Expertise / Rail / Designer insight

Keeping Sydney on the move

The decision to remove buses and cars from the heart of Australia's most congested city and replace them with light rail was somewhat controversial. However, the bold new urban design for Sydney's George Street is set to fundamentally alter the way people move through the city and return a major civic street to the public.

"A true measure of a city's success is how easily and comfortably people move through it and, at the moment, Sydney crippled by congestion," says HASSELL Project Lead Daniel Bennett.

"For peak hours in the morning and afternoon, you've got hundreds of buses sitting end to end on George Street, essentially cutting the city in half and creating gridlock."

"Introducing a high frequency, high capacity light rail system will remove the hundreds of buses out of George Street and deliver significant benefits in terms of greater city activation, a far higher quality public domain and a greater focus on people."

However, Daniel says introducing light rail must be done thoughtfully to address the greatest challenge with any new public transport system – creating a desirable system that enables people to leave the car at home, and foster multi-modal trips.

"Driving change in terms of people's travel behavior is one of the most challenging aspects of the Sydney Light Rail project," says Daniel.

"If you want to get people out of buses and cars and onto light rail, it must be the easiest option. It has to be more convenient and comfortable than simply hopping in the car and blend seamlessly with every day activities.

"Currently, Australians are not used to changing modes of transport in one journey, so the transition between public transport types must also be extremely straightforward and easy to use. Creating multi-modal transport hubs, where bus terminals line up with light rail stops, with integrated travel cards that work across a number of different transport systems are central to driving a change in behavior.'

The Sydney Light Rail project links a critical corridor through Sydney's South East that is central to the broader performance of the city.

"The south-eastern suburbs include Sydney's entertainment precinct with the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney Football Stadium and the Entertainment Quarter (including the Horden Pavilion), Centennial Park (where Sydney recreates) as well as Royal Randwick Racecourse, the University of New South Wales and the Prince of Wales Hospital," says Daniel.

"These are major centres that people travel to daily, in addition to an already higher urban density."

"Public domain improvement for this entire corridor is a central part of the project, creating urban consolidation and renewal as well as recognising the city's landscape and urban context – the place itself.

"This is really the key to attracting people back to public transport – it's about much more than delivering the transport solution itself. It is a people focused, integrated urban transport solution," says Daniel.