Toward sustainable urban travel north Queensland

Goudie, Douglas (2000) Toward sustainable urban travel north Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

This project evolved from Honours and Master of Science research focussed on sustainable urban electricity supply, use and attitudes. Researchers, planning practitioners and Australian governments’ policies of ecologically sustainable development helped shape the household questionnaire on urban travel. The main research instrument of this thesis, the survey of 400 households considered prior urban travel research and resource constraints, along with social and environment perspectives. The public research instrument and the survey stratification of sample household’s distance from the Central Business District were used to test 12 hypotheses. The hypotheses centred on relationships of home location distance from the CBD and household travel distances, fuel costs as an influence on urban travel patterns, and possible links between environmental concern and urban travel behaviour. Attitudes toward all alternative modes of urban travel were tested, while questions on easy ways to reduce car use tested hypothesis on publicly acceptable car-reduction strategies. The thesis was developed within the philosophical and practical framework of Ecologically Sustainable Urban Development. Urban car use consumes much petroleum, facilitates car dependent urban growth and is enjoyed by nearly everyone. Cars are ubiquitous, convenient and generally the preferred mode of travel, although their negative impacts are well understood. Impending petroleum depletion will trigger a defining time of change in urban travel behaviour, structures and landuse. The North Queensland research has shown that people are essentially aware of a future need to reduce car use, but are in no hurry to sacrifice the convenience of car use until something as good or better comes along, or they are forced to alternatives because of increased car costs. The research defines current urban travel in Townsville and Cairns, along with values and beliefs about future urban travel. Cairns and Townsville are ideal study sites, isolated microcosms easily representing larger, more complex transport systems. The survey was stratified to three zones; central, middle and outer, in order to test hypotheses based on choice of home location and consequent travel. Every third house in three randomly selected Collector Districts from each zone received one of 216 questionnaires. A return of 406 forms, about 60%, included written input to 20 openended questions and logged 28,000 Km of travel data from 1,068 residents for one Friday of urban travelling. This thesis documents 3,500 urban trips and analyses how householders believe they may easily reduce current car use. This substantial data set showed that cars were used for 80% of trips, covering 90% of the distance travelled. Non-motorised trips accounted for only 3.5% of the 28,000 Km travelled. Outer residents travelled about the same number of trips as other residents but averaged two to three times the distance per trip. Urban distance travelled is very dependent on home location choices and residents are very self-aware of car dependence. The main reason for central living was proximity to householder’s usual destinations, also true for the middle zones, along with property prices. Outer zone residents usually chose their homes because of natural features or a large block of land. While recognising it to be very car dependent, people were generally satisfied with their current urban travel. There was widespread belief that better public transport and better planning of trips would reduce car use. Walking and cycling were seen as healthy exercise, but dangerous. There was a uniformly high level of environmental awareness and concern. Overall, people generally understand sustainability issues and were often quite sophisticated in that understanding. A simple theoretical model was developed inductively to help link internal and external space with price signals and changed urban travel behaviour. Price signals underlie choices of home location and urban travel options. Although environmental issues associated with unconstrained car use are understood by the public, their sheer convenience means cars will dominate urban travel until other modes become safer and more attractive. The main long-term deterrent to overwhelming car dependence will only be impending and major rises in the price of fuel. Twenty-two surveyed urban travel or energy experts identified cheap, easy ways to help reduce car use by such means as making walking or cycling along more continuous and well defined paths feels safe, and by clarifying bus movements at bus stops. I hope this work makes some lasting contribution to long-term urban settlement.

Item ID: 967
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Toward sustainable urban travel, Transport research methodology, Behaviour and structural change, Climate change and urban travel, Peak oil, More paths, less cars, Tropics, Townsville, Post petroleum, Paradigm shift, Institution barriers to change
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2006
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160810 Urban Sociology and Community Studies @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160404 Urban and Regional Studies (excl Planning) @ 0%
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