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PUBLIC transport use in the northern suburbs has defied national and international trends and fallen in the past five years, due mainly to the unreliability of the rail system, civic leaders say.
While the Chatswood to Epping train link has been a success, attracting at least 15,000 passengers a day in the first six months of operation, car ownership north of the harbour is up.
The vice-president of the Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Ian Longbottom, last night told a public meeting at Macquarie University, held as part of the Independent Public Inquiry into Transport, that 82 per cent of households in the region had to own a car, while 32 per cent owned at least two vehicles.
''There are around 160,000 cars in the … region today,'' Cr Longbottom said. ''Based on additional household targets there will be around 250,000 … by 2030. Public transport use is declining in our area, with only 30 per cent of workers travelling by public transport with around 70 per cent travelling by car.''
The figures he presented last night contrasted sharply with the surge in public transport use in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, where patronage is up between 30 and 40 per cent in the past decade, and in the United States, where it is at 50-year highs, with Americans taking 10.3 billion trips in 2007.
Cr Longbottom also said travel times across northern Sydney were lengthening, with commuters spending an average 81 minutes travelling each week day.
He feared that increasing urban consolidation - an issue that has inflamed local passions and drove hundreds on protesters on to the streets on Sunday - would make the transport crisis worse. The Rees Government's metropolitan strategy has set growth targets of 56,000 new households, or about 130,000 extra residents over the next 25 years.
''In effect, we expect the population of the northern region to grow by nearly 25 per cent from its existing half million,'' Cr Longbottom said, adding that the strategy also proposed 72,000 new jobs in the region on top of the current workforce of 250,000.
''These are serious numbers with serious consequences - and remember - our population density is already twice the Sydney average before we add in these new targets.''
The councils are proposing a north-west rail or metro link; completion of the City Rail link between Epping and Parramatta; a bus or light rail link from Chatswood to the northern beaches; transport strategies for the Military Road and Spit corridor, Victoria Road, Pennant Hills Road and the Pacific Highway; and a second harbour rail crossing and fast north shore line.
Sydney Morning Herald
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