Sustainability is a current topical issue in Western Australia. Businesses, companies, families, everyone talks about leading a sustainable life. The question to ask is; Are we leading a Sustainable Economy, Sustainable Life? Is there any hope for the Future Generations?
Absolutely, however, let’s look at the transportation system in Perth with reference to my University Master’s degree thesis:
“An Exploration of the Environmental and Social Impacts of Automobiles in the Perth Metropolitan Region”, by Varsha Gunness, Environmental Engineer
The figure above is self-explanatory. The three elements of life; Planet, people and profit, all combined together to create the core for sustainability
Before advent of the motor engine, more than a century ago, most cities in the world were planned as walking cities and eventually into transit cities. However, the difference with Perth is that it a relatively young city and was planned as a car city.
Perth has always been regarded as the city of Future in Australia for its economic and human development. In Perth, the great challenge is to meet the rapid population growth and economic demand to satisfy people’s needs. Transport planning is crucial to avoid a social crisis and maintain the city as a liveable and comfortable place.
It is reported that action is being taken to regenerate some inner-city areas and regional centre through a combination of government intervention and private investment. There are however other areas which are lagging behind and assistance is needed to promote sustainability with the potential to improve the quality of life for local communities and to protect the environment for the benefit of the coming generation.
Global concerns such as the effects of climate change, fossil fuel consumption, environmental impacts, and limits to financial resources for transportation infrastructure require integrated sustainable approaches to planning, designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining transportation strategies and systems.
The Car’s Vicious Cycle
One sustainable mode of Perth’s development is to reduce the heavy dependence on cars, reducing significantly consumption of fossil fuel and bringing a more balanced transport system that will better integrate sound land use practices.
Transitioning to a sustainable transport system requires a sound transport strategy and a sound urban planning strategy to be implemented to discourage car use and shift to a mix of sustainable transport modes. This kind of strategy was supported by the findings from a case study based on the application of the Theory of Urban Fabric in Perth undertaken by Thomson and Newman (2017); whereby they have proposed the kind of transport policies and positive changes that need to be addressed for transitioning to a more efficient and sustainable transport system.
Brief Overview of the New Theory of Urban Fabric
Though cities are shaped by historical and geographical features, at any stage the pattern of land use can be changed by altering its transportation priorities. The theory follows the same principles as living organisms where cities have an urban metabolism that metabolism can maintain its structure, grow and respond to changes which can impact heavily on its local, regional and global environment. Both the cities and different parts of those cities undergo significant variation in urban metabolism
There exist three city types that form the basis of urban fabric theory: walking, transit and automobile city fabric. These vary considerably in their resource input requirements & waste out-puts
It is imperative to understand that there exists an urban fabric that can maximise the features of walking and transit fabric; thus, creating a much better urban metabolism.
Based on a case study undertaken from Perth (Thomson & Newman 2017), resource inputs in walking and transit urban fabrics are remarkably lower compared to automobile fabric. Technological and Construction Innovation (TCI) through the use of regeneration principles demonstrates considerable urban metabolism improvements when introduced. Designing new sustainable urban areas or regeneration of old urban areas is a key feature in town planning. Transport mode and building typologies are basic elements for consideration when implementing these approaches. The concept of urban theory shows that transitioning to sustainable urban forms that support an efficient circular urban metabolism will require a combination of the right urban fabric, infrastructure integration, and technology.
The three types of urban fabric: walking city, transit city and automobile city need to be recognised, respected and regenerated. Regenerating urban fabric in these three areas will require creativity and an integrated approach by town planners and design engineers. If sufficiently targeted the potential is to make the metropolitan area significantly more sustainable.
“I would like to convey my thanks to Mr Peter Newman who guided me through this thesis and introduced the new concept of Theory of Urban Fabric into my thesis”
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Written by Varsha Gunness, Environmental Engineer