The City of Hobart have placed a draft of their proposed Transport Strategy for 2018 to 2030 in the public realm and invited submissions and comments from the general public and stakeholders. It contains potentially significant plans for the future of Hobart, and we would heartily recommend that you take the opportunity to read through at least the briefings provided. You can follow a link to their web page by clicking here.
Better Hobart have made a formal submission, a full copy of which has been provided below. The results of the responses will now be collected together and the results analysed before the City of Hobart move forward in the next stage of formal adoption.
In summary however, the Draft Strategy produced by the City of Hobart represents a significant commitment by the Council in recognising the harmful effects that a reliance on a car-centric vision for moving people to and through the city would have, and makes a commitment to a more people focused urban environment. Unfortunately, it also highlights the lack of real opportunities to make a sea-change in this field given the absence of the State to provide sufficient vision, strategy or tools of implementation to help bring forward the Southern Tasmanian Regional Land Use Strategy (RLUS). Instead, the State Government prefers to make vague promises for un-coordinated, un-costed and potentially damaging individual infrastructure projects (or at least produce the visuals for such projects).
Better Hobart are also of the opinion that for all the great work that has gone into its production, and the many positive ideas and aspirations within it, the Strategy often lacks the vision beyond simply merely attempting to make minor improvements in the current way we do things. Instead, Better Hobart believes that the Strategy should take the opportunity to set itself more ambitious but at the same time, clearly defined goals for Hobart by 2030 based on attempting to make Hobart a leader in the field of creating a fairer, healthier, vibrant and more beautiful place to live and work.
BETTER HOBART - FORMAL SUBMISSION TO THE CITY OF HOBART TRANSPORT STRATEGY 2018-2030.
Better Hobart would first like to applaud the work undertaken and the dedication to duty by the Officers and elected officials of The City of Hobart in the preparation of the Draft Transport Strategy. From both its range and scale of aims, it is heartening to see the commitment to informed research and extensive public consultation.
Better Hobart commends and supports the desire of the Transport Strategy to seek a greater focus on the role of streets and roads as the primary public open spaces of our city. Better Hobart would continue to encourage the Transport Strategy to clearly make the case that reductions in individual car journeys are sought, not simply to limit congestion, but primarily to avoid the city form that results from planning around the private motorcar.
Increasingly, the negative impact upon the health and social life of citizens and upon the vitality of street life associated with the private motorcar has become understood. Where once, dissenting voices were seen as existing on the fringe of public thought, they now have become the accepted narrative to building better cities. Better Hobart would therefore encourage the Transport Strategy to adopt a desire to go beyond simply planning for change, and rather act as a proactive advocate for a much wider change in how we live and organise the city around us. Hobart stands at a vital crossroads in its history and the role it might play in Australian cities. Unlike many of its fellow State Capitols, it still has the potential and the flexibility to determine its future form and role as a living city. It should seek to recognise and revel in its inherent difference by building on its distinct characteristics and seek to adopt transportation policies which go above and beyond current standards and make it a leader within Australia. These standards should be fundamentally rooted in bringing about a fairer, resilient, more caring, inclusive, healthier and vibrant community. Or put simply, a Happy City.
To achieve such aims, Better Hobart would advise the Transport Strategy to adopt clear and ambitious aims based on unequivocal vision statements that are clear to all stakeholders. ‘A dedicated bike lane within 100m of every home by 2030’. Or ‘Removal of all non-electric street car parking within blocks A, B and C by 2020’ for example. To this end, Better Hobart would question the ability of the recently adopted Vision Statement to act as a central pillar in directing additional Strategy documents such as the Transport Strategy. Whilst worthy as an open process for community engagement and expression of shared values, Better Hobart would suggest that the Vision Statement lacks a concise and measurable set of aims that open issues around deliverability and accountability. More, Better Hobart would recommend that the Transport Strategy provide a clearer form of methodology based on a basic principal of what constitutes the most efficient land use arrangement, how this would appear within the context of Hobart and an active transport and transit plan required to fully realise higher density transit corridors capable of creating centres of self supporting activity centres.
