Monday, September 24, 2007

Dreaming About Rail in Norwest and Macquarie Park

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 September 2007 describes the exodus of jobs from downtown Sydney to suburban office parks like Norwest and Macquarie Park. This is simply the continuation of a trend that has long been underway, not only in Sydney, but also in Paris, Portland and Pheonix.

The clueless NSW State government, which oversees transport and planning, imagines somehow that they will serve these areas with new rail systems, and reduce automobile commuting. Norwest, probably the largest new business centre in Australia will be served by one rail station, while Macquarie Park will get three.

What they don’t understand, of course, is that rail transport is about the city centre --- that there is no way any government can afford to provide the level of service necessary to serve suburban office parks. What do they expect? Do they imagine commuters from Liverpool will somehow use the overcrowded (not to mention unreliable) rail system to travel through the city centre and then to Norwest or Macquarie Park? Will residents of Penrith choose travel by rail to Parramatta, then through the city centre or Chatswood and on, circuitously to Macquarie Park or Norwest?

What makes public transport viable, even if unreliable, to the city centre, is that routes converge there from all over the urban area. No urban area can afford that level of public transport investment in more than one centre. Rail stations in Norwest and Macquarie Park may get government ministers the odd favorable headline, but they will be of virtually no account in reducing automobile commuting.

Wendell Cox

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