Sunshine Coast Council has given the green light to push ahead with its Mass Transit Project, but will emphasise to the State Government that there was “strong” opposition to light rail in the community.
At a marathon special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, councillors voted 8-to-3 to progress to the next stage, referring the project to the State Government to complete a Detailed Business Case.
The State would then decide which of the five transport options — high-quality bus corridor, trackless trams, light rail with wires, and wireless light rail — was the best “value for money”, however, the council would retain “a strong degree of influence”.
Once funding was secured from State and Federal Governments, work could start on Stage 1 from the Maroochydore CBD to Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH), by 2025, taking up to three years to complete around 2027.
Cr Winston Johnston moved an amendment to the motion, which was passed, to note that there had been “strong” community opposition to light rail with wires. A majority of councillors supported the amendment in order to send a clear message to the State Government.
However, the mass transit system would not be the only transport solution pursued on the Coast, with the regional rail CAMCOS proposal that has been on the cards for 20 years considered just as important, plus improving the bus network.
Council’s urban growth program director, James Coutts, told councillors that mass transit was only stage 1 of a broader Master Plan that included pushing for upgrades to the Beerwah to Nambour rail line, advocating the CAMCOS corridor and rolling out a high frequency bus network.
Cr Joe Natoli failed to have light rail removed from the list of options over community concerns the tracks, wires and poles would ruin the ambience of the beach between Maroochydore and Alexandra Headland.
He told the meeting that people from those suburbs were not against fixing traffic problems but were worried light rail would pave the way for highrise along the beach where “the sky’s the limit”.
A number of councillors raised concerns about light rail specifically, but said they felt the Coast needed to stay on the road of exploring all transport options before making a decision on which was best.
The meeting also heard some councillors’ views that certain public campaigns against light rail had been spreading “misinformation” and “scaremongering”.
Councillor Ted Hungerford said light rail was his least preferred option of the five but a decision had to made on facts not emotion and fear.
“What disappoints me is community opinions that are built on fear and emotion mislead and deceive and do not make for good decision-making,” said Cr Hungerford.
Deputy Mayor Rick Baberowksi said congestion on the Coast was spiralling and mass transit offered a solution, not only to traffic but the housing crisis.
“Mass transit means more housing options — not highrise — but mass transit can be part of the solution to the housing crisis,” said Cr Baberowski.
He said the results of the council’s public feedback revealed most suburbs were in favour of a mass transit system.
“If anything this survey demonstrates that even in the face of large co-ordinated campaigns largely on misrepresentation, most Sunshine Coast suburbs support the process moving forward.”
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The meeting heard that none of the LNP state MPs who had been publicly fighting against the mass transit project had accepted the mayor’s invitation for a private briefing on the project.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Coast had been working on a mass transit proposal since 2011 after inheriting the legacy from previous councils (before amalgamation) that did not work together to plan for traffic growth.
In those days, light rail was the only option.
Cr Jamieson said State and Federal governments had also failed the Coast, which was why the council was “standing up for our constituents” and finding a way to keep people moving.
The mayor repeated an often quoted statistic that the Sunshine Coast now has the second-highest ownership of cars in Australia, behind Perth.
Without a mass transit system that enabled and encouraged people not to drive, he said the arrival of 200,000 news residents over the next 20 years would choke the region.
Mayor Jamieson said Wednesday’s meeting was not about making a final decision on the type of mass transit system the Coast would have, but giving the green light to explore all five and select the best.
He added that he did not accept the LNP’s “sermons” that the Coast had to choose between mass transit and CAMCOS.
“What we are considering today is an Options Analysis. We’re not deciding on what type of transport solution should be delivered to the Sunshine Coast.
“We’re not deciding the final route for whatever is eventually delivered. We’re not rejecting CAMCOS, as I’ve said earlier, there’s no competition.
“And we’re not proposing any amendments to the Planning Scheme.
“What we are doing is receiving the results of the analysis of the five options considered, receiving the results of extensive community engagement for which our officers should be commended for conducting.”
Cr Maria Suarez said light rail was not her preferred option but the Coast needed a solution that would save people time and money.