Theme One –
Better Hobart full supports the intention of the Transport Strategy to utilise a broad range of data collecting sources and information sharing with key stake holders to help develop, monitor and report on key indicators within set timetables. As suggested, such data should be freely available as an open source to within the wider community such as those relating to Melbourne made available by the Victorian Government. Better Hobart would comment that although not specifically articulated within the strategy actions, it is fully expected that such data would cover all forms of transportation, including by foot and bike.
Better Hobart recognises the desire of the Transport Strategy to be an evolving document and that Actions1.2 and 1.6 seeks to establish defined performance indicators and the establishment of a set timetable for the reporting of progress on identified targets. Better Hobart also recognises that this initial Draft of the Transport Strategy is unable to provide such firm performance indicators given the degree to which much of the strategic aims are based on incomplete data, dependent upon other regulatory bodies, emerging technologies and limited resources. Nonetheless, Better Hobart expresses some concern that much of the language relating to implementation used within the Strategic Actions throughout the document lacks clarity or provides measurable definitions. The degree to which Strategic Actions could be considered to have been triggered is not defined, nor are future marker points identified where clear aspects of plan implementation should be articulated.
Better Hobart also notes that many of the proposed aims are expressed merely as indirect precursors for potential future strategic policy. Better Hobart believes that the strategic aims of the Transport Strategy should be based on and expressed as concrete objectives with emphasis on key implementation projects. For example, ‘To provide x kms of separated bike lanes within the CBD by Y date’ as opposed to “Explore the potential for a greater degree of bike lane separation in parts of the City.”
Better Hobart fully supports the proposed utilisation of advanced data collection through the use of ‘Smart Cities’ technology, subject to its use and interpretation of results based on all forms of movement through the city and cross referencing with more traditional forms of data collection.
Theme Two –
The Transport Strategy clearly outlines that the City of Hobart is set within a wider context of regional pressures, such as low density urban form, abundance of cheap parking and high use of private vehicles for individual journeys. Better Hobart therefore fully supports the stated aim of the Transport Strategy to ensure an ever greater integration of land use and transportation planning across a regional, city and local level. To provide the very best solutions to economic, social, sustainability and equitable pressures, there is a strong need to clearly make a link between land use and housing along public transit corridors to increase density along these corridors in order to promote a viable public transport system.
Better Hobart acknowledges however the difficulty of attempting to provide an overarching Transport Strategy when there currently exists little in the way of coordination, leadership, long term vision or desire to implement modal shift from within the State Government. There are current insufficient levels of resources for the Southern Tasmanian Council Authority as a coordinator and lack of an implementation plan for the Southern Tasmanian Regional Land Use Strategy (RLUS). Within such a framework, and where the control of traffic generation from other areas and other regional transport planning challenges are obviously key to success, there therefore limitations an individual council is able to achieve in this regional context. Better Hobart would therefore express the greatest hope that the Transport Strategy creates a means for, and inform dialogue between the Councils of the greater Hobart region, the State Government and act as a springboard for new ideas and as a trigger for an update of the RLUS.
Better Hobart would therefore provide the very strongest support for the stated aims of Strategy Actions 2.1 and 2.8 in advocating for a coordination role for the State Government in implementing the RLUS through partnerships and direct resourcing for RLUS. This is of particular pertinence at a time when the State Government is considering what appear to be disconnected projects around light rail, bus and river ferries without an adequate plan of action or framework in which to successfully tackle the current and forecast transport pressures.
Within the current regional framework, Better Hobart would also therefore fully support the proposed quantifying and reviewing of car parking and car parking standards within the planning scheme as a valuable mechanism of providing levels of control given the limited scope for influencing the growth and transport decisions in the growth areas of Greater Hobart, in particular Kingston and Sorell.
