Sydney City Centre Access Strategy

Sydney City Centre Access Strategy

(Notice of Motion, 27 March 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I move:

That this House:

(1) Supports the Government's Sydney City Centre Access Strategy and welcomes plans to remove bus congestion, improve public transport flow, give priority to pedestrians and close the missing links in the bicycle path network in the central business district.

(2) Acknowledges the health benefits of active transport including walking and cycling.

(3) Notes the importance of safe-cycling education programs, such as those conducted by the City of Sydney.

More than 630,000 trips are made to the city centre each weekday and a further 1.27 million trips are made within the central business district by visitors, workers, students and residents. The resultant congestion currently costs Sydney $5.1 billion a year and is expected to rise to $8.8 billion a year by 2021. Congestion is not just costly, it is frustrating. It makes the experience of living, working or visiting the city unpleasant and reduces quality of life as people waste time stuck in traffic. That is time they could spend with their friends and family or doing something productive.

The Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, which was finalised in December, creates a much-needed, long-term comprehensive blueprint to improve all city centre transport modes by removing bus congestion, improving public transport flow, giving priority to pedestrians and closing the missing links in the bicycle path network. I commend the Government and all agencies involved for the coordinated response that I hope will be a game changer for the future of our city. Plans to reduce speed limits to 40 kilometres per hour in parts of the city centre are vital. Slower traffic will improve safety.

Within the city 92 per cent of trips are made by walking, and city pedestrians make up a larger portion of road casualties than elsewhere in Sydney and the State. Between 2007 and 2011 more than 900 casualties resulted from accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians in the city centre. A pedestrian hit by a car travelling at 50 kilometres per hour is two to four times more likely to be killed than if hit by a car travelling at 40 kilometres per hour. I support pedestrian improvements, including de-cluttering footpaths and reducing waiting times at traffic lights. Constituents regularly report their difficulties and frustrations getting around in the central business district and inner city. As someone who regularly walks around my electorate I am very aware of this.

I welcome the central business district light rail project, which includes a pedestrian and cyclist boulevard along part of George Street. Light rail can carry up to 300 people compared with 60 for a bus and light rail is 97 per cent reliable compared with 19 to 34 per cent bus reliability. Light rail will remove many buses from the central business district that cause congestion, which will speed up travel times and free up road and parking space. Putting bus routes on identified roads and allocating priority roads for private vehicles, taxis and couriers promises to give priority to passengers on public transport, which moves the great bulk of people into and out of the central business district.

This relies on an integrated public transport system in which passengers can change modes at interchanges without additional cost or bother. I hope the new Opal ticketing system will support that. The strategy identifies the need for increased rail capacity, which must be acted upon. Anyone who uses railway stations such as Wynyard, Town Hall, Central and Redfern is aware of the peak crush and need for expansion.

As a harbour city, Sydney also needs to use water transport better. I welcome the proposed ferry hub at Barangaroo, which may help with Walsh Bay transport. Plans to connect the missing links within the city centre cycling network will help the Government achieve its goal to more than double the number of bicycle trips in greater Sydney by 2016 from the 2010-11 baseline of 2.2 per cent of trips. People report repeatedly that they will ride their bikes for distances up to about 10 kilometres if safe cycling infrastructure exists. The evidence confirms this where routes have been provided. Use of the City of Sydney separated cycleways is growing significantly. Over the past 12 months daily trips on the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway near Upper Fort Street have increased from 1,795 to 2,248; at the intersection of College, Liverpool and Oxford streets, from 1,795 to 2,230; at the King and Kent streets intersection, from 1,323 to 1,979; and at the Taylor Square, Liverpool and Oxford streets intersection, from 1,728 to 1,900. With more than half of trips in the city centre on weekdays made from adjacent inner-city areas, the potential to grow cycling's share of transport is immense.

School students are significant users of the Bourke Street cycleway and Alexandria Park Community School students are testing the just-completed George Street cycleway. The City Sydney Centre Access Plan will enable construction of the next group of cycleways in the network: Campbell, Castlereagh and Liverpool streets will be built, linking the Bourke Street and Kent Street cycleways. There is an opportunity for a separated cycleway on Park Street, linking existing bike paths on William Street with Castlereagh Street. About 2,000 bike riders use the existing Kent Street cycleway each weekday, and the City of Sydney is extending the cycleway on the southern section to between Druitt and Liverpool streets. These new facilities will help to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians caused by some cyclists riding illegally on footpaths when the road is unsafe. I share community disappointment that the cycleway on College Street will be removed. However, Transport for NSW officers assure me that bike infrastructure supported in the strategy will provide a practical and accessible alternative.

The health benefits of walking and cycling are immense. Australia is on the brink of an obesity epidemic. We are one of the fattest developed countries in the world and over the past decade the number of overweight and obese adults has doubled, with the obesity rate among children also rising. Cycling and walking allow people to exercise while they travel, and building this activity into daily life saves time. Employees who walk or cycle to work arrive less stressed and more alert, and are more productive. Walking and cycling do not emit pollution that can lead to serious respiratory health problems among the wider population, which the World Health Organization estimates kill seven million people annually.

As cycling becomes more viable and more people pick up a bike for the first time, safe-cycling education programs that inform cyclists about road rules and increase their confidence become vital. The City of Sydney's education program provides a model for other councils and the State Government to engage with cyclists. The City of Sydney is collaborating with other councils to spread these messages widely and help them run similar engagement programs with cyclists. As our city continues to grow we need an access strategy that removes congestion, encourages non-polluting forms of transport and invests in public transport. I commend the motion to the House.

Click HERE to see Member's contributions.

My reply: I thank the member for Drummoyne, the member for Davidson and the member for Heffron for their contributions to this debate and for their support. Recent deaths and injuries of cyclists show that we need to improve education programs for drivers, and constituents regularly contact me asking for action against those cyclists who ride dangerously. All road users need to know the road rules and how to be courteous, but the Government must implement statewide behavioural change programs that complement enforcement operations to help achieve cultural change. This needs to include motorists in all types of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. A global city needs a public transport system that can move large numbers of people quickly and safely to where they want to go, and significant work is needed to achieve this in Sydney.

I am pleased that a start has been made on the changes needed after many years of promises and proposals which did not eventuate. I hear regularly from constituents who are constantly waiting for late buses about the need to sort out congestion and get them where they need to go. An important part of my motion is in relation to the health benefits of cycling and walking. I encourage some of the members currently on level nine to put down their fatty steaks and go for a walk or a ride on one of Clover's cycleways, which the Minister for Roads and Ports is currently building. The Sydney City Centre Access Strategy promises to enable growth in the central business district without the current congestion that brings traffic to a standstill, while improving people's experience travelling to, from and within the city of Sydney. I commend the motion to the House.

Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!