Mass Transit Solution to Stop Urban Sprawl on Sunshine Coast

As the Sunshine Coast population grows to 600,000, putting more people along along our already populated coastal towns will save us from becoming a ‘concrete jungle’ like the Gold Coast, according to a leading urban designer.

I began working on a region shaping idea with my father in 2006 because I was really concerned with the rate at which our natural urban breaks, farms, vegetation and natural assets were being paved with low density housing and the impact this has had and will have on our environment.

That region shaping idea was how we could use the infrastructure we already had, in towns we already had, to cater for the influx of people that were projected to move to the Coast over the next 20-30 years.

I have seen the impact of population growth first-hand.

When I was born on the Coast in 1980 there were 80,000 people from Noosa to Bribie Island.

We are now hitting 600,000 by 2041.

We need to think about how we manage population growth, where we put people, how they move around the Coast and how they access amenity otherwise we stand to lose our treasured natural beauty to mindless urban sprawl.

This is where mass transit plays a key role.

People say that we don’t want to be the Gold Coast; I wholeheartedly agree.

The Gold Coast is urban sprawl from the beach to the hinterland with skyscrapers right on the beach.

We are different: our population is concentrated within 1-2km from the beach.

We are a linear city with satellite towns in the hinterland.

The proposed route for the mass transit weaves from Maroochydore to Alex to Mooloolaba and then follows the Nicklin Way to Caloundra which is set back 500m from the beach. Maroochydore/Alex and Mooloolaba are already developed so the low density along Nicklin Way is a great opportunity to provide infill development opportunities that is supported with a mass transit system.

Housing people on this mass transit corridor will connect people with the CBD, the hospital, beaches, work, entertainment precincts, dining precincts and schools, reducing the reliance on cars for these types of daily trips.

Density does not mean “skyscrapers” and too often the emotive argument is tall versus sprawl.

I believe the solution for the Coast is to create a distributed density and a diversity of housing and building typologies within a five-minute walk of each mass transit station.

This would consist of mid-rise (5-12 storeys), four storey walk ups, duplexes, triplexes, conversions and granny flats which is essentially what has happened in Alex Heads over the last 40 years.

The diversity in housing types would also help with housing affordability, equity and accessibility.

Mass transit covers several different modes; my personal favourites are wire-free light rail and trackless trams as these modes will reduce the visual clutter in our urban environments, have a high frequency and a high capacity.

Mass transit will be transformative infrastructure for this region allowing us to protect the natural character of our region, create better public spaces, avoid the associated infrastructure costs of urban sprawl, improve public transport for people here today and those coming in the future.

If we don’t look to mass transit and urban infill as a strategy to deal with population growth, we will end up looking like a concrete jungle from the beach to the hinterland with gridlock peak hour traffic jams.

Published by Courier Mail

Mass transit solution to stop urban sprawl on Sunshine Coast: James Birrell | The Courier Mail

James Birrell