Planning the basic facilities and systems that support the running and growth of a country or region is a vital part in the realization of sustainable development. Well-planned roads, water and sewerage systems, bridges, electrical supply systems, telecommunication systems and all other infrastructural resources are an indispensable network for the sustained supply of goods and services to a nation’s citizenry.
As a basic concept, infrastructure planning entails forecasting through policy formulation, implementing the policy by developing the infrastructure, and the consistent maintenance of the infrastructure to ensure the realization of the intended purpose. This process guarantees that the functions of infrastructure planning are achieved.
Functions of Infrastructure Planning
Infrastructure planning targets three key functions:
These three factors outline the importance of location in infrastructure planning.
- Support economic development: the production of goods and services and their distribution to all the corners of a country would be impossible without infrastructure. A good network infrastructure construction ensures the efficient and effective running of the country’s production system.
- Improvement of life by alleviating poor living standards: a region without roads would be isolated from the rest of the country and, consequently, from the benefits of developmental progress. Good infrastructure implies better living standards for all.
- The conservation of the natural environment: infrastructure planning is key in the preservation and protection of the environment. For example, a city without a proper sewerage system would be inhabitable. Likewise, a river that crosses a highway would extend its banks and render it impassable if there were no proper bridges. Rainwater harvesting and the act of collecting rainwater using water tanks in some parts of Australia helps to reduce water consumption.
Importance of location in infrastructure planning
As underlined above, infrastructure must support development, alleviate poverty and conserve the environment. In order to support these functions, appropriate geographic placement of the infrastructure is indispensable.
Proper infrastructure location serves the following purposes:
- Policy realization: the development and distribution of infrastructure are guided by existing policy directives. If a guiding policy framework is lacking, there will be an unfair distribution of infrastructural resources and, hence, skewed development for some regions while others are left out.
- Support development agenda: the location of infrastructure should fit within the national development agenda. For example, the construction of a road may be informed by the accessibility of a raw material which is needed in the production of a basic commodity for the country’s population.
- Community development: this is related to the function of poverty alleviation. The proper location of infrastructure means setting it up where it is most needed. This, in turn, entails answering to the community’s need.
- Resource management: this involves planning infrastructure in a way that it serves people from more regions. A water catchment may be at a point where it connects more regions of the country. This will enable it to pump and supply water from the rainwater tank to all of the areas while saving on resources.
Proper planning of the amenities which support the livelihood of citizens is indispensable. Appropriate infrastructure will support development, conserve the environment, and improve the living standards of the population where it is set up. All this relies on a suitable position of the infrastructure.
Let us take a look at the infrastructure planning in Australia with Perth’s Bus Infrastructure Planning as an example.
Buses currently (2015) carry 57% of all public transport trips and account for almost half of public transport kilometres travelled by public transport in Perth. By providing these guidelines it is hoped that stakeholders will assist in the objective to increase the proportion of people travelling by public transport and to reduce the proportion of people travelling by car. Perth’s public transport is highly integrated, with many people travelling by both bus and train during the same journey. The fully integrated ticketing system and comfortable bus/rail interchanges make the transfer between buses and trains convenient and comfortable. The expanding system of buses and trains (and light rail in the future) will provide improved choices for customers and continue to increase patronage and mode share of public transport. Light rail or tram lines like the ones in Melbourne are especially favoured as it not only provides a convenient way that connects people to major attraction sites such as the Melbourne stadium but also prevents less traffic congestion with proper planning.
The Role of Buses
Buses provide a variety of roles in Perth’s integrated transport system, including:
- Providing convenient affordable access to work, education, recreation and other activities for a growing number of Perth people either for the entire journey of for part of the journey in association with other transport modes (eg trains, bicycles).
- Providing a reliable service to people in the community who, for whatever reason, do not have access to or are unable to drive a car.
- Providing increased transport system capacity, along crowded corridors and within centres where road capacity is at a premium.
- Reducing congestion in city centres and along major arteries by providing an efficient alternative to car travel.
- Increasing the people moving capacity of the train system by providing efficient access to and from stations.
- Integration of cyclists at bus stops.
Bus Planning Issues
There are a number of issues either real or perceived that can reduce the attractiveness of bus travel and in so doing, limit the growth of public transport, including:
- Frequency of bus services, including at peak periods, during the day, in the evenings and on weekends.
- Bus network coverage (distance to nearest bus stop).
- Indirect travel routes, often due to lack of circumferential routes.
- Transfer penalty between services/ modes.
- Slow or unreliable services due to congestion and lack of bus priority on the network.
- Inconvenient, uncomfortable network or uncoordinated bus interchange, bus/rail interchange facilities or bus stops.
- Uncomfortable bus travel due to inappropriate or excessive use of traffic management devices along the bus route.
- DDA Accessibility – buses, stops, facilities.
- Bicycle parking at major bus stops and interchanges.
It is not always possible to address these issues fully, due to funding limitations and the need to choose between differing passenger preferences. For example, providing increased coverage or reduced maximum distance to a bus stop will have the effect of reducing the frequency, with the same level of funding. In low-density parts of Perth, a bus stop within no more than 400 metres of every resident, whilst desirable may prove to be impractical. However, in the event that the same area have seasonally high traffic, if there is a stadium that hosts seasonal events, for example, it might be wise to say that the previously implied strategy might not work for this specific case. It is acknowledged that the following bus planning principles are an inevitable compromise between operational efficiency and equity issues and may not be fully achievable in the short term.