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Out of the cars and into the streets

Andrew McTaggart

City of Subiaco

Western Australia is renowned for having the highest level of car usage of any capital city in Australia and one of the highest levels in the world. If current trends continue, car trips in Perth are expected to double by 2029 further compounding levels that are arguably already environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable.

The City of Subiaco has been at the forefront of environmental planning since the mid-1990s. It was one of the first local authorities in Western Australia to adopt both a Local Agenda 21 program and State Government TravelSmart initiatives.

In 1998, local traffic surveys showed an alarming trend over 12 years. While Subiaco residents were travelling slightly shorter distances, the number of car trips they made had increased by 10% at the expense of other modes of transport.

The impact of this trend is intensified in the inner city area of Subiaco, where 91% of residents surveyed express significant concern about traffic impact in the wake of escalating development and the close proximity of large-scale public facilities. On a positive note, over 80% of residents indicated they were willing to reduce private car use, however a majority said they would need assistance to do so in the form of:

• provision of a local transport service

• improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities

• greater access to information.

Armed with a clear mandate, the Subiaco City Council grasped the opportunity to provide sustainable local transport solutions. The objectives were to:

• halt the adverse upward trend in private car use in the area;

• develop actions to make an immediate and sustained impact on community behaviour and transport usage;

• alleviate intense local congestion associated with major sporting events at Subiaco Oval and a growing influx of traffic to local schools, hospitals and tertiary institutions.

Research has demonstrated that a small shift in community behaviour has the potential to dramatically reduce the escalating costs of private car travel in Western Australia. This is particularly relevant in cosmopolitan inner city Subiaco where more than a third of all journeys are completed within the City’s boundaries. Seven key drivers and ten major actions were subsequently identified in a targeted transport action plan for the municipality. Most of these defining activities have been successfully implemented during the past two years.

Highlights of the project include the establishment of Perth’s first intra-suburban bus service (the Subi Shuttle) and the success of a campaign to reduce traffic and parking congestion during major sporting events at Subiaco Oval.

With respect to the Subi Shuttle, funding and support was secured from State Government agencies, the University of WA and major public health institutions to amplify the Council’s direct contribution. This partnering strategy provides the Subiaco community with a $450,000 per annum service for an annual ratepayer contribution of just $50,000. The service, introduced in January 2001, provides a direct link every 15 minutes between Perth’s first underground train station, at Subi Centro, and major regional destinations.

Education, regulation and humour have helped to manage the impact of large parking volumes and to achieve an increase in the number of patrons travelling to Subiaco Oval by public transport. Attracting crowds of up to 43,000 people per event, this major sporting facility is located in the heart of a densely developed residential environment. It represents a critical source of inconvenience, noise and pollution for Subiaco residents, particularly during the football season.

Over the past two years, the City Council has recruited the support of government, community and sporting partners to roll-out a novel and impactive promotional campaign with outstanding effect. At the last National Soccer League finals, for example, 35% of the capacity crowd travelled to the venue by bus or train. This campaign has incorporated:

• extensive advertising in radio, television and print media;

• subsidised fares packaged in Eagles and Dockers Football Club memberships;

• half-time prize draws for public transport ticket holders;

• big screen interviews with public transport patrols;

• free bus and train tickets for parking offenders;

• a two-hour moratorium on parking fines prior to bounce-down;

• restricted parking zones;

• special event and family travel ticket pricing.

Further developments are planned next year such as including negotiations to have bus and train fares included in event ticket pricing and parking fees based on vehicle passenger numbers.

Other initiatives in an attempt to encourage alternatives to the use of the car include proposed amendments to the Council’s Town Planning scheme to include provision for developers to offer end-of-trip facilities for cyclists in place of parking bays. Alternative travel information, such as timetables, access maps, cycling and walking routes, have been distributed widely to residents and commuters in the City. As more than 25% of students are currently driven to school, targeted cycling and safe travel programs have been introduced in local schools.

The campaign adopted in Subiaco has direct and immediate relevance for similar urban municipalities demonstrating the potential for public education and urban planning policies to encourage walking, cycling and patronage of public transport.

About the author

A four year resident of the City of Subiaco, Andrew McTaggart became a Councillor in 2001 and chairs the Sustainable Development Committee and the Subiaco Sustainable House Reference Group. Andrew has worked in various university, government and consultant positions, specialising in water quality management. Andrew is married and has a son, Robert.

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