Business Web Sites
Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageThe Gold Coast has already had a slice of light rail funding – and many cities want to follow suit.AAP Image/Dave Hunt

The federal government’s rekindled enthusiasm for public transport has sent state and local governments across the country scurrying back to their light rail plans – even those that many of us thought would never see the light of day.

It now looks as if the two-year effective moratorium on rail spending under Tony Abbott will be just a relatively brief hiatus. Besides the Gold Coast and Perth, the light rail revival could also involve Newcastle, Parramatta, Bendigo, Canberra, Cairns, Darwin and Hobart.

All have drawn up plans that they hope could emulate the success of light rail in European and American cities (not to mention Melbourne, home of the world’s largest tram system) as a focal point for urban development.

The main reason that so many Australian cities have been trying to copy this model is that it works. Europe has been using light rail as a major tool of urban regeneration, especially in France where many smaller towns have been very successful. In the United States between 1993 and 2011, public transport use grew by 23% (and light rail by 190%), while car use growth peaked.

The key reason for this seems to be the extra speed and capacity created when light (or heavy) rail goes around, under or over traffic that has been getting slower and slower in every major city (see the table below). Meanwhile, urban regeneration around light rail corridors allows people to end their automobile dependence, helping cities grow inwards faster than outwards.

Tony Abbott forced the genie back into the bottle by following through on his 2013 pre-election decision to drop all federal rail funding. The move showed scant regard for how modern cities attract talented people to live and work in the knowledge economy jobs that are so necessary for innovation.

Around the world, cities compete on walkability and public transport, because these things make it less likely that young, creative workers will leave for London, Paris or New York. A recent report from Smart Growth America found that in Boston, 70% of young people working in the knowledge economy live in highly walkable areas. Their jobs typically require them to come together with lots of different people in an urban situation, and they don’t have time for long commutes.

So the knowledge economy needs spatial efficiency. Public transport, cycling and walking are spatially efficient; freeways, traffic jams and urban sprawl are not.

Enough to go around?

This is precisely the phenomenon on which Turnbull has picked up, by stressing innovation and freeing up infrastructure funding for light rail projects. The genie is out again, but obviously there will not be enough money to make every city’s transport wishes come true. So how can we proceed?

imageOn track for the future… if enough cities can find the money.AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Cities now need to make a strong case for their light rail projects, based on the benefits of urban regeneration as well saving commuters time. The best way to do this is to attract private funding as well as taxpayers' money, by bringing private investors on board with the financing, who then earn a return on the increased land values generated by rail development. This is called “land value capture” and still has not been done in Australia, although it’s common in the United States and Asia.

In fact, one could argue that the federal government should only release Commonwealth funding if these funds are multiplied many times over by the private sector. So cities could begin by calling for expressions of interest from private companies to design, build, finance, own and operate the light rail link and, crucially, make sure this includes land-development options (rather than letting in outside developers to gain windfall profits instead of directing the money into paying for the light rail).

Government would need to contribute a base grant and an operational fund that could be more specifically focused along the areas where the biggest benefits are felt in the corridor itself, where land values will go up most. Private expertise will ensure that the best sites are chosen for the light rail route.

These land-value increases will flow through taxes into treasury and can be set aside in a dedicated light rail fund for ongoing operations or for raising further finance. This way, with a bit of economic magic, the light rail genie could grant more cities their wishes.

Peter Newman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-light-rail-genie-is-out-of-the-bottle-but-how-many-cities-will-get-their-wish-48669


The Conversation

Politics

Prime Minister - Step up in drought budget support

Drought-hit farmers, small businesses and rural towns are set for an immediate cash injection to keep stock fed and watered, keep businesses open, keep locals in work and pump funds into local eco...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

David Littleproud MP interview with Tom Connell

Interview with Tom Connell – Sky News NewsDay   The Coalition’s latest drought support package   TOM CONNELL: David Littleproud, thanks for your time. We've got this drought package going throug...

Tom Connell - avatar Tom Connell

Prime Minister Address Tom Hughes Oration Dinner

Thank you very much, Julian, for that very kind introduction.  It was very generous. Thank you very much for those words.  It's great to be here with you.  I'm here today to give the vote of thank...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Decathlon Group: Global sporting brand opens its third store

International sporting brand Decathlon today opened its much anticipated third store in Victoria.    Located at 405 Boundary Road, Moorabbin Airport, the store extends the brand’s footprint across V...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

How to grow your construction business into an empire

If construction is the business that you are in and you are looking to make the transition from being a small operator to a major player, you are going to have to ask some tough questions. And qui...

News Company - avatar News Company

Acciona And Surfing Australia Partnership

Acciona Ambassador and 2020 World Surf League (WSL) Women’s World Tour rookie Isabella Nichols with Bede Noonan, Managing Director of Acciona Geotech at today's launch. CASUARINA/NSW (N...

Blainey Woodham - avatar Blainey Woodham

Travel

Planning a High School Educational Trip: Useful Pointers to Keep in Mind

Planning and managing an educational trip is not an easy job for teachers, especially if the group consists of high school teenagers! At the same time, high schoolers are also at an age where they...

News Company - avatar News Company

Why Do So Many Brits Travel To Australia?

Australia is one of the most popular destinations for travellers around the world, but maybe none more so that British travellers. Hundreds of thousands of Brits leave the UK on a yearly basis to sw...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hen Weekends Abroad- Top 5 cities for a perfect hen party

All good things end. It’s not to say that marriage shouldn’t be treated as something absolutely exceptional - on the contrary. Unfortunately though, once we find the person we couldn’t imagine our l...

Monika Rose - avatar Monika Rose

ShowPo