The dominance of the car in Canberra's transport system is strong and getting stronger, according to the ACT's Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. Cycling is falling behind.
And the motorists' fuel of choice is moving to diesel, widely thought to be a particularly dirty fuel.
The picture of a car-dominated city emerges in the four-yearly official report by the ACT's independent watchdog, the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.
The average Canberran commute has got longer so it's now 52 minutes, roughly the amount of time other Australian city dwellers spend in the car to work.
Commissioner professor Kate Auty highlights the rise of diesel. "The large increase in diesel vehicles is of concern given their increased impact on air pollution," her report says.
Her research shows that "we have increased our uptake of diesel passenger vehicles with a resultant impact on air quality".
She said that transport will be the major source of greenhouse gas emissions once the territory completes its move away from carbon fuels to solar, wind and other renewable sources for non-transport power.
"Canberrans have a perennial attachment to the use of private passenger vehicles which contributes to this problem," she said.
She notes that Canberrans use electric vehicles more than drivers in other Australian cities but "electrification still constitutes a major challenge".
Professor Auty is clear that Canberrans don't get out of cars enough. "Our uptake of public and active transport is less than optimal," she said.
She adds: "Our uneven commitment to active travel across the city continues to be a concern, and cycling infrastructure and active travel programs are being instituted to remedy this.
"Cycling participation surveys show that Canberrans cycle more than other Australian city dwellers, but this is in comparison to a low base and recent cycling participation trends are not encouraging."
She puts figures on the situation:
- Cars are used for four out of five trips done (78 per cent);
- Public transport is "only used for one in 25 trips (4 per cent);
- Cycling is only used for one in 50 (2 per cent).
When it comes to travelling to work, Canberrans use their cars for 80 per cent of the commutes "with most commuting undertaken with the driver as the sole vehicle occupant".
Public transport was used for 8 per cent of commutes, cycling for 5 per cent and feet - a walk - for 3 per cent of journeys to and from work. The number of registered vehicles in the ACT grew from 253,000 in 2010 to 304,000 in 2018, an increase of 20 per cent.
The commissioner says the ACT government should consider having car-free streets and car-free days.
She also wants women to cycle more.
Canberrans cycle more than people in other Australian cities but there was a "significant decline in ACT's weekly cycling participation between 2017 and 2019".
The ACT government said it would publish a response to the report later in the year. Minister for Climate Change, Shane Rattenbury, welcomed the recommendations.
He said they would "assist the ACT government to make strategic and practical decisions and continue our reputation as a leader in sustainability and climate action.
"Making bold decisions has helped the ACT to achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity and will help us to achieve our longer-term goal of 100 per cent zero net emissions by 2045," he said.