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Federal funding for PT
Aaron Hewett

Ari on his blog has brought up something that should fire up some urban planners and public transport advocates and involve us in the happenings during the week before 9 Oct.

The state/federal divide between public transport funding and roads funding. Read Ari's article here.

Public transport, to the federal government, is somehow seen as a social issue that should be addressed and funded by the states. Roads on the other hand are happily funded by the Federal Government under the Roads of National Significance program.

I would argue, as an anti-roads advocate and not a constitutional lawyer, that the Feds should only be building roads that cross state boundaries, and not major metropolitan freeways. If they wish to enter into the domain of funding metropolitan roads, then they can fund metropolitan public transport too (like they used to back when Labor was in power - under the Building Better Cities programme).

There is an parliamentary inquiry that should be delivering a report in November about Federal involvement in urban planning. This report will hopefully urge the PM of the day (Latham, Howard or Costello) to fund more public transport infrastructure programs.

What do other people think??

General 1st October, 2004 18:17:53   [#] 

Comments

more Canberra bureaucrats?
There are all sorts of issues going on here:

Starting with the most abstract, there is the question of federal involvement in all manner of (theoretically) state responsibilities. The Federal government has dipped its fingers in progressively more pies over the years; without making any substantial improvements to the efficiency of service delivery or the outcomes. There are (roughly speaking) two reasons for this:

1) The tax system is now biased - particularly since the GST - towards the Feds, and hence the majority of state funding comes from a central source. And that means strings.

2) Political expediency. If people care about education, promise education funding, even if you shouldn't. This was particularly true of Labor. Needless to say, both the Whitlam and Hawke/Keating governments had urban planning initiatives.

Constitutional lawyers have an annoying tendency on this issue to look at it as a legal problem, when it is entirely political. In this respect, as someone who thinks most issues are best handled locally (particularly planning) more federal involvement is a terrible idea. Interstate highways are used locally as much as nationally and the funding for them should stop.


Second, there is the issue of road versus rail funding generally, their relationship to the public and private users of the systems, the relative incentives that disparities between them cause, the political costs of favouring one over the other, and the difficulty in determining what is and isn't a subsidy. If I was to say that "I have discovered a truly remarkable solution to this problem which this comment is too small to contain", it would probably be a fair reflection of its inherent difficulty. And my inherent nerd-dom.


Finally, there is the planning issues themselves. If we are to actually plan, and not just respond to circumstances, then funding new train and tram lines isn't enough. They need to be in the right places, promoting the right types of travel to the right places. Unfortunately, the Federal and even the State governments are interested in getting the most bang for the buck; and being seen to do something rather than getting good planning outcomes. This means extending the train system to marginal seats in the outer suburbs, which merely reinforces the sprawling suburban-city paradigm that Melbourne 2030 is trying to get away from by promoting activity centres.


In short, I hope the Federal government stays the hell away from our cities. I'd also like to see Knox take the initiative and build their own light-rail system, but I suppose they lack the cash.
Russ  2nd October, 2004 23:00:42  

Federal Public Trasnport Funding is Possible
Knox Council has already taken the initiative in planning a feasibility study for the Rowville Rail Line.

Local council can conduct studies and ensure that public transport is the centrepiece of all future development. Rail Lines are needed not to reinforce urban sprawl but to simply 'catch up' to areas where sprawl has already taken place (eg. South Morang) or where housing estates have been planned and are in place (eg. Roxburgh Park and Lynbrook)

The Better Cities Program, which established the precedent of federal public transport involvement funded the tram extension to Bundoora and electrification to Cranbourne

Even without a 'Better Cities' type program Federal funding of public transport is still possible using the Australian Land Transport Development Act of 1988.

Federal funding of public transport is possible and desirable, Australia is now the only westen nation where the Federal Government is not involved in public transport.

Alex Makin
Alex Makin  5th October, 2004 16:51:46  


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