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No time for tunnel vision

By Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe - posted Friday, 28 April 2006

The leaking of a secret Brisbane City Council report on "negative financial information" about the TransApex tunnels (Courier-Mail, March 20) is only part of an emerging trend that raises serious doubts about the viability of these massive road projects.

Before Brisbane commits to major new transport proposals, the community needs to openly consider the implications that new infrastructure plans have for future social, economic and financial sustainability.

A 30 per cent increase in the price of oil since early 2004 has affected household behaviour, particularly car use. Until recently the evidence for this was only anecdotal. Official reports are now confirming changes in household travel behaviour.


Joining the dots between these reports suggests the need for a major re-think of Brisbane's strategic transport priorities.

The Commonwealth Bank research unit reported recently that Australian petrol consumption declined 8 per cent in 2005. The bank says this is the largest annual decline in 20 years, which is astonishing given strong overall economic growth. As petrol prices increase, households have reduced their use of petrol, but how?

The answer comes from a recent ACNeilsen survey of household responses to petrol prices.

Of 500 households surveyed, 84 per cent said they were affected by the petrol price shocks while 27 per cent said higher fuel costs were affecting them a lot. How these households changed their travel behaviour is startling.

ACNeilsen said 61 per cent reported driving less, 57 per cent were combining their errands, 19 per cent were using public transport more and 12 per cent were avoiding peak hour.

Brisbane City Council reports suggest the winner from rising petrol prices is public transport. Patronage on Brisbane buses rose a dramatic 10.5 per cent to the end of June 2005. This is the kind of increase that most public transport managers fantasise about. It's far beyond Translink's hoped for 5 per cent target.


Part of this gain is due to integrated ticketing which since mid-2004 has made using public transport easier, driving patronage upwards.

Yet bus use in the year to December 2005 grew by a more astounding 13.7 per cent.

The 2005 oil shock has accelerated already "record-breaking" patronage growth. Recently The Courier-Mail reported bus use at its highest since the 1940s (when there was petrol rationing). The widespread peak hour crowding on many buses and trains attests to a system straining in the face of rapidly growing demand and chronic under-investment.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on April 11, 2006.

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About the Authors

Jago Dodson is a Research Fellow at the Urban Policy Program, Griffith University.

Neil Sipe is head of the School of Environmental Planning at Griffith University

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Jago Dodson
All articles by Neil Sipe

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

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