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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

‘Business as usual’ and we’ll drown in cars and people

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Cartoon of the week – 22 May, 2024

The letters deadline for The Echo is noon Friday. Letters longer than 200 words may be cut. The publication of letters is at the discretion of the letters editor.

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Originally from NZ, Ino Pio is proud to have called the Northern Rivers home for the last decade. When visiting Byron Bay or Ballina you will be sure to see him playing around town.

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In this term, Council has adopted a revised Bike Plan and first-ever Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan (PAMP). Masterplans are prioritising people over cars in town and village centres. These changes will help improve amenity, reduce demand for parking and encourage sustainable transport choices, but will they be enough to ensure that our communities are not overwhelmed by an inevitable growth in traffic volumes?

Under business-as-usual conditions, traffic growth is inevitable. Our biggest challenge is most traffic originates from outside the Shire, particularly in the coastal corridor north to the border. Two features of our local and regional transport networks highlight the difficulty in meeting the challenge.

Firstly, within the corridor there is no alternative infrastructure to the Pacific Motorway and poor public transport. Car dependence will continue to be the result.

Secondly, there is an over reliance on the motorway as the sole connector for all regional and local movement between north and south, hinterland and coast. This concentrates traffic at limited intersections. At the Ewingsdale interchange, the problem is compounded as it also intersects with our east- west corridor to Lismore, and is an important jobs and services connector in the daily lives of residents.

Expensive ‘fixes’ of motorway infrastructure, such as the $78million proposal to shift cars off the M1 onto elevated ramps and local roads, entrench rather than reduce car dependence and provide no alternatives to car travel. This approach is temporary at best with ever-larger sums of money required for solutions that perpetuate dependence. Business as usual also draws scarce funds away from local roads and other community priorities. Council’s current infrastructure backlog stands at $78million for roads and community facilities, in large part owing to the levels of visitation.

A sustainable long-term strategy is to diversify transport links in the coastal corridor. We need Council and community leadership to articulate a local and regional need to be planning for a rail connection to Queensland, noting that over the border, the M1 and local road networks are already supported by a rail link. More immediately we need strong advocacy and action for a substantial improvement in public transport connectivity.

Activating the rail corridor locally for multi-use is an opportunity to expand public transport and active movement that bypasses the M1 and diversifies movement choices in the coastal corridor. With collective action from Council and the business community this ‘Way to the Bay’ can be developed into an experience that visitors choose. Importantly this means a broader range of transport needs can be met, as well as making a real difference to ensuring our town centres remain safe, accessible and pleasant places to visit.

‘Moving Byron’ is a vision for a sustainable transport vision from our community’s perspective that anticipates long-term challenges to guide transport investment choices that we make today. By comparison to business as usual, the Multi-use Rail Corridor Study undertaken by Council estimated that the Mullumbimby to Byron Bay section could be reinstated for lightweight shuttles, walking and cycling for $12.3million (page 28, Final Report). This would be a first step circuit breaker investment that brings many near-term benefits for the community, as well as tackling induced car dependence.

The Moving Byron strategy contains actions on public transport development, adapting planning controls that support sustainable movement choices in future development and safe access for all road users among a range of issues important to the community. Together these actions support Council’s ability to undertake its most important function; financially sustainable maintenance of the road network.

The draft Strategy (Report 13.22) has been adopted by Council and will shortly go on exhibition. It can be viewed at https://byron.infocouncil.biz/Open/2021/11/OC_25112021_AGN_1273_WEB.htm.

Cr Basil Cameron, is Chair of Council’s Transport and Infrastructure Advisory Committee (TIAC).


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Byron Council has recently adopted a revised commuter Bike Plan and its first-ever Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan (PAMP). The aim of the Masterplan is to prioritise pedestrian and bicycle traffic over vehicle traffic in town and in village centres. It will do that Inside these now congested areas the changes will help to improve the CBD amenity, but it increase demand for car parking outside the designated pedestrian zone. Australians in their way of life are psychologically welded and bolted to the use of the car in transport and so are state and federal governments. Our prime minister Scott Morrison drove around the Bathurst car race track at the weekend to the cheer of many Australians. The Byron Council changes will not encourage the masses to ride bikes as from each and every home it is dangerous for a bike rider to travel on the roads to get to a safe place in town. Deaths from bikes is increasing on the road.

