The year is 2011. Brisbane is now a city of 2 million people and a region of 3 million. Fuel prices are reaching $1.50 a litre, oil is now harder to extract from the ground and no new oil reserves are being found. Recent infrastructure developments which have been completed or are under construction include, Clem 7, Gateway Duplication, Go Between Bridge, Green Bridge, Eastern Busway, Airport Link & Northern Busway, Legacy Way.
Brisbane is now one of few ‘world cities’ still constructing mammoth highway projects. Investments in transport across the globe are shifting to sustainable mass transit. However Brisbane continues to build billion dollar road projects, completely ignoring peak oil projections and global trends which are seeing demand for alternative transport options in Light Rail Transit (LRT), Heavy Rail and Metro Underground Rail.
In the 1960’s a transport plan commissioned by a US company called ‘Wilbur Smith’ released the Wilber Smith Plan – which encouraged the construction of freeways and sprawling estates. The central freeway system was one policy example of this plan.
Though the Wilbur Smith plan is now widely condemned by town planners everywhere for creating a singular mode of transport – that being the car, as well as encouraging urban sprawl, amazingly, this plan is still active – but under the new name of ‘TransApex‘, a plan resurrected by former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. Over $10 billion dollars spent soly on freeway and road construction consisting of:
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- Clem7 (final cost $3.2 billion)
- AirportLink (estimated completion cost $4.8 billion)
- Go Between Bridge (final cost $338 million)
- Legacy Way (estimated completion cost $1.8 billion)
- Proposed: East-West Link (estimated between $3-5 billion)
The sad reality is that politicians are failing to understand and respond to the growing need for better mass transit, and in particular rail infrastructure – which has remained untouched for decades in Brisbane. Cities across the world are moving to establish Light & Heavy Rail and Metro transport infrastructure – to give their citizens an alternative to driving.
The Brisbane City Council is failing to understand 21st century planning principals. Last week it released a draft long-term infrastructure report which plans to build ‘mammoth’ car parks at the Gabba, Milton and Bowen Hills. The question that needs to be asked is “what will happen when these car parks reach capacity? are we going to build even bigger car parks?” It is simply astonishing that in this day and age, such a policy can even be considered. The basic problem of car dependancy needs to be addressed, instead of bandaid solutions. (See video – built to last for more explanation). However to their credit, other solutions outlined in the report such as 24/7 transport in the CBD and Airport are sound policies.
Even Brisbane’s beach cultured neighbours are establishing light rail plans with a 16 station Light Rail system on the Gold Coast currently under construction as well as a new system planned for the Sunshine Coast (see video). Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide are now expanding their Light Rail systems while Perth is investigating the potential for a system (video here). All while Brisbane continues to build and rely on two modes of transport, cars and buses. Busways have been very successful for the time being, however they have their limits. As capacity grows, so will problems for the busway network. One example you may notice on your way home is the cultural centre busway station, which is now at capacity. Gridlocked buses lined from Southbank to the CBD daily.
Brisbane needs a multi-modal transport network, and investment in rail needs to start right now. Looking at case studies from around the world is the best method to perfect a new future rail network in Brisbane.
Next time you drive past the construction site of Legacy Way ($2 billion in leveraged funds), just think, that money – funded by the Brisbane City Council through a QIC loan could have bought us a light rail spline all the way out to the Western Suburbs. It could be much longer then the Gold Coast’s planned LRT system which costs a fraction ($1.2 billion) of Legacy Way’s total expenditure, while freeing up space on major arterial roads as people shift transport modes.
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The benefits are here to be seen. Permanence, reliability and desirability.
The following video is about the success of Charlotte’s (USA) light rail project, which is definitely worth a look. Cities are introducing a small sales levy to fund these vital transport projects.
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Charlotte Light Rail
This following video is about Tampa Bay, Florida where they faced a proposition last November for a one cent in the dollar sales tax (capped at $50) to fund light rail and complimentary transit improvements. Read more about other case studies around the world here. Brisbane needs a new way of thinking, share this article and spread the word.