Are we just too reliant on cars and freeways?

Experts say peak hour commuter chaos on the Kwinana Freeway this morning is symptomatic of West Australians’ reliance on their cars.

The northbound lands of the freeway were closed from 5:30am to 9:30am causing mayhem for drivers who had to find alternate routes into the city.

Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University Peter Newman says our ‘automobile dependence’ is undesirable and needs to change in the future.

Professor Peter Newman’s definition of automobile dependence

“We have had dramatically rapid growth in our rail system but it’s still a small option for a few people,” he says.

“We have grown from seven million passengers a year on the train to 70 million over a 15-year period. That’s dramatic in any city but tiny to the portion of people we have today.”

Convener of the Sustainable Transport Coalition of Western Australia Stephen Kovacs says the only way to keep up with our increasing population is to continue to develop the road network and other options.

“Public transport networks really need to expand, that would include passenger rail services and rapid bus transport,” he said. 

“But really another solution in addition to expanding the network of public transport is what is needed.”

An accident closed Kwinana Freeway between Leach Highway and Mill Pt Road.

A report this year from an Infrastructure Australia audit says that Kwinana freeway is ranked ninth among the 10 worst Australian roads. 

This is set to double over the next 12 years to become the seventh worst road in Australia. 

This calls for more alternatives on Australian roads as Professor Newman is pushing for a trackless tram option.

He says the tram will essentially hold more people than a regular train while requiring relatively little space.

“You can go 70 kilometres an hour with 300 people which would take the equivalent of six lanes of traffic,” he says. 

Trials for this system will hopefully be coming in Perth over the next three years.  

Stephen suggests that Perth should look at other similar countries like Canada in their alternative methods of transport.

Stephen Kovacs’ comparision between Perth and Vancouver.

Stephen says the best thing to do in the meantime is for governments to continue to promote alternative methods of transport for commuters.

“Even if people used a non-car alternative one day a week it would immediately take of so much pressure of the road network during peak time and give better flowing roads.” 

Kwinana Freeway entrance where the roads were closed.
Photo: Nigel Smith.

Categories: General