  2. Basil’s train dream goes on.
    And on.
    And on.

    Multi use between the end of the Elements train at Bayshore Drive and Mullumbimby on the old rail corridor, is impossible. Period.
    About half of that route passes over flood plains.
    Drainage is a huge factor, even for a single formation.
    It’s finally time to get real.
    Go check it out for yourself.
    Don’t rely on the Arcadis report which was a quarter million dollar ratepayers cost for placation only.
    A vast waste of our money to please a couple of politicians.

  3. Why are we still waiting for this multi-modal idea to move forward? It must be 6 years now since Simon Richardson came up with the idea. It is my understanding that there is no funding forthcoming and unlikely to be in the near future.
    3 out of 4 councils have now come onboard with the rail trail and have received government funding. This is an amazing opportunity for locals and visitors to explore our region in a completely sustainable way (isn’t that what we are about?). With the E-bike revolution currently happening, the corridor can even be used for commuting, not just for recreation. Lets hope Byron comes onboard soon so we can have a world class rail trail.

  4. There are not even any train services in many parts of Sydney, such as the northern beaches, which are much more heavily populated than the Byron shire so it is truly a pipedream to think that any State government will fund the reintroduction of local rail services. Basil’s reference to rail services on the Gold Coast is strange given that there is, fortunately, no valid comparison with Byron shire when you compare population densities. Let’s use the rail corridors for bike and walking tracks.

  5. All that Tim said +
    Mullum to the Solar train, then wait up to an hour for the Solar train or you have to run a duplicate line into Byron.
    Solar train will not be extended – already losing money and ticket prices are now $5 each way (started at $3).
    It solves none of the main issues raised such as reliance on the Motorway and “our biggest challenge is most traffic originates from outside the Shire, particularly in the coastal corridor north to the border.”
    Ask for a modern train line along the motorway if you want to shoot for the stars or a decent bus service as a first step.

  6. The way our council works, there’ll be rail trail up to our shire from both sides within a few years. Tweed shire reckons they’ll have theirs done to Crabbes Creek by the end of next year. Lismore maybe by the year after. Good ol’ Byron? I’ll be lucky to see it in my lifetime…

  7. Keep the Vision alive Basil. With strong representation from the Regions to NSW Government we could advocate for a return of trains. TOOT had a vision of Rail Trails for Bikes and Trains. It need not be an either or situation. It is about addressing the Reality Principle. We live in a society where young people need access to Colleges and Universities, mothers with children need to travel, elders and disabled should be treated as ‘able-bodied’ persons, they have paid taxes and are deserving of appropriate travel utilities.

    Nor does this Reality Principle discriminate against the able-bodied who could still ride on tracks nearby. We need to expose the lacks and suffering that result from a Political system that favors ‘Pork Barrelling” favors to Lobbyists, Cronies, Developers and so on. Rather than shooting the messenger lets advocate for transport that is inclusive of all..trains..bikes..walking tracks etc. An inclusive democratic mobile society. Think of all the money that has been wasted on ICAC because “Dazza and Gladys’ (aided by Eros) lost the Reality Principle and had fun with Tax payers money! We could have repaired train lines. Return of the Reality Principle please folks. Bless you Basil.

  8. If wishes were horses, Jo. But it aint going to happen. History is against it. No govt is going to shell out the massive amount of money it would take to bring back the train in view of what’s going to happen in the next few years. In the US and Europe, cheap, on demand, self driving taxis will come to your door and take you any where you want to go. Of course it will take longer to take off here because, well, it’s Australia, but it will happen, and sooner than you might think. I’m personally looking forward to being able to ride my electric bike to Bangalow or Mullum or even Murwillumbah without having to share the roads with cars. In my neck of the woods it’s only a matter of time before there’s a deadly bicycle accident along very busy Broken Head Road into Byron, all because the council in their wisdom decided not to extend the tiny rail trail in town to Old Bangalow Road. Many kids travelling to schools still use the footpath instead of the marked road. it’s just not safe.

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