Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Sydney’s political vision must include more light rail

Working with the state government, Clover Moore has said properties flanking Oxford Street in Darlinghurst would be rezoned to allow for taller developments, special clauses to be included in agreements specifying certain parts of each property to be set aside for cultural activities. 

The day before this story appeared I’d caught the bus, from my home near the airport, aiming to deliver an object to a friend studying at the National Art School at Taylor Square. I got off the 309 bus at Central and caught the light rail to Chinatown then, heading to my destination, walked up Goulburn Street and along Oxford Street. It took some time to get there and my plan – afterward – to go to The Rocks to see the Japanese sculptures had to be scrapped because I was hungry and had food waiting for me to prepare at home, so I walked through Hyde Park and caught the light rail at QVB then got a bus at Central to take me home. 

I’d stopped off at a commercial art gallery to have a stickybeak at a show that’d recently been advertised, so spent more time in Darlinghurst than I’d anticipated doing, and all told it was a three-hour trip. If there’d been a light rail line to Oxford Street it would’ve been far less onerous to travel up the hill and through Darlo along the hill’s busy ridge. On foot, negotiating Goulburn Street and Wentworth Avenue – with their multiple traffic lights – takes a good deal of time as it’s quite a heavily used quarter, due to the incidence of many both vehicles and pedestrians (though vehicles dominate).

A trip to Circular Quay is, by contrast, quite rapid making it now a part of the city that has opened up in a way it hasn’t been – ever – for me, who grew up in Sydney. A few days after my trip to the NAS I ventured out on a weekend to The Rocks to see two exhibitions, including the Japanese one I’d missed seeing earlier in the week. As well as seeing the sculpture show I also saw a show of new Australian works at the Museum of Contemporary Art (I reviewed both shows on this blog). And if I want to go, say, to see the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman shows, which are held annually at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I can just get off the handy tram at QVB and stroll though Hyde Park. 

The light rail has forever altered my topography of Sydney and, thanks to Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s leadership, my Sydney is now much more open, accessible, and user-friendly. As for Clove Moore, she hates cars and a plan outlined in the same newspaper a few days earlier to renovate Botany Road, a busy traffic corridor (especially at peak times), would mean stripping people of a means to conveniently get around. In the absence of more rail infrastructure, closing part of Botany Road would be a devilish development that would severely curtail my free use of the southern part of the city. Buses use Botany Road to deposit residents near their homes, but for a variety of reasons some people need to drive. On a trip from my place to Pyrmont on 24 May I negotiated the heavy, late rush-hour traffic in my RAV4 because my friend wanted to go swimming. If the road had a lower capacity to handle traffic our trip would’ve taken far longer to complete. Perhaps the premier can do people a favour and bring the Kensington light rail line to Botany? This would bring it to a stop near my home, not only pushing up the value of my house, but also obviating the need for me to use Botany Road as much to get around during the day. 

If I could catch a tram to the city instead of driving in my RAV4 or by taking the 309 bus I’d be a very happy camper. If a hipster could go from Oxford Street straight to Newtown on one tram – it could be called the “Trendy Line” – we’d see an explosion of economic activity in the inner suburbs like nothing on earth. I’ve only chosen to highlight two light rail projects with which our esteemed premier might busy her government, but no doubt others could find more to talk about. Whatever was decided, they’d be popular, becoming projects which would bolster the standing of a government that has in recent years completed a number of important and useful large infrastructure builds, and which has more in the pipeline. Andiamo!

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