RAPID BUS TRANSIT Killing Local Trade And Community Life
For nearly 20 years, Neutral Bay businessman and Chamber of Commerce president Rick Doran has been lobbying and advocating for the interests of residents and traders in the boutique village streets of his local area.
He says the State Government's Intention to “bulldoze” through double decker buses from the Northern Beaches, creating 24- hour, seven-day-a-week clearways along Military Road, will destroy the unique cultural and shopping precinct, creating an ugly and desolate freeway.
North Shore traders, including Mr Doran and local councils, have been fighting against a government Rapid Bus Transit system for nearly a decade, describing it as "a desperate Band-Aid solution to appease politicians and voters on the Northern Peninsula at the expense of those living over the Spit Bridge*. In the recent NSW State Budget, Premier Mike Baird announced he will pump at least $210 million into Progressing the bus transit system from the beaches to the city.
This means double decker buses will leave the peninsula en route to the city every five minutes in rush hour, with a huge bus transit station planned for the old Greater Union cinema in Mosman and another stop at Neutral Bay.
"In the past five years we have lost about 200 car spaces for visitors and shoppers in the Neutral Bay area, Mr Doran tells North Shore Living angrily.
"The 24-hour clearways will punish us. Punish Peter to pay Paul on the Northern Beaches. It's a totally shortsighted solution. It's all pain for us with no gain."
Both Mosman and North Sydney councils share the view that the bus transit solution will not adequately address the transport issues.
“These buses and resulting 24-hour clearways will be a disaster for North Sydney and will ultimately kill off our small businesses In the area,” Nonh Sydney Mayor JIIly Gibson tells North Shore Living.
“Parking Is already a problem and will be even worse when transit buses are lining the streets and whizzing along the road. It will be incredibly dangerous for pedestrians. Shopkeepers will lose out and the village will be destroyed.” Fortner Mosman deputy mayor and councillor Roy Bendell says the bus transit proposal has always been a Band-Aid measure, and will further clog up Military Road and Spit Junction.
“Premier Mike Baird is putting Mosman and North Sydney on the chopping block of political expediency,” he says. “The gridlock will not be addressed. In fact, this so-called solution will be deliberately devaluing our property and businesses in order to save two or three minutes for the planning minister Rob Stokes and Premier Baird's electorate of Manly.”
They say the only viable solution is a tunnel bypassing residential and shopping areas under Middle Harbour and joining Warringah Freeway.
Premier Baird announced research work and funding pledge of $ 17 million into a Middle Harbour tunnel in the 2016 state budget. This involves drilling bore holes and sampling soil, but local councils and the NRMA say work must be accelerated.
"This is another long-term proposal, and in the meantime we will have the implementation of the Rapid Bus Transit system and 24-hour clearway which will destroy the lower North Shore," Cr Bendall claims.
“The transit system is set to cost up to $600 million. All we are seeing is our residents getting 'screwed' for the sake of peninsula commuters.”
Mr Baird maintains the buses will reduce gridlock, but the North Shore councils again reject his proposition.
Mr Doran says he's spoken to North Shore MP jillian Skinner, who supports local traders, and has stated her objections to the 24-hour bus clearways, saying anything other than a tunnel is a "stopgap".
Owner-operator of Don Adan cafes and long-standing North Shore resident, Gerard Barrios, is also worried about businesses closing and trade decreasing, but it's the loss of the sense of community that concerns him most.
"We should be learning from experiences in other areas like Parramatta Road," he says. "The areas become empty corridors and lose village atmosphere, and shoppers will go elsewhere. I'm not against buses but this is not proper planning.
"There is a human side to all of this which has not been taken into consideration by Mr Baird. It's not just about buses and transport."