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We simply have to stop our enduring reliance on cars

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We simply have to stop our enduring reliance on cars


Jane Stephens: we simply have to stop our enduring reliance on cars

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When a government asks you to raise your voice, you should take the opportunity to holler with all your might.

It is one of the golden gifts of democracy, and to get a bit poetic about it, an intoxicating privilege of being free.

On this occasion, it is the Sunshine Coast Council doing the asking, and it wants to know how we want to move around in our piece of paradise.

Things are already getting crowded out there on the blacktop. Get behind the wheel at peak times and feel the bite of frustration as the line of traffic creeps at walking pace. And it is only going to get worse.

The Queensland Government released figures in Parliament this week that showed vacant land in Noosa will run out in a year. On the Sunshine Coast, we have only 2.3 years’ supply left on current trends.

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There is no way around it: if more than 200,000 additional residents move here in the next 20 years – blowing us out to 518,000 residents – we are going to have higher-density housing and more of us will be trying to get to work, school, the shops, beaches and mountains.

Predictions are that at the current rate, the Sunshine Coast will have an extra 165,000 cars on its roads each day by 2041. We have the second-highest rate of private car ownership per capita of any local government area in Australia.

Studies have shown that three quarters of current car trips are less than 10km – the kind that could be done by bus or tram if we had a reliable, regular system. Or walking and biking if improved paths would allow them.

We simply have to stop our enduring reliance on cars.

I can’t help but think that we have a prevalence for transport snobbery on the Sunshine Coast.

Too many people deem bus and train travel are the realm only of those too poor or unfortunate to have a car. This is not in keeping with other cities.

On Census day in 2016 on the Sunshine Coast, just 2.3 per cent of people took public transport to work. In Brisbane it was 11.4 per cent.

That we need improved transport infrastructure and systems is a given. There must be change.

But that we get a say on what that looks like – that is a rare opportunity too good to pass up.

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There is a false perception, perpetuated by very visible and vocal groups, that the council has already chosen light rail as its solution. This is not so, with five possibilities on the table.

But unless ordinary people let them know what we want, the decisions will be made on our behalf by those we elected. We won’t be asked twice.

The council’s transparency in its decision-making on this issue is refreshing. History has shown it helps engender trust, honesty and integrity, so let’s honour it by attending information sessions and offering our feedback.

The dialogue has begun. And it is our turn to speak.

Visit council’s website to have a say on mass transit options by June 22.

Dr Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer. Her PhD was on political communication.



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