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Social Market Solutions: Integrated transport through sustainable planning initiatives

Denis Bright invites discussion on the possibilities of Transport Oriented Development (TODs) for both metropolitan and regional areas as alternatives to urban sprawl within tighter sustainable planning models.

All states and territories are committed to sustainable planning goals for major cities. Transport Oriented Developments (TODs) are buzz words in offering alternatives to urban sprawl and to the consequences of unaffordable housing prices and rentals.

Cut-backs in federal funding for public transport have not assisted in these endeavours despite a grand rhetorical commitment from Prime Minister Turnbull. This rhetoric is cheered on by cabinet representatives with infrastructure and regional development responsibilities.

The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is currently the Hon Darren Chester (Gippsland) who is supported by the Hon Paul Fletcher (Bradfield) in commitment to Urban Infrastructure.

Senator Fiona Nash (NSW) handles Regional Development issues as well as commitment to local government and territories.

Although Senator Nash is a high political profile and National Party leader, the federal LNP has little empathy for the planning, housing and transport needs of regional centres like Toowoomba which have been represented by federal conservative parties since 1901.

A return fare from Brisbane Airport to Toowoomba is about $80 on a senior’s card with the only commercial bus provider. Minimal concessions are offered to students and seniors.

At a time when air fares themselves are becoming more affordable, it would be more appropriate for the federal LNP to concentrate on new public transport links to adjacent regional cities like Toowoomba and major regional airports such as Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.

Expanded transit links to Coolangatta Airport would serve a vast catchment area from outer suburbs of Southern Brisbane through the entire Gold Coast and on to the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Coolangatta Airport could be Brisbane’s second gateway with onsite rail links to its potential catchment areas.

Despite attempts at integrated public transport initiatives, state and territory governments simply do not have the conventional funding mechanisms to cover the billions required in capital works for such projects.

The federal LNP sees this frustration as a ticket to more motorways for the future and more expensive commercial car-parks.

But alternative social market models for sustainable funding do exist.

In Singapore, funds are also injected into the national budget from profits generated by sovereign wealth funds such as the Development Bank of Singapore, Temasek Holdings and GIC Private Ltd.

For this island nation with an extraordinary urban population density, high levels of planning are an absolute necessity. Australia’s major urban population densities have increased enough to justify similar initiatives.

While the federal LNP in Australia always reaches towards more road tollway’s as its preferred transport solution, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) is perfecting the art of planned development within its social market structures.


Within the support of Infrastructure and Community Development Funds (Investment Funds) at state and territory levels, opportunities exist through sustainable planning legislation to foster higher density TODs in inner metropolitan suburbs and regional cities.

Such investment funds would invite capital from local and overseas investors on a similar basis to existing superannuation funds to take advantage of the stability of both financial markets and the Australian dollar.

In the short-term, existing public transport networks can do more to improve cost recovery levels.

Opportunities exist to turn this web site into an online booking agency for rail, bus and accommodation services which would collect bookings fees for use of these services. All listed long distance rail and commercial road services are heavily subsidized by the state government and the nucleus of this integrated booking service is available.

An integrated transport web site for bookings could generate income from booking fees.

Tourism Queensland and its equivalents in other states and territories have the capacity to generate revenue from booking services which cover accommodation, access to commercial travel insurance and all long distance plane, bus and train services through collection of online fees.

In metropolitan areas and regional cities, under-utilized land could be transformed by Investment Funds at state and territory levels.

In the longer-term, TODs can provide an affordable alternative to urban sprawl with its appalling social and environmental consequences.

With the support of a progressive Investment Fund select localities near inner city rail and bus stations could become vibrant housing and commercial precincts. Left to market forces alone, projects like high rise residential near Taringa Station have been stalled by opposition from adjacent communities.

Stalled private sector development option at Taringa Station in Brisbane’s Inner West

Stalled private sector development option at Taringa Station in Brisbane’s Inner West

In regional cities and mining towns, the familiar market delivery of suburban styles houses needs to be blended with a range of more concentrated housing models with access to public transport and community services. Support from an Infrastructure and Community Development Fund might be necessary to support this change in housing styles that are more appropriate for this regional campus with 4,000 students in Toowoomba plus additional campuses at Ipswich and on the Fraser Coast.

More regional planning initiatives from progressive Investment Funds would multiply the economic and social impact of this regional campus on a thriving regional city.

Concessional transport for students choosing to live with their families in adjacent regional towns would also be appropriate.

