I drive my car to work pretty much everyday. Apart from the time it saves me, my commitments across Melbourne more often than not mean it is impractical to get around any other way. But I resent it. Even though my Vectra is a great little car, it uses too much petrol. I know that I could change my transport habits if I wanted to … but it will require a resolute commitment and some sacrifices.
So why am I thinking about cars and transport? Because my limited recent experience of Germany and France makes it so clear that there is another way. Some people who read this blog are Europeans, so you might not appreciate how your governments have invested in public transport infrastructure in ways that are fanciful for us Australians. For example, the Paris metro has 300 stations. Yes, it is true that Paris was already a big city when the technology to build underground railway got implemented for the first time, but the government still had to have the foresight to design the infrastructure that would serve the people as it does.
Bicycle paths and hire bikes seem to be the norm in French and German cities. Not particularly complicated, just great common sense for the common good.
OK, so it will cost billions to create a system even approaching this kind of coverage in a sprawling Australian city. But where is the vision for the future in the planning that is happening now? The ‘spider’ train systems of Melbourne and Sydney are not real networks. Even the complementary tram and bus systems hardly create the kind of network that make getting around efficient.
Instead of debating road network extensions, which are of course good for the car, we should be having robust arguments about a truly visionary approach to building public transport infrastructure, even if it is 50 year plan.