We could also invest as much energy and thought into the future of work and workplaces. Much regional growth planning seems fixated on housing, and maybe the provision of schools. But there could be more discussion about how we support more opportunities for jobs and industry near where future populations will live. Jobs closer to homes allows for shorter commutes and potentially reduces congestion caused by lengthy trips, or trips in one direction. The fast-emerging post Covid economy will be shaped by tech and new and emerging industries along with high growth industries like health and education. If we did as much planning for distributed suburban hubs as we do for inner cities, we might find the investment pays dividends.
More time thinking about the alleviating benefits of autonomous, electric travel might also be handy. This technology is already with us, it just hasn't been widely deployed yet. Instead of every million people requiring 600,000 to 700,000 cars – most of which sit in garages for 20 hours of the day going nowhere – the prospect of not owning a car but having access to an on-demand fleet of hybrid private-public transport vehicles is something we could be thinking more about?
Buses and hybrids (like Brisbane's Metro) could also be worth expanding – on the basis that making use of the existing road network is a more flexible and much cheaper option than fixed heavy rail tracks, fixed heavy rail stations and fixed overhead power lines. This handy video summarises a number of trackless tram initiatives around the country (though very strangely leaves out Brisbane's metro which is arguably far more advanced).
We could also make better use of existing infrastructure including the heavy commuter rail network. Existing suburban train stations are commonly viewed as potential high density housing hubs so that city workers can commute to their city jobs. But what about viewing these also as potential destination stations, surrounded by higher density employment zones? Or schools? Or community facilities? Some stations offer ample surrounding land for this to occur. Moving away from a centralised view of the economy and transport to one that encourages dispersed employment nodes around suburban hubs seems critical to maximising the infrastructure opportunities we already have.
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