Thursday, August 19, 2010

A cliché riddled rant

the fact of the matter is thus: if the population truly cared about the impact they had on the people surrounding them, their physical surrounds and the  wider environment, they would be willing to compromise and sacrifice to find a viable solution to all of the planets human and natural challenges : Flood, famine, drought, obesity, fire, war, fear, financial distress, the list is almost endless. 
Stop the apportioning of blame, and start thinking of solutions and ways to implement them. There has to be a limit to the amount of time, effort, energy and money spent politicizing problems and point scoring for the sake of popularity, if any true reform is to be undertaken. Leaders must be able to think altruistically, and believe that they are doing the right thing for the future, irrespective of their standing in the polls. Knowledge, expertise, Foresight and insight: we must allow those who have these qualities to have their voices heard, and their ideas publicised, as revolution can be just as important as evolution. If we allow populist opinion to run our nation, and consequently run the world, the human tendency to stagnate, to fear and resist change will overcome our basal tendency to live long and prosper, sometimes, we have to be the change we want to see in the world, there's no point waiting for the world to change, not when the people changing it currently are making it worse, if the people with power can't handle the responsibility, maybe its time to transfer the power.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

Expensive, Expanding and about to Explode.

Next step, living in the Bay? 
The decision made last month by the Victorian State parliament to expand the metropolitan urban boundaries, (from the current yellow to include the brown pockets) has been taken without any thought for the future of our fair city.  

Already struggling under the demands placed upon it by over 4million people, Melbourne's vital infrastructure and public services will be stretched beyond capacity if more people are accommodated further away from the city's centre.

Now I'm all for having more people live in Melbourne, and in Australia in general, but it must be regulated to fit the needs of Australia's developing economy. Given the size of our land, the  number of people occupying it and the relative abundance of our natural resources, Australia's economy is operating well below its capabilities. Broadly speaking, many foreigners are amazed at the size of our continent, and the small number of people making use of it. The skill set required for our country to grow into a true world "player" must be actively sought out by government schemes, while encouraging those in the corporate sector to bring foreigners here who will add to the country,  economically, socially and culturally.

A typical Melbourne Traffic jam, rendering the speed limit useless.
Melbourne is a vibrant, cultural city, it is known world wide for being one of the most "liveable" cities, and is arguably the sporting capital of the world. However, there is only so much people can afford to pay as a premium because of these advantages. The day to day practicalities, however, make this city a nightmare for the commuting public, as patrons have to wait in cramped sardine cans on the late trains, or in banks of traffic that don't seem to dissipate until after the time at which you were meant to be at work.
Melbourne Train System

 A small and unscientific analysis of three cities, Melbourne, London and New York City, sheds light on the long term planning that didn't take place. In terms of population size, New York City holds about .4 million more people than London, with the British capital holding just under 8mil. Melbourne holds under half that, with our population currently hovering around 4 million.
In terms of physical land size, Melbourne, in square kilometres, completely blows New York and London out of the park, with its area totalling, London in second at and NYC relatively small at

Greater London Trains- Underground and Above-ground systems
 Counter-intuitively, the young city of Melbourne has by far the worst public rail system. Established and settled in  1835, Melbourne should have been able to build upon years of established technology and engineering experience gained from other cities established around the world. London was established by the Romans in 43AD, and New York in 1624. True, technological advances were relatively few and far between. The City of London began work on its first subterranean railway in the 1850s, with it becoming operational in 1863, it now incorporates 270 stations in its network.

New York's rail network is much more extensive, with  24 lines connecting 468 stations and the ability to carry over 5 million passengers per weekday. It began service in 1904, which begs the question, why didn't Melbourne's planners think long term and build for the future. One common feature of the New York and London system, is that they do not incorporate a central hub to which each and every train must pass, although there are areas of increased connectivity and no doubt activity.
Having greater connectivity and no central hub, makes it easier for people who have no need to enter the congested zones, get to their destinations. The ability to get from home to work, or from Frankston to Clayton, without having to catch 1 train and 2 buses, or 2 different trains and a bus etc.
The improvements required for the upgrading of Melbourne's rail network towards a modern, efficient, user friendly system, will require a lot of planning, international consultation, expertise and last but not least, foresight and a vested interest in making Melbourne a better city.

We can undoubtedly make Melbourne more attractive to the rest of the world by improving our public transport, but if we want to preserve our unique lifestyle and make it easier for families to live and grow, we must accept the need to become an economy of scale. To allow for more people, we must also recognize and accept the fact that living habits must change, and that some luxuries currently afforded to most of the population, must be sacrificed if we are to maintain financial prosperity.  Many of the houses built in the late 50s and 60s are medium sized, well built homes that lie on massive amounts of  unused garden space(see left). However, the structure of our modern society is such that most gardens go under used and under appreciated, with more and more people flocking to public gardens and parks to meet friends and conduct various recreational activities. So what purpose do expansive areas of grass, weeds and plants serve? Gone are the days in which children played with their friends in an unstructured manner.More kids are enrolled in after school care programs and are involved in club sports, martial arts, swimming, dance, drama and gymnastics than ever before; activities meant to add structure to children's lives and developing their all round skills.This is also symptomatic of the work/life balance afforded to their parents, who would rather spend money enrolling their kids in such activities than spending personal time with them. The amount of time they spend in their own front or back yard with their kids is lower than ever before, and its not something working families are willing to change.

So the main advantage of owning land along with a house, is prestige. But what value do people place on owning land that they do not use? Wouldn't they benefit more from selling their land and obtaining cash for it? would Melbourne as a city, not be better off if people capitalized from the land that they own by developing upwards? If we were to sacrifice our front and back yards, build longer and wider, single story houses, developing second and third stories  would generate revenue for land owners, and easily accommodate the predicted population increase