Blog - Commercial
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE SYDNEY’S TRANSPORT?
Technology and town planning take on an age-old conundrum…
Sydney’s transport has always been a headache. Mention it to any local and you get a medley of eye-rolling, sighing or scoffing. This is largely due to its awkward layout around a jagged harbour. In contrast to Melbourne’s grid-based pragmatism, Sydney is a swirling mess with no quick fix. With a growing population and sprawling outer suburbs, creative solutions are needed.
Street maps of Melbourne and Sydney show a stark contrast
For commercial developments to succeed, it starts with efficient transport. Indeed, solving roadblocks (both literal and figurative) is fundamental to any society with aspirations of functionality.
Sydney has occasionally leant on its good looks to stake a claim as a global city. But, despite simmering generational warfare over culture and nightlife, it’s a city ‒ to use developmental parlance ‒ on the move. Sydney ranked eighth in the recent Global Momentum Index ‒ placed between illustrious peers, New York and Shanghai.
Any city will struggle to be all things to all people, but its best chance comes with transport infrastructure that is physically connected and technologically integrated.
Transport infrastructure changes the way we live, work, and interact with our city. We know we need a more intuitive and better resourced network. But can it ever be delivered in time to make a tangible difference? Or are we resigned to playing a never ending game of catch up?
As of 2016, Sydney is home to just over 5 million people. While talk of population growth inevitably focuses on Sydney’s west, the vast majority of jobs are still located in the CBD and inner suburbs. This creates additional strain on an already creaking transport network. It’s not so much a question of there being enough space to house people ‒ the issue is how do we get everyone from A to B and back again?
Realistically, there are bottlenecks everywhere. The harbour plays a big role, with countless highways funnelling into a select few crossings. We’ve seen that all it takes is a minor mishap on the Harbour Bridge or Harbour Tunnel to bring everything to a grinding halt.
Where roads might fail, rail offers hope. Sydney trains cater to one million user trips every weekday. Yet there are bigger cities with far more effective train systems to serve as a blueprint. Think of London (8.67 million) and Tokyo (13.62 million). These are fast, intricate networks catering to more users and doing it in relative comfort.
The key difference between these examples and Sydney is that they are predominantly underground. Meanwhile, Berlin, a city of comparable size, operates multiple train lines above and below ground, as well as providing a cyclist-friendly environment at street level. Berlin’s U-Bahn is a network so beloved, that people even buy merchandise in the tacky pattern of its train seats (largely without irony).
However, any retro-fit solution ‒ which, at this stage of development, they inevitably are ‒ becomes a costly sliding tile puzzle. Any development in Sydney means displacing people or disrupting existing infrastructure. Commuters are not typically blessed with patience. Nor do homeowners readily welcome bulldozers in their backyards.
IN THE WORKS
To be fair, Sydney is trying. The removal of the monorail in 2013 was symbolic of a broader shift in thinking. Sydney’s transport would no longer be accepted as a punchline. The potential for underground transport finally looks set to be explored en masse.
So, what’s in the pipeline?
- Western Harbour Tunnel (scheduled completion 2024) ‒ A harbour crossing between Balmain and Lane Cove, designed to ease congestion on the Harbour Bridge, Anzac Bridge and Victoria Road.
- Westconnex (2023) ‒ A large and so far controversial undertaking by the state government to link the M4 and M5 motorways. Approximately 200 homes are in the firing line, while critics believe prohibitive pricing will only add congestion to existing routes.
- Sydney CBD Light Rail (2018) ‒ Running between Circular Quay and Randwick to provide fast, frequent access around the CBD.
Construction on the CBD and South East Light Rail
- Sydney Metro (2019 – 2024) ‒ Looks like the underground rail memo finally arrived. Stage 1 of the project is the Northwest line due in 2019, to be followed by the City & Southwest. With a train arriving every 4 minutes, the Metro’s aim is to make timetables redundant.
- Metro West (2025 – 2029) ‒ The latest announcement from the NSW government, distinct from the original Metro plans. It’s a largely underground line between the CBD and Parramatta, designed to reduce road congestion and add to the burgeoning metro network.
APP & TECH SOLUTIONS
The evolution of tech plays as much of a role in transport as the physical infrastructure. The transition to Opal cards is more or less complete, ironing out the archaic cash and paper ticket process. However, there are a growing number of private initiatives helping to streamline other areas.
Remarkably, Sydney’s car sharing usage is growing faster than San Francisco. Initiatives such as Go Get aim to reduce the number of cars on the road and solve inner-city parking headaches.
Considering car share users pay each time they use a car, they become more discerning about their usage. For shorter trips, they might walk or use public transport instead. When travelling to work or events, they might be better off getting a lift with a friend.
While public opinion of Uber may be gradually shifting from ‘godsend’ to ‘well, it is what it is’, this does reflect an important evolution of user expectations. Convenience is the bare minimum we deserve from our transport options. There are still kinks to be worked out, but Uber has at least flown the flag for user-first transportation ‒ a platform that can be built on by subsequent apps.
Live Traffic apps
Live Traffic NSW pretty much does what it says on the tin, providing round the clock road data. It allows you to intuitively plan routes and alerts you to nearby traffic incidents as they happen.
There are a number of other apps in a similar vein to choose from, such as Auto, Commuter NSW, TripGo and TripView. Take your pick.
The limitation of these apps, of course, is that hundreds of thousands of people are still trying to get to the same place at the same time. The hope is that with more integrated routes in the works, you’ll be able to play it by ear.
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY AND WORKFLOW
When investing in or leasing property, consider the impact of infrastructure projects on the building and precinct more broadly. Will retail shopfronts maintain the requisite foot traffic? Can commuters reach their office with relative ease? Best to do your research upfront to avoid any nasty surprises down the track.
What’s clear is that Sydney’s CBD and inner suburbs are undergoing the biggest infrastructure upheaval of the past 80 years. This will have further reaching impacts as the city adjusts. Many businesses are already accommodating flexible work schedules and employees working remotely.
This fluidity is set to increase while projects disrupt existing transport routes. In the long term, urban connectivity will improve, no doubt. In the meantime, businesses are likely to take another look at their tenancy arrangements with one eye on client and talent retention.
New pockets of accessibility are set to spring up in places like Rozelle, Parramatta, Punchbowl, and the Hills, among others. The Venn diagram of affordability and practicality could shift substantially over the next decade ‒ precisely how remains to be seen. A city holds its breath with cautious optimism.
TGC has access to a variety of office spaces in Sydney and an experienced team of commercial property experts who are happy to answer any questions. Contact us or call on 1300 458 800.