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Gold Coast residents are being warned that "it's not possible" to maintain the regions current dependence on cars, with congestion set to double in the next decade.
A COVID-induced migration boom has fuelled an already surging population on the Gold Coast, creating problems in the process.
This week Mayor Tom Tate said the Gold Coast's population could reach one million by 2036 — five years earlier than expected.
In response, council has begun development of a new transport strategy that will set the framework for how its residents get from point A to point B.
But there is a snag: the city's dependence on cars.
According to council's current public transport strategy, each new resident adds 3.1 car trips per day to the total travel and "if current levels of car dependence continue, this population growth could lead to a doubling of car trips on our road network by 2031".
Moreover, each car only carries an average of 1.1 person during peak hours.
The use of public transport between 2011 and 2016 was between 3.1 and 4.7 per cent, with a goal of reaching 12 per cent by 2031.
Behaviour needs to changeAccording to Professor Matthew Burke from Griffith University's transport research group, cars "have been built into the system" but that "it's not possible to maintain [the] current emphasis on private car use".
The M1 forms a crucial transport link between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)"Even just getting to the beach; the notion we'll do that as a single person in a private car as we have more and more people trying to get to those same places — we just can't do that," he said.
"We're going to have to start to change behaviour."
Professor Burke said the Gold Coast is "no longer a teenage city", with a growing population of about 640,000 making congestion "pretty serious".
"You can just feel it, you know that congestion if you're coming from the north for instance on the motorway," he said.
The light rail is planned to be extended south to the Coolangatta airport.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)He said the light rail as an alternative mode has been "the most spectacularly boring success story in Australian public transport".
"The patronage hasn't been ballistic, but it's been very solid," he said.
"The land value uplift was spectacular around it; the kind of redevelopment opportunities that have been generated have been fantastic."
The east-west problemThe council's public transport strategy notes a focus on the coastal corridor and that "more cross-town services" are needed to sustain growth in the outer suburbs.
"Some suburbs are highly car dependent as a result of their location ... in these areas it can be difficult to provide direct and frequent public transport services in a cost-effective manner," the strategy reads.
Stark criticism of the city's 62 bus routes has been evident on ABC Gold Coast's Facebook.
Kei in Oxenford said "public transport just aren't well connected to outer suburbs".
"I have a bus stop [within a] 10min walk but bus frequency is [so] bad that I never consider catching one."
Shannon said public transport along the Gold Coast Highway has been "pretty good" but "if you want to go anywhere else on the Gold Coast don't even bother with the bus it'll take too long".
Gold Coast City Council has committed $11 million to subsidise new bus routes in the north while a $600,000 study will investigate connecting more public transport links from the light rail service to the western suburbs.
Housing estates have proliferated across the northern Gold Coast with little public transport.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)Professor Burke said the east-west links are "not great" but improving.
"We are at a key pivot point," he said.
"It's going to take decades to build a good alternative to the car for public transport, particularly on those east-west links."
'Infrequent, indirect, unknown'Wayne Purcell was formally an environmental officer at the Department of Main Roads and Transport but now runs an active Facebook group critiquing Gold Coast development issues.
He said bus routes are "infrequent", "indirect" and "unknown".
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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