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Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group: Chance to have your say

My apologies for the late notice on this one but Main Roads Western Australia is forming a community working group to provide input into the “options to combat the congestion issues faced by commuters, community and businesses in the northern metropolitan corridor.  The focus is on the extension of the Mitchell Freeway north of Burns Beach Road.”

If you live in the northern suburbs you may wish to consider nominating for the community working group. Nominations close however on April 20, 2012 so you need to move quickly.

Main Roads WA Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group

Main Roads WA Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group*

If you do not wish to nominate or if you missed the nomination deadline there is still an opportunity to provide feedback to the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group via a one page survey form. The feedback form allows for written submission to the working group.

Full details of the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group can be found here. Details of how to nominate for the community working group can also be found at this website.

Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group terms of reference

The terms of reference for the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group provide the general work program for the group and hence could be used frame at least in part any submissions one makes. The terms of reference are:

  1. Identifying current and anticipated specific regional, social, environmental and economic issues affecting, or likely to affect, the growth of the north metropolitan Perth area in the next 20 years.
  2. Identifying current and anticipated factors that may impact overall travel times in the northern metropolitan corridor in the next 20 years.
  3. Researching improved methods and governance models for delivering transport improvements to the network within the northern metropolitan corridor to meet community expectations, including:
    1. Analysis of increasing congestion in the northern metropolitan corridor, drawing on national and international experience (and by inviting community representation and feedback).
    2. Preparing options to establish the most effective plans and governance models that allow strategic partnerships and enhanced community engagement, taking into account the desires of private and other sector involvement, recognising patterns of demographic change, regional and state growth and ways to prioritise these options  for government in a constrained budget environment.
  4. Identifying new opportunities to extend the Mitchell Freeway and enhance reduction in overall travel times in the northern metropolitan corridor to better meet the needs of the community.
  5. Presenting a limited list of  achievable improvement options together with a recommendation on the preferred option to not only extend the Mitchell Freeway north to met the demands of growth in the corridor, but to improve overall travel times in the northern metropolitan corridor.
  6. Submission of a set of recommendations by the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group to the Minister for Transport by the end of 2012.

Whilst in my view the terms of reference do have a strong focus on the motor vehicle and extension of the Mitchell Freeway (see terms of reference points four and five for example), there is room for the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group to look wider, to consider alternate transport options.  The working group also has the scope to consider public transport options and to take a more holistic approach to the transport issues facing the northern suburbs.

The Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group is has the ability to consider the implications of transport choices and public health including chronic disease issues and how they can either work against each other or work together for the well being of ourselves and our children into the future.

My thoughts and submission to the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group

In my view the bottom line issue from a traffic perspective is congestion.  Congestion is a result of more motor vehicles on limited common land infrastructure, i.e., roads. Building more roads such as extending the Mitchell Freeway, and/or widening roads simply compounds the problem of the problem of congestion on our roads in the northern suburbs.  In my view such approaches do not solve the problem of congestion, they add to it. The old adage very much applies here and that is if you build the roads, the motor vehicles will come. That is it will not take long to attract more motor vehicles and the congestion will be back again on the agenda. Cities around the world have demonstrated this over and over; it is time for Perth to take a new approach.

Western Australia and Perth in particular have without a doubt a love of single occupancy vehicle travel and politically that is a strong motivation to continue developing road infrastructure in support of that love.  However that does not make it smart or visionary. What we need here is a strong will to stand up and take a more holistic approach for the long term well being of our city and our children.

In my view the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group should first and foremost focus on recommending the development of good quality public transport options and good quality alternative transport options BEFORE focusing on the extension of the Mitchell freeway. That is we should be changing our focus, our priority from  single occupancy motor vehicles to good alternatives transport options. For sure extend the Mitchell Freeway if that is considered appropriate, but first put in place good quality alternatives, alternatives which provide a serious option for commuters and the community.

From a public transport perspective, the rail system needs to be extended first and foremost, before the Mitchell Freeway or at least at the same time. Extending the railway on its own is not sufficient. We must also have in place sufficient rolling stock to handle demand now and the significant growth into the future. This needs to be planned and funded now, not left on the back burner for the future. Adding more rail line and carriages is only the start. We need to put in place smarter ways to get to the trains which include but are not limited to buses. We need to encourage the use of cycling and walking to the trains.  We need to change the way we think about commuting.

Trains should have at least one carriage during peak times for bicycle commuters only, thus making it easy for commuters to leave the car at home, ride to the train station, catch the train and then at the other end ride to work without significant effort. We need to remove the restriction on bicycles on trains in peak times and instead support and encourage greater use of the train system.

Supporting the train system needs to be development and implementation of bus transport models that not only feed into the train system but also facilitate easy and convenient travel throughout the northern suburbs, i.e., to recreational facilities (beaches, parks, stadiums) and to shopping centres. Better still development of facilities such as shopping centres and the like should significantly reduced in size and encouragement given to smaller local shopping centres which can be easily accessed by walking or bicycle. We need to move to change our dependency on the car.

With this change in development focus we need to put in place good safe infrastructure to support options including walking and cycling for both recreational purposes as well as transportation purposes. Families should be able to easily ride to the shops, to the parks, to the beaches. Commuters should be able to easily commute to the train station, to work on high quality cycling and pedestrian paths. We need quality end of trip facilities at parks, at beaches, at shopping centres. We happily build expensive (money and land) car parks, well it is time to put some of that money into high quality bicycle parking instead. Make it safe and easy to ride the bike instead of taking the car.

In terms of shopping centres, taxation and other incentives should be considered to encourage the use of cargo bikes and the like to allow consumers to easily ride to the shopping centre and to ride home with their shopping, again taking cars off the road.

Schools. Children should be where possible riding and walking to school and again we need to ensure there is good quality infrastructure to encourage this. Many many children live within walking and riding distance of schools. There is really no need to drive our children to school in so many instances, but we need to encourage mums and dads to take up these non-driving options and to do that we need to build quality safe infrastructure. Shift the focus from the car to the bicycle and our legs. Children are our future … their health should be paramount in all considerations, including transportation considerations.

In Western Australia as in many parts of the world we are facing a serious health problem with obesity and with chronic diseases. Encouraging the use of the motor vehicles is contributing to this very serious health endemic facing us all. The Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group has a real opportunity to provide input to not only contribute to reducing the traffic congestion issues but to contributing towards making headway on the health endemic facing the community of the northern suburbs.

I strongly encourage the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group to think laterally, to think outside the box, to think big, to think beyond single occupancy vehicles and think our health and future our children when providing input into resolving the increasing congestion in the northern metropolitan corridor.

Your Turn To Talk

I hope you liked this post or at least it challenges your thinking! Please do stop by the comment section below and share your thoughts on the Mitchell Freeway Extension Community Working Group and its deliberations with the rest of us.

What are you thoughts on how we might make progress on our northern suburbs traffic congestion problems? Please share your thoughts by leave a comment below 🙂

* The photo used in this post has been sourced from news.com.au

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