Monday, October 22, 2007

Car use keeps rising despite urban consolidation

Densification arising has not reduced automobile use in Australian urban areas, despite the claims and expectations of urban consolidation policy ("smart growth") proponents. Urban consolidation policies have been adopted in virtually all of Australia's large urban areas. Their principal focus has been to force new development away from the urban fringe, while densifying already developed areas. Urban consolidation theory holds that densification will lead to reduced automobile use.

However, data in an Australian Bureau of Statistics series beginning in 1999 shows that automobile use continues to increase in Australia's capital cities.

Among the five largest capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide), per capital automobile use rose 11 percent between 1999 and 2006. The smallest increase was in Melbourne, at 5 percent. The largest increase was in Perth, at 26 percent.

Among the three smaller capital cities (Hobart, Darwin and Canberra), automobile use increased approximately 10 percent per capita between 1999 and 2006. The smallest increase was in Canberra, at 1 percent, while the largest was in Darwin, at 33 percent.

This is not to suggest that urban consolidation policy has had no impact in Australia's cities. Housing affordability has been virtually destroyed, as house prices have risen 70 percent relative to household incomes in just 10 years. For example:

In Perth, the purchase and financing cost of the median price house has risen more than $500,000 in since 1996 (inflation adjusted). By comparison, in Austin, Texas, an urban area of similar size and with somewhat higher demand as Perth, there has been a reduction in the purchase and financing cost of the median priced house over the same period. Generally, land use policies in the Austin area are responsive to demand rather than prescribed by the planning visions that have turned into such nightmares in Australia (see Demographia Third Annual International Housing Affordability Survey).

Data from: Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, 12 months ended 31 October 2006

Wendell Cox

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like this Urban Consolidation (Smart Growth )Dogma has been shot down in flames by the facts.
Remembering my Chemistry days at Uni, I would say this means the Urban Consolidation Policy has now been downgraded from a Law,as the Planning Dept zealots would have us believe,to a Theory which doesn't fit the facts as pertaining to Australia.It should,in fact, be further downgraded to another unproven Hypothesis, and hence consigned to the scrapheap,marked Unsuitable for Australian Conditions