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Transport Problems Facing Large Cities

Transport Problems Facing Large Cities

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Transport Problems Facing Large Cities by Tom Edwards and Stewart Smith

This paper considers the problems facing transport policy in large cities. As the world’s cities have become home to the vast majority of their national population, governments are faced with the challenge of providing transport infrastructure to accommodate the needs of their citizens. In many of the world’s largest cities, the majority of travel is by private car, which poses two problems – road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

This paper begins with a discussion of transport problems facing large cities and their applicability to Sydney. The car is the dominant mode of transport in many large cities, including Sydney. This creates problems of congestion, atmospheric pollution and noise for residents (Section 2).

International best practice in urban transport policy from cities around the world is then identified, firstly from a public transport viewpoint (Section 3.0), and then reducing urban road congestion. International experience has shown that congestion is best tackled with a combination of incentives and disincentives. This approach has led to a shift from the private car to other transport modes in London, Barcelona and Singapore (Section 3.1). The cost of congestion in Sydney could rise to $7.8 billion by 2020. If public transport is to help solve congestion problems in Australia, evidence suggests usage needs to be increased substantially above current levels.

Part 2 of the paper provides a comparative analysis of transport policies in Paris; Tokyo; London; New York; Vancouver and Sydney.

The public transport system in Paris and its surrounds is extensive, growing, and is largely in public hands. One agency coordinates all transport policy in the Paris region. While recent initiatives have not succeeded in reducing the use of the car in the Paris region, car use has declined significantly in central Paris, and in recent years growth in public transport usage has significantly outstripped the use of the car (Section 4.0).

The large but densely populated megalopolis of Tokyo grew up around its rail network, and suburban rail remains the dominant transport mode used by its citizens today. The sheer volume of passengers means that although trains are fast and punctual they are seriously overcrowded at peak times. Congestion is a serious problem for Tokyo’s drivers, and a plan to create a high speed motorway network ringing the city which was first proposed in the 1960s has yet to be completed. Tokyo’s candidacy for the 2016 Olympics has given fresh impetus to this roadbuilding in the city’s 10 year plan (Section 5.0).

London’s population continues to grow. Public transport provision has not kept pace with the city’s growth, and infrastructure on the city’s metro and rail networks is ageing. An electronic ticketing system has been successfully introduced, and a congestion charge and increased public investment in bus and metro have successfully stabilised traffic levels. A Crossrail system which would link the new developments in the east of the city to the city centre and the world’s largest airport at Heathrow awaits Parliamentary approval (Section 6.0).

New York City is distinguished from other cities in the United States by the significant use of public transport. Considerable investment continues to be needed to bring the city’s transit system and roads into a state of good repair. With job and population growth, by 2030 it is estimated that ‘rush hour’ congestion on roads could extend to 12 hours every day. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg released the PlaNYC initiative in April 2007, with transportation one of five key elements. Building the new transit identified in the initiative, and achieving a full state of good repair of existing infrastructure, will require spending of over $50 billion. However, the lack of approval for a road congestion charge by the State legislature has created a considerable funding gap in planned investment in public transport (Section 7.0).

Although Vancouver’s population is only half that of Sydney’s, it is of a similar size and geography. In 1998 a public body called Translink was created and given responsibility for Vancouver’s public transport system and its major roads. Public transport by rail, bus, Skytrain and ferry is largely in public ownership, with limited contracting of bus services to private operators. Car travel is the dominant mode in both the city and the metropolitan region. The culmination of a 10 year transport plan has resulted in a 10% decrease in the number of cars entering and leaving the city. (Section 8.0).

In 2005 Sydney residents made 15.7 million trips each weekday. The car accounted for 69.4% of all trips, either as driver or as passenger. Sydney’s rail and ferry networks are publicly owned, while bus services are operated by the publicly owned State Transit Authority and private providers. The NSW State Plan committed government agencies to increase the proportion of total journeys to work by public transport in the Sydney metropolitan region to 25 per cent by 2016 (22 per cent in 2005). The Government announced in April 2008 that it would build the city’s first metro rail system servicing the north west of Sydney. A contract for an e-ticketing system for Sydney’s public transport was cancelled in 2007.

Congestion on some of Sydney’s major arterial roads poses problems to bus operators, drivers and freight vehicles. New technology is being introduced to give buses priority at pinch points and improve information for passengers. With the city’s population expected to continue to grow, the State Government has developed a number of policies and plans which provide the context for transport policy in Sydney. (Section 9.0).