Last week we received a briefing from council officers about the three new green bridges proposed for the Gabba Ward. They were able to give us a lot more detail about the Kangaroo Point-to-CBD footbridge, which is much further advanced than the other two in terms of planning.
From the information we were provided, it seems like the proposed footbridges from West End to Toowoong and West End to St Lucia have barely gotten any further than the drawing board.
Here’s what we know so far. I’ll add more detail to this page as more information becomes available and in response to other questions we receive from residents.
The LNP have estimated a total projected budget of $825 million for all five bridges (keeping in mind that the bike bridge over Breakfast Creek will be very cheap, and the Bellbowrie bus bridge will cost a lot more than the other bridges). The LNP have allocated $550 million in council’s own budget forward estimates, which they say will cover approximately 2/3 of the cost of delivering these bridges. They’re hoping to get funding from State and Federal Governments to cover the other 1/3 of the cost.
I’ve listed some of the main details about the Kangaroo Point bridge first, followed by the other two inner-city bridges. There’s a lot more info about the KP bridge (including a report on the key findings from the business case) at this link. I’ve included my own commentary and advice to residents in italics.
Kangaroo Point to CBD Green Bridge
How much will it cost and how long will it take?
Estimated total budget is $190 million. Once detailed designs, consultation, government approvals and contract tenders are all finalised, the actual construction process would be expected to take 18 to 24 months.
Where will it land (and why)?
BCC is proposing to connect the bridge from near the Alice St-Edward St roundabout, to the end of Scott St at Kangaroo Point
The riverbank near the intersection of Alice St and Edward St is quite low, which makes this bridge more challenging because you have to make it high enough for boats to pass underneath safely (they are aiming for a similar height to other bridges like Goodwill and Captain Chook). One of the main reasons Scott St is preferred over Thornton St is that the slope of the bridge would be more gradual, whereas if you go from Alice to Thornton, it will end up a lot steeper. The key findings report has a bit more detail about alignment options.
Apparently a lot of different options and factors have been considered in terms of CBD-side landing points. The Alice-Edward location probably works out a lot cheaper than negotiating with private landowners further to the north along the CBD riverfront. It also delivers a better connection to the Botanic Gardens.
It seems like council is now leaning pretty heavily towards landing the bridge at Scott St, and will only reconsider this location if there’s really really strong opposition for some reason during the consultation and the public calls for it to land at Thornton St instead. I see no reason not to trust the council planners and independent consultants who’ve concluded that on balance, Scott St makes the better landing point.
What about the Story Bridge Underpass and Connections to the Bridge?
The current Story Bridge pedestrian underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St is not wheelchair accessible and needs a significant (and expensive) upgrade to remove the steps and make it more useable for wheelchairs, prams and bikes. If the bridge lands at Scott St, BCC will be weighing up the pros and cons of upgrading the Thornton St underpass, or creating a new wheelchair accessible underpass from Main St to Deakin St (north of Darragh St).
An underpass connection is being treated as an essential element of the bridge project itself, but feedback from residents about how best to do it will probably have some influence over council decision-making.
I think it is particularly important for residents to give really strong feedback that at the same time as the footbridge is built and the underpass is improved, council also completes the missing sections of Riverwalk on the eastern side of Kangaroo Point.
A key benefit of this footbridge is connecting active transport commuters from the eastern suburbs through Kangaroo Point and directly into the CBD. Completing the riverwalk so that high volumes of bikes don’t have to mix with cars along Thorn St and Lambert St is a crucial part of this.
What’s happening to the Thornton St Ferry Terminal?
Council officers have said that changes to the ferry network or the Thornton St ferry terminal are out of scope for the bridge project. However it’s possible that the Thornton St terminal might have to close down temporarily during part of the construction period.
