Report of the Select Committee on Traffic Congestion in the Greater Hobart Area
Tuesday 23 November 2021
Consideration and noting
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - We are speaking about Hobart traffic, and I do thank the Chair and the committee for all the hard work that I know they have done on this committee and the report.
The final report for the Greater Hobart traffic congestion inquiry contains a significant level of information and has clearly been informed by reasonable, sensible and well thought out submissions from the public and from stakeholders.
It is worth reflecting on the fact that Hobart is quite vexed by traffic congestion. It is rarely very simple to get from point A, say in Sandy Bay to point B, say in New Town -
Ms RATTRAY - And didn't we know that last night when we were heading to Margate.
Ms ARMITAGE - without dealing with heavy traffic or being able to find easy, accessible and reasonably-priced parking short of private parking at either end. For the comment from the member of McIntyre, the member for Rosevears did an excellent job getting us to the parliamentary bowling. None of us knew where we were going or how to get to Margate. I think Siri had us going to a mainland state from memory, the way she wanted us to travel. It was Margate in another state. We would have been in great trouble. I do not know how we were going to drive across the water.
Ms Rattray - Then she went completely quiet and we did not have a clue where we were.
Ms ARMITAGE - Fortunately we did get there. Full marks to the member for Rosevears on her driving last night.
Mr PRESIDENT - I think Siri may guide the parliamentary debate from time to time too.
Ms ARMITAGE - I feel rather fortunate that I live in Launceston when I drive around Hobart. The good-natured parochialism I have with the member for Hobart aside, I stress that this is not a criticism of Hobart as a city or as a region. As the report insightfully points out, there are a number of factors which have resulted in the traffic congestion issues that we see today.
Hobart has a unique topography and geography. It is one of the original Australian colonial settlements and was not initially constructed to withstand personal vehicles as we know them today. Battery Point is a prime example of this. It was designed more for horses and carts than cars, vans or trucks. You certainly get a sense of this when you walk or drive around places like Arthur Circus.
Simply put, the design of Hobart has not and really could not keep up with the evolution of newer transport technologies as they have developed. Even just 100 years ago, we could not have contemplated how the landscape would need to accommodate the volume of traffic we see today. It would be an enormous burden to have expected this of civic planners back then.
We cannot even really contemplate a solution until we have a solid legitimate plan to grow and fairly accommodate all the people that use public infrastructure like our roads and streets.
Significant undertakings like the construction of new roads and highways cost money, take time and can attract controversy. We need to consider the impact that construction has on the environment and ensure that it will not crumble in 10 years' time.
The pandemic has brought into sharp focus just how quickly and radically things can change. We have access to the most advanced and comprehensive demographical data than ever before, so now is a watershed moment and one which could have major implications for our state in the decades and centuries to come.
We need to be smart about how we choose to tackle the issue of traffic congestion in the greater Hobart area and, frankly, around the state and make it sustainable and efficient for the years to come.
The report rightly points out that the issue of congestion is not an insurmountable problem. In fact, it says that solutions are required that achieve a modal shift of between 10 and 15 per cent of the commuting population to effectively address congestion. It says that evidence also confirms that it is not a matter of all commuters needing to change established habits for all trips made, but that significant benefits will be realised by a modest percentage of commuters being provided with a greater opportunity to engage more with public or active transport options for some trips.
To this end, the report's recommendations were very enlightening. Firstly, the establishment of a single transport authority that partners with both federal and local governments and delivers longer-term evidence‑based transport policies and planning would give proposed solutions much needed legitimacy. We have seen partnerships like these work with city deals in Launceston and Hobart so this would not be untested waters for such a body.
The caveat is that it would need to be adequately resourced, particularly when it comes to having meaningful touchpoints with communities which are most affected by congestion and who will most need change. Policy agenda setting will also be an integral part of the longer-term solutions for traffic congestion. We so often see that big‑spend infrastructure items come up during election times and these are not always centred on the merits‑based approach that we would hope to see for projects of this magnitude.
That being said, the report recommends that the Government prioritises an eastern bypass between the Tasman Highway and Bowen Bridge, develop park and ride facilities, increase recharge options and storage for bikes, personal mobility devices and motorcycles, and plan and deliver active transport networks. There is certainly nothing there that I can argue with and the report makes it clear that this recommendation has been based on the submissions that were received by the committee.
The rest of the recommendations are grouped under the public transport heading. Existing public transport providers may not have the resources or discretion required to meet the growing needs of residents, especially in the outer suburbs of Hobart. Even in Launceston not too long ago, a number of Metro routes were changed, much to the chagrin of many people in my electorate who needed to radically rethink their commute to access services like the Launceston General Hospital or school routes. So often things like this come down to cost - what is the best use of money in the circumstances? When people are disadvantaged, especially in the context of accessing health care, then we need to think smarter and perhaps simply wear the cost.
I note one of the public transport‑related recommendations identifies the need to partner with schools to reduce dependence on private motor vehicles for student travel. In addition to this, I would suggest an even more pressing need with the University of Tasmania's sweeping purchases of properties around Hobart and the decentralisation of their services across the city.
Public transport needs to be available, accessible, and easy to understand. In contrast, to places like Japan or Germany where things like trains are abundant, come on time and get you to your destination in good time, a visitor or international student to Tasmania would find it very difficult indeed to get around a city like Hobart currently. This will only become more difficult if nothing meaningful is done.
We need to also look at increased options for public transport. We cannot go back in time and start construction on surface or below‑ground rail, as desirable as that may be. These need to be fundamental to the planning of a city. Places like Boston or New York are examples of cities that knew rail would play a big part in the centuries to come, were constructed in the mid‑nineteenth century and which still play a big part in city transportation today.
I know the President would agree that rail would have been wonderful in Hobart and also Launceston. What these options might look like, I cannot say. There is far more research, consultation and reflection that needs to take place before any major undertakings are entered into. For now, if we can look at solutions that result in a 10 per cent modal shift, congestion will be greatly eased. I finally note, I do not want Launceston to follow down this same path as Hobart.
There are some lessons from this report that can be applied elsewhere and we would do well to heed them. Already, Launceston faces traffic woes which I have spoken about in this place and elsewhere before and they are only getting worse. We receive, as we do here, report after report after report, and have done since around the 1960s. Imagine if we had done something then.
We cannot continue to let these opportunities pass us by. I acknowledge the hard work the committee did in producing this report and in particular the member for Hobart who was chair. I note the report.