Rail access improves liveability, but all regional centres are not equal

Our research on the liveability of regional cities in Victoria has identified an important element: liveability in these areas requires fast, reliable and frequent rail connections to capital cities.

Previous research has established that we need better models of early transport delivery in growth areas of Melbourne. Public transport, in particular, is an essential ingredient for a liveable community. Less attention has been paid to transport in regional areas, particularly regional areas with growing populations.

People living in regional areas still need access to capital cities. The reasons include employment, education, medical services, shopping, arts, culture and visits to family and friends.

Regional Victorians who lack access to reliable rail services remain deprived of non-car travel options. This forces them to drive and that adds to traffic congestion in our capital cities. Car dependency is costly for health and wealth.

Regional rail is important both to meet the needs arising from predicted population increases across regional areas and to manage the rapid population growth and sprawl of our capital cities. Australia’s population is predicted to increase by 45 million by 2100 and our cities are already expanding rapidly. We need to start thinking about where these extra people are going to live.

At present, most people (more than 80%) in Australia live in capital cities. However, as populations grow, more people will start moving to regional areas. This means we need to pay more attention to the liveability of regional Australia as well as capital cities.Wherever they live, people need transport to get to employment, education, shops and services, and to socialise with friends, family and community members. Furthermore, our research has found that having close access to a range of these things is associated with better health and well-being. Good access to frequent, reliable and fast transport is not a luxury. It is a critical factor influencing liveability and is described as a social determinant of health – one of the conditions (where we live, learn, work and play) that influence our health.

Liveable places promote health and well-being among the people who live there. However, they also require transport options, including public transport such as trains, buses, trams as well as walking and cycling. In regional areas expansive distances make it hard to get by without a private vehicle.

A good example of this is Mitchell Shire. It begins at the northern edge of metropolitan Melbourne and extends to the regional town of Seymour in northeastern Victoria.

The population is booming in this non-metropolitan shire. The small town of Beveridge is expecting to accommodate at least 150,000 people in new urban development over the next 30 years. To put that into context, the town had a population of just over 2,300 people in 2016.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

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Why the need for speed? Transport spending priorities leave city residents worse off

Australian governments are set to spend more on transport infrastructure than ever before. Federal and state infrastructure spending, driven largely by transport projects, was expected to total $31.6 billion in 2018, increasing to $38 billion in 2021, even before the latest Commonwealth spending announcements. Will all this construction make it easier for us to get around, our journeys more enjoyable, or our cities more liveable for a growing population?

Since the 1950s, spending on transport infrastructure has largely been justified on the basis of its ability to increase travel speeds or reduce travel times. For example, the New South Wales government estimates its $17 billion WestConnex toll road will deliver travel time savings motorists would value at about $13 billion. But new tolls will largely cancel out any benefit. This means the ultimate beneficiary will be the toll road corporations.

Australian governments are set to spend more on transport infrastructure than ever before. Federal and state infrastructure spending, driven largely by transport projects, was expected to total $31.6 billion in 2018, increasing to $38 billion in 2021, even before the latest Commonwealth spending announcements. Will all this construction make it easier for us to get around, our journeys more enjoyable, or our cities more liveable for a growing population?

Since the 1950s, spending on transport infrastructure has largely been justified on the basis of its ability to increase travel speeds or reduce travel times. For example, the New South Wales government estimates its $17 billion WestConnex toll road will deliver travel time savings motorists would value at about $13 billion. But new tolls will largely cancel out any benefit. This means the ultimate beneficiary will be the toll road corporations.

Rethinking the need for speed

The need for speed is being questioned in other aspects of modern life. The Slow Food Movement urges us to savour and enjoy our meal times, rather than view eating as an unwelcome interruption to our busy days.

For my PhD research, I asked a similar question of our travel time. What if it’s seen not only as a cost to be minimised, but as valuable time that can be used to work, exercise or relax?

It’s important to note that average daily travel times don’t decline no matter how much is spent on transport infrastructure. How then can investment be prioritised to make our travel time more enjoyable and productive, while at the same time improving access to economic and social opportunities?

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

Locals call for a ‘High Line’ on Sydney’s north shore

Residents of the Sydney suburb of Lavender Bay are pushing for a linear park to be developed along side a historic rail line that would provide a pedestrian link between Lavender Bay and Waverton Station.

Established in 2016, the Sydney Harbour High Line Association describes itself as “a group of like-minded people that sees the importance of building on the amenities to support the huge growth in the number of people living in Sydney in general and the lower north shore in particular.”

According to the Mosman Daily, earlier in April the association met with a State Government committee, where it presented its detailed plans for the publicly held land that lies beside the railway. If the project goes ahead, the park would be operated by North Sydney Council.

