August 27, 2014

Motordom Madness in Australia

In Kent Acott’s comparison of transportation strategies between Vancouver and Perth, he highlighted these comments on the Australian Prime Minister’s decision to use federal infrastructure dollars only for road building and not for transit.


Civic leaders rap Abbott road building madness – The West Australian

Civic leaders in Vancouver, which is often voted as the world’s most livable city, have described Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s preference to fund road construction ahead of public transport infrastructure as “a moment of madness”.

Former British Columbia premier and former Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt said Mr Abbott was a 20th century man living in the 21st century.

“It is completely opposite to the direction that the rest of the world is taking,” he said. “It’s not where successful cities are going.

“It’s like looking in the rear-view mirror instead of straight ahead. It’s nostalgic and an act of lunacy.” …

Urban designer and former city councillor Gordon Price said Mr Abbott’s decision to fund road building would be seen as a moment of madness.

Mr Price said future generations would ask -what was he thinking?

“His decision effectively commits future generations of Australians to massive car dependence,” Mr Price said.

“And when the system fails – as it inevitably must – what’s Plan B?

“We need politicians to be aspirational and to make decisions that will make our lives better. Spending money on new roads ahead of improved public transport is neither.”

Mike and I certainly agree on that Australian “act of lunacy.”  But we have disagreed on the wisdom of British Columbia to spend – in my opinion, excessively – on roads and bridges, most notably on the Port Mann Bridge. Mike saw Port Mann as part of the need to accommodate goods movement in a port city; I see saw it as more motordom, leading to auto-dependence South of the Fraser.

Now that the Premier is moving forward on yet another multi-billion-dollar bridge across the Fraser, linking to more highway infrastructure built in the name of goods movement but open to all users, again shaping growth around the car, while also requiring referenda to be passed in order to fund transit, I think it’s clear more than ever that the insatiable momentum of motordom means that choices must be made.  Otherwise, lunacy prevails.

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  1. I would also agree with the (tolled) PMB upgrade being needed for goods movement.
    My ideal? I think that we can get the best of both worlds by emulating CityLink in Melbourne, another port city, where the took previously untolled highways, expanded them and road-priced the larger network.

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