Recent strong population growth in Australian cities has drawn attention to a range of national transport, and transport-related, sustainability issues.
Key areas of national sustainability concern in relation to urban land transport include traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, road fatalities and serious injury accidents, social exclusion associated with poor mobility options and the risks that are associated with Australia’s high reliance on fossil fuels for transport. Effectively tackling these national concerns requires an integrated policy and program focus on desired outcomes in each of the critical problem areas. The national dimension demands federal leadership and a number of recent initiatives are promising in this regard (for example, Infrastructure Australia processes, the Council of Australian Governments’ Capital City Strategic Planning initiative, and high speed broadband).
Sustainable solutions will require concerted action over a number of years, with a clear focus on intended outcome goals for congestion, GHG emissions, safety and health, social inclusion and energy security. Switching funding programs from a modal focus to an outcome focus should assist progress. In addition to targeted transport infrastructure investment, significant initiatives will be needed in areas such as urban settlement policies and programs, road pricing reform, travel behaviour change programs and better management of freight movements. Federal leadership can play an important catalytic role in helping to drive change towards sustainability, across areas that include investment funding support, integrating policy and program frameworks, reforming pricing and planning systems and stimulating research and development.
Professor John Stanley is an Adjunct Professor in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at The University of Sydney.