By Brent Heber, NSW Greens Candidate for Kogarah electorate
In my humble opinion there are only a few reasons why any person would put their life in front their community in a bid to represent them in government: Ego, money or vision. Ego if the person needs the adulation of the masses, much like the cult of celebrity. Money in that a career politician, through their many connections and relationships, can see how political influence can maximise their investments. Lastly vision, for a better world, for their children, for the underprivileged, a sense of righteous indignation that things are not as they should be and many are not getting their fair share. Perhaps the phrasing of that last point shows my hand, but I would contend that the majority of the candidates running on Green tickets are doing so for the latter reason, supporting a long term vision for a better NSW.
The question is what would that look like? If the Greens were in power, how would they run the state? What combination of Green policies would have the most effect on your quality of life? In my next few opinion pieces I will try to answer that question, trying to describe what a Green run NSW might look like – of course with some specific focus on Kogarah.
The 3 hour commute
Motorways do not resolve congestion, they simply move it and create greater demand in turn making the macro problem worse long term. The Greens would see the funds earmarked for metropolitan road infrastructure projects poured into the real solution, cost effective, fast, public transport. That’s not to say roads shouldn’t be maintained or built in newly developed areas, but right now, in NSW, public transport has to be the priority, as a place where we can make dramatic gains per dollar invested and improve quality of life for many constituents. You may not remember but our train system was slowed down by half in 2005 to help the systems cope. As a starting point, a $3Billion investment in digitising and automating our signals would repeal that slow down so 10 minutes could potentially be shaved off a 30 minute commute without further investment.
The biggest reason people get into cars is that it’s faster to get from A to B. The second biggest reason is lack of service to go where they want to go. We need our public transport to operate quickly and expansively. Creating express bus service connections are a cost effective way of linking residential and working hubs, buses with GPS tracking that are keyed into our traffic lights, so lights are prioritised for late buses to keep them running on time.
Our heavy rail can also be upgraded further beyond signal gains with “tilt trains”, which can travel faster safer due to advanced suspension, something none of our trains have – many having been in service for over 20 years. All of these are established technologies used in countries poorer than Australia.
Light rail can also continue it’s roll out affordably across Sydney from Dulwich Hill to Randwick – mostly through disused rail corridors or alongside existing heavy rail much like the existing light rail project was run. The current light rail projects in Sydney have quite good patronage but as with many of our routes, you can end up being pushed through Central to get from A to B. Cities with arguably the most effective public transport systems have connections across the radials that spoke out from the centre, this is a model we need to adopt more of in Sydney to minimise car usage, particularly to places like the Mascot industrial area.
Which leads to the airport stations and their line. NSW Greens have long advocated for the removal of the excessive gate pass into Domestic and International, so it would be costed the same as any other zone based fare. When this was enacted on Green Square and Mascot patronage soared and no doubt removed a stack of cars from our streets. Imagine if it was $5 to get to the airport return, would you still take your car or taxi? The effect on traffic particularly in the M5 east and harbour tunnels on Mondays mornings and Fridays afternoons would be dramatic.
There are many “low hanging fruit” solutions for our public transport woes and I’ve listed a few above from NSW Greens policies, but lastly, on the local front, a fantastic concept to help remove cars from the M5: “Park and Ride” facilities. Kingsgrove is ideally situated to provide a “last chance” park and ride multi level commuter car park before entering the M5 east tunnel. Kingsgrove is quite rare in how close the M5 comes to the heavy rail line, and has a single industrial zoned block between the two. Ramp from the M5 could be built straight in and out of the multi-level car park, a drop off zone for airport patrons (only 10 minutes by heavy rail to International) and levels could be separated provided fixed numbers for local commuters vs those coming in from the M5 who would be prioritised. LED lighting systems like at Ikea and many other car parks would make finding spots easy and solar panels could provide abundant daytime energy for EV charge points to be provided. A facility like this is estimated around the 400mil mark, well short of the funds being poured into Westconnex and with much clearer results for the investment.
*Opinions expressed here are my own