She raised concerns about residents in her division having to catch two modes of transport, first catching a bus to the mass transit nodes.
“I don’t support the entire report but I do feel we need to take the next step and take fate into our owns hands,” she said.
Councillors Jason O’Pray, Joe Natoli and Christian Dickson voted against the motion.
Council thanked the many residents who provided their thoughts on the future of transport on the Sunshine Coast during a comprehensive eight-week consultation period which was announced to the community on 12 April.
Submissions were invited from 28 April until midnight yesterday, (22/6/21), via a range of methods including online and posted surveys, key stakeholder meetings, pop up information sessions and an intergenerational forum.
Council will now spend the next few months examining and analysing the feedback followed by a review of the draft Options Analysis Report before presenting the report to a future council meeting.
An agenda and meeting details will be published on council’s website prior to the report being considered.
Council’s website and the project Have Your Say page will also be updated with consultation outcomes when the analysis has concluded.
Subject to council’s agreement, a finalised report will be provided to the State Government for consideration and further assessment prior to development of a Detailed Business Case.
Deputy Mayor and Transport Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski thanked the community for taking part in active engagement during this lengthy community consultation process.
“From Beerwah to Kawana and every suburb in-between, I’m so very thankful to all those who have either participated online or in person, by attending a range of community engagement events across our region,” Cr Baberowski said.
“We had a strong response to the engagement phase; the next phase will take several weeks to ensure that all of the valuable feedback can be carefully considered.
“The analysis phase will involve reviewing input from meetings and forums and individually analysing the surveys received. It’s important to keep in mind that due to the nature of the open-ended questions the responses will be very detailed.
“All of this information will provide council with rich data to use in this and other projects to ensure that council understands what’s important to our community.
“The survey provided an important opportunity for the community to respond to questions about their current views on growth and transport preferences and how they might change in the future.
“It’s important that we allocate time for the analysis phase as we want to give proper consideration to the thousands who spent their valuable time providing feedback to us.
“A final tally of all responses will be made available in the engagement report once they have been reviewed.”
Public transport is a state government responsibility. Council has an important planning role to encourage investment by the relevant levels of government.
Any mass transit system will need to be supported by more bus services, improved routes and timetables, and better connections to reduce travel times to areas not directly serviced by mass transit.
Community engagement on the Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Options Analysis has concluded. The next phase will be to review the feedback and analyse the findings received during the community engagement period.
Once all feedback has been collected we will spend the next few months examining and analysing it. This will be followed by a review of the draft Options Analysis Report before presenting the report at a future council meeting.
An agenda and meeting details will be published on council’s website prior to the report being considered.
Subject to council’s agreement, a finalised report will be presented to State Government for consideration and further assessment prior to development of a Detailed Business Case.
Council is planning for the future so the lifestyle and environment we all enjoy can be maintained as we grow.
Around 200,000 more people will move to the Sunshine Coast in the next 20 years. To maintain our lifestyle and amenity, we will need more sustainable transport options. This will enable us to efficiently connect people to jobs, recreation, tourism, services and education.
Based on experience, much of the growth is expected to occur in the coastal corridor between Maroochydore and Caloundra. This is in keeping with state and local planning policies.
A mass transit system – whether it be based on bus or rail – can help manage the effects of growth. It can provide an alternative, sustainable mode of travel that is frequent, reliable, convenient and comfortable. Importantly, it can also reduce our dependence on private car travel.
Mass transit is one of many transport solutions that our region will need in the future. It will be part of a wider integrated transport network connecting local bus, heavy rail and active transport infrastructure.
Mass transit is a smart way to maintain a sustainable future for the Sunshine Coast. It will support jobs, tourism and a stronger economy. It will also create better connections between key destinations, help reduce growth in traffic congestion, promote more vibrant neighbourhoods and support greater housing choice.
