Every so often, our office receives an enquiry about what happened to the proposed CityCat terminal that was supposed to be installed at the end of Victoria Street in West End. And every time, we have to explain that it has slipped off the LNP’s priority list and that the council isn’t investing enough money in local public transport infrastructure.
A Victoria Street CityCat Terminal was identified as a crucial piece of public transport infrastructure in the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan, which came into effect back in April 2011 (note that this was after the 2011 floods). This is the same neighbourhood plan that up-zoned much of the West End Peninsula for high-density development and accelerated the flurry of apartment construction down along Montague Road.
Residents who bought apartments after this plan was introduced in 2011 were told by developers and real estate agents that the ferry terminal was coming soon. But it’s now 2017, and the nearest CityCat terminals to Victoria Street are on the other side of the river.
You can still see the ferry terminal listed in section 126.96.36.199.2 subsection 10(b) of the current City Plan. Unfortunately it’s no longer listed in the related ‘Priority Infrastructure Plan’. Building a new CityCat terminal right in the middle of the new high-density neighbourhood along Montague Road was supposed to help cater for the growing population. In fact, it was part of the justification for the upzoning – “Sure, we’re going to cram a lot more people into West End, but don’t worry about traffic congestion because we’ll be providing a new CityCat stop.”
The 2011 floods were used as a justification for pushing back the timelines for construction of new ferry terminals, because so many existing terminals had to be replaced. But this delay in the supply of transport infrastructure didn’t stop the construction of new apartments full of residents eager to commute into the city or to Brisbane’s inner-western suburbs.
Montague Road is now heavily congested in peak hour. The existing Orleigh Park ferry terminal is a long hike from the high-density development around Victoria Street, meaning that the only public transport option available to local residents is the Blue CityGlider, which gets held up in general traffic. But BCC says that the Victoria Street CityCat terminal simply isn’t a priority.
Depending on a range of design variables, a new CityCat terminal would cost somewhere between $5 and $15 million. In the context of how much money developers and the council are making from the densification of the inner-city, this isn’t a huge sum. BCC is currently spending $115 million widening a 750-metre stretch of Lytton Road in East Brisbane to six lanes. They’re also spending upwards of $650 million widening Kingsford Smith Drive (people are still driving to the airport because the much-celebrated airtrain is too expensive). So to claim they don’t have the money is a bit weak. They have plenty of money for transport infrastructure, but they’d rather spend it widening roads than on public transport.
My personal view is that a green bridge connecting Toowoong to West End might actually be a higher priority and a better use of funds than a ferry terminal around Victoria St. A bridge would link the Montague Road high-density precinct to the Toowong train station and shopping centre, and would provide commuters an alternative route to and from the inner-south side without having to drive down Coronation Drive and back down Montague Road. But given the LNP’s current priorities, a Green Bridge seems even more unlikely than a CityCat terminal.
The Victoria Street CityCat terminal is an interesting case study of how council routinely promises to provide necessary infrastructure to cater for higher density development, but then fails to actually deliver.
This is symptomatic of a deeper failing in urban transport planning throughout South-East Queensland. Council uses the rhetoric that inner-city densification is more sustainable than outer-suburban sprawl to justify high-density urban development, but then continues to prioritise infrastructure projects that promote and reproduce a sprawling car-centric city.
But you can’t have it both ways.
If you increase population density in the inner-city, you have to provide the public transport infrastructure to support it. Otherwise inner-ring suburbs will become unliveable due to congestion and a hostile pedestrian environment, while everyone living in the outer burbs will still be stuck in traffic, no matter how many roads we widen.
If you want to see greater investment in local public transport infrastructure like ferry terminals, it wouldn’t hurt to email the Lord Mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org, but by the far the best use of your time is to engage with political campaigns and support candidates at both the local and state levels who advocate for more spending on public transport and less on widening roads. You might also like to check out the ‘Right to the City’ movement at www.righttobne.org/