At Randwick Council last night chamber of commerce identity Maria Alexandrou and precinct representative Marjorie Whitehead were both critical of light rail but from different motivations that have different chances of being satisfied by Councillors.
The problem for Ms Whitehead is that increased densities will occur regardless of whether or not the government delivers on its election promise to provide an improved transport system. There is not much Council can do to help her as it is also the Government that is driving the urban activation process.
Densities increases have been wired in by the 8,400 new dwelling targets set for Randwick by the previous state Labor Government. The present Liberal government is augmenting these targets via urban activation and by promotion of the Inglis rezoning proposal.
But some residents believe that the Government can still be thwarted by vigorously undermining confidence in the engineering reality that light rail can move more passengers than standard buses. But so far these residents have not put forward any actual evidence to justify this attack other than a misinterpretation of what the Government is proposing.
The Government’s plan to boost the carrying capacity of public transport along Anzac parade from 10,000 passengers per hour to 15,000 through a hybrid system of light rail and buses seems achievable. Indeed it reflects the Council’s own 2011 pre-feasibility study into light rail.
Things are brighter for Ms Alexandrou whose simpler objective of maintaining commercial parking around the new light rail line is much more deliverable by the Council.
This is because Council can actually implement solutions to satisfy local parking needs. But first the presently philosophically divided Councillors must decide between competing management approaches.
Should they adopt a “supply management” approach whereby they spend lots of rate payer money to buy up valuable land to dedicate to public parking until the competition over spaces is satisfied? Or should Council put its money behind “demand management” solutions in which the actual demand or competition for parking itself is reduced?
You want demand management examples? A direct demand approach reduces competition for parking through resident preferred parking schemes or by phone app strategies. An indirect demand strategy is a better public transport system such as light rail which will reduce the need for car transport in and out of Kensington thus freeing up existing parking.
But what should Randwick Councillors do as a broader planning response?
Councillors need to face the uncomfortable reality that urban densities will continue to increase in the Council area and will do so until a State Government instructs them to down zone, which is unlikely to happen.
Furthermore they need to recognize that most likely the WestConnex motorway project will also induce more traffic into the Council area via improvements to the M5 East connection to the airport. Large motorway projects always induce more road traffic and are a bad choice for governments to follow.
Fundamentally, Councillors must accept the argument that light rail has the potential to move more passengers than buses or cars along Anzac Parade regardless of what some residents are claiming on very little evidence.
On the issue of light rail Council must strive to be the objective intermediary between the Government’s urban planning objectives and the amenity concerns of residents.
Councillors must thus seek to retain our parking space, passenger capacity and open space while still upholding the findings of Council’s own 2011 pre-feasibility study that light rail is the best solution to road congestion.
This is the key time in Randwick Council’s history for all its Councillors to become very savvy about urban planning.
Randwick City Greens Councillor Murray Matson.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlum has explored the integration of light rail with existing bus services in his report Light Rail for Perth