How can we enable people to live closer to where they work?
What is the Problem?
Australia has always been an urbanised country with 70 per cent of our population highly concentrated around a few major cities. The search for affordable housing in cities has forced many to look towards the outer regions and fringes of our major cities.
There is now a growing geographical divide between where jobs are (inner city) and the outer suburbs where people can afford to live. The long distances and times that many people spend going to and from work have implications not only for them but also for the nation’s economic activity, participation and productivity. Having staff based further away from the city affects city-centre businesses, lowers productivity and act as a drag on the economic growth of cities.
This is affecting our low-income workers who work in the city centres the most. For such workers, the commute to work from home is twice as long compared to the average time of commute for all other workers in capital cities. Such workers are forced to face an impossible choice – either longer and costlier commutes into job rich areas (such as the CBD) or accept lower paid or part-time jobs closer to where they live. In other words, they are being forced to make location choices that are likely to reinforce their current income status, thus further entrenching their disadvantage.
By 2030, Australian cities will need to cope with the added pressure of 30 per cent more people, with increasing city density placing more pressure on the need for affordable housing. How can we ensure that affordable housing is provided in locations where it is needed – in locations that provide access to employment opportunities as well as to basic services? How can we enable people to live closer to where they work?
- Between 1986 and 2011, the percentage of people on lower income living within 10 kilometres of Sydney's job-rich CBD dropped by 82 per cent.
- Only 10 per cent of all metropolitan jobs are within a reasonable commuting time. Jobs that are within a reasonable distance tend to be lower paying, less knowledge-intensive jobs.
- Data shows that the average hours Australians spent each week travelling to and from work have increased from 3.9 hours in 2002 to 4.4 hours in 2009.
- Sydneysiders spend almost six hours per week getting to and from work in a car, bus or train.
- Commuters spend on average five hours a week travelling to and from work in Brisbane, and 4.8 hours in Melbourne. Canberra, Hobart and Darwin spend the least time commuting.
- Meanwhile, our travel corridors are becoming more congested. In Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra, without investment in new transport capacity and/or means of managing demand, car travel times are expected to increase by at least 20 per cent in the most congested corridors. In some cases, travel times could more than double between 2011 and 2031.
- While the use of public transport has been increasing since 2004, currently only one in six Australians travels to work by public transport.
- Even at this rate, demand for public transport in the capital cities is set to rise by an average of 89 per cent across all capital cities – specifically by 55 per cent in Sydney and 121 per cent in Melbourne. Without action, commuters in all capital cities will experience services with ‘crush loadings’, where peak demand exceeds capacity.
- From 2011 to 2031, the passenger transport burden (both road and public transport) across our six largest capital cities is projected to increase by 58 per cent, from 622 million km per day to 982 million km per day.