When designing the bridge and evaluating design options, the project team has been proceeding on the assumption that a ferry terminal will be retained at Thornton St. It is of course possible that down the track, after the bridge is completed, council’s transport planners might look at ferry usage data and conclude that the stop is no longer needed or should be relocated
Will the bridge carry buses too, or just pedestrians and bikes?
It’s a definite no to buses on the Kangaroo Point to CBD green bridge. If you look at a map of where the bridge is proposed and how that might link to existing major road corridors, you’ll probably see why.
Will we lose trees and public green space?
Yes, quite possibly. Council will want to minimise the landing footprints of the bridge, and footbridges don’t have to take up anywhere near as much space on land as bus or car bridges. But there will still be some impacts on public parkland.
I think it’s really important for residents to provide strong feedback to council that you don’t want to lose green space as a result of this project. It’s possible for council to allocate a small proportion of the project budget towards buying more land elsewhere in Kangaroo Point to create a new public park that offsets the loss of trees and green space caused by the bridge.
This bridge project represents an amazing opportunity to get a new public park within the Kangaroo Point peninsula, which will help cater for our rapidly growing population, but it’s important for residents to raise this need really strongly as often as possible
West End to Toowong and St Lucia Footbridges
How much will they cost and how long will they take?
Council says they haven’t yet conducted detailed costings for these two bridges. They are at such an early stage in planning these bridges, that unless there’s a big shift in political priorities and they allocate more resources to delivering these bridges faster, they probably won’t start construction for at least 5 years, and won’t be finished until 2027 at the earliest.
If you extrapolate from the fact that out of a total $825 million estimate, they’re anticipating:
- $190 million for the Kangaroo Point bridge, which is a longer and more technically complex project
- maybe $20-$40 million for the Breakfast Creek bike link
- and upwards of $280 million for the Bellbowrie to Moggill green bridge
that probably means around $280-$300 million for the two West End bridges (so roughly $150 million each). St Lucia to West End will probably be slightly cheaper than other footbridges as it’s a shorter stretch of river to cross.
Where will they land?
Council’s consultation documents show notional landings for the bridges from Archer St, Toowong to near Forbes St, West End, and from Boundary St, West End to Keith St, St Lucia. The officers have said repeatedly that these are just general indicative landing points rather than precise locations. It sounds like BCC hasn’t settled on exact landing points for these bridges yet, so there’s definitely time to advocate for different locations.
A couple of residents have asked whether the Toowong Bridge would be better off landing on the former ABC site rather than going through or over residential properties on Archer St. I’ll be asking more information about this, but from what I’ve learned so far, it sounds like the benefit of landing it slightly to the south of the ABC site is that it can connect more directly to the Toowong train station and shopping centre via the pedestrian link next to 29 Archer St. I will of course continue to advocate for the former ABC site to be brought back into public ownership for use as parkland and community facilities.
There are a lot of issues that have to be worked through in evaluating the exact locations of both proposed footbridges, in terms of avoiding local heritage sites like the Cranbrook Place Aboriginal Sorry Site at Orleigh Park, minimising the loss of established trees, and ensuring optimal active transport connections to existing bikeways and pedestrian corridors.
As with the Kangaroo Point footbridge, it’s crucial that residents provide strong feedback to council that you don’t want to lose green space as a result of these projects. We should be insisting that council deliver new public parks in West End to offset any green space that’s lost as a result of these bridge landings. I’m asking all residents to email GreenBridges@brisbane.qld.gov.au and demand that if the bridges do go ahead, you want a new public park in West End to compensate for the lost riverside green space.
Will the bridges carry buses?
The LNP have not yet firmly and explicitly ruled out the possibility of the bridges carrying buses, but I think this is extremely unlikely, and at this stage I don’t support either bridge carrying buses (although I’m keeping an open mind).
This next map helps show why I don’t think there’s a strong case for a bus bridge from Boundary St to UQ.
