What Brisbane's ferries can teach us about funding public transport

The Brisbane suburb of Bulimba has benefited from the addition of a ferry terminal. Image: Matthew Burke.

Traditional funding sources are becoming inadequate to meet public transport demands in Australian cities, despite the broad economic and social benefits public transport brings, such as cost savings associated with reduced traffic congestion, productivity through improved job creation, competitiveness and livability.

In 2013 around two-thirds of Australia’s population resided in a capital city. By 2061, the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecasts this proportion will increase to 74 per cent. This population growth is creating pressure for public transport systems and infrastructure, and governments need to find alternative funding resources.

In Australia, governments face a funding shortfall, which is compounded by limited funding resources (low taxes) and competing priorities. Unfortunately, the federal government in Australia has in some cases ceased funding public transport projects.

The concept of “value capture” is being explored to help fill the hole left by the Commonwealth. Value capture is the appropriation of some land value gains that result from the installation of specific public infrastructure improvements in a limited benefit area, and sees part or all of these revenues used to fund the improvements.

Before introducing value capture financing to fund public transport, we need to know the value of uplift that occurs as a result of different public transport infrastructure. To answer this question, we have been exploring how Brisbane’s ferries have influenced property values in the city.

Since four CityCat ferry systems were introduced in 1996, this influential system has grown to 23 terminals, 19 CityCats and 9 mono-hulled ferries. But what effect have they had on land values?

Many ferry-oriented developments have been built to leverage off Brisbane’s CityCats and other ferries. Land developers have paid for part or all of the construction costs for the Regatta, Hamilton Northshore and Teneriffe terminals on the Brisbane river, to ensure ferries service their developments.

The challenge was to measure the effects for these ferry-oriented development areas, to see whether developers were justified in their decisions.

Brisbane’s CityCats have helped push up property prices. Dan Peled/AAP.

What are the property value effects?

We used property data for much of Brisbane to see what impact the ferry terminals have on property values, and found property prices tended to increase for properties located closer to the ferry terminals. If you get one kilometre closer to the ferry terminal that is expected to increase the property price an average 4 per cent, excluding other factors.

The positive effects on house prices brought about by the ferries were particularly notable at the Regatta, Bulimba and Hawthorne terminals, and to a lesser extent at Mowbray Park. This suggests the combination of suburbs with mature terminals and a decade of ferry-oriented development has positive impact on house prices or property values. There were less effects around the nearby Norman Park terminal because it is only serviced by more limited, lower-frequency cross-river services.

Unexpectedly our study found a fall in property values around the Guyatt Park terminal, but we think this may be explained by the Green Bridge opening from Fairfield to St Lucia, which broke the monopoly on student housing in St Lucia, and which was not included in our study. No property uplift effects were observed at Teneriffe and at Hamilton North Shore, where development is still immature. It is still too early to say what the impacts will be there.

The effects were more muted at locations such as West End where redevelopment opportunities have been scarce, partly due to planning controls, and at the QUT Gardens Point and University of Queensland terminals dominated by higher education land uses.

Many properties that benefited from ferry proximity were also high-rise apartments in the Brisbane central business district. Our research suggests that a one hundred metre decrease in the distance to the ferry stop would increase property values by between 4.9 per cent and 13.1 per cent in this location. This is a considerably stronger response than the 4 per cent average increase across the broader study area.

Ultimately it appears property developers were justified in seeking to secure ferry terminals to service their developments. Governments may also be justified in bringing in land value capture mechanisms to help pay for terminals, vessels or operating costs in appropriate locations.The Conversation

Barbara T.H. Yen is a research fellow on the urban research programme at Griffith University. She does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.