May 6, 2015

Berkeley Bugle: Walkability is like “having more broadband width”

Peter Berkeley submits a piece from the Sydney Morning Herald:

How treating pedestrians better will boost the economy

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Politicians are forever talking about new roads and, sometimes, new railway lines. But what about footpaths?

Walking is by far the most important mode of transport in our most valuable economic locations – especially the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne. But not nearly enough attention is given to how efficiently pedestrians can make their way around these key business hubs. …

… retail is only one reason for making CBDs more pedestrian-friendly. Economic change, especially the growing importance of knowledge-based firms, has made the walkability of business centres all the more important. The exchange of ideas and information is crucial for the productivity of knowledge industries. That’s one reason why knowledge-intensive businesses – like finance, insurance, IT and professional services – tend to cluster together in CBDs. Much of the sharing of ideas and knowledge takes place face-to-face. And those face-to-face encounters are very often the result of a walking trip. It might sound old school but walking is vital to our premier business hubs.

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Sydney

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So how efficient are the pedestrian flows around our CBDs?

New research by consultancy SGS Economics and Planning has sought to answer that question. A project called “Walking to global competitiveness” deployed methods normally used to assess the efficiency of road and rail networks to evaluate pedestrian flows in Melbourne’s CBD. Data was also collected on pedestrian movements in inner Sydney.

The findings reveal just how important walking is to Australia’s biggest CBDs. The researchers discovered that more people cross Melbourne’s Collins Street each day than drive over the Westgate Bridge, one of the city’s key traffic arteries. It was also found that on a typical weekday 630,000 trips are made to Sydney’s CBD but within the CBD there are 1.17 million daily walking trips. …

“If you increase connectivity your city becomes more productive,” says Rawnsley. “It’s a bit like having more broadband width.” …

The economics of walking deserves far more attention.

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