A network of new shared paths for walking and cycling in the NSW regional town of Wagga Wagga is about to be put under the microscope.
This research will analyse the impacts and outcomes of the Wagga Wagga Active Travel Plan on transport integration, travel mode switching, user preferences and behaviours, city connectedness, traffic and parking congestion, health and social wellbeing, and other community benefits.
An innovative approach allowed the construction of an integrated 57 kilometre-long active travel network within two years.
Planning for Australia’s future requires increasing investment in sustainable transport, not only in capital cities but also in growing regional centres.
Regional areas in Australia are central to relieving the pressure of future population growth, so planning for this requires transport strategies which consider sustainability needs and support for well-functioning communities.
Wagga Wagga is the largest inland city in NSW, with a population of 65,000 which is expected to increase to over 80,000 by 2040.
Transport solutions for growing regional centres like Wagga Wagga will require an integrated system of mobility options which meet current and future demand.
Regional centres remain primarily automobile-centric but support for active travel in Wagga Wagga is high and sustainable transport is a key community concern.
Wagga Wagga City Council received $11.3 million in 2018 from the NSW Cycling Infrastructure Fund managed by Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to construct a 45 kilometre-long active travel infrastructure network in the town.
Subsequently in 2020, Council received an additional $3.6 million in funding from the NSW Government to expand the project by 12 kilometres and contributed an additional $325,000 to secure this funding. This represents the largest network of new, high quality, safe and accessible shared walking and cycling links ever constructed within a short timeframe in regional NSW.
The project comprises 57 kilometres of new or resurfaced shared path infrastructure plus interchange upgrades. This network connects cycling and walking infrastructure to education facilities and workplaces, including within one block of 90 per cent of schools in Wagga Wagga.
It was extended to the TAFE and Charles Sturt University campuses, and to key workplace destinations including the business district, two Australian Defence Force bases, two hospitals, Council chambers and the local Transport for NSW office.
The shared path network will be widely promoted to the community to maximise use with a goal of providing equitable access to safe walking and cycling options for the entire community, including safe active travel for disabled and mobile older Australians.
The research project
The research project aims to provide evidence of the short to medium-term changes and benefits of the Active Travel Plan, as well as enable longer-term benefits to be estimated. It will also provide information about the success of efforts to:
- promote the active travel network to the community
- increase community knowledge and understanding of the opportunities it provides
- overcome remaining barriers to use; and
- build community engagement with the infrastructure.
This evaluation will add significantly to the evidence base on active transport planning and implementation in Australia.
Specifically, the project will provide critical data to inform policies for NSW regional towns and councils seeking to improve infrastructure for active travel.
It will also provide essential evidence for TfNSW in planning and funding other infrastructure projects through providing evidence of the project impacts and outcomes.
Ultimately, this research will contribute to national and international knowledge about the outcomes and benefits of active transport infrastructure development.
The primary objectives of this research project are to:
- Design and implement a comprehensive outcome evaluation to measure the impacts and outcomes of implementation of the Wagga Wagga Active Travel Plan walking and cycling infrastructure.
- Implement measures to evaluate the Active Travel Plan as intended, including addressing barriers to uptake.
- Apply appropriate multi-component research and evaluation methods and undertake expert data analysis to provide the most robust information on the outcomes and wider benefits of the active travel network for the community.
- Develop an active travel impact measurement framework which incorporates transport and wider community outcomes for benchmarking future active travel interventions in Australia.
- Share and disseminate the findings of the evaluation to all stakeholders to ensure the findings are relevant and useful for government policy makers, local councils and others.
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