07 Apr 2022

Outside of Brisbane, these centres are booming. So why is there 'not a lot' for them in SEQ's $1.8b City Deal?

The long-awaited south-east Queensland City Deal primarily funded existing public transport projects leaving Logan, Ipswich and Moreton Bay still facing major transport hurdles, one expert says. 

The $1.8 billion City Deal announced last week listed a host of projects to be delivered by the federal, state and local governments, targeting infrastructure, liveability and connectivity.

One new announcement was $450 million for a Brisbane Metro station at Woolloongabba, detouring the $1.2 billion Metro to connect with the Gabba Cross River Rail station.

Other major transport projects were already funded, such as a business case for Toowoomba-to-Brisbane passenger rail, and a $190 million green bridge in the Brisbane CBD.

$10 million will fund an Ipswich-to-Springfield Public Transport Corridor options analysis, welcomed by Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding, who in August said there was an "urgent need" for the public transport connection between the cities.

But that was nearly all the City Deal funding for public transport links between Brisbane and fast-growing regional centres.

Griffith University Yunus Centre urban and social planning expert Laurel Johnson said much of the City Deal transport funding was focused on Brisbane, not the regions.

"Most of the items in the City Deal agreement are already in place, they're already progressed. So, in some ways, it's a bit retrospective," Dr Johnson said.

"There was not a lot in there for outer suburbs and … not a lot for public transport infrastructure in the suburbs, which is actually where people live."

Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said last week that the deal was important for Queensland to prepare for population growth.

"While this is not the Olympics deal between governments, it's an important precursor and demonstration of our collected capability to agreed priorities," he said.

City Deal Project

Location

Funding

Ipswich-Springfield public transport corridor

(options analysis)

Ipswich

$10 million

Loganlea-Meadowbrook infrastructure

Logan

$45 million

Southern Gateway Corridor business case

(connecting Logan and Gateway motorways to Park Ridge)

Logan

$1 million

Brisbane Metro Woolloongabba Station

Brisbane

$450 million

Brisbane Metro South Bank Transport Study

Brisbane

$1 million

Kangaroo Point Green Bridge

Brisbane

$190 million

Dunwich Ferry Terminal Upgrade

Stradbroke Island

$41 million

Population booms

Logan, Moreton Bay and Ipswich are facing mammoth population growth, By 2041, both Logan and Ipswich expect to house more than 500,000 people, while Moreton Bay is preparing for more than 700,000 residents.

Large greenfield developments such as Flagstone and Yarrabilba in Logan, Ripley in Ipswich, and new suburb Caboolture West in Moreton Bay pose hefty transport and planning challenges for local councils and the state.

Logan Mayor Darren Power said public transport to Flagstone and Yarrabilba was a "huge issue". The state government manages Logan's bus network to those new developments.

In 2019, the Council of SEQ mayors released a study warning of "total gridlock" by 2040 if dozens of major transport projects were not funded — at a total cost of $63 billion.

In February, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk committed $1.1 billion of a $2.5 billion faster rail plan between Brisbane, Logan and the Gold Coast, "making sure people spend less time commuting and more time at home with their families".

The south-east Queensland busway is also being extended along the M1 south to Springwood.

Dr Johnson said most public transport investment prioritised commuters — typically, a younger white-collar worker, travelling to the CBD during peak hours on weekdays for 9–5 work hours.

"If you try to exist on public transport outside of that timeframe, outside that scenario, and you live in the outer suburbs of south-east Queensland, you are in trouble," Dr Johnson said.

"While we continue to think of public transport as a solution to get the 9–5 commuter out of their car, we [will] never properly service the outer suburbs."

Innovative solutions

Transport innovation that is frequently cited is e-scooters and e-bikes, which best serves young, able-bodied commuters on their "last mile" trips, not suburban families on the school run, elderly residents, or those with disabilities.

Dr Johnson said the Gold Coast's light rail was world-class public transport that served all manner of travellers.

"G:link is the kind of quality and model you're looking for, which is a diverse range of users, not just the peak-hour commuter," she said.

"It's totally efficient and you don't need a timetable because it's completely reliable, it's utterly comfortable and it's safe."

Similar innovation could help ease pressure on the corridors linking Moreton Bay, Logan and Ipswich to Brisbane, she said, but would take bold thinking, tripartite funding – and political will.

"We know that these solutions exist, for [pretty] much on-demand public transport that services people's needs in the suburbs, but we don't see any investment in it," Dr Johnson said.

"The technology is there, the information is there, the solution is there, but what we're missing is the will to make it happen."

On-demand transport is currently being trialled in Logan and is set for a $2 million trial on the Gold Coast, allowing residents to pre-book trips from a nearby pick-up point.

Future challenges, past mistakes

Mr Power said the profound shift in working structures brought about by COVID had further compounded the complexities of planning public transport, keeping more residents at home over the past two years.

As Logan's population grows, so too do job opportunities in the region, prompting hope that fewer people will need to commute north or south for work.

"We'd like to see a lot of our people not travelling to Brisbane or the Gold Coast," Mr Power said.

Griffith University transport engineering lecturer Kelly Bertolaccini said there was an increasing awareness in government that allowed new, low-density housing developments without corresponding infrastructure at the same time was "a mistake".

"[We] put these highways in several decades ago, which led people to leave the high-density cities so they could own land and once they got out there, there's basically no other reasonable option but the car," Dr Bertolaccini said.

"It's a self-reinforcing cycle and suddenly the only thing that works now is the car. We have to find a way to break that cycle."

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-28/seq-public-transport-challenges/100939888

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