The WA government plans to spend about $260 million a month on road and rail infrastructure by next year and $280 million a month the following financial year.
Clean State research and policy director Chantal Caruso said with stimulus on the cards, now was the perfect time to combat WA’s rising carbon emissions with sustainable transport projects.
“We have seen a lot of the stimulus spending go on roads so far but Clean State thinks investment in active transport like buses, trams and bikes are some of the best job-rich projects that will have massive impacts on carbon emissions,” she said.
The bike proposal would see the state government expand its planned construction of 150 kilometres of bike path over the next four years to 2000 kilometres over the next five years, much of that would be cheaper ‘on-road’ bike lanes. Clean State said this would create more than 5000 jobs.
The proposal also calls for better bike parking facilities at train stations and shopping centres and for Transperth to declare one carriage on every train ‘bike-friendly’. Currently, bikes are banned during peak hours.
“COVID actually almost doubled the number of cyclists riding to work and suddenly there was this global bike shortage, not just for work but for recreation,” Ms Caruso said.
“This is a really easy opportunity here to keep those people on their bikes.
“Bike path spending is also one of the most job-rich areas, there is lots of labour and lots of knock-on effects for small bike stores and people making road base. It is this whole ecosystem that gets stimulated.”
The scars left behind from the MAX light rail debacle are still fresh in Perth’s memory but Ms Caruso said a trackless tram connecting inner-city suburbs was still a worthwhile, city-changing project.
“Not only are we behind trackless trams because they can deliver all the benefits of light rail for one-tenth of the cost of a light rail network, but it is also the best way to catalyse urban regeneration and high-quality infill in Perth’s corridors and accommodate all of our future growth,” she said.
Under the electric bus proposal, Clean State has called for the state government to renegotiate its existing order for 900 new diesel buses to electric buses.
Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union WA president Steve McCartney has backed the electric bus plan and said with some upskilling WA workers would be up to the task.
The state government seems unlikely to adopt any of Clean State’s proposals, instead preferring to work on existing projects.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said while the government was keen to explore new cycling opportunities, it would focus on its current $150 million 150 kilometre cycle path plan, which was announced in 2019.
The spokeswoman said cycling facilities had been significantly boosted across the train network but when it came to bike-friendly carriages, “space was usually required for passengers” during peak periods.
On trackless trams and light rail, the spokeswoman said a corridor could be considered for future stages of Metronet and submissions had been submitted to Infrastructure Australia, but the government’s main priority was to deliver its current rail commitments.
She said the state will begin trials of electric buses in Joondalup from 2022.
The spokeswoman refuted claims the COVID-19 stimulus program was not green enough.
“Through Metronet, the state government is undertaking the biggest investment in passenger rail in the state’s history, which will encourage people onto public transport and take cars off the roads. We are also planning our communities around public transport to make it a more attractive option for commuting,” she said.
She cited other announcements including a $66.3 million renewable energy package and $44.5 million North West infrastructure package featuring battery storage systems as demonstrations of the McGowan government’s green credentials.
Hamish Hastie is WAtoday’s business reporter.