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Government has lost control of the wheel

By Tristan Peach - posted Monday, 11 July 2005

The Queensland State Government should take driving lessons and dog obedience training if it wants to make sensible investments in southeast Queensland's transport infrastructure.

In an advanced driving course they teach you a simple strategy to avoid crashing into an obstacle when you lose control of your car: focus on the place you want to go instead of focusing on the obstacle you are trying to avoid.

As the population of southeast Queensland grows the state government is steadily "losing control" of the transport system. More people are forced to use the car for more trips, and this causes more accidents, congestion and pollution.


Since the late 1990s, the government has acknowledged that our transport system is heading full speed towards the street pole, and that if we continue in the same direction we will become more polluted and congested.

The Integrated Regional Transport Plan for SEQ reflected this change of attitude, and the draft Regional Plan for SEQ showed that the government finally had decided to grab the steering wheel and take evasive action.

Accordingly, the Regional Plan aims for a transport system that promotes public transport use, walking and cycling by creating efficient, fast, frequent and reliable public transport.

So how would a government achieve these goals in a region where the majority of trips are in the car? How would a government encourage greater use of public transport in a region where the car is far more convenient? To achieve this goal it seems obvious that the majority of infrastructure spending should be on public transport, walking and cycling.

But no, our government has decided to drive towards the street pole at full speed. The recently released State Infrastructure Plan for SEQ is meant to support the transport goals of the Regional Plan.

But it is focused on the thing it is trying to avoid.


For example, in greater Brisbane $5,555 million (65 per cent) of transport funding is to be invested in roads and tunnels, while only $3,029 million (35 per cent) is to be invested in public transport, walking, cycling and freight rail. Do the planners and politicians understand the law of cause and effect? If you continue to focus on the street pole you will hit it. If the government invests heavily in roads then people will keep driving.

But maybe the government thinks it can keep buying votes by building roads, and that people just magically will start using public transport because it is "nice, green and ethical".

Governments are good at telling us cars create pollution and it would be nice if people caught the train. The conventional wisdom is: cars are bad and public transport is good.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on May 5, 2005.

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About the Author

Tristan Peach and works as a part-time lecturer and tutor in urban and regional planning at the Queensland University of Technology. He is a member of Brisbane Group, Communities Against the Tunnels. He does not own a car and walks, cycles and uses public transport for most trips.

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All articles by Tristan Peach

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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