Momentum continues for a mass transit solution

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A progress report on the preliminary business case for a mass transit system for the Sunshine Coast will be considered by Sunshine Coast Council at its January Ordinary Meeting (Thursday, January 30).  

Independent consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has advised council work on the Preliminary Business Case is showing a high quality, integrated public transport system is needed if the Sunshine Coast is to effectively address growing levels of road congestion, achieve urban consolidation and prevent urban sprawl, reduce the high dependency on private motor vehicle transport and support continued high levels of employment self-containment.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said addressing the Sunshine Coast’s public transport needs was a crucial component in securing the future liveability and prosperity of our region.

“Our current population of more than 320,000 is projected to grow to 518,000 in 2041 - a little over 20 years from now,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“We need to manage and direct that growth in a way that maintains our community’s quality of life and protects and preserves our hinterland and natural landscapes. 

“To achieve that goal, we need a major boost to our public transport network and a solution that encourages people to get out of their cars as their preferred mode of travel around our region.

“That’s why our council is doing the hard yards to plan and advocate for a major new mass transit system for our Sunshine Coast.

“Our council wants our residents and our region to be better positioned to secure the investment required by the State and Federal Governments to deliver a contemporary and integrated public transport system that meets our community’s needs now and well into the future.”

The Queensland and Commonwealth governments both require that large projects like the proposed mass transit solution are subject to a multi-phase business case, starting with a strategic business case, leading to a preliminary business case and concluding with a detailed business case.

All three phases of the business case process need to be completed for the project to be considered for funding from the Queensland and Commonwealth governments.

The progress report to be considered by council next Thursday (January 30) confirms the first stage of a mass transit solution should run from Maroochydore to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, as this addresses the greatest amount of forecast congestion, supports business consolidation in key commercial centres and provides a strong incentive for urban renewal in the Sunshine Coast Urban Corridor.

PwC proposes three options for stage one of the mass transit solution should be taken forward to full analysis of benefits and costs in the final preliminary business case:

  • An upgrade of bus lanes on the sides of the major roads with new specially branded buses to provide a “Quality Bus Corridor”  
  • A bus rapid transit system much like light rail but with electric buses up to 25 metres long
  • A light rail system with 45 metres long trams running in their own right of way mostly in the centre of the major roads

Council is yet to agree that the further analysis is to be limited to these options.

Transport Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said past studies had suggested light rail was the best mass transit solution for local travel, which comprises the vast majority of all trips. 

“Light rail also has a proven track record in encouraging urban renewal within its catchment,” Cr Baberowski said. 

“However this will be looked at again, along with other modes, to determine which system will deliver the necessary standard of service that will meet the needs of our growing region.

“We have to make sure we’ve got the best option that meets our needs and provides the best value for money as well.

“There are many opportunities and challenges before us and that is why it is important to plan ahead.

“Right now 85 per cent of trips are made by private car; 12 per cent by walking or on a bike and just 3 per cent by public transport.

“Over the next 20 years, we need to change those percentages from 85/12/3 to 70/20/10 if we are going to maintain our region’s remarkable lifestyle advantages.

“Council completed the strategic business case in July last year and we’re now continuing to work on the preliminary business case, which will be completed mid-year.

“We will then join forces with the Queensland Government to prepare the detailed business case, which is to be jointly funded by council and the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

“The next key milestone will be to finalise the preliminary business case.

“When completed, this detailed modelling will evaluate all three options and will be brought to council for determination mid-year.         

“From there, a detailed business case will then be prepared in partnership with the Queensland Government by the end of 2021, so that the project can be considered for investment by State and Federal governments.

“Funding from the other tiers of government is critical if the mass transit system is to be delivered.”

The community is invited to attend the Ordinary Meeting, held at Caloundra Chambers, Omrah Avenue, on Thursday, January 30, at 9am.

 
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Sunshine Coast Regional Council
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