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In the news on cars and climate

Posted in Policies by Ferne Edwards on August 20th, 2008

The section below is republished with permission from the Going Solar Transport Newsletter #73, 19 August 2008, compiled by Stephen Ingrouille. Going Solar, This newsletter provides an excellent commentary on local sustainable transport issues in Melbourne.

Love in a Car Climate
“There seems to be an idea rattling around, driven by concerns about global warming, that we need to stop building roads and using cars, and take to public transport to save the planet. Governments are expected to underwrite this change by creating a public transport system that would obviate car use. Essentially, the formulation is: public transport good, automobiles evil. We don’t need that sort of mania. There’s no doubt that public transport has to keep improving and becoming more attractive, not just for environmental reasons, but for our economy to function more effectively. And socially, public transport has positive effects. Anything that can bring people together in a shared purpose is good, and that’s really what happens on a bus or a train or a tram. … But there’s no turning back: we’re a car-based society. The choice was made a long time ago.

“After the Second World War, we established a car industry and started developing new suburbs, first at the end of our radial rail lines and, more recently, far beyond the reach of the rail and bus systems. This has happened not just in the capital cities but in the large regional centres too. … However, our car addiction is not just the result of past planning decisions: it’s an expression of our national culture, a personal sign of individual freedom. The motor vehicle has been one of the great liberating forces in modern history. For many, many Australians, obtaining a driver’s licence and getting access to a car are the defining moments of adulthood, where for the first time in their lives they can go wherever they want.

So let’s drop the utopian notions of an Australia where everyone can have a train station or a light rail nearby and the services are frequent and trouble-free. If it ever happened, and maybe it did 50 years ago, it cannot happen now. … We love our cars and we want to keep them.”
Ref: Shaun Carney, The Age, 6/8/08

“Well, thank you Shaun Carney, that’s sorted that out! All red-blooded Australians love their cars and should be able to drive them as and when they like. Shaun’s premise leads to sprawling suburbs with no public transport, jobs a long drive away and hulking stand-alone shopping centres with an identical mix of shops. After we create this paradise, we find the congestion is appalling, and then start to knock down some of the less car-based inner suburbs to impose monolithic urban motorways so everyone can drive from one suburb to another a little faster.”
Ref: John McPherson, The Age, 7/8/08

‘I could go where I wanted, [said Martin Chiriano of Werribee]. “It was not just transport, it was fun. Now I calculate it costs me $6 for a round trip to Werribee Plaza.” If fuel is the lifeblood of Melbourne’s sprawling outer suburban dream, the dream is looking decidedly anaemic as low-income earners battle prices that in recent weeks have hit $1.70 a litre. … Despite his 1996 four-litre Falcon’s guzzling, Mr Chiriano has been able to rein in some costs, moving back to his family home in Werribee and shifting his university course to the nearby campus of Victoria University instead of distant Footscray. Many low income earners in the outer suburbs are finding themselves trapped. “I never go to the city now,” he said. His friend Julie Barrios, of Taylor’s Lakes, does not even have this choice. She calculates she spends half her earnings as a freelance personal carer on the petrol for her 1998 Commodore. ‘I am losing half my wage, she said. ‘It is costing me $180 a week for fuel. I can’t sell the car for much, and if I buy a new one I’ll be losing money on the repayments. I’m stuck in a trap.
Ref: Geoff Strong, The Age, 2/8/08

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