Transport is now the leading source of carbon emissions. Add to that the shortcomings of our local car dominated network and the need for change is clear. Active and alternative options must no longer be an afterthought. They must be at the centre of transport planning for our community.
Active and alternative transport options must be accessible and connected for the greatest success. Connectedness or integration means people can conveniently move between footpath, cycleway, bus, and train.
Some renewal of town centres will be necessary to achieve this, a process that is already underway.
Pedestrian-friendly town centres
The community’s desire for pedestrian-friendly town centres has been embedded into the Byron, Mullumbimby, and Bangalow masterplans. Movement and access studies will guide street design and connectivity for each town.
In Byron, a series of east–west pedestrian corridors are planned.
In Mullumbimby a green corridor along Stuart Street is proposed.
The Bangalow Village Plan prioritises walking and cycling along the rail corridor to provide a link through the town to the sportsfield.
Dedicated parking spaces have been made available for a car-share trial in Byron to help reduce overall vehicle numbers.
Planning for access and connectivity beyond the town centres is also well advanced.
New shirewide bike and pedestrian access and mobility plans have been developed following a high level of resident participation in community workshops.
A Shirewide transport strategy is being developed with connectivity, active options, and reducing carbon emissions as central goals. An initiative of TIAC, the strategy sets out a roadmap for a more connected and sustainable transport network. Think electric-car charging points, public transport development, and an overarching guide for delivery of the masterplans, bike, pedestrian, and other transport policies.
These plans play a critical role in funding as they support grant applications that allow for restricted money such as developer contributions to be pooled with grants.
For example, $30,000 of contributions has been successfully parlayed with grant funding into a $530,000 budget for work on the ‘missing link’ of the Byron–Suffolk Park cycleway in 2019/20.
Another missing link previously described as the ‘backbone of an integrated transport network’ is of course the rail corridor.
It remains the best option for public transport because it more directly links the centres of our towns. The potential to link otherwise isolated bus services and active corridors by using the rail corridor not only provides many more travel options for people, but it also helps to make new services viable through increased patronage.
Council’s study into the multi-use activation of the rail corridor within Byron Shire will be presented to the Council meeting at the end of June. And the news is encouraging.
The engineering assessment concludes that the line is in ‘surprisingly’ good condition including key components such as the rails, formation, ballast, and drainage.
The study looks at six possible options for the corridor. Based on an economic assessment, the best performing option is for multi-use walking, cycling, and a hi-rail shuttle.
Hi rail is a system using light rail motors that can run on rail and road providing flexibility and ability to connect areas beyond the rail corridor. The rail motors can be linked in sets of two to four and each can be quickly delinked along the way to pick up, and connect with other transport links.
A social assessment is included with a brief to stand in our community and identify the benefits through our eyes.
In particular the benefits of better tourism management, and local benefits not considered by earlier studies, were shown to be significant. Combining local commuter and tourist visitor needs means the study is better able to support funding for tourism infrastructure.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank the many residents, TIAC community representatives, tourism industry representatives, and community groups who have helped shaped Council’s transport planning in recent months. This body of work demonstrates that Council and community are committed to a cleaner, better connected, and sustainable transport future.
Cr Basil Cameron is chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Advisory Committee (TIAC).