A coalition of groups is calling on the ACT Government to accelerate its investment in active and public transport, including the appointment of an Active Travel Commissioner, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help avert dangerous climate change.
The Conservation Council ACT Region, Pedal Power ACT and Living Streets Canberra have come together to launch a community petition calling on the ACT Government to implement key measures that will support viable active travel options for Canberrans to walk, cycle and use public transport, including setting measurable transport targets.
In a week when Infrastructure Australia has flagged increasing congestion across the region, the groups’ petition calls for Government to set legislated transport targets that align with the ACT’s zero-emissions targets and create the role of Active Travel Commissioner to oversee the implementation of the ACT’s active travel policies, including the transport targets.
They also want the Government, in the 2019-20 financial year to redirect funding from major roads programs to a major infrastructure program for walking, cycling and public transport, and ensure all new buses purchased by Transport Canberra, including the 84 budgeted for purchase in 2019-20, are zero-emissions electric vehicles.
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The ACT has a legislated target of achieving net zero emissions by 2045 but the groups believe the Government needs to do more.
Executive Director of the Conservation Council ACT Region, Helen Oakey said that after electricity, which will soon be 100 per cent sourced from renewable energy projects, transport is the next biggest source of the ACT’s greenhouse emissions, at 60 per cent.
She said the ACT Legislative Assembly had already acknowledged that the Territory was facing a climate emergency, and now needed to invest in infrastructure that would help reduce transport emissions.
“Yet while nearly $170 million has been budgeted for roads over the next four years, only $24 million will be invested in active travel infrastructure,” Ms Oakey said.
“In addition, it’s very concerning that the 84 new buses promised may not all be 100 per cent electric –‘fuel efficient’ is not good enough when we will need to move to zero emissions as urgently as possible.
“To cut emissions, and to maintain a liveable city in the face of increasing urban density and population growth, the ACT must also set clear legislated targets to increase the number of journeys taken by active travel and public transport, so that we can reduce private car travel and keep congestion under control.”
CEO of Pedal Power, Ian Ross said the ACT Government needed to change its focus and massively expand and improve the quality of the cycling network.
This would not only support Canberrans who choose to ride a bike as a healthy and emission-free way to travel, but also meet the future demand of new travel modes such as e-bikes.
“If we are going to hit the 2045 zero emissions target, the ACT Government will need to prioritise projects that help Canberrans ride and walk safely and efficiently around our city,” Mr Ross said.
“We want the ACT to set and fund active travel targets as a priority and to create the role of Active Travel Commissioner to oversee the implementation of the policies that will help us meet our zero-emission targets.”
Living Streets Canberra spokesperson Gill King said more funding should be directed to improving paths, connections and signage to support active travel, and to improving reliable public transport options for Canberrans.
“Walking is often undervalued as a transport choice. Especially in combination with public transport, walking is open to nearly everyone, and brings with it many social and physical benefits. Yet it is often made more difficult because of poor quality paths, connections and lighting,” she said.
“By prioritising transport investments towards active travel, we will make it easier for all Canberrans to be able to walk or cycle easily, safely, conveniently and comfortably to their nearest school, public transport stop, and shops,” Ms King said.
The petition will be circulated throughout the community before being forwarded to the ACT Legislative Assembly after it closes on November 15th, 2019.