system. If your local area has very poor or non-existent public transport, think about complaining - to your council, to your State MP, to State Rail or State Transit, or all of the above, and anyone else you can think of. If there is a public transport service to your area, investigate it - it may be better than you think.

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