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.


Ottawa-Gatineau, the national capital which language differences nearly split into two countries

The Canadian parliament, Ottawa.

There are many single urban areas with multiple, competing local identities: from the rivalry of Newcastle and Sunderland in Tyne & Wear, to the Wolverhampton residents who resolutely deny that they are part of Birmingham, despite being in the same urban conurbation and sharing a mayor.

However, no division is quite as stark as that of the Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area in Canada. Often referred to as the National Capital Region, Ottawa and Gatineau lie directly opposite each other on either side of the Ottawa River, a hundred miles from Montreal, the nearest other significant population centre. Because the conurbation straddles a provincial boundary, the two cities literally speak a different language, with Ottawa in predominantly Anglophone Ontario and Gatineau in Francophone Quebec.

This is reflected in their populations. According to the 2011 census, French was the mother tongue of 77 per cent of those in Gatineau, a percentage maintained by policies intended to keep French as Quebec’s dominant language. Similarly, although Ottawa provides some bilingual services, 68 per cent of its residents are predominantly Anglophone; Franco-Ontarians frequently complain that the city is not officially bilingual.

Although there are similar divided cities, such as the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, Ottawa-Gatineau is unique in that the city was not divided by a war or major political event: its two halves have been part of the same political territory since the British defeated the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, before either of the cities were even established. Indeed, the oldest part of Gatineau is actually an Anglophone settlement with the name of Hull (it was merged into the Gatineau municipality in 2002).

Today, the two cities facing each other across the Ottawa river have separate services, and elect difference mayors to run them: OC Transpo serves Ottawa, the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO) serves  Gatineau, and few tickets are transferrable between the two systems.

OC Transpo is currently constructing a light rail system to many parts of Ottawa; but proposals to expand the route into Gatineau, or to merge the two transport systems have been fraught with obstacles. The City of Ottawa owns a disused railway bridge, connecting the two cities, but arguments about funding and political differences have so far prevented it from being used as part of the light rail extension project.

The divisions between Ottawa and Gatineau are made all the more unusual by the fact that Ottawa is the federal capital of Canada – a country where bilingualism is entrenched in the Charter of Rights & Freedom as a bedrock principle of the Canadian constitution. As a result, while all proceedings within the Canadian legislature are bilingual, this principle of bilingualism is not reflected on the streets surrounding the building.

The inevitable map. Image: Google.

These linguistic, as well as political, differences have been a long-running theme in Canadian politics. Quebec held independence referendums in both 1980 and 1995; in the latter, the separatists were defeated by a margin of less than 0.6 per cent. Quebecois independence would be made all the more humiliating for Canada by the fact it would be losing the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, while its parliament was forced to look out across the river at its new neighbours.

While Quebec as a whole only narrowly rejected independence in 1995, 72 per cent of Gatineau residents voted against the separatist proposal. The presence of many federal employees living in the city, who commute to Ottawa, meant that the city was rather unenthusiastic about the prospect of independence.

So, with Quebec nationalism currently at a low ebb, Gatineau seems set to remain a part of Canada – albeit while retaining its independent from the other half of its conurbation, across the river. While recent challenges such as flooding may have been better tackled by a unitary authority, the National Capital Region seems set to remain a tale of two cities.

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