Here are the things Australian cities must do to be truly liveable for all

Hyde Park, Sydney. Image: Getty.

Urban planners, governments and developers are increasingly interested in making cities “liveable”. But what features contribute to liveability? Which areas in cities are the least and most liveable? The various liveability rankings – where Australia tends to do quite well – don’t provide much useful guidance.

In a recently released report, Creating Liveable Cities in Australia, our team defined and produced the first baseline measure of liveability in Australia’s capital cities.

We broke down liveability into seven “domains”: walkability, public transport, public open space, housing affordability, employment, the food environment, and the alcohol environment. This definition is based on what we found to be critical factors for creating liveable, sustainable and healthy communities.

Each of the liveability domains is linked by evidence to health and wellbeing outcomes. They are also measurable at the individual house, suburb and city level. This means we can compare areas within and between cities.

While all seven domains are important, three are explored here in more detail.

Walkability

Urban planning that encourages walking is crucial for liveable cities. Image: Julianna Rozek/Author provided.

In liveable cities, streets and neighbourhoods are designed to encourage walking instead of driving. Homes, jobs, shops, schools and other everyday destinations are within easy walking distance of each other. The street network is convenient for pedestrians, with high-quality footpaths, short blocks, few cul-de-sacs and higher-density housing.

Walkability is an important factor in liveability because it promotes active forms of transport. Increasingly physically inactive and sedentary lifestyles are a global health problem, and contribute to around 3.2m preventable deaths a year. In Australia, 60 per cent of adults and 70 per cent of children and adolescents do not get enough exercise.

We measured walkability using a combination of features that are linked to health benefits. Our “walkability index” included housing density, access to everyday destinations and street connectivity within 1,600m of a residence. This is a commonly used “walkable” distance, equivalent to about 20 minutes’ walk, and features within this affect how likely a person is to walk.

However, walkable neighbourhoods achieve their full potential only when residents have easy access to employment – particularly by public transport.

Public transport

Liveable cities promote public transport use instead of driving. Most homes are within easy walking distance of transport stops, and services are frequent enough to be convenient.

Good access to public transport supports community health in two ways: by encouraging walking and by reducing dependence on driving.

Australian cities have largely been designed for cars, at the cost of community health. Each hour spent driving can increase a person’s risk of obesity by around 6 per cent. Road-traffic accidents are the eighth-leading cause of death and disability globally, and one of the leading causes of death in Australians up to the age of 44.

Cars are also a major source of urban air pollution and noise, which are harmful to mental and physical health.

In previous work, our team found that people were more likely to walk for transport if they had a public transport stop within 400m of their home. The service frequency was also important – it needed to be least every 30 minutes on a normal weekday.

In Creating Liveable Cities in Australia we used this combined measure to map the percentage of homes in a suburb, local government area, or city with close access to frequent public transport.

Creating Liveable Cities in Australia.

Public open space

In liveable communities, most people live within walking distance of a green, publicly accessible open space such as a park, playground or reserve.

Green space has many physical and mental health benefits for people, and social and environmental benefits for communities. Parks provide opportunities for physical activity, such as jogging, ball sports and dog walking.

Increasingly, research is finding clear links between living in neighbourhoods with lots of parks and higher physical activity.

Urban green spaces are also important for plants and animals displaced by urban development and provide other environmental benefits. The cooling effect of trees and green spaces can play an important part in maintaining the liveability of Australian cities, particularly as heatwaves in Melbourne and Sydney are likely to reach 50°C by 2040.

In soon-to-be-published work, having access to a public open space within 400 metres (about a five-minute walk) of at least 1.5 hectares in area was associated with recreational walking.

For this report, we struggled to find a dataset of public open space that was consistent and available nationally. Some areas have high-quality data available from previous research projects or local councils, and satellite imagery provides useful information about tree cover.

However, national data standards are needed to enable cities to benchmark and monitor their progress in meeting liveability targets.


The liveable city is greater than the sum of its parts

The phrase “liveable city” conjures up a vision of leafy streets, happy residents walking, cycling or catching public transport, and children playing in neighbourhood parks. This image, while inspiring, is not useful for urban planners and governments who are working to make cities more liveable.

Distilling liveability into seven domains, which can be measured and are linked to health and wellbeing outcomes, provides policymakers and practitioners with what they need to ensure we maintain and enhance the liveability of our cities as they grow.

The ConversationYou can hear more from researchers involved in Creating Liveable Cities in Australia at the Designing Healthy Liveable Cities Conference on 19-20 October in Melbourne. It’s being hosted by the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities and you can register here.

Julianna Rozek is a research officer and Billie Giles-Corti, director of the Healthy Liveable Cities Group at RMIT University.

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

 
 
 
 

12 things we learned by reading every single National Rail timetable

Some departure boards, yesterday. Image: flickr.com/photos/joshtechfission/ CC-BY-SA

A couple of weeks ago, someone on Twitter asked CityMetric’s editor about the longest possible UK train journey where the stations are all in progressive alphabetical order. Various people made suggestions, but I was intrigued as to what that definitive answer was. Helpfully, National Rail provides a 3,717 page document containing every single timetable in the country, so I got reading!

