Poor land-use planning and financial incentives are the Achilles’ heel of achieving public transport targets on the Gold Coast, says an academic.
the main points:
- Public transport use remains down 35% in 2021-2222 compared to 2018-2019, according to snapshots from the council
- Gold Coast City Council aims to have 12 per cent of the population using public transport within nine years
- Major public transport infrastructure works are in progress, including the light rail to Burley
Gold Coast City Council’s annual transport snapshot revealed residents continue to move away from public services – care is down 35 per cent compared to pre-COVID levels.
Matthew Burke, deputy director of the Griffith University Research Institute, said public transport gains made in the center of the Gold Coast were being held back by the city’s northern suburbs.
“They are required to do almost everything with the car, including burning a liter of diesel to get a liter of milk,” he said.
“We are building a suburb in the north that is very car-dependent, where people are moving in with two, three and four-car families.
“They never use public transportation for their trips and who can blame them? There is no decent public transportation.”
Census data shows that the population of the Gold Coast has grown by 23 per cent in 10 years, half of which has occurred in the northern parts.
Gold Coast City Council wants 12 per cent of households to use public transport by 2031.
In 2021, the rate is 3.3 percent.
Car use per household was reported at 84.4 percent, which the council aims to reduce to 74 percent by 2031.
Professor Burke holds little hope of improvement across the Gold Coast until all three levels of government address the root cause of car dependence, particularly in the newer areas to the north of the Gold Coast.
“Everyone is looking at transportation planners to try to fix that and, quite frankly, it’s much more than transportation planners to fix the car-oriented landscape that we continue to build,” he said.
Prof Burke said scrapping federal tax initiatives such as new car leasing would remove the incentive for Australians to buy more cars.
“We are one of the only countries in the world that has a new lease scheme that gives you a huge tax write off for renting a company car,” he said.
The professor said that planning in Queensland has also exacerbated the problem.
“Over and over again, we do things to encourage people to drive,” he said.
“There is a whole range of settings in our land-use planning, particularly at the state government level in Queensland, that continue to be car-oriented. [developments].
“It’s not a sprawl—it’s now a much more sequential, orderly development, but an orderly development of car-based suburbs.”
The resurgence of the light rail
An on-demand bus service is being piloted in Pacific Pines, Highland Park and Nerang to address gaps in the public transportation system.
Mayor Tom Tate has acknowledged that bus use is less than he would like, but says efforts are being made to improve services in the North.
“We have partnered with the state government to launch more regular public bus services across the north of our city,” he said.
“I am confident that this expanded public bus experience will be successful and that public transport in the North will continue to be popular.”
Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said departmental data shows the green shoots of a recovery, with sponsorship of the Gold Coast Light Rail leading the recovery.
“For the week ending November 13th, it was actually 107 percent of pre-COVID levels,” he said.
“The Gold Coast Light Rail has been the best performing public transport, in terms of sponsorship, across the entire state.
“It was the first public transportation to reach pre-pandemic levels and is now the first public transportation to surpass it.”
International city design firm Arcadis has found more services and a cultural shift is needed before more people choose public transport on the Gold Coast.
The company’s director of cities, Paul Allan, said people need to be able to trust their transportation options.
“It’s about, ‘Oh, I don’t know if the bus will show up — will it get stuck in traffic, what am I going to do?'” he said. “
Allan said investing in timely services on the northern Gold Coast would alleviate the uncertainty travelers face.
“Right now, the idea is: ‘The bus isn’t faster, I’m going to get stuck in traffic — maybe I’m going to pay for my parking at the other end and pay for my gas,'” he said.