Page 3362 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 September 2015

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(b) the cost of the duplication, compared with other budget priorities and community needs;

(c) technical traffic assessments, which suggest duplication does not need to be considered for several years; and

(d) alternative transport options, such as improvements to the public transport network, and how this may mitigate the need for road upgrades.”.

As we know, road upgrades are generally popular in the community. A large proportion of Canberrans do most of their travelling by car and no-one likes to be delayed in traffic. Who would complain about a road upgrade in that context? Given this, as the election approaches I expect to see both the Labor and Liberal parties battle to outdo each other with promises of road upgrades. We have seen the same thing in previous elections. The costs of these promises are likely to swell, and whoever promises to spend the most on roads will probably consider themselves the winner of the political battle. The next Assembly’s capital spending agenda will be largely set by these road upgrade promises.

But as decision-makers making decisions for the long-term future of Canberra, is this the right way to conduct transport planning? It is not easy for a city to break out of car dependency. When a city already largely relies on car travel, there is a constant pressure to upgrade and build more roads. But doing this, of course, means car traffic increases. The city continues to be planned around cars and the government spends its major infrastructure money on infrastructure for cars. And so the circle of car dependency continues.

What is actually needed is careful decision-making, guided by a strong and consistent commitment to sustainability. I understand that it is quite a challenge to resist upgrading roads, because a large amount of pressure comes from the driving public. And of course, politically, just giving the type of speech I am giving today is likely to get me branded as a car hater—it has certainly happened in this place before—the convenient insult that the Liberal Party flings if anyone ever suggests taking a more thoughtful approach to transport planning. There is no nuance allowed, apparently. Either you get on board with any suggestion for building roads or you apparently hate cars and roads.

I will be clear, as I have been before, that the approach I am suggesting does not mean that we cannot build roads or car parks or accommodate drivers. Private vehicles will probably always be part of our transport system here in the ACT. What this approach does mean is that we should show some level of resistance to upgrading roads or building new roads. Certainly we should not just charge out and try to build every new road that someone asks for, with a special enthusiasm if it happens to be in our electorate.

We should instead look very carefully at how building the proposed road might impact on future travel patterns of the city, on the way our city grows and develops and what the road would mean for our commitment to transforming into a sustainable city that is trying to break free of car dependency. We should not just pour our limited ACT budget funds into upgrading roads if they do not need upgrading.

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