Strong future planning and integration needed for Perth transport system

There’s no single solution to improving Perth’s transport system, there needs to be strong future planning and integration, Department of Transport WA, Director General, Reece Waldock has told a CEDA audience in Perth.

There's no single solution to improving Perth's transport system, there needs to be strong future planning and integration, Department of Transport WA, Director General, Reece Waldock has told a CEDA audience in Perth.

We must get the planning right, get strategic activity centred, get high density around transport modes and get better accessibility overall, he said.

To achieve this, Mr Waldock said WA needs to:

  • Invest in public transport;
  • Optimise road network efficiency;
  • Expand the road network where possible; and
  • Manage demand.

Currently Perth is experiencing very low urban density, high car and transport dependency, growing urban sprawl and population growth, he said.

Mr Waldock highlighted congestion is universal and can't be fixed with infrastructure alone.

"Congestion can be managed by either increasing capacity or managing demand," he said.

"To increase capacity, we need to improve operations and work our current assets harder and smarter."

"We have to have better flow rates and better capacities in terms of mode shifts and we've got to work and develop modes that actually move more people not vehicles."

In regards to managing demand, he said the Department of Transport WA can work levers such as subsidies on public transport, putting levies on CBD parking, and regulating the number of car bays in the city, to get results.

"Over the next 20 years we are going to see 150 per cent growth in public transport in the city, that equates to about six to seven per cent compound growth per year," he said.

"We will continue to see trains as our mass transit service…we've got inbuilt capacity in the system, we have got lines that can take higher frequencies and longer trains."

He said road based rapid transport services is the missing link and we will see a whole new dimension of road services based on frequency, priorities and capacities, and functional and minimal assets.

Assisting to meet demand, the Metro Area Express (MAX), the proposed new light rail system in Perth which will commence operations by 2018, will move 100,000 boardings per day, and could be the first public private partnership (PPP) transport model in WA.

He said other options to assist in improving Perth's transport system are:

  • Bus Rapid Transit;
  • Access restriction or pricing schemes;
  • Technology for operations and user information; and
  • Integrated land use and multi-modal transport plans.

Parsons Brinckerhoff, Regional Director Western Australia, Paul Reed said transport demand is linked to land use and these areas need to be coordinated.

"Transport solutions are not as easy to find and density is adding to complexity, and the funding of expensive new infrastructure is more challenging," he said.

"Without a clear long term strategy, transport demands and solutions become far more difficult to define, build, operate and sustain."

Mr Reed said long term visions should be flexible and move to changing community needs and technology developments.

"Without a long term vision and implementation plans, governments and opposition are tempted to develop solutions on the run or during election campaigns," he said.

He said governments are struggling to generate the funding required for infrastructure investments.

A challenge is how to generate more affordable transport options and to look at more innovative funding mechanisms, he said.

Mr Reed outlined the following examples of innovative funding mechanisms including:

  • Tax increment financing;
  • Developer contributions;
  • Variable rating schemes; and
  • PPPs.

"Solutions require targeted long term planning and careful consideration of how projects can be delivered. Government and the private sector have to work together to meet community expectations," he said.

Like Mr Waldlock, he also said working existing assets is a meaningful solution along with considering light rail.

Curtin University, Director, Curtin Sustainability Policy Institute, Professor Peter Newman said there is a connection between urban density and transport, and if we increase density we can expect car use to go down.

If you can get people out of cars, you create enormous economic efficiencies and if you do it by building a freeway you're only going to get 2500 people an hour down a freeway lane, however a train will take 50,000 people which is 20 times as efficient, he said.

Mr Newman said car use is significantly lower in younger groups and this is happening in every city.

He said we are also seeing a new model emerging where in the future competitive cities are going to be the ones that get people out of cars.

Shanghai is doing this and in the last 10 years they've built the biggest metro moving eight million people using the train system, he said.

He said we must become a global city that has a 15 km ring; we have opportunities to make this a polycentric city.

A rail ring around Perth, including light and heavy rail is an option, where many jobs could be created if we built in accessible areas around stations and we've calculated that the next 30 years of Perth's growth could fit there - reducing urban sprawl, he said.

He said private sector involvement, proper PPPs and rail systems is what is on the agenda and we need to come up with an innovative model for financing transport and land use.

Perth Airport, CEO, Brad Geatches said airspace in Perth and WA is vital infrastructure.

"Aircraft seats are also vital transport infrastructure, and the cost and efficiency of Perth Airport are key public interest considerations," he said.

"In the last five years our airport has had seven to 12 million passengers (passing through) and we've seen six million additional aircraft seats come into Perth.

"In 2007 low cost carriers represented less than five per cent of seats into Perth and many of our routes were under serviced by the traditional carriers."

He said today we have over 30 per cent of international seats to Perth provided by low cost carriers, and these low cost carriers have helped to stimulate the market.

"We are the second lowest cost airport in Australia to turn international aircraft and we are about 30 per cent lower than Sydney and Brisbane," he said.

The Perth Airport has $650 million worth of capital projects underway including the first new domestic terminal, $450 million for a new international pier and the development of the first multi-deck car park in the precinct, he said.

"We are working with the Public Transport Authority on the planning and design of rail to the Perth Airport, and the tunnelling and location of underground stations," he said.

"Public transport to the airport is limited to one single bus route from the CBD and it takes about an hour and has many stops."

A challenge in Perth is services have to meet the demand of the resource sector and this is a critical part of our lives in WA, he said.