Proposed ramp access from Harbourview Crescent. Image: Sydney Harbour High Line

The heritage-listed rail line is not used for a passenger service, but is used by Sydney Trains for driver training. The site is significant due to its connection to artist Brett Whiteley, who famously painted scenes of Sydney Harbour from his home in Lavender Bay, adjacent to the railway tracks, as well as the “secret garden” created by Brett’s former wife Wendy. The Whiteleys’ house and garden were both recently added to the state heritage register.

Local state MP Felicity Wilson, who supports the project, told the Mosman Daily that she had “secured an agreement from Sydney Trains to explore the feasibility of installing a segregated walking track alongside the current active line.” The proposal is inspired by and takes its name from the High Line in New York City, an elevated railway conversion designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro. This was in turn inspired by the first rail park, the Coulée verte René-Dumontin in Paris, which opened in 1993.

Originally Published by ArchitectureAU, continue reading here.

World’s best city to live in is Vienna, says 2018 Mercer Quality of Living Index.

London, New York or Paris may be exciting places to live.

But Vienna is considered the best city in the world to reside, according to a new ranking by Mercer, one of the world’s largest human resources consulting firms.

Austria’s capital is known for opulent palaces and monuments of past emperors and other nobility, as well as its cozy coffee houses and wine bars.

Not to mention, its low crime rate, low pollution, excellent public transportation and health care.

Mercer annually releases its Quality of Living Index, which ranks more than 200 cities on the quality of life.

In second place is Zurich, followed by Auckland, New Zealand; Munich; and Vancouver, Canada.

The Graben and its plague column in Vienna’s old town.

European cities generally took the lead over US cities. San Francisco was the first American metropolis on the list, ranked as the 30th best city in the world to live. Boston and Honolulu, Hawaii, entered the list in 35th and 36th place.

Nearly all of the cities considered to be least livable are in Africa or the Middle East, with Baghdad at the bottom of the list.

Living conditions were analysed by 10 categories, including political and social environment, economics, culture, heath, education, transportation, availability of food, recreation, housing and nature.

The top 10 cities to live in

  1. Vienna
  2. Zurich
  3. Auckland, New Zealand
  4. Munich
  5. Vancouver, Canada
  6. Dusseldorf, Germany
  7. Frankfurt
  8. Geneva
  9. Copenhagen
  10. Basel, Switzerland

[Sydney was ranked 11th most liveable, Melbourne was 16th, Perth was 21st, Adelaide was 29th, Canberra was 30th, and Brisbane was 37th.]

Originally Published by the Australian Financial Review, view article here.

 

Why I’m leaving Sydney, the city that actively punishes people for living in it

It was love at first sight when Sydney and I met properly a dozen years ago. I fell hard with the sort of giddy infatuation that makes it easy to overlook the odd flaw or two, and to blithely ignore those flaws even as they crumbled into mighty chasms over the subsequent years.

But now I’m ending things and moving out. And let me be clear: it’s not me, Sydney. It’s you.

But that wasn’t the tipping point – well, not completely.

There’s also the way that the city has been blithely looking to make a quick buck by selling off priceless pieces of its heritage – whether it’s the Sirius Apartments or the Powerhouse Museum – with no plan other than “how swiftly can we convert this public asset into private profit?” It used to horrify me, but that shock has long since curdled from anger to sorrow to deep, unrelenting disgust.

So has the deliberate scuttling of public transport corridors in favour of WestConnex, with the state government essentially imposing a new tax on the western suburbs for the privilege of being able to get to work. That perhaps more than anything shows precisely how little this place cares about the environment, its people or its own future.

There are a lot of little things that have been bugging me for a while. The wholesale destruction of the night time entertainment scene, especially for live music, on exaggerated public safety grounds that just so happened to free up prime real estate at firesale prices to be picked over by the government’s developer mates, was one sign of how little this city cares for the people that live in it.

Even the things that I love about the place aren’t enough any more.

Getting to the beach or the Opera House or the Art Gallery or Taronga has become longer and more difficult with roadworks and the future white elephant light rail. And trying to get about on the overcrowded trains with a toddler usually involves carrying prams up stairs at the station – a massive wheelchair accessibility problem which just about every other Australian city dealt with decades ago – making it comprehensively more hassle than it’s worth. What sort of city penalises its inhabitants for wanting to actively enjoy living there?

The biggest factor, though, was the most predictable. Housing prices – specifically, the spiralling rent increases since buying had long ago ceased to be an option for our two professional income household.

Continue reading on Domain.com.au here.