Monday, August 11, 2008

Social gap widens from outer to inner Melbourne - The Age

by Clay Lucas

SUBURBIA is bearing the brunt of rising fuel prices and extreme mortgage stress, a major study of Australian cities has found.

Governments must step in to provide outer suburbs with better public transport or risk extreme social breakdown, it warned.

The report, Unsettling Suburbia, for the first time combines the 2006 census figures on car use, mortgage levels and income.

Outer suburban households are under the greatest stress from petrol prices and mortgage levels as a percentage of income, according to the Griffith University's urban planning unit report.

Melbourne's outer suburbs were far more vulnerable to rising fuel prices than the middle and inner suburbs, it warned.

"The households that will have the greatest (problem) coping with higher transport and housing costs are among those with the least resources and weakest access to local infrastructure," authors Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe said.

They warn of a greater social divide between inner Melbourne, which has better access to public transport, and outer suburbs where residents have little option but to drive.

Residents of inner and middle suburbs use their cars less and take far shorter trips, the study found...


...It criticised state governments in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland for proposing "grossly expensive" rail projects to combat transport problems.

In Melbourne, Sir Rod Eddington has proposed a $7 billion rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield. Feasibility studies into a $7 billion CBD rail underground have begun in Brisbane and a $12 billion metro is planned for Sydney.

"These schemes direct new investment to central and middle suburban areas — the zones already well served by high quality public transport," the study found. Infrastructure funding should be re-directed to the outer suburbs, the report advised.

"Modest extensions to existing suburban rail networks, combined with comprehensively planned and high quality local suburban bus services, would be a cheaper and more sustainable option."

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