Footbridges will likely be around 6 metres wide, whereas a bus bridge that also carries bikes and pedestrians would have to be at least 12 metres wide. Designing the Toowong and St Lucia bridges to carry buses (as well as the necessary road connections) would probably add $50 million to $100 million to the cost of each bridge, so to justify that much additional cost, as well as the ongoing costs of running additional bus services, council needs to be really sure that bus services would be well-utilised.
If a bridge were built that also carries buses, most residents who live in the blue shaded area would probably still find it more convenient (and cheaper) to walk over the bridge to get to UQ, even if there are frequent buses.
Residents who live within the red circle will probably find that existing CityCat services are just as convenient to get to uni as walking a longer distance to get to a connecting bus stop.
And residents who live within the purple circles already have access to high-frequency bus services to uni that are reasonably reliable, via the busway and existing Eleanor Schonell Green Bridge, so while buses running down Boundary St might be slightly more direct, the fact that those services would be running through the low-speed cultural and commercial heart of Boundary St probably makes them a less attractive proposition.
So bus services running between West End and St Lucia are really only going to be useful for residents in the central part of West End, or for students and staff heading from UQ into West End. Anyone living further away in other parts of the city is going to find it quicker to catch a bus that runs along the existing dedicated busway, and most people living closer to the bridge will prefer to walk over for free, rather than catching a bus.
Personally I’m very sceptical that there will be enough demand to justify the high cost of running services and building a bus bridge.
Thinking about the broader public transport network as a whole, the case for buses on both the Toowong and St Lucia bridges is pretty weak, because all of West End’s main road corridors are so heavily congested. Montague Rd, Boundary St, Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St are all quite busy roads, which means bus services running along Coronation Drive and the dedicated busways are always likely to be quicker and more reliable than buses coming through West End.
I know there are quite a few residents living up on Highgate Hill who say they would use an east-west bus route running over the river to Toowong and Auchenflower, but compared to other routes and possible uses of public money, I don’t think this is likely to be a high priority. The feedback I’ve been hearing so far from residents living closer to Forbes St and Riverside Drive is that they definitely don’t want a West End-Toowong bridge to carry buses.
Is this consultation genuine?
One of the frustrating things about council consultation processes like this one is that you’re never sure how much weight they are giving to the resident feedback they receive. It sometimes feels like your comments just go into a void and no-one ever reads them.
Apart from the short timeframes, I think there are two fundamental problems with this kind of council consultation:
- Residents can’t easily see or hear what other residents and stakeholders are saying. Already, I’ve had a resident tell me that “Everyone they’ve spoken to” is opposed to one of the bridges, while another resident said “All of us down here love this bridge.” It would foster greater understanding within the community if council facilitated open discussions where everyone had an opportunity to easily engage with one another’s feedback if they wished, as opposed to all of us just giving closed feedback. That way, residents who might not personally see value in a particular project proposal might understand how it benefits a different demographic of residents.
- Not enough information has been provided to allow us to form an informed view. People can give more meaningful feedback on a project when they have access to more information about current and future commuter demand, traffic volumes, population trends, secondary impacts etc. In the case of the Toowong and St Lucia bridges, council hasn’t done a huge amount of detailed research into design options, but they would still have plenty of traffic data, as well as info about how many students UQ is aiming to accommodate in the future, how many people are expected to move into Toowong and West End etc.
By failing to provide this basic information in an easily accessible format, council fosters distrust (because residents feel like council is hiding something), polarises the electorate, and diminishes the quality of feedback it’s receiving from residents.
Having said that, I think council is genuinely interested in what residents have to say about how important these projects are, and what elements and features should be prioritised. Institutional stakeholders like the University of Queensland are pushing strongly for a bridge directly to the campus, so if residents are expressing alternative views, that can help balance out the conversation.
Unlike private development projects, where the LNP-dominated council doesn’t really care very much at all what residents think, the council is more receptive to input on public projects. The mayor doesn’t want to spend lots of money on projects that are unpopular and will lose votes. So if an element of a project receives a lot of negative feedback at the early stages (before they lock in designs and go out to tender), it’s definitely possible to get council to make changes.