Theme Three -
Better Hobart fully supports the central approach of Theme3 of the Transport Strategy and acknowledges the significance of the proposed strategic action plan in recognising pedestrian movement as the societal life blood of the city. Better Hobart fully welcomes the identification and focus on destination walking using local streets, especially to destinations such as local shopping areas, local streets, schools, parks and the cultural centres of the waterfront and Salamanca. The CBD also needs to be recognised as a destination for much of the city’s walk to work routes. In developing a user hierarchy and Walking Plan, Better Hobart would encourage the Transport Strategy to utilise best practice and build upon the existing surveys and suggested urban design approaches already outlined in the Gehl Report and similar studies to gain a detailed understanding of how pedestrians move and interpret the built environment.
We fully support the stated aim of producing an Urban Design Streetscape manual based on the very finest in best practice both within Australia and internationally. Better Hobart recognise that the Transport Strategy offers a vital opportunity to redefine how Hobartians view and respond to the streets of their city as their principal public realm. The implementation of an Urban Design Manual therefore offers the highly desirable opportunity to replace the highway outcome and vehicle traffic flow focused LGAT standards in favour of a place based approach where movement and quality of space are considered together as a single design process. Better Hobart would encourage that such an Urban Design Streetscape Manual be based on design features which recognise and draw upon an overlay of the existing characteristics, inherent qualities and historic cultural significance of Hobart’s streets, public spaces and suburbs. This is considered vital to ensure that the capital investment is fully supported by the community through the use of a robust design language that is distinctly and recognisably our own.
It is the opinion of Better Hobart that the production of such Urban Design Streetscape Manuals should draw upon multi-disciplined expertise, but fundamentally be steered by recognised Urban Designers in its role of creating fully functioning streets and boulevards. Design should allow for different transport modes to safely co-exist, fostered by a culture of mutual respect and responsibility. Where the pedestrian is treated as the most important and vulnerable end user through thoughtful design, quality of surface materials, human centric lighting, street planting and the removal of barriers to pedestrian movement, both physical and perceived, even if these barriers seek to provide uninterrupted movement for vehicle and pedestrian alike. In particular, Better Hobart strongly advocates for a clear commitment to surface level crossings as opposed to the largely discredited practice of pedestrian underpasses or footbridges, with an emphasis on a greater pedestrian priority through a reduction in request crossing points in favour of zebra or similar user controlled crossing mechanisms. More, Better Hobart would strongly recommend that the proposed Urban Design Streetscape Manual seek to go above and beyond standardisation and aim for Hobart to become a leader within Australia in the implementation of measures aimed at creating a fully accessible public realm to those dealing with mobility or cognitive barriers.
Better Hobart believes therefore that the aim of the actions contained within Theme 3 should be to aspire to the highest of benchmarks and make our city a true model of a fully knowable, equitable and accessible pedestrian focused public realm.
Theme Four -
Better Hobart welcomes the renewal of the ongoing strategic work that has already occurred in developing the bicycle network of the city and the commitment within the Transport Strategy to work with the City of Hobart Bicycle Advisory Committee and other relevant community bodies to further promote the benefits of bike riding. Better Hobart believes that the potential opportunities associated with the rapid improvements in battery powered cycling could bring significant changes to the way people commute and move around the city. Battery power essentially flattens all topography and removes one of the principal obstacles to everyday use and choices relating to the expansions of the bike network should reflect these advances in technology.
However, Better Hobart believe that such a sea-change will only be possible if there is a sustained and focused plan to bring about a fundamental change in the prevailing view of bike riding as an everyday and every-person activity. Planning for accessibility should include all aspects of transport, including bike use and, importantly, across the whole spectrum of society. It is considered that this will only occur when there is a committed approach to create the highest standard and using dedicated and physically separated Bike Lanes as the preferred option to foster as safe an environment as possible and Better Hobart would call on the use of best practice in the further development and upgrade of the cities slowly growing bike network. Importantly, Better Hobart do not see the long term continued reliance upon shared pavement spaces for both bicyclists and pedestrians as practical, equitable or safe for either groups of users.
