Please find following an article by Mr Kevin O’Leary, who recently gave a presentation to FOCUS on the 30 Year Plan.
Major arterial roads should be a no-go zone for the densification of residential development
Government’s 30 year plan ignores the serious health impacts of increasing residential densities near heavily trafficked roads
Without a doubt one of the most far-reaching recommendations in the Government’s 30 year plan is its proposal to increase residential densities along transit corridors many of which are existing major arterial roads. Over the projected planning period of the plan it is proposed that 60% of Adelaide’s new residential growth will occur in these locations. Some of the proposed road transit corridors are major freight routes for trucks. Unfortunately, however, there is no evidence that the government has considered the serious impacts on health of concentrating residential development in these corridors.
This year the US Health Effects Institute undertook the largest international study ever launched on vehicle air pollution and health . The Institute examined 700 worldwide health-pollution studies and concluded that within 300 – 500 metres of heavily trafficked roads the resultant pollution:
- Exacerbated asthma in children
- Triggered asthma cases across all ages
- Impaired lung function in adults
- Caused cardiovascular disease and death
Other studies in the US have shown that pollution from high trafficked areas has also caused :
- Pregnant women to be more likely to have premature and low weight babies
- Children to develop all types of cancers including leukemia
The US Health Effects Institute reported that although technology had improved emission rates for individual cars, increased car ownership and greater distances being travelled within US cities meant that there had been no real improvement in pollution levels. In Australia transport experts like Dr Paul Mees and Dr Patrick Moriarty argue that improvements in engine efficiency over the decades have been offset by other factors including the trend toward larger and more powerful vehicles, the increased number of four-wheel-drives, power windows and power steering, electronic components which add weight and require greater power input, ageing of the car fleet, and compromises required to reduce air pollution . One such compromise introduced to reduce air pollution – catalytic converters – have not only reduced engine efficiency but dramatically increased the production of nitrous oxide which is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide .
Although hybrid car manufacturers claim that their vehicles will make a major contribution in reducing air pollution levels in cities, independent tests undertaken in the UK indicate that many cars being touted as eco friendly by manufacturer’s pump out up to 56 per cent more carbon dioxide than the manufacturers claim . The explanation given for this is that manufacturer’s derive their figures from laboratory tests rather than on-road assessments. The US Environment Protection Agency reacting to pressure from consumers about the exaggerated claims being made for hybrid vehicles has required manufacturers to downgrade their assessments of the miles per gallon that can be achieved by hybrid vehicles to the point where the public’s enthusiasm in purchasing them could be seriously dampened . Vehicles involving other innovative transport technologies, for example all-electric cars and hydrogen powered vehicles at this stage have not made major inroads to the car market and are unlikely to make inroads in the short to medium term . So, although there has been a dramatic increase in the per capita travel by car by residents in Australian cities this has not been offset by the introduction of improved technologies.
Car manufactures also argue that the air pollution levels in Australian cities compared with American cities are not as high, but it is not that Australian cities are without any risk at all and Adelaide because of its topography and climatic characteristics has probably more than its share of the associated risks . Brown haze of photochemical smog can be seen at various times over Adelaide usually during periods when there is high traffic flow and congestion on warm sunny days. Conditions in the city are compounded by restrictions of air movement because of the its position between the coast and the Adelaide Hills
The important question to be answered then, in respect to the 30 year plan to increase residential densities along major arterial roads, is when will new transport technologies start to make a difference to the levels of air pollution in our city? This is obviously a difficult question to answer precisely, but it would seem that there is unlikely that there will be any significant change in the short term (say 5-10 years) and quite possibly only minor change in the longer term (say 10-20) years.
Given these likely outcomes it would be irresponsible for the Rann government to proceed with its proposal to increase residential densities along major arterial roads. Placing a larger proportion of our population in a situation where they are subject to major health hazards shouldn’t be accepted under any circumstances. Although this will inevitably mean that 30 year plan will have to be rewritten to identify new growth areas within the existing form this has to be done. The recently elected Liberal government in Victoria has scrapped Labor’s plans to increase residential densities along major transit routes including train, tram and bus routes choosing instead to increase densities around centres . Although I agree that densification processes should be encouraged around centres and discouraged along major arterial roads, I don’t agree that it should be restricted along exclusive rights of way for train, tram or bus, for example, the O- Bahn , the City to Glenelg tramline and the existing rail network.
Only when improved transport technologies have started to impact on air pollution levels will it be appropriate to allow higher residential densities along our roads, but even then the government needs to be much more selective in choosing the roads where this densification occurs. In this regard the 2004 plan for Perth serves as a good example to follow with its two way classification system for the major road network: Activity Corridors, which are for higher density living and are designed to have lower volumes and slower moving traffic, and Transit Corridors, which are designed for higher volumes and faster moving traffic but minimal or no residential densification. In any given locality the activity corridors and transit corridors are paired with each other to achieve the best transport outcomes.
1. See US Health Effects Institute report titled: Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Critical Review of the Literature on Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects – Executive Summary – Overall conclusions http://pubs.healtheffects.org/view.php?id=334
2. Refer to Key Studies On Air Pollution And Health Effects Near High-Traffic Areas. San Deigo Earth Times http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0603/et0603s21.html
3. See comments by Dr Paul Mees and Dr Patrick Morialty in ‘Going no where fast in car fuel efficiency’ The Age April 28th 2008 http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/going-nowhere-fast-in-car-fuel-efficiency/2008/04/27/1…
5. From the UKTimes, 19th May 2008 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3958376.ece
6. See Hybrid Cars’ Fantasy Mileage Ratings Drive Into the Sunset: http://renford.newsvine.com/_news/2007/05/14/718226-hybrid-cars-fantasy-mileage-ratings-drive..Also: Info from EPA site: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/ratings2008.shtml Also: http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=435700
7. See article in the Week : http://theweek.com/article/index/206278/the-future-of-the-electric-car
8. ‘Housing up amid sprawl: Brumby’, the Age Oct 26 2010 http://news.domain.com.au/domain/real-estate-news/Buyers/Retirees