Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Planning for Oil Vulnerability

The Age is mining stories from a special issue of The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) journal Australian Planner titled CITIES AND OIL VULNERABILITY (Vol 47, No 4, Dec 2010).

I have compiled my own review from this issue (including quotes) which you can find at:
The Shorter PIA – Australian Oil Vulnerability
Shorter PIA NO. 2
Cycling over the peak - PIA NO.3
Where do the children play? PIA NO. 4
Transurbanization – PIA NO. 5
Public Planning and Policy Post Petroleum – PIA NO. 6 Finale

Much of this information may sound like 'old news' to peak oil literate readers but at least in this form it gets reported as a serious topic (no longer some 'fringe' opinion) and the reports will be presented to the council of Australian Governments from a recognized professional body.
Report warns of oil woes (edited - a bit)
Andrew West, December 28, 2010
AUSTRALIA will be forced to rely on huge quantities of imported oil unless it radically overhauls its transport and urban policies, according to a major study by the Planning Institute of Australia.
The study ... warns that without urgent national action the country's trade deficit will spiral and many of the outer suburbs will become slums. ...Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University, who is ... an adviser to the federal government, said the most compelling finding of the research was 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." He said every state should duplicate a Queensland law that requires local councils to conduct an "oil dependence study" when approving new developments.
Dr Jago Dodson of Griffith University, forecast a grim future, with Australia's trade deficit, which was $9.3 billion in 2008-09, due to hit $25 billion by 2015, largely because of oil imports. "With Australian cities so clearly exposed to the effects of depleting global oil supplies, our urban planning should now turn its attention to mitigating oil vulnerability and adapting Australian cities to an oil-constrained world."
Professor Newman said the cost of building public transport to remote suburbs on the urban fringe would become prohibitive and Australian policymakers were "about 30 years behind the times" in solving the problem.
Transport study derails thinking on outer suburbs
Andrew West, January 5, 2011
Dr John Stone, of the University of Melbourne, and Dr Paul Mees, of RMIT University, argue that many city dwellers have been presented with a false choice - live in apartments and enjoy good public transport or retain the house and land and rely on cars.
"Many planners, and other commentators on urban issues, appear to believe that getting significantly more people on public transport will not be possible until massive changes in suburban densities are achieved", they write. Their study ... finds that cities with densities comparable with Melbourne and Sydney, such as Toronto, Ottawa and greater New York, have better public transport than Australia's two biggest cities.
Greater New York ... has 20.5 people to the hectare: Sydney has 20.4 people. Melbourne, with 15.7 people to the hectare, has only slightly lower density than Ottawa, with 17.2 people.
"There is no doubt that a compact and connected urban form enhances the potential for oil-free mobility through walking, cycling, and greater public transport use", the authors write. "However, we argue that it is not necessary to intensify land-use across the whole city before significant improvement in both patronage and economic efficiency of public transport becomes possible."
[I]ncreasing public transport use in outer suburbs [requires] more frequent buses, running at least every 10-15 minutes, not just in peak hour; better co-ordination with rail services; more convenient transfers; and fares that allow free transfers between modes.
[R]esidents of Australian cities "will continue to live in houses and suburban subdivisions that are already built". "Alternatives to the car will need to be effective at existing urban residential densities".
The forward to this special edition by Neil Savery, the president of the PIA, states in part;

One topic, however, that seems to continue to elude any serious discussion as to how cities, regions and national economies will function in the future, and within the time scales that COAG is looking to have city planning contemplate, is declining reserves of oil.
[O]il literally greases the wheels of the economy, and whilst technology will inevitably offer alternatives to some of the applications to which oil is currently used, its increasing cost and scarcity will fundamentally change economic and social norms.
There is also an inevitable inter-dependency between the consumption of oil as a carbon fuel and climate change, so that as oil achieves its peak of production, global temperatures rise. As a result much of the attention falls on transport, mobility and how we can design communities to be more resilient.
Peak oil features in this edition of Australian Planner and puts a different complexion on the notion of adaptation, providing an insight into some of the thinking that will be required in the future planning of urban and regional centres. Inevitably this includes the critical relationship between land use and transport planning.
The press releases for this special issue can be found here:
Australia Policy Poor on Peak Oil
Lack of preparation on a number of levels is leaving Australian cities vulnerable to the damaging effects of global petroleum supply constraints.
Peek at Australian City Post Peak Oil
How Australian cities can become thriving, resilient and sustainable communities when they no longer rely on oil, is outlined in a paper published today in the December issue of Australian Planner.
Public Transport Network Key to Post Oil Mobility
Lateral thinking on planning public transport is proposed as the key to transport solutions in Australian cities in a post-petroleum era.
It's always a bit frustrating when 'Special Issues' are released with some fanfare in the press like this, but are not publicly available. As a service to the community, it would be nice if more publishing houses occasionally stood back from the gates a little - perhaps making these issues the 'sample copy'.

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