The advantage we have is that in the Camden region we are still putting our suburbs together, which means we have the opportunity to put in the right infrastructure before the expansion occurs.
Just last week, this story in the Camden Advertiser highlighted the ridiculous travel times of some of our students just to get to school. The response by our State MP Chris Patterson was enlightening, but not in a good way.
He said: “Every parent wants a direct route but this just isn’t feasible. More services will be provided as areas grow.” (emphasis mine).
That last sentence is exactly what is wrong with transport planning in this State and why things are likely to get far worse in Camden.
Anyone who travelled along recently expanded Camden Valley Way at around 8am, is experiencing the first inkling of the congestion that will come without action. At this very early stage we are already seeing the slowing of our roadways.
Imagine Camden Valley Way when 350,000 residents call this area home. We are not even a quarter of a way to that total yet. And don't forget the inevitable additional traffic through our area as a result of Badgerys Creek.
As any transport expert will tell you, roads are not the solution to transport congestion. In fact they tend to make things worse. Invariably when new roads are built, they often hit capacity within months.
Public transport is the key.
More buses are an option but there is the invidious catch-22 of adding more buses.
It goes like this, new bus routes or buses won’t be added if there aren’t sufficient customers. But at the same time, customers won’t start catching buses if they are few and far between.
For buses to be successful they require dedicated lanes, like the north west Sydney T-ways. Perhaps we should plan for these.
Rail transport should also be in the mix for our area. And please don’t tell me our population won’t be sufficient for light rail or an extension of heavy rail.
The Eastern Suburbs of Sydney are close to maximum population capacity and yet a light rail line is being built right now that only goes as far as Randwick and Kingsford – barely half way into the south eastern suburbs, leaving Maroubra and La Perouse still relying on buses.
The construction is causing all sorts of traffic snarls as they tear up existing roads and infrastructure but when it is finished it is expected to be an important public transport route. The cost for this line is expected to be $2.1 billion.
Here’s the rub – the entire eastern suburbs of Sydney has a population of 279,950, according to the Bureau of Statistics. That is 70,000 less than the additional population coming to this area.
We will have a population of 350,000 and at the moment plenty of land that could be set aside. Yet there is no suggestion of a similar light rail option here and an extension of the heavy rail system seems very much up in the air.
We need to have these transport plans in place now for that future population, so we can be fully prepared and reduce costs when they are built.
I’m not asking for light rail or dedicated T-Way bus lanes as they have in the north west (along with an additional 580 timetabled services) to be built now. But we do need to plan for these kinds of services and set aside land for them immediately.
We need to think, now, about what will work for our area - heavy rail alone or supplemented with light rail or T-Way lines? And where will these transport links fit? Can we set aside land for them now, so we build them as or just before they are needed rather than waiting until our roads run at the speed of treacle.
We know congestion is bad for people and it’s bad for business, so let's act early. This is a discussion that needs to be had in Camden now and it needs to be public.
It is time we brought together transport experts, politicians and the public to openly discuss future transport plans for this region to avoid the toxic traffic congestion experienced right across the Sydney Basin.
It’s time to campaign about our future transport needs. Write to the council and our local member to call for a transport plan and the full engagement of Camden residents in public forum about future transport options.
You can send an email or letter to State MP Chris Patterson here or write to the Camden councilors in your ward here.
You can even write on the Facebook page of your local newspapers asking them to campaign for a transport plan or to arrange a public forum. Feel free to share this story and comment on the Camden Advertiser’s Facebook page here or the Macarthur Chronicle’s Facebook page here.
Let’s not be like the rest of Sydney, let’s act on our transport future, now.