A false economy

05. 807NEWSPEOPLE living in the outer suburbs are fuelling Perth’s traffic gridlock, according to a report by Committee for Perth.

The Perth think-tank’s research shows people living in the hinterlands have a higher rate of car ownership because the public transport system is inadequate and they have no alternative means of getting around.

Committee CEO Marion Fulker says buying a cheap house in outer Perth is actually false economy.

“So while people may choose to live in outer suburbs because property might be cheaper, they’re paying a lot more in ongoing transport costs,” she says.

“Households in the outer local government areas of Wanneroo, Swan, Serpentine-Jarrahdale, Kalamunda, Mundaring and Armadale have two to 2.5 vehicles for every household.

“Running a medium-sized car costs anywhere between $456 and $570 a week.

“The average mortgage repayment is $500 a week.”

By comparison, the report reveals households Perth, Subiaco, Vincent, Stirling and Fremantle have 1.3 to 1.7 cars per household which cost them an average of $296 to $387 to run each week.

Federal Perth Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan—who as a WA planning minister rammed the Perth-Mandurah line past vehement Liberal opposition—took aim at Perth’s creaking public transport in her first speech to federal parliament last week.

“It is also an increasingly important social issue, with family and community life being compromised by long commute times and residents of outer suburbs spending as much as 20 per cent of their income on private transport,” she says.

“And it is an economic issue: 78 per cent of Western Australians live in greater metropolitan Perth.

“We [WA Labor] showed that, if you provide first-class public transport alternatives, commuters will convert in droves—we saw public transport use in the area increase immediately by more than 350 per cent and substantial increases in patronage across the network.”

The Committee for Perth report reveals that despite a 67 per cent increase in fuel costs over the past decade, Perth households own more cars than ever before.

There are up to 1.5 million registered vehicles on Perth’s roads, and Perth’s population is set to double over the next 30 years.

Ms Fulker says the committee will investigate the feasibility of a “congestion charge”, implemented in London, in one of its next reports.

Ms MacTiernan says until Perth has a comprehensive and integrated public transport system, a congestion charge would be unjust.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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