urban planning

Can anyone tell me why the 398 bus leaves Ferny Grove station in the evenings a full 24 minutes after the train arrives? It’s not as if it’s a bustling centre to keep you occupied either.

Are they setting up the bus to fail?

There has been a lot in the media lately (e.g. The Age, Jan 26) about housing affordability in Australia, and lack thereof. There are lots of reasons for this, and I haven’t done the research to come to a firm opinion myself.

However, in the course of work I have come across something called the “IPA” (Integrated Planning Act, 1997) under which Queensland local governments levy infrastructure charges on developers to cover the cost of infrastructure.

In other words, if you are a developer wishing to create a suburban subdivision, say on the outskirts of Brisbane, you will need to come up with the money to, inter alia:

* build the necessary local streets
* upgrade any regional roads that are affected by the new subdivision
* build or upgrade sewers, local and regional
* build or upgrade stormwater drains, retarding basins and associated works
* build local parks
* build footpaths

Now this money has to come from somewhere, and the upshot that that potentially tens of thousands of dollars is added to the cost of each suburban house block for essential infrastructure costs.

I’m not naive and I know that money has to come from somewhere. Nonetheless, I do wonder if this is the most equitable way of providing infrastructure. I can’t help feel that regional infrastructure (such as main roads and trunk sewers) should be funded by the community as a whole. I am sure – though I’m willing to be proved wrong – that this is how the extensive suburban development of the 50s through to the 90s was funded.

So the overheated economy has come off the boil. In fact, it’s probably boiled over and put out the gas.

That will take a lot of pressure off Australia’s infrastructure. The transport system in particular has been creaking at the seams lately under incredible patronage growth, and there has been a huge rush to ‘do something’ about it. Sydney has invented and dropped more metro schemes than you can shake a stick at. Melbourne has the Eddington ‘plan’. Brisbane has 14 billion dollars’ worth of rail tunnels on the agenda. You get the picture.

In my mind the economic downturn, combined with lower petrol prices, now gives us the opportunity to take a breath and start to plan properly again for the future. We can start to ask some serious questions: how much growth are we really likely to see over the coming decade? where will it be? where do we want it to be? what form will it take?

Last time there was a serious economic downturn in Victoria (in the early 90s following the collapse of Pyramid and Tricontinental), Melbourne got remade. It was changed from a run-down manufacturing city to a city of culture, entertainment and shopping. Unfortunately at the same time the road lobby managed to change the city into a freeway city, with hundreds of kilometres of freeway construction undertaken.

Maybe this time we’ll be able to take the time to think and do it right. So that next time there’s a boom we won’t be caught out again.