The Age yesterday ran a report on the PTUA’s submission to the Garnaut inquiry on climate change, with the headline being “Ban new freeways: transport group” — above another rather good article about cars not being on average any more efficient than 40 years ago.
It didn’t take long for the rev heads to spot the report, and as you might expect, they launched (within their own little forum) a tirade of abuse: everything from tree hugging, whale saving, dread locked morons to mungbean chewers and tree huggers. It was pretty clear none of them had read the Age article or the original press release, let alone the study itself.
Green groups (real greenies, that is, not just us sustainable transport advocates) also spotted the Age report, and a version of the story got a run in the West Australian. And there was a chat between yours truly and John Barron this morning on ABC News Radio. (MP3, 9Mb, 4 min 53 sec)
Perhaps to some people it sounds counter-intuitive: that building motorways doesn’t solve traffic congestion, but makes it worse. But not if you think about it. When each new road opens, people consider their travel options, and if it’s markedly easier to drive, many of them do. They drive longer, and in greater numbers, because they can, and the new road fills up. The end result is we have more space dedicated to roads, more cars on the road for longer, and more congestion and pollution.
Maybe we should turn it around: What proof is there that building motorways does help congestion? The quick answer is that there’s nowhere in the world (except perhaps Houston, where they spend billions on it every year, and oh, look at their greenhouse emissions!) where this has turned out to be the case.
The French have worked all this out, and last October President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to stop building motorways and put the money into railways instead, to improve freight and passenger rail.
Anyway, this is only a small part of the report. What the rest of it is pointing out is that while transport isn’t the majority of greenhouse emissions, it is growing fast (up 30% in the last 15 years) and as part of an overall push to reduce emissions, action needs to be taken on transport. Hybrid cars will only help to a certain extent (and actually rely on stop-start congestion to be efficient), oil is running out, and other fuels are unproven (with biofuels in particular causing emissions during production, and resulting in food shortages).
Good to have sparked some debate about it, anyway.