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Time to get moving: mass transit options open for public feedback

Independent and FREE – 2021 Best Online Publication (Qld Country Press)

Time to get moving: mass transit options open for public feedback

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The Sunshine Coast has eight weeks to have its say on a preferred mass transit system

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Mayor Mark Jamieson has warned our Sunshine Coast lifestyle is “at risk” of being choked by traffic unless we implement a mass transit system to get people out of cars.

Speaking at the launch of an eight-week public consultation period, Mayor Jamieson said 182,000 more people were going to move to the Coast in the next two decades, adding to the congestion and housing problems.

The Sunshine Coast Council on Wednesday released a 300-plus page Options Analysis Paper which details the “problems and solutions” to future traffic on the Coast as well as scenarios for higher-density development along the transport corridor.

It highlights the need for a mass transit system to get people out of cars, with the Sunshine Coast having the second-highest rate of private car ownership per capita of any local government area in Australia (second to Perth, according to the 2016 Census).

The analysis includes nine options that are being put to the public but shortlists five key mass transit transport solutions — ranging in price from $429 million to $1.553 billion — that have been analysed for their pros, cons and economics.

The report also looks at housing density and spread within the public transport corridor and offers three scenarios on how to accommodate growth with different levels of housing density along the route (more detail below).

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Mayor Jamieson urged the community to get involved in the public consultation phase and give feedback and ideas on how to “make your way” around the Coast.

The mayor said planning ahead was vital to protecting the lifestyle people want.

“We must be vigilant in ensuring our lifestyle is maintained. Right now, that’s at some risk,” he said.

“Our major road networks are experiencing significant congestion now, and that will only get worse if nothing changes in the way that people move around on the Sunshine Coast.

“If we want to protect our lifestyle and enable local residents to get around more efficiently, then we cannot bury our heads in the sand and say we don’t want to change anything.

“That’s why getting an integrated, efficient, reliable and sustainable public transport network in place is so vital for the future of our region.”

The paper recommends five favoured options for stage one of the project between Maroochydore and Sunshine Coast University Hospital, potentially operating from 2027.

The remaining four options are considered “business as usual” – such as doing nothing or upgrading the existing bus network – as they do not encourage uptake of public transport.

None of the options outline the final detailed route or proposed alignment which are not part of this stage of the process and would be determined once a preferred mass transit system was chosen.

The five key mass transit options include:

  • A high-quality bus corridor ($429 million), the cheapest of the options, which would utilise standard buses with the capacity for 110 people in a bus lane. However the downside of this option is disruptions to traffic by cars having to enter the bus lane at intersections or when turning
  • Bus rapid transit system ($1.313 billion) similar to Brisbane’s Metro network with battery-powered buses carrying 140 passengers and collecting passengers from dedicated platforms. Buses could be flash charged at stations and deep-charged overnight at depots.
  • Trackless trams ($1.322 billion) is similar to light rail but with rubber tyres. The battery-powered trams could carry 200 passengers but are only currently being produced by one Chinese company. The rubber-tyre trams could in the future be autonomously guided. The best known trackless tram service is operating in Yibin, Sichuan Province in China.
  • Light rail with wires ($1.553 billion) similar to systems in use in cities like the Gold Coast and Canberra, with the capacity for 300 passengers. This is the highest in cost of the options and the largest infrastructure investment. It would include 14 light rail vehicles similar to the Gold Coast with a travel time of 30 minutes.
  • Wireless light rail ($1.528 billion) is similar to light rail but with onboard battery storage and charging stations so as to negate the need for overhead wires. The batteries can be flashed charged on the run at stations and deep charged overnight at depots. Hydrogen battery technology is being tested overseas. This option would counter the public’s concern about the visual amenity of wires.

In providing an overview of the report, council’s urban growth program director James Coutts said 85 per cent of local people’s daily trips were undertaken by car and 90 per cent of those trips never left the Sunshine Coast area.

Mr Coutts said only 5 per cent of people on the Sunshine Coast with jobs travelled to Brisbane for work, meaning the overwhelming majority of residents were driving to work locally.

In terms of transport priorities, he said a localised mass transit system in the busiest areas of the Coast was the first priority above a heavy rail connection from Maroochydore to Beerwah known as CAMCOS.

He said the mass transit system had catchment had a catchment area of 66,000 people. By comparison, CAMCOS’s catchment area was only one-fifth of that because it was focused on the periphery.

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Mayor Jamieson said he wanted to correct a major “mistruth” that been “perpetrated on the community” that light rail was the only option.

“We are looking for the best possible solution for our region and our communities, whatever that might be as technologies in this area are changing all the time,” he said.

“Our council has not made any decision on which option it should be. We are in fact a long way from that which is why we are seeking feedback from our community.”

Housing density options

The Options Analysis paper looks at how to accommodate all the extra people expected to move to the Coast with proposals for higher-density development along the mass transit and coastal corridors:

  • Scenario 1: New development concentrated around “nodes” close to the transit stations with medium rise buildings of four to six storeys and possibly eight storeys closest to the stations, more shops, dining and entertainment. Closer access to public transit for residents.
  • Scenario 2: Housing growth spread out along the length of the route with three to six storey buildings and transitioning down to existing building heights of low density areas. New shopping, dining and entertainment and closer access to public transit for residents.
  • Scenario 3: Housing growth dispersed widely along the whole coastal corridor, not just along or near the mass transit route, with one to three storey buildings. Few opportunities for new shopping and dining precincts. People would not necessarily live close to the route.

Deputy mayor Rick Baberowski said the consultation period would include community events and activities where people could speak directly with the council and ask questions.

The first will be held at Kawana Farmers Markets on Saturday and more are scheduled on the Sunshine Coast Council’s website.

The outcomes of the community and stakeholder feedback about the mass transit options will inform the final Mass Transit Options Analysis report, which will be considered by council later this year before providing a recommendation to the State Government.

Visit council’s website for information about the engagement activities and to have your say on mass transit options by June 22, 2021.

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