Better Hobart fully supports the proposal to create outreach programmes to local businesses, schools and community associations to educate and promote a bicycling culture. We would however encourage the Transport Strategy to go further and actively offer incentives and obligations to secure on-site facilities with an associated and demonstrable reduction in private car journeys.
Theme Five -
Better Hobart fully supports the Strategic aim of reducing city congestion through a greater advocacy for improvements in ‘smart’ public transport across the wider Greater Hobart area, and the potential opportunity that exists in building a long term transport strategy for the wider region through close cooperation and dialogue with all interested parties and bodies provided by the Hobart Transport Vision. Better Hobart believe that the City of Hobart should be a leading advocate for a coherent and highly ambitious public transport strategy with clearly defined targets based on foundations of improved productivity, travel times, equity, affordability and accessibility across all parts of society. At the same time, Better Hobart would strongly encourage the City Council to advocate for programs and strategies, such as the Hobart Transport Vision, be based on well researched models of movement and programs of work which respect the pedestrian and street life of the City.
Whilst Better Hobart broadly supports the intended improvements in public transport advocated within the Hobart Transport Vision, we have particular concerns as to the lack of an adequate plan of action or framework in which to successfully address the current and forecast transport pressures. Most importantly, Better Hobart has strong concerns relating to the physical impact upon the built form that would result from the proposed Transport hub and underpasses proposed for the Cities streets. Better Hobart strongly recommend that proposals which seek to close off, divert or limit surface level pedestrian movement, even when done so in the name of improving access, be resisted by the City Council as out dated, counterproductive and entirely contrary to all progressive urban design and street design around the world. Instead, Better Hobart would encourage the City to examine recent improvements in cities such as Copenhagen, London and New York on how to successfully integrate pedestrian and heavy vehicular traffic and advocate for alternative approaches by the Department of State Growth.
Better Hobart acknowledges that the Transport Strategy is working within a much larger framework across multiple decision makers and interested bodies. Better Hobart however believe that the Transport Strategy should seek to implement creative initiatives that are not-reliant on physical works with the business, service and educational employers operating within the city, aimed at providing incentives and ‘off the shelf’ programs aimed at reducing single occupancy commuter car journeys during peak travel times. The proposed bike and car sharing initiative of 5.6 is therefore welcomed, and Better Hobart would recommend a far more ambitious approach to such initiatives, such as financial incentives, publicised social credit and community awards to those organisations able to show adoption, take up and measurable improvements in staff commuter patterns.
Theme Six -
Better Hobart fully support the broad aim of the Draft Transport Strategy to continue to develop the range of technologies and modelling systems to guide and fine tune the form, function and location of on and off street parking provision within the City. In particular, Better Hobart is encouraged that the City Council has recognised that the impact of private car ownership extends beyond simple congestion to include both the street designs this produces and the excess space and capacity within the road network required to accommodate the parking of said vehicles. Better Hobart would encourage the Transport Strategy to go further and clearly define the negative externalities associated with car use and advocate the benefits to city streets, urban landscapes, public transport, health, economics and equity of access as benefits associated with reducing private vehicles in the city.
Better Hobart fully supports the intention to expand the use of price signals, permit restrictions and planning standards to guide and manage parking within the City. Better Hobart would however caution that such actions must build in and monitor policies surrounding equity in order to best limit disadvantage based on ability to pay. Such policies must form part of a wider strategy within the extended Parking Plan in which such price signals are rolled out only when improvements in alternative and cost effective methods of public transport are available. There is risk of potentially increasing land prices if returns increase based on limitations putting increased premium on such facilities.
