Taking The High Road

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-By Jaime McKee

As one of the main contributors to global warming, Australia’s transport is responsible for about 20 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. A litre of petrol produces about 2.5 kg of greenhouse gases, while motor vehicle usage generates much of Australia’s local air pollution and smog, and about 90 per cent of the country’s carbon monoxide emissions. The social costs of transport include devastating crashes, air pollution, noise pollution, decreased physical activity, time taken away from family while commuting, and vulnerability to the volatile fuel market. Traffic congestion imposes economic costs by wasting time and by slowing the delivery of goods and services.

Yet we continue to drive and fly – cars and planes are the two biggest culprits here – as we journey to work, school, shopping and dining destinations, and travel spots.
It is a reality that is unlikely to change anytime soon; in many ways, transportation equals access – to goods and services, to exciting natural and cultural destinations, to friends and family, and to educational and work opportunities. Were we to limit the kind of mobility Australians now enjoy, we would do so at our peril, limiting the social and economic benefits of consumer activity, tourism, and employment along with it; but we can look to more sustainable alternatives to getting around. In many Australian cities, the infrastructure and market offerings are in place to support such a move – you just have to know where to look.

Australia’s construction industry has a significant role to play in the creation and maintenance of green transport options. Leading-edge construction companies not only deliver, but often drive the nation’s urban development projects, and are well positioned to design and build with sustainability in mind. This may mean contributing their talents to large public works, such as rail extensions or new roadways, constructing underground car park facilities or installing user-friendly bus shelters.

Companies such as Brisland Pty Ltd have contributed significantly to the accessibility of green transport. The firm has produced stunning streetscaping and urban reconfiguration projects with pedestrian safety, cycle access, and bus stops thoughtfully built in. Likewise, Moggill Constructions has been responsible for transportation infrastructure ranging from bikeways to pedestrian bridges to significant rail projects. Firms such as JBA Urban Planning Consultants in NSW take a bird’s eye view to transport, building it into their planning. Responsible for master planning, infrastructure development, and urban renewal projects , JBA’s contributions to the field have included new roads with pedestrian connections, and town squares built around public transit access points.

In today’s political – and literal – climate, it only makes sense that green transport projects have the support of government. Australia’s is no exception, as exemplified by South Australia’s Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure’s Rail Revitalisation plan, which aims to re-fit or electrify various rail networks as needed and perform upgrades to interchange, station, and Park ‘n Ride infrastructure. This plan, just one example of the comprehensive transport schemes presently in development, will ultimately provide commuters with a faster, cleaner, and more efficient service.

The New Car Culture
Not all green transport technology need come from top building firms or government agencies. There are a number of options open to all of us to limit our emissions, save costs, and take advantage of the kind of infrastructure outlined above. Carpooling schemes are one of the most basic options available to us to reduce our transport footprint. They require no new equipment or technology, simply matching drivers with others wanting to make the same journey so multiple passengers can travel in the same car and share costs. Resulting in fewer cars on the road and in parking spaces and less fuel consumed per person, carpooling can make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions with very little effort on the part of participants.

Carpooling can be initiated on an ad hoc basis, with co-workers or friends sharing vehicles and driving duties. There are also a number of commercial schemes in place to support the practice; The Car Pool Australia is just one example of a web-based service that allows users to search or register a vehicle by departure date, time and/or location, or by destination. Increasingly, government support for carpooling is also growing, through the creation of public infrastructure such as high occupancy vehicle lanes in which only vehicles with two or more passengers are permitted to drive.

A more structured option to joint vehicle use is car sharing. Allowing users to book the use of a car by the hour or day, car sharing schemes provide access to a vehicle when needed without the expense of ownership. The organisation renting the cars may be a commercial business or a member-operated democratically controlled company, public agency, cooperative, or ad hoc grouping. Today there are more than one thousand cities in the world where people can car share. In Australia, options such as GreenShareCar and Flexicar offer access to a fleet of efficient, low-emission vehicles 24 hours a day, while Ultra Green Wheels uses a fractional ownership model to provide members with a variety of sustainable ground and air travel options.

The environmental benefits of car sharing differ slightly from those of carpooling. While a hired car is likely to be used by only one person at a time, it still contributes toward an overall reduction in emissions; people who invest in the purchase of an automobile have a built-in, daily incentive to use them and very little incentive not to; but with car sharing, users judge each journey on its merits, and are not likely to hire a car for every trip they make. While car sharing means that a car will be there for you when you need it, users are likely to supplement their driving with walking, cycling, and public transit options.

Cycling, of course, is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport possible. Not only does bike travel produce no greenhouse gases or toxic air pollution, it’s also quiet, keeps riders fit, requires less road and parking space than cars and is much less likely to cause a serious accident.

In Australia’s urban areas, thoughtfully planned CBDs and live-work communities mean that cycling can often be just as accessible, quick, and convenient as driving, particularly when traffic congestion and parking are taken into account. Organisations such as Bicycle NSW and Pedal Power have been busy advocating for better cycling conditions and facilities, and operate rides and events to get more people cycling on a regular basis. Such advocacy again has strong government backing; The Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning, for example, maintains a Queensland Cycle Strategy which aims to enhance the existing cycle network and encourage more daily bicycle trips as an alternative to motor vehicle use. The Department has also secured space for trail bike infrastructure on otherwise under-utilised land.

Cycle-sensitive development projects such as large-scale trails, paths, and dedicated bike lanes, as well as small-scale infrastructure such as bike lockers, secure bike racks, well-engineered road surfaces, and bicycle-sensitive traffic lights, make cycling an increasingly practical option for city dwellers. As with cars, bikes can also be shared between people – Melbourne Bike Share, for example, is an initiative designed for short local trips, and allows members to purchase a subscription, take an iconic bright blue bike when they need it, and then return it to one of the 50 bike stations across the city.

… And Beyond
While it is encouraging to see so many new transport options coming to market from the private sector, it is important to note that some of the most effective forms of sustainable transport are still provided by the public sphere. Public rail and bus facilities, and the most basic form of mobility – walking (please see November’s issue of Australian Construction Focus) – continue to dominate the sustainable transport landscape. The advent of exciting technologies such as electric and hybrid cars, electric bikes, and even electric boats only enriches the field further; the more choices we have, the more likely we are to choose a sustainable option for our next commute to work or trip to the market.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:46 AM AEDT