Earlier this year it was revealed that Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are registering record-breaking population growth. Melbourne and Sydney are both adding over 100,000 people to their tallies each year, while Brisbane’s numbers are growing at a rate of 2% per annum. Already the infrastructure in these cities seems strained, something that any peak-hour commuter will attest to.
So, how do we reimagine our cities to ensure that they are not only bigger, but smarter? Future Business Council member Salt3, a leading traffic and waste engineering consultancy with offices in our two biggest cities, is well-placed to answer these burning questions. Salt3 Director Jo Garretty leads an up-and-coming team of engineering professionals, and sat down with us recently to talk about the future of our cities, the impact of driverless cars and the all out war on waste.
Q: We know that the populations of Melbourne and Sydney are growing at a startling rate, exerting greater pressure on infrastructure including roads and waste management systems. Are urban Australians doomed to spend an increasing number of hours stuck in traffic?
A: From state and local government level we are trying to reduce reliance on cars and move towards active and sustainable transport modes, with some great initiatives underway. There are some fantastic major infrastructure projects in construction such as the Melbourne Metro and for the wider metropolitan area train linkages and upgrades being considered. These complement the “20 minute city” movement that is spreading throughout Melbourne, expected to decrease congestion and discourage people flooding into the city for employment.
Sydney’s congestion is also being addressed with heavy and light rail upgrades as well as active programs led by government for addressing road capacity issues and congestion.
We are also waiting for the first high-speed rail to arrive and connect Melbourne with Sydney and build many mini cities along the way. High speed rail has worked well throughout Asia, allowing people to live 150km out of the CBD and still make the morning commute to work in 45 minutes.
Accordingly, whilst congestion in Melbourne and Sydney is apparent, this is certainly being actively addressed. However it does also require a shift in mindset for the community to adopt lower car ownership at households and move towards non-private vehicle use until such time Australia may or may not change the law around purchasing and owing private vehicles.
Q: In what ways do you expect driverless cars to impact our cities?
A: I have no doubt driverless cars will be available within the next decade but I’m not convinced they will be affordable, convenient and available to the masses. When the market is split where some people do have driverless cars and other people use regular cars, there will need to be some careful engineering and road safety management prior to implementation. I see it being a slow and tedious transition, which could be sped up by, similar to Singapore, a buy back scheme implemented and all outdated cars are sold to developing countries to “clean up” our streets. Apart from building a robotic car, there are other less obvious advancements required, such as availability of internet technology. When every car on the street is communicating speeds, intersections, safety precautions, wayfinding routes and emergency services, Wi-Fi will need to be accessible in every major city, and its speed must increase tenfold.
If the end result is improved safety and less congestion, this will be a positive impact on our cities, however public transport must also be improved to ensure that the entire community has excellent means of transport.
Driverless cars will change the way our cities look, from repurposing carparks to introducing more green and outdoor space. Potentially the traditional design of shopping centres and commercial hubs will convert to vertical and/or shifting/sliding experiences. What needs to be continuously addressed is ensuring that requirements for car parking in inner city developments is minimised to cater for the now and future.
I’m looking forward to innovations in the industry unfolding.
Q: Programs such as ABC’s War On Waste have reignited debate about how to best manage our waste. Most people accept that our current systems are deeply flawed – what does the future of waste management look like?
A: I believe that education for all ages across all geographic locations is essential to ensure that recycling and waste minimisation occurs, supported by infrastructure as well as manufacturers providing recyclable materials and packaging. At the moment we don’t pay enough attention to the amount of waste we create and convenience is king for the majority of our community and commercial enterprises, in the absence of education and knowledge. For example, since “War on Waste” aired the disposable coffee cups episode on the effect on the environment and landfill, the uptake in “KeepCup” has been extraordinary.
There are some incredible technologies being rolled out in the waste industry, across Australia and internationally such as vacuum waste systems already operational and under construction. Furthermore, major institutions and government infrastructure providers are delivering waste strategies and operational systems that address the future of waste, with consideration to reuse, recycling within Australia and minimising the need for offshore support.
There is so much opportunity in the waste industry for businesses to solve problems and if federal law is changed, significant changes can occur sooner rather than later.
The future should strive for reuse, recycling and zero waste.
Q: We saw SALT recently held a fundraising campaign for a school over in Kenya – can you tell us a little bit about that? (including the challenges you faced, how much money you raised and where this money will go)?
A: In 2018 SALT chose One Heart Foundation as our responsible charity partner and raised money for a school which houses orphaned and abandoned children in Kenya. One Heart is a group of purpose driven professionals that came together with the vision of breaking the poverty cycle by transforming the lives of thousands of the most disadvantaged children, from the most disadvantaged regions, around the world.
One of our valued team members headed over to Kenya to participate in this life changing experience. Each of the participants were required to fundraise $10,000, which was invested into the local self-sufficient community that One Heart Foundation has been constructing since it launched in 2007. The team of 13 which headed over raised a combined $150,000 which is directly invested into the circular economy of the One Heart village to support the 75 children and develop small businesses in the community to break the poverty cycle.