Many believe Sydney’s transport system is suffering from politicians’ “stick-your-head-in-the-sand” attitude. Hoping to avoid arguments and complaints, successive governments have failed to invest adequately into Sydney’s outdated infrastructure. Vital reforms are not based on actual public need, but solely on politics, it seems.
While some areas of Sydney are reasonably well provided with either train stations or bus routes, others have little access to the most important public services, jobs and education, because the infrastructure simply isn’t there.
Inadequate transport harms Sydney’s long-term prospects economically, socially, environmentally and culturally. For example:
• Tourism, which contributes significantly to the the NSW region’s economy, may start to decline in some areas of NSW. Who wants to visit a city where getting from A to B takes a long time and is far more complicated than elsewhere in Australia?
• The environment suffers due to vehicular use and traffic congestion. Nearly 15 million vehicular trips are made in Sydney each day. The NSW government’s own forecast is for a 42% increase over the next decade, which equates to congestion costs of at least $8 billion in 2015, steadily rising each year. These costs include air pollution, unreliability compensation and fuel costs.
• People living in areas with poor infrastructure tend to move away, leaving large city and rural landscapes to decline. It can take decades to “persuade” new generations of settlers to return to such areas and billions in investment to regenerate.
Delays in decision-making cost inordinate amounts of money in the long-run, far more than the actual investment in better infrastructure would. An inquiry body, independent of party politics and elections, should be set up to assess the best step forward and implement a comprehensive plan that will cover transportation needs for decades to come. Such a plan must include environmentally sustainable solutions, or congestion costs will continue to spiral out of control.
The current congestion cost figure does not include costs for people’s health, as a shortage of healthier alternatives means citizens take far less exercise than is good for them. The risk to health, when we do not exercise regularly, is well documented. The cost for dealing with people’s chronic diseases in Sydney is less so. It is a figure that must ultimately be added to the congestion costs.
People who cannot “access jobs, community services, medical facilities, schools, universities, friends and relatives, places of worship, shops, parks, and all manner of other things that are vital for citizenship and quality of life”, so an article by Kurt Iveson suggested on the abc.net.au website, will become disillusioned with politicians and politics. They vote with their feet, as the old adage goes, and move to better provided areas and look for regional governments who act upon public needs.
The construction of a sustainable infrastructure and comprehensive transportation system will deliver not just transport from A to B and less congestion, it will offer Sydney’s citizens healthier options with walking routes, cycling paths, better bus, light rail, taxi and car share services. Further delays will end in more waste of tax payers’ money and harm Sydney’s long-term prospects economically, socially, environmentally and culturally.