Emma Young, 18 November 2015

Car sharing services have been flagged as one of the changes Perth needs to head off a looming congestion crisis.

RAC chief executive Terry Agnew said a sharing economy would change the dynamic of Perth transport, and would have to be seriously considered as part of future transport plans.

It comes amid revelations that by 2031, congestion in Perth will top the nation as the most severe.

Speaking at the Perth Convention Centre on Tuesday at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s Future of Roads event, Mr Agnew said people were moving past traditional car ownership.

He mentioned GoGet, a car share service thriving on Australia’s east coast where someone could book the use of a car, for an hour or a day, from a number of locally parked cars.

He said that by 2020, there would be about 30 million registered car share members globally, and consumers would determine the future of roads.

“We are moving from ‘I must own my own vehicle’ to ‘I don’t mind if I own my own vehicle, I just need to get access’,” he said.

“In a recent German survey, 75 per cent of 18-24 year olds – and this won’t surprise you – said they would rather live without a car than without their smart phone.”

Mr Agnew said that, within a decade, Perth needed light rail, $380 million worth of cycling facilities and major infrastructure funding reform. Without this, congestion would be a “massive social cost” in 15 years.

In May, Infrastructure Australia’s report auditing Australian roads found that by 2031, Perth roads would be the most congested in Australia.

The report also predicted that not only will seven of the 10 worst-congested roads in Australia be in Perth, the top four would all be Perth roads.

The Mitchell, Tonkin and Graham Farmer Freeways would be at 96 per cent capacity and not designed to take on much more traffic.

Leach, Canning and Roe Highways, as well as the Kwinana Freeway and passenger rail lines, would all be “buckling under the pressure” and the public transport system would be carrying nearly double the number of people it had carried in 2012.

All this would cost WA $16 billion in lost productivity annually.

The challenge, however, lay in a massive funding deficit.

A Productivity Commission report in May 2014 called for a comprehensive overhaul of road user charges in Australia after finding “no link” between road-related revenue and road expenditure.

A recent RAC-commissioned report on the tax motorists paid to Canberra found WA was not receiving its fair share back as infrastructure funding.

“Last year, for every dollar the Australian government collected from motorists in WA, only 34 cents were then spent on improving the roads,” Mr Agnew said.

That meant $2.3 billion was collected from WA motorists in motor vehicle taxes, but only $783 million was spent on infrastructure upgrades.

It had also dropped over time – from 41 cents in 2013 and 37 cents the year before that.

The drop from 41 to 34 cents meant a loss of $155 million for WA infrastructure.

In 2009, the road maintenance works backlog was estimated at $800 million.

Almost one-third of WA’s national highway networks had an Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) of one or two stars – three is considered the minimum acceptable standard.

Mr Agnew said that if WA got even half of what it paid back, it would mean an extra $360 million for the state. That could pay for the extension of the long-awaited Thornlie passenger rail line to Cockburn Central in one hit – and if received back annually, could buy another 12 kilometres of passenger rail line every year.

But it’s not just about roads.

With 591,000 West Australians cycling at least once a week, priority needed to be given to cycling infrastructure and Mr Agnew said $380 million needed to be invested over the next decade. He said economic modelling showed the benefits far outweighed the cost.

He said the federal government needed to realise its implementation of increases to fuel excise tax had been a “chaotic” failure. The fact that only one-third of this found its way back to WA infrastructure was not good enough and a “ground-up” review was required.

Representatives from Main Roads WA, the Productivity Commission and the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre also spoke at the event.

Extracted in full from WA Today.

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