The Daily Grind
As a proud resident of Sydney’s North West, I, like many others have been dealing with one major dilemma for as long as we can remember, a problem that has only gotten worse as time passes. This is the issue of transport, infrastructure and the cost (time and money) of getting to and from the major business hubs of Sydney.
Amidst the seemingly endless sea of McMansions, manicured gardens, young families and estate community shopping centres lie an issue that has frustrated many ever since the first land release in the suburb of Baulkham Hills in 1996. As the speed of State Government approved land releases ramp up, from a 7 year approval process down to 2 in recent years, the number of people calling Sydney’s North West home has dramatically increased. At June 2013, just under two-thirds of the state’s population (4.76 million people) resided in Greater Sydney with population growth in the region accounting for 78% of the state’s total growth in 2012–13. The largest population increase in Greater Sydney was in Kellyville Ridge, located in the North West at 13% — a population increase of almost double since 2008.
As housing prices continue to grow year-on-year, out of the reach of many Australians, the New South Wales State Government have acted by releasing more land for residential development. The consequences of which aren’t addressed nearly as quickly as moving people into the area — infrastructure and public transport.
The Hills District, in Sydney’s North West lies 40 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD. A 40 kilometre grind that office workers face every morning and afternoon. The main arterial road that many of us take on this journey is along the recently upgraded M2 Motorway — 21 kilometres of mainly 2 lane (plus 1 dedicated bus lane for some distance) bumper to bumper traffic. Making it even more pleasurable, a $6.20 one-way toll awaits anyone willing (or stupid?) enough to brave the traffic, compounding the frustration of moving along at an average speed of 30kmph on a motorway with a speed limit of 100kmph.
Travelling the 40 kilometre distance from the Hills District to the CBD during off peak hours can take as little as 35 minutes, however it is the important 6-8AM and 4–6PM periods which means the average commuter can spend 2 hours behind the wheel travelling to and from their place of work. Considering 20 hours a week being stuck behind the wheel, paying anywhere between $1.10 to $1.70 per litre of petrol, on top of the $12.40 needed for the M2 toll alone, the only other viable option available to those needing to get to the CBD comes by way of taking the bus.
Despite the acceptable service that North West Sydney transport company HillsBus provide the residents of the Hills District and although the improvements made to the transit lanes on main roads throughout the North West, the influx of new residents to the area have caused somewhat of a choking of the system. During peak times, the number of city bound buses has increased two-fold and although this initially alleviated some of the pressure, it was not long before passengers who were to board these services only a handful of stops away from the route’s starting point were turned away due to overcrowding.
In 2013 HillsBus announced that double-decker buses will be put into service to help ease passenger congestion, however it has been seen that it did little to ease the troubles of the system. Increasing the number and frequency of buses isn’t a guaranteed solution either, with the CBD already reaching breaking point with buses stretching for hundreds of metres along the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Clarence, York and George Street during peak hours. In some instances, travelling the 1.3 kilometres from North Sydney to the CBD can take upwards of 40 minutes before 9AM.
So what can and should be done about the transport situation in North West Sydney? Using personal transport is a costly and time consuming exercise, once you factor in tolls, petrol and parking on top of maintenance costs needed to keep a car in perfect working condition after heavy day-to-day use. You can no longer simply catch a bus from a normal suburban bus stop either, as even the double-decker variant of bus is likely to have reached it’s passenger limit by it’s second or third T-Way bus station. On top of that, finding a parking spot at one of the main bus stations has become a hassle in it’s own right, with cars parked in no parking zones, in gardens and in construction zones. Thankfully parking inspectors and Police have been kind enough to hold back from fining these individuals.
With the North West Rail Link not likely to be ready before 2018 at the earliest, it seems as though taking the bus or a very long and costly car ride is the only choice for those who need to get to the CBD.