Hyper Active Transport: A Road to Rapid Decarbonisation
Australian Urban Design Awards submission | 2017
What is Hyper Active Transport?
Hyper Active Transport allows slow moving highly liveable centres to be easily accessed by fast public transport. By reducing reliance on cars and planes it confronts the crisis facing our region, where millions of people will be displaced as sea levels face a 50m upwards rise.
The multiple tipping points that will lead to the inevitable melting of polar ice caps are impending. A few million years ago, our ancestors roamed an earth where global temperatures were only 2 degrees Celsius higher than that of today, but with sea levels standing at 10-40m above that at present. 15 out of 20 of the world’s largest cities, with populations in the hundreds of millions, reside on river deltas that face the looming threat of inundation.
It is Australia’s responsibility to control our carbon trifecta – coal, cars and cattle, which form more than half of total carbon emissions. Transition to renewables from coal power has been made easier with a battery revolution, however we may need to consider nuclear as a cleaner and healthier alternative to coal and oil. The effect transport and food has on our cities are some of the major issues that needs to be explored. Cars are by far the biggest transport problem for cities, as they not only contribute dramatically to the carbon problem, but also occupy valuable space.
Hyper Active Transport (HAT) is the integration of active (slow) modes of transport with hyper (fast) velocity platforms that are fit for purpose, based on size and distance required to travel. Retrofitting HAT into our systems can free up the transport market from the motorway monopoly that currently dominates our cities. HAT systems are highly efficient, being able to travel more ‘miles per gallon’ than cars.
The HAT approach from both a local and global perspective is designed to enhance the economic viability of cities while dramatically reducing their carbon footprint. Cities being in the front line of risk are looking to cooperate in their response to formulate solutions; cities also have the economic clout to make the changes necessary.
The urban design process
Good governance is vital in the path to rapid decarbonisation. A major impediment to better governmental performance is the psychological and logistical barriers that political boundaries and jurisdictions create. Rethinking the organisation and allocation of our resources and its efficiency may be the greatest innovation we make.
Cities, with enormous economic power are in the front line to drive change. Cities need good governance. Sydney could benefit enormously in its effort to generate change if, like London, its citizens could elect a Mayor and their local representatives (35-40) as a cabinet to run the whole city. The cabinet could both assist and scrutinise the Mayor’s performance.
We could learn from Regional powerhouses like the Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka agglomeration. With better connectivity and the maintenance of food bowls we could create a more sustainable megapolis that promotes and services our competitive advantages in education and tourism. The states should withdraw from running the metropolis and encourage professional governance elected by the people of the cities. The states should act more as part of an East Australia Community, more effectively implementing energy grids, water resources and important infrastructure that connects the major cities.
Bill Gammage in his seminal work ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’ made the central assertion that ‘fences on the ground build fences in the mind’. In politics and land management we can learn from Indigenous empirical knowledge. Removing perceived boundaries is critical to greater co-operation and the exchange of ideas. Bruce Pascoe in ‘Dark Emu’ suggests that we take cooperation with our country’s first people much further, allowing for a radical shift to the sustainable adoption of native produce across the land.
Although many see drones and automation as city centric, it is far more likely that drone and autonomous vehicles will be critical in making the transition to sustainable agriculture possible. The labour intensity of firestick farming and ‘rewilding’ the managed estate could be made viable through drones and autonomous vehicles using Hyperloop stations. Hyperloop could co-opt the Inland Rail corridor to connect and form the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane regional powerhouse and Australia as part of an expanded ASEAN. Fresh produce can be delivered the same day to Sydney or Shanghai.
An ‘IslandarcH’ network of marine based Hyperloop and potentially electric flight must be pursued to overcome Australia’s isolation when the carbon pricing of jet fuel makes air travel prohibitly expensive. Acting also as ‘insurance’ mitigating impacts from rising sea levels, IslandarcH would offer a sustainable alternative to some of densest air traffic corridors in the world, while encouraging greater regional connectivity and co-operation.
Catalysts for consolidating and enriching the city’s liveability, Super Campuses can be instrumental in finding new ways to rapidly decarbonise the planet.
The HAT principle
Hyper Active Transport is the underlying principle for the rapid decarbonisation of a world under threat by climate change. The HAT principle has a profound impact at all scales – from that of Sydney CBD to the regional city, the national level and beyond to a global scale, woven into existing systems and landscapes.
The first step is to free up the transport market from the motorway monopoly, transferring 1-5km radius trips around city centres to active transport. Velobahns utilise unused corridors of space between cities’ harbours, beside creeks and waterways and above or on rail corridors. A ‘Super Campus’ is formed through HAT intervention, connecting areas that are vital to Sydney’s education, innovation and tourism income.
Sydney’s congested radial rail cannot be remedied with motorway ring roads. High Speed Rail (HSR) network connecting trade ports, defence, education and hospital precincts must be established. High Speed Rail can consolidate populations and connect surrounding cities. With reduced travel times, this opens up windows of opportunity for jobs and better connectivity between Sydney, Gosford, Wollongong, Newcastle and Canberra. This fosters the creation of a regional powerhouse (limited to about 500km by HSR), similar in size to the Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka agglomeration.
With Hyperloop speeds, the inland rail corridor could start transporting goods to Australia’s ports. Shifting the emphasis to Hyperloop and coupling them with advanced technologies can revolutionise primary production – replenishing arable land that once existed prior to European occupation. Finally Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would effectively replace air travel (the third busiest route in the world). Melbourne and Sydney would be the first link on an East Australian network.
Extending beyond Australian borders, Hyperloop can be laid in the shallow waters that connect Indonesia on what was once the ancient landbridge between Sahul and Sunda. These islands located in ‘Disaster Alley’ are most prone to the threat of rising sea levels and require immediate assistance to ensure their survival.
‘Islandarch’ plays a critical role as emergency aid outposts for islands in distress and could be later integrated with Hyperloop stations. A case study on Kofiau, an island in the Indonesian archipelago highlights underlying threats from rising sea levels, overfishing and extensive logging. Complete with accommodation, research, medical and education facilities, IslandarcH could offer a viable alternative income for local communities by servicing and assisting the research efforts while offering the income potential of eco tourism. The prefabrication of each module offers mobility and adaptability, vital for conditions surrounding Kofiau. Each module is wholly self-sufficient, integrated with sustainable renewable energy, water tanks and a sewerage treatment system. Many islands under threat in the region could benefit from IslandarcH assistance due to its adaptable and mobile nature.
A Hyperloop network could connect Australia with an expanded ASEAN, fostering Super Campuses on a global scale. The implementation of HAT not only transforms the urban fabric of a city, but also can broaden interconnectedness between major global cities to allow for collaboration and innovation. This is crucial in insuring against the existential threat of climate change.
Imagining a better future
Urban design’s main impact on the effects of climate change can be achieved through changing our transportation modal split. HAT networks reallocate resources from cars and planes to pedestrians, bikes and trains. Spatially, urban designers recognise the positive impacts that these modal shifts have on the way we consolidate the use of our cities. Encouraging the amalgamation of innovation precincts into Super Campuses will both drive the changes and provide financial investment, and form regional powerhouses that will drive and dominate the world’s economies.
Rural design is equally important as the need to ‘re-wild’ and ‘re-manage’ the world’s largest estate plays a vital role in providing food for Australia and our neighbouring countries.
To avoid re-isolation urban designers will be critical in adapting new Hyper Speed technology to sustainably reconnect Australia to our neighbours.
Ultimately, we must imagine a future and tell a better story about how to get there.