Even in US regional cities like Flagstaff (Arizona) with a similar population to Toowoomba, initiatives have been taken to integrate housing and transport services for a thriving university city.

With its proximity to Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Toowoomba will ultimately be transformed into a major regional urban hub. The continued diversification of the economy of the Toowoomba Region and the potential benefits of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) are not going to be achieved solely through reliance on market forces.

The version of capitalism as promoted by the Turnbull Government is certainly playing from an old repertoire. The three federal ministers in charge of maintaining the status quo are playing in unison with The Old Market Overture.


denis-bright Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing pragmatic public policies for a contemporary social market that is highly compatible with current globalization trends.


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  1. diannaart

    Cut-backs in federal funding for public transport have not assisted in these endeavours despite a grand rhetorical commitment from Prime Minister Turnbull.

    Well this is, at least, an improvement on the Minister for Roads, AKA, Tony Abbott and his scurrilous manipulation of state infrastructure for example withholding funding for Victoria when Labor canned the east/west link in favour of repairing neglected train services, starting with removal of level crossings.

    We used to finance roads and bridges with lotteries, even finished off payment with short term tolls (Sydney Harbour Bridge, Melbourne’s West Gate) – of course that’s not very friendly to big business.

  2. Catherine

    This is a challenge for the old market
    model that makes housing unaffordable in major cities and mining towns. Alternatives are needed and our leaders need to listen and ignore the development lobbies

  3. paulwalter

    Catherine and diannart in particular, congrats on these comments. where the devil is in the detail and a little complexity can challenge a reader.

    It is not an obvious subject, a sort of orphan against more direct stuff like politicians caught out with fingers in the till, yet throws up an obvious trace back to the cultural battle between leftism and neo Keynesianism and neo liberalist/hard capitalist, extractive self first ideology where the consequences of defeat will be felt hard by future generations.

  4. Catherine

    Agreed Paul: Politics has drifted away from big commitments to our hopes.. Australians largely pay the high rents without complaining and later celebrate a $500 000 mortgage after years of saving for a deposit.

  5. Pat

    It is currently cheaper for me to drive and park than catch the bus and more time efficient. This issue definitely needs to be addressed not only due to costs but also the impact on our environment.

  6. Theresa

    Well located TOD development in conjunction with the delivery of quality infrastructure services through an infrastructure fund system are a great solution to housing shortage / costs with flow on benefits to evironment and other issues such as traffic congestion in our major cities.

  7. Outer Suburban

    I agree with Pat. Public transport and urban sprawl do not mix well. Let’s have more TODs to bring us back together where we belong. The cost recovery of Brisbane’s Translink is less than 25%.

  8. Lalnama

    Good to keep the conversation going about public transport
    We need cheap efficient public transport, at pres not it is still frequently cheaper to drive and more time efficient then catching public transport. Into realise it is partly due to our small population

  9. Catherine

    Agreed Lalnama: There are at least 2.5-3 million people in S E Queensland but the population is very dispersed due to weak planning laws. Places like the Brisbane to Toowoomba Corridor beyond Rosewood Electric Train Station have no affordable concessional transport. Students going from the Lockyer Valley to USQ or campuses in Ipswich must use private cars. The years go by and nothing is done to fix this problem.

  10. Paul

    Thanks Denis,

    Transport orientated development is must to tackle increasing sprawl and rising housing costs. The transport must be reliable and high tech for the developments to be valuable and worthwhile.

  11. More Affordable Sydney

    Sydney as largest city deserves more TODs as Denis’ article suggests.

    Mike Baird is over-committed to cutting back on rail transport initiatives beyond the Badgery’s Creek Link which will attract federal funding under Malcolm Turnbull’s patronage.

    Great opportunities are being overlooked for short-term political gain in NSW.

    “The heavy rail line into Newcastle will start to be removed from next year, after the government won support for legislation allowing the overhaul in the NSW Parliament on Wednesday night.” SMH 15 October 2015

    TODs opened up on a template for redevelopment of public and industrial land through an NSW Infrastructure Fund would enable private developers to make use of these spaces for affordable housing, shops, TAFE colleges and community centres for the arts and sports.

    Premier Baird has no such plans for an affordable future for the Macro Sydney Region. The current property boom is the rich-man’s alternative.

    Central Park Redevelopment shows what can be done in urban renewal near transport nodes: http://www.centralparksydney.com/#. The web site is worth a visit!

  12. Maria

    Good public transport is at the heart of every modern developed city in the world. South East Qld is improving, but needs more investment to make it more affordable and connected.

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