LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 5 no 1  1997 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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Britain changes Direction on Transport Policy

Based on a talk by visiting UK consultant Tim Pharaoh and an interview in "Hell on Wheels" No. 4. Comments in square brackets by Anne Roberts and Adrian Hill.

In Britain the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment proved what the government had hitherto refused to accept - that building new roads generates more traffic [Hallelujah!]. The budget for the national road-building project has now been halved, with very few proposals for new routes. But what is exciting about all this is that they are not just trying to provide enough public transport to reduce trips by car - they are taking a more holistic approach - they are reducing the demand for trips.

They are reducing demand in five ways:

  1. Promoting development within existing urban areas rather than "greenfield" sites. There is a move away from business parks - to which everyone drives by car - and from mega-retail centres built next to motorways. Developers now have to prove that they are unable to invest in the town centre before other sites are allowed to be considered.

  2. Locating activities that generate trips at public transport nodes, so trips can be done by public transport rather than by car;

  3. Strengthening local centres;

  4. Improving the choice of transport mode;

  5. Limiting the provision of parking. The British firm of Tesco is establishing smaller scale centres with no car parking, and with mixed-use buildings.

In addition to transport reduction measures, they are also encouraging alternative transport to fill the car gap, such as providing for pedestrians and cyclists, slowing traffic ("traffic calming"), and giving precedence to public transport where traffic merges.

Tim Pharaoh says he’s seen road plans here in NSW that look 25 years out of date. He says the car is a de-socialising instrument - Australian car-based suburbs provide little opportunity for normal human contact except in the sterilised environment of the shopping mall or the TAB. Australia is likely to develop the same problems (of alienation and crime) as the USA and Britain.

Interestingly, a European Union survey indicates that 84% of people want more public transport so they can drive less, but political leaders thought that only 49% of people would be of that opinion - suggesting that politicians are behind in their thinking.

There are mistakes to be made, even in trying to promote public transport - San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit has undermined its attempts to develop public transport nodes. By providing so many car spaces for "park and ride" the retail, commercial and residential development is forced to locate beyond easy walking distance of public transport!

Traffic restraint needs to be metropolitan wide, not just in the CBD. Employment needs to be located at centres, not dispersed. Attempting to attract jobs to residential areas is questionable, since it assumes that the people who take the jobs will live close by.

It appears that in Australia there are still pet projects which grab government’s attention. In Europe there is better understanding of the need to coordinate different types of travel, different types of project - not just look at issues from an engineering viewpoint, but work with the community to develop scenarios which are more sustainable, and economically and environmentally better. [Key election promises of the present NSW government were to curb the power of the RTA and to place an immediate moratorium on expressway projects except for the M2. These promises were quickly dropped after the election.]

It’s a problem for Sydney. In Britain there is a very strong movement to protect cities against urban road building. "The Government knows now it cannot build a single metre of new urban road without having to deal with major direct action campaigns."

Tim Pharaoh is the author of the recent book,
Transport Concepts in European Cities: Ten Case Studies.

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