Car-Dependent Suburbs May Be Slums of The Future, Says Urban Planning Report


Photo credit: Warren McLaren / inov8

A study released by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) in late 2010 found that "Australia will be forced to rely on huge quantities of imported oil unless it radically overhauls its transport and urban policies" according to The Age newspaper who reported on the findings. They also quote Peter Newman of Curtin University, one of the study's authors, as saying that,

''urban sprawl is finished. If we continue to roll out new land releases and suburbs that are car-dependent, they will become the slums of the future.''
The Australian Planner is the national journal published by the PIA, and the current edition, December 2010, is a special issue on Peak Oil, entitled "Cities and Oil Vulnerability". Not an unknown subject to many readers of these pixels, but not the usual sort of material normally found in such an august publication as a national urban planning journal.

Which did raise a few eyebrows, resulting in some coverage of Peak Oil across some mainstream newspapers. Unfortunately the special issue is only available for reading by financial member of the Planning Institute of Australia.

[Peak OilPeak Oil being that high point on a bell curve where global petroleum extraction reaches maximum output and then starts to decline. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) production of conventional crude oil peaked in 2006, not that this stopped demand from increasing. The issues that stem from Peak Oil have to do with the crunch that will come when our demand exceeds remaining supply.]

The Planning Institute of Australia do have three media releases that accompany the journal's publication which allude to the material within the special issue.

One quotes Dr Jago Dodson from the Urban Research Program at Brisbane's Griffith University: "By reviewing relevant plans and policies at the local, regional, metro, state and national levels we uncovered vertical and horizontal disconnections. Current policy and planning prescriptions are simply not adequate to protect our cities from the effects of petroleum supply constraints." Although they do note that the state of Queensland does require local councils to consider petroleum supply in all new developments.

Another media release referring to one of the papers in the journal, 'Petroleum Depletion Scenarios for Australian Cities' has the authors seeking alernative energy solutions within the problems:

"At many homes, shopping centres and businesses, shared plug-in electric vehicles (PEV's) are parked. Each such vehicle is part of a programme enabling renewable power to be stored in the vehicles' batteries for release back into the grid as demand rises during the day."

And the final media release suggests that massive changes in urban densities are not the key to getting more people on public transport. Instead this particular paper 'Planning Public Transport Networks in the Post-Petroleum Era' argues that,

"Transfers are integral to a public transport system that offers access to a large number of potential destinations at an affordable cost."

The Australia and New Zealand chapter of The Oil Drum has a more detailed analysis of the special edition. We provide the links below:

Planning for Oil Vulnerability
Dark clouds on the urban horizon: petroleum and Australian planning
The impact of rising oil prices on the transport sector
Rethinking oil depletion: what role can cycling really play in dispersed cities?
The hope for oil crisis: children, oil vulnerability and (in)dependent mobility
Mind the governance gap: oil vulnerability and urban resilience in Australian cities

The Oil Drum looks at why Peak Oil has profound implications for urban planning Down Under:
- Australia is the greatest per-capita energy consumer of the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- Australia has huge reserves of coal and gas, but only 0.3% of the world's oil.
- Australian oil production peaked in 2000
- Australia's local oil now satisfies only two thirds of domestic consumption
- Transport accounts for more than 70% of national petroleum consumption
- 97% of Australian transport powered by petroleum fuels.

Then The Oil Drum extracts salient points from the papers inside the special Peak Oil issue of Australian Planner. From the hard fiscal number crunching to the softer issues that will impact broader society, like the poor planning for one of the least mobile of society - kids:

"Children travelling in the back seat of a car learn little about their own environment, and miss out on the opportunities for exercise that come with active transport to school. They also miss out on valuable opportunities for contact with other people, which provide important social learning experiences."

And this:

"It is now understood that the mere presence of greater numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, by and of itself, leads to an increase in safety for these modes. ... as levels of cycling increase, the rate of cyclist fatalities declines."

Well worth the read.

More Green Urban Planning
Car-Free Suburb Planned for Melbourne, Australia
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Tags: Australia | Biking | Commuting | Oil

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