Yesterday afternoon I attended a thought-provoking forum organised by the Brisbane West Lions Club about the transport priorities and challenges for the Moggill-Bellbowrie area, which is on the city’s south-western outskirts (but on the northern banks of the river). (Thanks to Lions Brisbane West
for inviting me along!)
We heard presentations from demography and transport planning specialists, as well as plenty of comments from local residents.
From the presentations we heard, the main challenge for Moggill and Bellbowrie, and the ultimate cause of traffic congestion along Moggill Road, is of course the very high levels of car-dependence in Brisbane's outer-western communities.
The Moggill-Bellbowrie precinct has comparatively low population densities and much lower rates of population growth than many other parts of South-East Queensland, yet there are still growing local concerns about how long people are spending stuck in traffic.
According to census data, in the Moggill/Bellbowrie precinct, only 10% to 15% of people are driving daily all the way into the CBD, but lots of people are also travelling to other areas for work, and 50% to 70% of work-related trips are currently made in single-occupant motor vehicles.
There are only a few major roads in and out of this bend of the river, and so if the vast majority of residents are driving for transport, there’s never going to be enough road capacity to carry all the cars.
It seems obvious to me that a key priority needs to be improving public transport coverage, frequency and reliability for the outer-western suburbs so people who are travelling to other parts of Brisbane have viable alternatives to driving.
But as one presenter rightly identified, we also need to look at how we can reduce the number of short trips that are made by car.
This means making it safer and easier for kids to walk and ride to school (and other destinations like after-school sport) rather than parents having to drive them.
It also means focussing on how we can support more shops and services to get established in the local area, so people have groceries, medical services, a high school and perhaps even coworking spaces within walking or riding distance of where they live.
The blunt reality is that Moggill is almost 25 kilometres from the CBD, with several higher density population centres and trip generators in between. So even if we do improve public transport alternatives, it’s always going to take a fair while to get from the outer-western suburbs to other parts of Brisbane.
I think some politicians out that way have done their community a disservice by creating unrealistic expectations about what kinds of solutions will work, and what changes are likely to happen. We know that widening roads to carry more cars doesn’t fix congestion – it just encourages more people to drive and funnels more cars into existing bottlenecks.
We also know that ‘solutions’ like spending half a billion dollars on major new car bridges or arterial roads are unlikely to happen, because the populations involved are relatively small.
All up, the population of the Moggill-Bellbowrie bend of the river is less than 11 000. That’s less than 1% of the city of Brisbane’s 1.3 million population. So any politician who suggests that hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on a project that only benefits the local Moggill area is misleading the people they represent. The only major projects that are likely to attract any significant public funding are those that have an obvious wider benefit in terms of improving connectivity for nearby high-growth areas such as the Ripley Valley south of Ipswich.
Ultimately, the transport challenges facing this part of Pullenvale Ward are very similar to those in many parts of South-East Queensland. The city has permitted the establishment of dormitory suburbs – neighbourhoods that are almost entirely residential housing – which are several kilometres (and in some cases, 20 or 30 kilometres) from where people need to get to for work and other activities on a regular basis.
For these existing suburban residential areas, improving public and active transport options is definitely the key. But we also need to reimagine suburban neighbourhoods as mixed-use precincts, where there are more shops and small businesses within residential areas.
What can we do to make it easier for more people to run home businesses? Or to convert garages and spare rooms into coworking spaces? Email me at [email protected]
if you have suggestions!
(If you're interested in transport challenges for the outer-western suburbs, you can also read this earlier Facebook post
from the last time I attended a transport forum in Moggill in November 2022)