If council receives really strong support for a particular bridge, but can’t secure funding for the project from the state or federal government, BCC is likely to push ahead with the project and fund the whole thing itself. Whereas if public support for a bridge is not quite as strong, and the council can’t get funding from a higher level of government, they might just delay the project and deprioritise it. So providing positive feedback about the elements you do like is just as important as providing criticisms about what needs to change.
My current position
I’m supportive of a Kangaroo Point-CBD footbridge. The business case and the broad public benefits of the project seem clear.
I’m also supportive of a West End-Toowong footbridge, but I’d like to see council develop a business case for it (which they’ve said they will do), and I think the entire business case and feasibility study should be released to the public.
I would still need a lot more convincing before supporting a West End-St Lucia bridge, as I’m not yet sure that the benefits justify the costs.
As explained above, at this stage I don’t support any of the inner-city bridges carrying conventional buses. I will of course keep an open mind about emerging technologies and changing transport needs, such as the rise of self-driving demand-responsive minibuses, but until I’m presented with strong evidence to the contrary, I don’t think bus bridges are a good idea.
I think it’s extremely important that any green space losses associated with the bridges are offset by the creation of new public parks in West End and Kangaroo Point, above and beyond the parkland already identified as necessary in council’s existing planning documents.
Importantly, if trees need to be removed, the project team should have to take responsibility for finding appropriate locations and planting replacement trees nearby. It’s not enough to just pay an offset levy into the general tree planting budget without actually finding space for where the replacement trees can go.
Naturally, I think it’s very important that the bridges have roofs to protect pedestrians and cyclists from sun and rain, as well as other sustainable design features such as rainwater capture and solar panels if appropriate. More generally, I think we should explore opportunities to design these bridges as useable public spaces as opposed to just transport thoroughfares.
I encourage residents to provide as much feedback as you can during the council’s consultation process. If there are other questions you’d like answered, let me know and I’ll add them to this document.
In a city like Brisbane, whether we’re talking about improving public transport services, or improving paths and intersections to make walking and riding safer and easier, there are basically two approaches you can take.
Approach 1: You can repurpose existing road space to prioritise active transport and public transport.
Approach 2: You can take land that’s being used for other purposes (e.g. trees, houses) in order to create new bike paths, bus lanes etc.
Right now, this is perhaps the biggest difference between the Greens and the two major parties when it comes to the roll-out of new sustainable transport infrastructure.
Every political party says they want to improve public transport, but we have different ideas of how to do it.
Both the Labor-dominated State Government and the Liberal-dominated Brisbane City Council tend to prefer Approach 2, and will occasionally do a little bit of Approach 1. In contrast, the Greens strongly prefer Approach 1.
Examples of Approach 1 would be converting a lane of general traffic into a dedicated bus lane, or removing a row of street parking to create room for separated bike lanes or shady trees that encourage walking.
Whereas Approach 2 might mean cutting down street trees to make room for bus stops, routing commuter bike paths along creek corridors and parks (thus cannibalising green space), or even acquiring a corridor of private property to build a new bus lane or busway.
Although not perfect, components of the Woolloongabba Bikeway Project (such as the northern end of Annerley Rd between Stephens Rd and Stanley St) fit more closely into the Approach 1 category. To create space for bike lanes, I supported the council removing dozens of street parking bays, and narrowing general traffic lanes.
Whereas for Stage 1A of the Kangaroo Point Bikeway Project, the council (against my advice) chose to remove established trees and push the bike path through the park alongside Lower River Terrace, rather than removing street parking.
Approach 1 is generally a lot quicker and cheaper. Approach 2 is often so expensive and difficult that project proposals don’t get past the drawing board stage.
Residents who are wondering why governments are so slow to improve public and active transport need to understand this distinction.
