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Why The Bondi Road Tram is the Wrong Way To Go

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill on March 31, 2018 in News

The Bondi Tram meandering under Bondi Road back in the day, by Trammy McTramface.

It’s easy to look back to the 1950s and 60s and think about the good ol’ days and the beautiful old wooden trams that shot through the Eastern Suburbs, and how amazing it would be to bring back this wonderful piece of history.
My parents often talk about catching the tram in the days of their youth, frequently followed by a wave of nostalgia and the sharing of the joyful memories of clanging wheels, timber seats, Aussie colours and steps too high for little legs. My great-grandfather worked as a butcher in the city and would throw a small bundle of meat out of the tram window for my grandmother to collect on Oxford Street at Bondi Junction on his way home to Bronte – a cherished story from family folklore.
As some in the community may know, in November 2017 I passed a motion that Waverley Council should reject light rail down our Bondi Road corridor, a transport option proposed in a number of Council reports since 2012. Those living in Randwick and Kensington have experienced first-hand the implications of this transport ‘solution’. Unfortunately for those of us living in the east, it’s clear that the light rail currently being rolled out is nothing like the clunky, quaint Bronte Tram of the twentieth century. Light rail today is being used throughout the east to justify further overdevelopment and not as a legitimate transport solution to the needs of locals living in the most densely populated part of Australia. Every new transport hub and light rail station purportedly ‘justifies’ more development and greater density.
As many of us know, the light rail is creating more problems than solutions. Being above ground, it has not only resulted in the loss of hundreds of beautiful heritage-listed trees and more encroachment on our green open space, paired with further high rises, but the infrastructure won’t actually fulfil transport demand in the east, so buses will still be needed along the same route. Then there is the fact that 60-metre-long light rail carriages will be traveling at nine kilometres per hour through a number of major intersections, including South Dowling Street and Anzac Parade.
Economists tell us that in order to encourage people to adapt and change, we need to make it easy for them to do so. In the case of transport, if we want to get cars off the road and encourage people to use public transport, we need to make it simpler and more affordable. For most locals in the east, the light rail stops are not well placed, as they have been chosen to cater for visitors to Moore Park, the racecourse and UNSW – many of whom are from outside of the area. The needs of those wishing to travel within the east have been ignored, and most of us wanting to use the light rail to get to work will have to catch a bus in order to get it – not great planning, is it?
Over the past few months we have seen the privatisation of our buses by the State Government, as well as the systematic removal of bus stops and important bus services throughout the Eastern Suburbs. Take the 378 as an example; a fabulous bus service operating from Bronte to Railway Square with vital stops along Oxford Street, St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst Courts and much more. The 378 was replaced by the dud 440, with a route to Leichhardt so long and torturous that running late was almost guaranteed. It may be true that most of us are happy to never leave the area, and some do regard the Harbour Bridge purely as an escape route to annual holidays, but in reality many of us do need to get to work across the vast metropolis of Sydney, and for most that involves crossing Anzac Parade.
Consideration needs to be given to the needs of local residents and not just visitors. Consider where locals actually want and need to travel, not just how to justify further development. Public transport is a long-term investment that requires strategic long-term thinking and investment. Think about the London Underground, built in the Industrial Revolution and still used and thriving today. We need to stop thinking about public transport as a cost that needs to be recouped via stamp duty and start thinking about what we want Sydney to look like in a century from now, not just over a four-year electoral cycle.

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