CHAMPION COLUMN | Public transport investment is key to equity

WSROC president Councillor Barry Calvert

WSROC president Councillor Barry Calvert

Last week Infrastructure Australia released a report on public transport access in Australia’s outer suburbs. The report found fewer than half of Western Sydney residents live within walking distance of good public transport services. These results are disheartening, but hardly surprising.

Public transport access has been high on WSROC’s advocacy agenda for more than 40 years. The extraordinary pace of growth means more transport services are needed in more places than ever before.

Public transport affects our ability to access jobs, education, services and other opportunities that boost our quality of life. This is particularly true for those unable to drive such as the young, the elderly, those with a medical condition, or those unable to afford a car.

Poor public transport has also been shown to limit economic investment and jobs growth. When deciding where to set up shop, many businesses prefer well connected locations that are convenient for their employees and customers. Unfortunately, many Western Sydney employment hubs are poorly serviced.

Public transport is also much more affordable than driving. The government heavily subsidises Opal fares to encourage public transport uptake. 

Public transport has even been shown to boost our health. Walking to the bus stop or train station can help meet your daily physical activity requirements. On the other hand, driving from door to door promotes a sedentary lifestyle that can contribute to conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

While this may seem disheartening, the good news is the NSW Government has a healthy budget surplus and can afford to invest in better public transport for Western Sydney. Projects including the Sydney Metro North West, Parramatta Light Rail and proposed North-South Rail link are putting us on a path to better public transport access, but much more investment is needed to close the gap between the city and the west.

WSROC would like to see public transport investment accelerated. This includes new services, increased frequency and reliability of existing services, improved commuter parking, and accessibility upgrades to help those less able. Better public transport will mean a more equitable, more prosperous and healthier Western Sydney.

BARRY CALVERT

President, WSROC

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