What’s particularly important to recognise is that not only is Approach 1 cheaper and faster, it’s also a much more effective way to actually shift people out of their cars and into other modes of transport.
If you have a three-lane road corridor that’s badly congested, and you spend a lot of money buying up houses and shops along the road so you have enough room for a bus lane, you’ve successfully made it possible to run a high-frequency bus route along the corridor that won’t get held up by general traffic. But you now have a road corridor that’s upwards of 30 metres wide (which carves up the neighbourhood and is a major barrier to pedestrians) and you haven’t necessarily reduced the number of cars on the road. You’ve also spent millions and millions of taxpayer dollars transforming houses and small businesses into bitumen.
But if you just convert one of the three existing lanes into a bus lane (maybe just a peak-hour bus lane that’s an off-peak T3 transit lane) you are reducing car capacity and creating a much stronger incentive for people to shift to public transport.
The ramifications of this distinction are particularly significant for Brisbane public transport planning. Labor and Liberal politicians are continually squabbling and blaming one another for the lack of progress on various ‘essential’ public transport projects, such as the extension of the northern busway from Kedron to Bracken Ridge, the eastern busway out to Capalaba, or new river crossings to reduce bottlenecks into the CBD.
But Gympie Road north of Kedron is already three lanes in each direction. If we had the political will to convert one of those existing traffic lanes into a bus lane, we wouldn’t need to spend millions of dollars building a whole new busway. The same is true for Coronation Drive and quite a few other key corridors, and perhaps one day even for the Riverside Expressway and the Captain Chook Bridge.
This might seem like a difficult message to sell politically, but at the end of the day, a dedicated bus lane can carry thousands more passengers per hour than a general traffic lane, and will save a lot of money in the long-run. Right now, our problem is that Labor and Liberal politicians are still preoccupied with the flawed notion that they can’t take away space from cars, and within local and state government departments, the traffic engineers still carry more influence than the public transport planners.
Delivering new bus, bike and pedestrian infrastructure doesn’t have to be anywhere near as expensive as the major parties and some public servants think. It can be done quickly and cheaply, with minimal disruption from construction work, tree removals or private land acquisition. You just have to be willing to take space away from cars.
Do you live within the bright red zone within this map? If so, a new Resident Parking Permit Scheme has been proposed for your area. Read below for more details...
In response to concerns about insufficient street parking in West End and Highgate Hill, I’ve asked Brisbane City Council to consult with residents about introducing a ‘Resident Parking Permit Scheme’ throughout the southern end of the 4101 peninsula (the northern and eastern parts of West End and Highgate Hill are already covered by permit schemes).
A Resident Parking Permit Scheme usually means that some parts of a street are designated as unlimited parking for everyone, while in other parts of the street you can only park there for two hours (2P) unless your car has a resident permit or a visitor’s permit (in which case you can park there as long as you want).
Last year, BCC sent letters to residents asking if you are ‘In favour’ or ‘Not in favour’ of having a Resident Parking Permit Scheme in your street. The response rate to this survey letter was quite low, so BCC has sent out the same survey again, asking anyone who didn't reply the first time to complete it and send it back by the end of March 2018.
For BCC to go ahead with the parking changes, they need at least 60% of responding households to be ‘In favour’ of the introduction of a resident parking scheme in their street. If there is not enough support on your street, the likely outcome is that other neighbouring streets will have resident permit schemes introduced, but the current parking rules on your street will remain unchanged.
I’m not convinced that Brisbane City Council’s simple ‘Yes or No’ approach to feedback will gather enough information to create a new parking scheme that adequately balances the parking needs of residents, local businesses and visitors to the suburb. So my office will be undertaking a more thorough consultation process with local residents and businesses, including an online survey and public meetings. (If you live within the small existing permit area around Rogers St and Raven St, you can still fill out the survey as this will be a good opportunity to re-evaluate the current parking rules)
Brisbane City Council’s Transport, Planning and Strategy branch, overseen by the Chair of Infrastructure, Councillor Amanda Cooper, will get the final say on the specific parking rules which are implemented, however my views and recommendations as local councillor will be treated as highly influential. Having a lot of survey data to back up my position will increase my capacity to advocate on your behalf, so please encourage your neighbours to fill the survey out too.
