Blog - Commercial

29 January 2019

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 have long been needed.

maps

Street maps of Melbourne and Sydney show a stark contrast

Property and transport

The success of commercial developments starts with efficient transport. Indeed, solving roadblocks (both literal and figurative) is fundamental to any society with aspirations of functionality. 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?

Growing pains

Sydney is now home to a population of over 5 million people. And, 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.

Aerial view of Sydney's CBD and the surrounding suburbs

The beauty of rail

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 (8.136 million) and Tokyo (9.273 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).

So what’s in the works for rail?

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.

The Sydney Metro project is currently underway. It’s Australia’s biggest public transport project and is promised to result in a rapid transit system with trains arriving every four minutes in peak hour.

The first stage (Sydney Metro Northwest) is due to be completed in the first half of 2019. The second stage (Sydney Metro City & Southwest) is due to open in 2024. And a third project (Sydney Metro West) is scheduled to be completed in the late 2020’s.

In addition, the 12-kilometre Sydney Light Rail network is currently under construction between the CBD and the southeast. It is scheduled to be completed by March 2020.

Building of the light rail outside the QVB in Sydney

Construction on the CBD and South East Light Rail

However, any retro-fit solutions like these ‒ which at this advanced stage of the city’s development, they inevitably are ‒ become a costly sliding tile puzzle. Any development in Sydney means displacing people or disrupting existing infrastructure.  For example, construction of the Sydney Metro Northwest stage has resulted in train services ceasing between Chatswood and Epping while the track is upgraded. 20,000 passengers a day after having to use alternative transport arrangements (such as buses and cars), further increasing the strain on the road network in the area.

(Commuters are not typically blessed with patience. Nor do homeowners readily welcome bulldozers in their backyards.)

Also in the works

In addition to the major rail upgrades currently underway and planned for the future, there are also some significant road projects, including:

  • Westconnex (2023) ‒ this will link the M4 and M5 motorways, but it will also displace approximately 200 homeowners. There are also concerns that prohibitive tunnel pricing may add congestion to existing routes.
  • The Western Harbour Tunnel (scheduled for completion in 2024) ‒ it will cross the Harbour between Balmain and Lane Cove and is designed to ease congestion on the Harbour Bridge, Anzac Bridge and Victoria Road.

App & tech solutions

Uber
Uber has continued to grow in popularity as a service and significantly impact the taxi industry.

Uber Pool has officially launched in Sydney saving commuters going in the same direction up to 50 per cent off the cost of a normal uber trip! There are even suggestions that low-flying air taxi services from companies such as Uber could be a reality by 2023.

Car Sharing
Over 30,000 people have joined car-sharing schemes such as those operated by GoGet and Car Next Door) that have operated in Sydney since the government introduced the initiative in 2007. However, these numbers have plateaued in recent times, with car-sharing operators claiming that there are not enough car-sharing spots located near public transport.

Live Traffic apps
Live Traffic NSW provides 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 Commuter NSW, TripGo and TripView. Take your pick.

Of course, the limitation of these apps is that tens of thousands of people are often trying to get to the same place at the same time. The hope is that with more integrated routes in the works, things will eventually improve.

Busy traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Transport, commercial property and workflow

When investing in or leasing commercial property, you should always consider the impact of current or planned transport infrastructure projects on both the building and the precinct more broadly. For example:

  • will retail shopfronts maintain the requisite foot traffic?
  • can commuters reach their office with relative ease?

It’s 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 far-reaching impacts as the city adjusts. Many businesses are already accommodating flexible work schedules and employees working remotely to cope.

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 their clients and the other on talent retention.

New pockets of accessibility are set to spring up in places like Rozelle, Parramatta, Punchbowl, and the Hills, among others. The intersection 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 you may have. Contact us online or call us on 1300 458 800.

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Date: 29 January 2019 Author: TGC Writer
Commercial
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About the author:

TGC Writer

TGC is the largest privately owned commercial real estate agency in the Sydney CBD, with over 20 years experience servicing the CBD, City Fringe and greater Metropolitan property market. We’re committed to assisting you with your total property needs, including buying, selling, leasing and property management.

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