(Well, actually I let my computer read the raw data in a file provided by ATOC, the Association of Train Operating Companies. Apparently this ‘requires a good level of computer skills’, so I guess I can put that on my CV now.)

Here’s what I learned:

1) The record for stops in progressive alphabetical order within a single journey is: 10

The winner is the weekday 7.42am Arriva Trains Wales service from Bridgend to Aberdare, which stops at the following stations in sequence:

  • Barry, Barry Docks, Cadoxton, Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Cathays, Llandaf, Radyr, Taffs Well, Trefforest

The second longest sequence possible – 8 – overlaps with this. It’s the 22:46pm from Cardiff Central to Treherbert, although at present it’s only scheduled to run from 9-12 April, so you’d better book now to avoid the rush. 

  • Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Cathays, Llandaf, Radyr, Taffs Well, Trefforest, Trehafod

Not quite sure what you’ll actually be able to do when you get to Trehafod at half eleven. Maybe the Welsh Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park could arrange a special late night event to celebrate.

Just one of the things that you probably won't be able to see in Trehafod. Image: Wikimedia/FruitMonkey.

There are 15 possible runs of 7 stations. They include:

  • Berwick Upon Tweed, Dunbar, Edinburgh, Haymarket, Inverkeithing, Kirkcaldy, Leuchars
  • Bidston, Birkenhead North, Birkenhead Park, Conway Park, Hamilton Square, James Street, Moorfields
  • Bedford, Flitwick, Harlington, Leagrave, Luton, St Albans City, St Pancras International

There is a chance for a bit of CONTROVERSY with the last one, as you could argue that the final station is actually called London St Pancras. But St Pancras International the ATOC data calls it, so if you disagree you should ring them up and shout very loudly about it, I bet they love it when stuff like that happens.

Alphabetical train journeys not exciting enough for you?

2) The longest sequence of stations with alliterative names: 5

There are two ways to do this:

  • Ladywell, Lewisham, London Bridge, London Waterloo (East), London Charing Cross – a sequence which is the end/beginning of a couple of routes in South East London.
  • Mills Hill, Moston, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly – from the middle of the Leeds-Manchester Airport route.

There are 20 ways to get a sequence of 4, and 117 for a sequence of 3, but there are no train stations in the UK beginning with Z so shut up you at the back there.

3) The longest sequence of stations with names of increasing length: 7

Two of these:

  • York, Leeds, Batley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road
  • Lewes, Glynde, Berwick, Polegate, Eastbourne, Hampden Park, Pevensey & Westham

4) The greatest number of stations you can stop at without changing trains: 50

On a veeeeery slow service that calls at every stop between Crewe and Cardiff Central over the course of 6hr20. Faster, albeit less comprehensive, trains are available.

But if you’re looking for a really long journey, that’s got nothing on:

5) The longest journey you can take on a single National Rail service: 13 hours and 58 minutes.

A sleeper service that leaves Inverness at 7.17pm, and arrives at London Euston at 9.15am the next morning. Curiously, the ATOC data appears to claim that it stops at Wembley European Freight Operations Centre, though sadly the National Rail website makes no mention of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

6) The shortest journey you can take on a National Rail service without getting off en route: 2 minutes.

Starting at Wrexham Central, and taking you all the way to Wrexham General, this service is in place for a few days in the last week of March.

7) The shortest complete journey as the crow flies: 0 miles

Because the origin station is the same as the terminating station, i.e. the journey is on a loop.

8) The longest unbroken journey as the crow flies: 505 miles

Taking you all the way from Aberdeen to Penzance – although opportunities to make it have become rarer. The only direct service in the current timetable departs at 8.20am on Saturday 24 March. It stops at 46 stations and takes 13 hours 20 minutes. Thankfully, a trolley service is available.

9) The shortest station names on the network have just 3 letters

Ash, Ayr, Ely, Lee, Lye, Ore, Par, Rye, Wem, and Wye.

There’s also I.B.M., serving an industrial site formerly owned by the tech firm, but the ATOC data includes those full stops so it's not quite as short. Compute that, Deep Blue, you chess twat.

10) The longest station name has 33 letters excluding spaces

Okay, I cheated on this and Googled it – the ATOC data only has space for 26 characters. But for completeness’ sake: it’s Rhoose Cardiff International Airport, with 33 letters.

No, I’m not counting that other, more infamous Welsh one, because it’s listed in the database as Llanfairpwll, which is what it is actually called.

 

This sign is a lie. Image: Cyberinsekt.

11) The highest platform number on the National Rail network is 22

Well, the highest platform number at which anything is currently scheduled to stop at, at least.

12) if yoU gAze lOng into an abYss the abySs alSo gazEs into yOu

Image: author's own.

“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”, said Thomas.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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