REMINDER. If you support changes to parking rules in your street, make sure to:
1. Check the ‘In favour’ box on the Brisbane City Council form, fill in your details and return it via the instructions on the form. Please do not return it to my office.
2. Log on to www.jonathansri.com/4101parkingsurvey and complete the quick survey if you haven't already done so.
If you are generally supportive of a Resident Parking Permit Scheme, but have specific concerns or requests regarding the rules on your street, I encourage you to mark ‘In favour’ on the council form and express your specific concerns via our survey: www.jonathansri.com/4101parkingsurvey
If you live in the southern half of West End and haven't received any consultation letters from council about this issue, please call my office ASAP on 3403 2165 or email email@example.com.
HOW THE PERMITS WORK
There are two types of permits:
Resident permits, which are permanently attached to the front windscreen of a particular vehicle that’s registered to an address within the permit zone (in the future, council’s plan is that windscreen stickers won’t be necessary and resident permit will be connected to your vehicle registration number via the council database)
Visitor permits, which are made of cardboard and can be placed on the dashboard of any visiting vehicle
Currently, council charges an annual fee of $10 per resident permit per year. It’s possible that this fee might increase or decrease in the future. It’s also possible that resident permit fees may be abolished altogether, but this seems unlikely.
A permit allows you to park as long as you want in the 'Resident Permits excepted' areas on your own street, and usually one or two adjacent streets. It's not a general resident permit for the entire area.
The BCC has told me that each household will be eligible for a single visitor permit even if you don’t have any of your own vehicles registered at your address.
HOW MANY PERMITS PER HOUSEHOLD?
The most difficult question in introducing this Resident Parking Permit Scheme is deciding how many permits each household should be allowed. If every household is allowed to park as many cars on the street as they want, the whole point of the scheme will be defeated. The BCC has stated that each household should be limited to two permits - one resident and one visitor. Households that need to park multiple vehicles on the street will still be able to do so, but would have to park in the areas that remain signed as ‘Unlimited’ parking.
DISCOURAGES COMMUTERS FROM TREATING YOUR STREET AS AN ALL-DAY PARK-AND-RIDE
There are many streets in West End and Highgate Hill where people drive in from other parts of the city, park all day and catch public transport into the CBD. This increases local traffic congestion and competition for parking.
Introducing a default 2P or 4P limit unless the vehicle has a permit will discourage this pattern of parking, and should help encourage more commuters to switch to public transport.
MAKES IT EASIER FOR RESIDENTS AND SHORT-TERM VISITORS TO FIND PARKING
Discouraging commuters from parking all day on residential streets will free up more street parking for residents and short-term visitors. The permit system won’t guarantee a parking spot for residents, but it will increase turnover and reduce competition. Residents will have a greater level of certainty that parking will be available on their street. Each resident permit will be connected to a specific address, and will allow residents to park on their own street or on one or two neighbouring streets.
The introduction of this scheme is also a good time to push for more disability parking bays and loading zones near businesses. Under BCC rules, a vehicle with a disability permit can park as long as they want in any unmetered area, so signing a bay as '1/2P' or '4P' means someone with a disability permit can park there all day.
Some concerns and downsides
Currently, Council charges $10 per permit per year. This means you’re paying for a permit to park on your own street, but there’s still no guarantee you’ll be able to find a parking spot. However, the evidence from other suburbs with such schemes is that they definitely make it easier for residents to find parking spots, so while it might seem strange to have to pay when there’s no guarantee of a space, having a paid permit system certainly makes it easier than the current free-for-all, where residents don’t get priority.
