Scott Ludlam of the Greens writes for OLO

I have no doubt that all the idiots will be out in droves, commenting on how wonderful suburbia really is and how this article is written by an ‘eco-Nazi’ or whatever ‘greenie cult’ they subscribe to. Of course I congratulate Scott on yet another great article. He is a transport expert after all, and so is likely to see things less in terms of ‘energy efficient cars’ and more in terms of beautiful, walkable townships supported by rail to the city. He even coins a new term (at least I haven’t heard it before), “sprawl-mart”. This paragraph especially nailed it:

We’ve known – for a long while – how to build zero carbon houses and office buildings, but the art of building human-scale sustainable cities seems to have been lost to us. After the War, centuries of accumulated planning wisdom were rapidly eclipsed by the overwhelming demands of the private car and its corporate stewards. Cheap anywhere-to-anywhere transport spawned an unstoppable proliferation of places that feel like nowhere; a featureless topography of suburban sprawl-mart development. Tram and bus transit alternatives made suddenly quaint by saturation automobile advertising were purchased and shut down by oil companies across the United States. In Australia, the culprit was calculated neglect everywhere but Melbourne, leaving faint but persistent after-images in the collective memory of the rest of our cities.

The loss of ‘community soul’ is so telling in the endless sea of suburban sameness and blandness. As Claude Lewenz, author of “How to build a village” puts it,

“There is no there, there”.

Scott Ludlum also writes well about the multiple benefits of public transport.

Now we get to turn it around. Public transport is making a comeback: on drawing boards, in the Senate committee hearings that just toured the country, and in our neighbourhoods. Planners are revisiting the idea of urban village archipelagos, networks of medium and high density human-scale settlements linked with safe, fast, frequent public transport. With light rail proposals advancing in Canberra, the Gold Coast, Sydney and Perth and the proposition of Commonwealth Government public transport funding for the first time in a decade, we may be on the edge of an urban tipping point.

Planning world-class public transport for our communities can catalyse a whole series of changes that are not immediately obvious. Public transport works best in high population centres when a critical mass of people are an easy walk or cycle from transfer stations. Artful densification reduces the urban footprint and can be a major driver for local economies. Embedding a high proportion of affordable housing in these centres, rather than condemning low-income families to the urban fringe, guarantees access to employment and creates the opportunity for vibrant social diversity.

Building resilient cities – On Line Opinion – 23/9/2009.

I would encourage all peakniks and greenies to support him in the comments section. OLO seems to publish at least one global warming sceptic article a month (or so it seems lately on a purely anecdotal basis), so supporting the writers that bother to shed some light on peak oil, global warming, and clever city designs is well worth it.

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