News / Transport

Don’t delay on Sydney Road: transport expert

Action needed to stem car use and prepare for skyrail disruption

There will be increased reliance on Sydney Road when the Upfield railway line and shared path are closed for the level crossing removal project works.

Mark Phillips

IF you think Brunswick’s roads are busy now, imagine them with almost a third more cars within 20 years.

That’s the scenario outlined by a leading transport planner unless action is taken to improve other forms of transport and reduce our dependence on cars.

Speaking at a transport forum organised by the Brunswick Residents Network on December 7, Dr Eric Keys said there would be 30% more cars using Brunswick’s roads within two decades based on current population growth forecasts.

He said the City of Merri-bek was under-prepared for the impact this increase in car usage would have on traffic congestion, parking and climate change.

Keys was commenting on the draft Merri-bek integrated transport strategy, Moving Around Merri-bek, a long-term strategic document that outlines the council’s own transport projects and objectives, as well as priorities it will advocate to other levels of government.

It says the city’s transport system must be safe, accessible, sustainable, healthy, liveable and inclusive.

The 36-page draft transport strategy will guide future action plans for specific projects over coming years.

Among the main priorities for the driving network are trialling a 30kmh zone, advocating to GPS route planning providers like Google to reduce traffic on local roads, and supporting car share options.

The document is currently open for public consultation until December 24.

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Keys – who has advised the state government on major transport projects like the Metro rail tunnel – said it was disappointing that the draft document largely maintained the status quo when it came to motor vehicle traffic.

“If this [strategy] was produced maybe a decade ago, it’s sufficiently progressive that you’d be fairly happy with the outcome,” he said.

“But as I look at the environment we’re in at the moment, I’m questioning whether it’s right for the times.

“Merri-bek’s population is going to grow by about 30% … and if you maintain things as they are, it’ll follow through to be 30% more cars. And I come across this way often enough to know that cars continue to be a bit of a problem in the area.

“And accommodating 30% more of them becomes a challenge, which is not sort of fully recognised in the report, as it stands at the moment.”

Keys said the single most important transport issue in Brunswick was to transform Sydney Road to encourage more people to use public transport, ride and walk so car traffic was manageable. Changes could include accessible tram stops and wider footpaths, he said.

He said the upcoming level crossing removal project, which will force the closure of the Upfield railway line for months, meant there was no longer any excuse to delay making changes in Sydney Road.

“It just seems completely illogical to me that you would embark on something like the skyrail project which will take out of action a world class bicycle route, take away the only point of accessible transport in that corridor without addressing the issues on Sydney Road first,” he said.

“There’s a logical sequence there and it’s staring everyone in the face.

“I think that would be a really big thing for council to embrace the opportunity of skyrail to push for improvements in Sydney Road.”

Read more:

Be bold on Sydney Road, urges residents’ network

Another speaker at the forum, Faith Hunter from the Merri-bek Bicycle Users Group, said cyclists had been campaigning for more than three decades for changes to Sydney Road with little to show for it.

More broadly, she said the council’s transport strategy did not identify locations where there would be improvements to the municipality’s cycling infrastructure over the next decade.

Andrea Bunting from Walk On Merri-bek said pedestrian safety was a major issue that should be uppermost in any transport strategy, particularly for older and less mobile people.

She said there seemed to be a reluctance by the council to tackle big issues because of fear of a backlash from car users.

“I think we have to make our voices heard to help give council the courage to be bolder,” she said.

Keys agreed that there was no shortage of ideas but there were barriers preventing action.

Absent from the forum was the voice of motorists themselves, who have no formalised advocacy organisation in Merri-bek, unlike cyclists and walkers.

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