In the context of all the other costs associated with vehicle ownership and rego, $10 a year is pretty negligible.
MISUSE OF VISITOR PERMITS
Some households sell their visitor permits to motorists who live in other parts of the city so they can drive into the inner-city and park all day for free. The council objects to this practice, but has a hard time stopping it. This is one of the reasons the council is reluctant to issue multiple visitor permits per household. This isn’t a huge problem, and it’s not really an argument against introducing a permit scheme, but it’s something to keep in mind.
CONFUSING SIGNAGE AND BLANKET RULES?
In some parts of the city (e.g. Woolloongabba), there are designated ‘Traffic Areas’ which apply blanket default parking rules to the whole area. Traffic Areas are very different to the Resident Parking Permit Area proposed for 4101. A common criticism of the Traffic Areas is that there are only a few big signs at the entrance to the area, rather than detailed signs explaining the parking rules on every street. This means new residents, visitors and people from other parts of the city sometimes get caught out because they don’t realise they’re parking in an area that has a strict time limit.
However, for Resident Parking Permit Areas, every street is individually signed to clearly indicate what the rules are on that particular street. It’s also important to remember that when a new resident parking scheme is introduced, the council parking inspectors usually issue warnings rather than fines for the first few months, while people get used to the new system. I will be putting the pressure on council to ensure that when the scheme is introduced, every single street is clearly and accurately signed so that newcomers and visitors know what the parking rules are and won’t be fined unfairly.
PROVING YOU’RE A RESIDENT CAN SOMETIMES BE TRICKY FOR RENTERS
This isn’t as big a problem as it is for other government services, because the council is reasonably flexible when it comes to proving where you live, and primarily looks at your vehicle’s registration address. For tenants who move a lot, or anyone who is worried they’ll have trouble proving that they’re entitled to a resident parking permit, feel free to get in touch with the Gabba Ward office directly and we’ll help you prove your current address.
NON-RESIDENTS ARE UNJUSTLY EXCLUDED
The most persuasive argument against resident parking permit zones is that they can embody some of the worst aspects of parochialism and self-interested NIMBYism. Increasingly, people on lower incomes are finding it harder to afford to live in the inner-city. This means they often have to commute from the outer suburbs for work and to access community services, while inner-city suburbs like West End are becoming more exclusive and dominated by wealthier residents. So is it right for comparatively privileged inner-city residents to have priority access to free street parking in suburbs like West End while poorer residents from the outer burbs have to pay for it?
Inner-city residents have more public transport and active transport alternatives, and therefore are arguably less entitled to demand access to on-street parking than residents who live further out and have fewer alternatives to driving. Streets are publicly owned land, and technically speaking, local residents have no greater claim over a particular street than people who live in other parts of the city.
In practical terms though, not everyone in the inner-city is wealthy. Not everyone in the inner-city has access to off-street parking (particularly in the old tin and timber character neighbourhoods, where some homes were designed without driveways). Many older residents have limited mobility and rely on their adult children for support (for a range of reasons these visiting carers often need to be able to park as close as possible to the front door). There are several valid reasons for offering local residents some priority parking zones on their own street. The challenge is to strike a balance so that there are still enough parking spots that non-residents can use when they commute into our suburbs.
Residents draw to council’s attention ongoing safety concerns for pedestrians crossing Wellington Road, East Brisbane in the vicinity of Mowbray Terrace, Baines St and Toohey St.
Large numbers of pedestrians cross Wellington Road each day to access local shops and restaurants, Raymond Park, nearby public transport services and St Joseph’s Primary School in Kangaroo Point. Detouring via existing traffic lights at Vulture Street or Lytton Rd can add upwards of 10 minutes to a pedestrian journey.
A recent apartment development approval at the corner of Toohey St and Wellington Rd will generate more vehicle and pedestrian traffic at this intersection.