Mass transit fast facts
• Several options are being considered for the mass transit solution. • Mass transit can move more people with less vehicles. • Mass transit will support targeted redevelopment opportunities compatible with our existing character. These may be close to key centres or transit stations. • Mass transit will link to major centres and other travel modes. • The Sunshine Coast coastal corridor will grow with or without mass transit based on current trends. • As we grow, adding more cars to the road in this corridor will worsen congestion. • A mass transit system can provide a viable and efficient alternative to private vehicle travel for local trips. • Mass transit will support our $2.7 billion tourism industry. It will enable visitors to efficiently and affordably connect our key centres and our events, accommodation and lifestyle hubs. • The Options Analysis will confirm the problems and opportunities and identify a shortlist of preferred options. • The Detailed Business Case will confirm the best solution for the local area and whether the project proceeds or not. • The delivery of mass transit will require the Queensland Government to fund the majority of the capital and all of the operating costs. • The Australian Government may provide significant capital funding. While only a small proportion of capital could be provided by Council.
Our region is growing. We need to protect our enviable lifestyle as it grows. A high-quality, integrated mass transit system is an essential part of our plan to be Australia’s most sustainable region: healthy, smart, creative by:
• reducing our high reliance on cars • providing an alternative travel option to beat growing road congestion • better connecting our key centres and attractions • providing more inclusive and accessible transport • supporting the 74% of Sunshine Coast trips that are local (under 10km) • being more environmentally friendly and reducing carbon emissions • moving more people with less vehicles • supporting our $2.7 billion tourism industry • limiting the spread of development into our natural areas • supporting job creation close to where people live • enabling more liveable, coastal neighbourhoods • creating more walkable neighbourhoods.
Sunshine Coast Council has continued to build its case for the development of an integrated mass transit system to service the Sunshine Coast’s growing population.
The Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project presents an opportunity to transform the region and deliver a range of economic, land use and transport benefits. It is an essential response to the key transport challenges facing our region as we continue to grow.
The Strategic Business Case has identified four key challenges in relation to the management of the region’s growth: ❙❙ An expanding urban area ❙❙ A changing economic and employment base that needs to keep pace with population growth ❙❙ High levels of car dependence ❙❙ Growing congestion.
On 25 July 2019 Council endorsed the submission to the Queensland Government of the Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Strategic Business Case, representing the completion of the first stage of a government-established review framework through which Queensland and Commonwealth government funding may be accessed.
In addressing Council, Transport Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said, "This has been a journey for this council and if we get this right we can preserve the quality of life in this region long into the future". Read the full media release.
Council has begun work on the next stages of the process including preparation of a Preliminary Business Case, leading to the Detailed Business Case. This comprehensive program of business case work is expected to be completed in 2021 and updates will be posted here to coincide with key milestones.
Funding the business case
In May 2019 the Queensland Government announced it would match council’s investment in the development of the Detailed Business Case for the expansion of the Sunshine Coast’s public transport. This includes costings for light rail, which is currently Sunshine Coast Council’s preferred option.
The announcement marked an important milestone for the project, heralding a sought-after partnership approach to solving transport-related issues for the coast, and at the same time, contributed up to $7.5 million towards the more comprehensive planning required to fulfil the needs of the Detailed Business Case.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said, “Now is the time for us to work together to map out what is needed and when, so these major infrastructure projects have the best chance possible of securing the funding…”. View a copy of the Premier’s media release.
Features of the Strategic Business Case
This important document establishes why a mass transit project, such as light rail, is so important to the coast’s future, focusing on:
The coast’s current high levels of dependence on cars and its contribution to road congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, parking pressures and lost productivity
The economic, environmental and social impacts of urban expansion and the benefits that can be attained through a mass transit system that is supported by urban consolidation
The potential of a mass transit system that easily connects people to employment nodes to play a role in attracting new industries to the region, enhancing employment opportunities and stimulating regional prosperity.
Importantly, the Strategic Business Case maps priorities for the delivery of the proposed mass transit system.
Mass Transit Technologies
Council has previously considered a range of technologies such as light rail and bus rapid transit and will reconsider these technologies and have regard to other current commercially available mass transit technologies in the development of the Preliminary Business Case.
The provision of a mass transit system, such as light rail, is a long-term project that requires years of planning, and funding is primarily a Queensland Government responsibility, often in tandem with the Commonwealth. As a result, it is not possible to forecast when such a system might be delivered. Nevertheless, preservation of a corridor is a priority, to ensure project commencement as soon as possible after funds have been secured.