Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute is focused on research that helps make cities better places. That includes finding innovative and cost-effective ways to address transportation challenges for expanding city populations.
Among the most recognised breakthrough programs by Griffith’s researchers is the IMATCH (Independent Mobility, Active Travel and Children’s Health) Project.
The research findings have led to a deeper understanding of how the daily school drop off by parents in cars has promoted a decline in the active and independent mobility of children. The study’s importance is magnified by findings that this decades-long trend has been detrimental to the health and well-being of children.
Associate Professor Matthew Burke and his national team, including colleagues at Central Queensland University, the University of Melbourne, and Curtin University, examined how children travel to school to reveal the barriers and facilitators to travelling independently. The study was driven by evidence showing that independent travel not only offers physical benefits, but also enhances child learning and social development.
Working with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Griffith researchers used their findings to assist the Health Active Schools Travel (HAST) program which involved 25,000 primary school children across 38 schools. The collaborative program had clear impact on communities, resulting in a significant decrease in parents driving their children to those schools.
The Institute’s work has delivered a range of social benefits through transformative research into the effects of urban sprawl and automobility, and through the development of world-leading travel behaviour change programs.
In 2015, it received a Planning Institute of Australia award for innovative methods to appraise the effects of the Gold Coast light rail on city life. The work has influenced planning for future extensions to the city’s light rail system.
The transformational work by the Cities Research Institute across many fields has been widely recognised. Its work has led to changes in government policy at state and federal level. Through collaborative international partnerships,the research has placed Australia at the centre of important international networks in the field of transport and urban design.
Research by the Cities Research Institute is having a great impact on communities and government, proving vital to enhancing transport investment policies and to ultimately address the challenges of balancing urban amenity with the pressures of population growth.