Better Hobart fully supports the intention to investigate the provision of park and ride facilities within the City boundaries on sites on or close to existing bus routes where spare capacity exists. We would however caution that such facilities are often perceived as being subject to car crime and that to be fully successful, care and attention must be given to the design, management, range of facilities and combined price ticketing available at such Park and Ride locations.
Better Hobart have long advocated for policies aimed at encouraging cultural shifts in how the street is perceived and thus fully supports the development of a ‘parklet’ program. Better Hobart have previously suggested that such programs could be utilised as a marketing technique within the business community to demonstrate their creative energies and desire to play a role in the community life of the city.
Theme Seven -
Better Hobart appreciates that the City of Hobart falls within a wider strategic framework and that the various pressures related to the shift of a far more road based movement of goods and significant increase in visitors to the State place upon the infrastructure of Hobart as often the final destination of such activity and fully supports the Transport Strategy’s stated aims of close co-operation with relevant stakeholders.
Better Hobart suggests that the Transport Strategy actively respond to the forthcoming Tasports Masterplan. Better Hobart take the view that the Working Port remains the key contributor to the characteristics of the Cove and that the current successful balance of commercial, community and working port should not be lost or the ability of the Port to operate successfully compromised, especially in the light of potential new ferry operations serving the City.
Theme Eight -
Better Hobart fully supports the strategic aim of utilising emerging technology to help monitor and manage the transport network and the growth in the ability to provide user information, such as real time travel information via GPS enabled buses has already shown to have notable positive impacts on levels of usage. Better Hobart also fully supports the use of emerging technology to help model future movement flows through the city. Better Hobart notes that the Transport Strategy does not envisage the use of such modelling to test alternative road designations, such as the impact of replacing Hobart’s one way road system in favour of two way roads; removal of request pedestrian stops in favour of crossing with priority to rights of way to pedestrians, such as zebra crossings or the substitution of light controlled junctions with mini-roundabout. Such alternative methods of road arrangement and infrastructure may result in a more efficient use of the road network, whilst also creating potential for a more people centred city road layout. Modern modelling technology allows such changes to be tested and fine-tuned across the whole city prior to any physical works and subject to conclusions being based on a range of factors including social and streetscape benefits, may provide evidence based rationale for actual physical changes.
Better Hobart fully support the proposed creation of ‘home zone’ areas. We would however advocate for a range of ‘block interventions’ be considered throughout the city, including around emerging higher density residential development to help create a greater degree of hierarchy within the road network by re-equipping some of Hobart’s inner blocks as residential centred streets.
In summary, Better Hobart commends the City of Hobart for the breadth of its vision, the meticulous work and public consultation behind this draft Strategy and the commitment to creating a more people focused urban environment. Better Hobart fully recognise the limitations imposed on the City in its role within a State framework which currently fails to provide sufficient vision, strategy or tools of implementation, along with budgetary and restrictions on valuable resources. Better Hobart however would emphasise the need for strong actions that clearly set out the goals for Hobart by 2030, and that the role of the Transport Strategy as a compelling tool for advocacy cannot be underestimated. Many examples of best practice exist, such as the South Australian integrated plan. Better Hobart look forward with anticipation to the development of the Strategy beyond the draft stage with the hope that its mix of high level, medium and very specific actions are translated into sub-plans, with clear markers of implementation, clearly defined goals and identifiers of success or failures.
Lastly, Better Hobart commended the City on its creation of a new division tasked with developing its Smart City Strategy. Infrastructure changes and transportation strategies need to be viewed through this lens of rapid technological development. In the rapidly emerging future where self-drive vehicles may be left to circle blocks or drive home to await the call of the owner, the changing issues surrounding our transportation needs will require ever more sophisticated responses.
We wish you well.
Nick Booth MAUD (Oxf.Brookes)
Dr Emma Pharo, Senior Lecturer, Geography and Spatial Science, University of Tasmania
Steven Burgess, Principal Consultant Regional Manager (Victoria), MRCagney