Why it’s crucial to think ahead when planning Perth’s future infrastructure

June 12 2015

According to ‘futurist’ Chris Luebkeman’s article on Perth Now, we should be planning for the next three generations and avoid a repeat of the previous ‘fried egg style’ development.

Currently residing in the San Francisco Bay area, Luebkeman is educated as a geologist, structural engineer and architect, leading the Global Foresight and Innovation team at Arup, a global firm of engineering and design consultants. He was named a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council in 2004 and was listed as one of the ten future speculators and shapers “Who will change the Way we live”, in Wallpaper Magazine (2002).

Chris Luebkeman recently visited Western Australia to address a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event held at the Perth Convention Centre regarding the future of infrastructure.

Luebkeman, who has visited Perth three times over the last 15 years, said he had witnessed the population grow from 750,000 in 1961 to more than two million in 2015.

Considering this growth, it’s no wonder why Chris is alarmed of Perth’s future population growth and what will happen if it continues to develop at the current rate.

“For me, the thinking has to be three generations from now, which is really difficult for those who are only concerned about their own benefit, to get their heads around. Perth can and should write its own story”, Luebkeman said .

There are a number of factors that come into play when considering Perth’s future of infrastructure, including the rapid rise of the West Australian population.

A big issue Perth is currently facing is traffic congestion and the transportation system. A great example of high speed transport is Japan’s bullet train, which gets commuters from A to B at speeds of up to 300mph, allowing those who live far from their place of work to reach their destination in less than an hour.


 Bullet trains in Perth – A solution to overcome future traffic congestion? Source:

Traffic is a major issue in Perth. Regardless of whether you live in the suburbs or the city, getting from home to work and vise versa during peak hour isn’t a seamless endeavour.

“You build more roads and you get more traffic, you build more capacity and it fills. My goal for every city would be: How do we get from point to point in 45 minutes? If there were a ‘Minister for Mobility’ that would be the goal. It could be a mixture of mass transit, local transit and individual transit. The high speed rail in Japan, I find just phenomenal. You can live hundreds of kilometres away and still be at your city job in 45 minutes”, Dr Luebkeman says.

In countries where population and therefore traffic is a major issue, an intelligent form of transportation has been developed to take as many commuters to their destination on time as physically possible.

Recent studies have shown that West Australian’s are turning away from public transport, with more than half a million commuters electing not to ride on Perth trains.  739,739 fewer trips have been taken for the five-months that ended in November, compared with the same period two years ago.

“Overcrowding, overpricing and inconvenience have been cited by WA Labor as reasons why fewer people are using trains”, according to an article on

This highlights the fact that the West Australian government is out of touch with a major issue faced by commuters on a daily basis.

“The declining patronage is bad news for motorists as it means more congestion,” Mr Travers, the Labor Shadow Minister for Transport said.

There has been a proposal for a MAX (Metro Area Express) Light Rail system, to be implemented by 2022, that will run from Mirrabooka in the north to the CBD, before splitting into two branches to Victoria Park Transfer Station in the east (via the Causeway) and to QEII Medical Centre in the west (via West Perth).

The question is, will this be enough to ease congestion across the current modes of transport, including bus, train and motor vehicle?

Due to the critical state budget pressures, the State Government has deferred the project for three years, with it’s initial completion date set for 2019, taking it from a four to six year wait.

Another important aspect of the developing population and the need to keep up with infrastructure in Perth, is the older and younger generations, says Chris Luebkeman. In addition to this, where will these people live?

“As we’re an ageing society, the Baby Boomers are now looking for smaller houses combined with bigger lifestyles. We have to provide, find and create opportunities for this generation to have easy access to health care, entertainment, restaurants and parks. Where is that amenity going to be provided?

With the cost of living rising, the retirement age increasing and the pensioner entitlements decreasing, how are the older generations meant to live happily? “I’ve paid tax all my life so I don’t see why I shouldn’t get these benefits when I get older because the cost of living has gone up”, Alan Barnes said.

“The desire to own a suburban castle is decreasing compared to the Baby Boomer generation; access to park spaces and to good schools is still prominent, but the desire to own a big house in the suburbs is decreasing. Younger generations are interested globally in walkable cities, in places where they can go and hang out with easy access.”

“As a society, we have to understand the concept of change and look at that concept with open eyes”, Luebkeman says in the video below. This is an imperative facet of Infrastructure and the inevitable growth of the West Australian population, planning ahead not only for us, but for our children, our grand children and our great grand children, to have a future where we can not only survive, but thrive.

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