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A leading international transportation strategist says Sydney can never have a world-class public transport system, despite the NSW Government's record investment in major projects.
Earlier this week, the Berejiklian Government confirmed the location of seven stations on Sydney's new Metro West, which is due to open by 2030.
It was the latest development on a multi-billion-dollar blueprint for the Harbour City's transport network, which includes the soon-to-be-completed Sydney light rail, the under-construction Parramatta light rail, Metro North West — which opened in May — and the country's biggest bus, ferry and heavy rail networks.
But Singapore-based urban planner Peter Hyland, who has spent more than 40 years shaping transport networks in Australia and abroad, said the cities that did public transport best were way ahead of Sydney.
Mr Hyland — the regional director of urban planning consultancy Cistri — said of the ideal public transport system: "It's accessible, it's efficient, it's regular, it's safe and it's cost-effective."
"Singapore is a world leader in public transport," he said.
"For physical, spatial and governance reasons, Sydney cannot replicate Singapore … but you can certainly learn from it in terms of […] long-term planning, integrating its transport planning with its land use planning."
While Mr Hyland said Sydney was "moving in the right direction" he said the city would need to reduce its reliance on cars if it was to keep up with world transport leaders.
He said a congestion tax, proposed in a Grattan Institute report this month but ruled out by Transport Minister Andrew Constance, would not work in Sydney without "giving people a viable economic" alternative.
Car ownership is increasing every year in NSW, according to a 2019 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The opening of the first stage of WestConnex in July, one of the world's biggest road projects, also encouraged motor vehicles to remain on the streets.
Comparatively, Mr Hyland said only a third of households in Singapore had a car, largely because of big taxes placed on cars and restrictions on driving times.
But he said this helped pave the way for public transport to be the most attractive option to get from A to B.
The urban planner said to help achieve this, the NSW Government also needed to invest in regular and, more importantly, reliable bus networks to compliment the rail expansion and residential development.
"In Singapore, you can use the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system without any sense of a timetable," he said.
"You just go to a station and you know that the maximum time that you will wait for will be six minutes — very often it's only two or three minutes before the next service will come."
The Sydney heavy rail network has suffered several major meltdowns in the past 18 months.
In August, a loose hatch on a train at Town Hall meant large parts of the rail system ground to a halt during the morning peak hour commute.
"So, people generally tend to get annoyed at public transport if they also perceive that the cost of using it is significant," he said.
While the two cities have comparable populations, the island city could fit into the Greater Sydney region 17 times and doesn't have an expansive harbour dividing two of its most populous regions.
But Mr Hyland said given the NSW Government's vision for three metropolises — in Sydney, the Parramatta area and around the new Western Sydney Airport — the arguments remained the same.
My Hyland will speak in Sydney next week as part of a transport conference hosted by Urban Taskforce — a not-for-profit group representing property developers and equity financiers.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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