We call on council to install traffic lights on Wellington Rd at or near the Mowbray Terrace intersection, and to lower the speed limit to 40km/h (in keeping with the existing 40km/h school zone to the south of Vulture St).
The recent use of die-ins and other temporary blockades to raise concerns about pedestrian and cycling safety has raised legitimate questions about whether this is a constructive and useful tactic.
There’s no denying that temporary blockades frustrate motorists and potentially polarise the community. But their value must be understood in the context of a broader, multi-faceted campaign for change. Blockades are one important tool in a big diverse toolkit, and they can be valuable and effective alongside other forms of advocacy.
Right now in Brisbane, we have an abundance of community groups and non-profit organisations pushing hard to make our city more walkable and less car-centric. We’ve had dozens of petitions, letter-writing campaigns and submissions, with little to no impact. Advocates have also organised all kinds of community-building activities to legitimise and normalise cycling, and demonstrate that a bike-friendly city is possible and worthwhile. Various groups have hosted a range of workshops and policy forums where we create the space for nuanced, evidence-based conversations (usually, very few people come).
While these various tactics have all played a useful role in shifting mindsets and achieving small wins, the pace of change has been far too slow. The proportion of funding and resources dedicated to pedestrian safety and bike lanes remains tiny compared to the amount of money that is wasted on widening roads. Maintaining a seat at the table through diplomacy and compromise sounds nice, but you might actually be sitting at the kids’ table, arguing over crumbs while the rest of the cake is sliced up elsewhere.
In Amsterdam in the 1970s, residents upended vehicles and permanently blockaded major roads to call for safer streets
When you consider the growing problem of traffic congestion, the health system costs of so many accidents, the billions of dollars which are wasted each year on ineffective road projects, and the desperate urgency to reduce fossil fuel emissions in order to minimise the negative impacts of climate change, it’s clear that we need some radical changes. Not only has tangible change been too slow, but on some indicators we’re actually moving backwards. Active and public transport rates have stagnated in Brisbane, and for some demographics, they’ve decreased significantly.
Over the last ten years, the multi-pronged push for pedestrian and bike safety improvements in Brisbane has been characterised by an absence of civil disobedience. It has also been characterised by a lack of significant and tangible positive outcomes. Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government have grudgingly funded a few valuable projects, but much of the city remains hostile and unsafe for both pedestrians and bikes.
People are dying on our roads. Thousands more are being hospitalised. If preventable accidents were occurring at this rate in a private workplace, the business would be shut down. But the high rate of casualties on our roads has been accepted and normalised due to the lack of political pressure for change.
I hear a lot of road safety advocates talk about the wonderful infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly road culture in cities like Amsterdam, which are designed to prioritise pedestrians and bikes. Too often, those advocates forget or are unaware of the widespread and controversial civil disobedience actions that Dutch citizens organised throughout the 1970s in order to help make this happen. Civil disobedience wasn’t the only part of the campaign, but it was an essential and crucial element. To challenge the growing car-centric mindset in the Netherlands, residents blockaded roads, held up traffic and pissed off a lot of people. Without this activism, the pressure from car manufacturers, motorist lobby groups, oil companies, road construction companies, mega-mall developers etc would have led to Amsterdam becoming just like every other car-centric capital city. But the Dutch fought back, and it worked.
Controversial tactics like blockades create the space for conversation. They draw a huge amount of attention to an issue, both from the general public, and from key decision-makers. But their true value lies not in the immediate media coverage, but in the subsequent discussions they provoke. Some of these discussions are hostile and antagonistic, but many are constructive and valuable.
Civil disobedience also creates the negotiating space for other ‘moderate’ groups to articulate stronger demands. When politicians are confronted by disruptive, controversial protests, they will publicly dismiss the protestors as vocal fringe extremists, but will then simultaneously seek to appease and build stronger relationships with the very community groups whose petitions they previously ignored.
The fact that residents are so frustrated that they’ve taken to protesting about pedestrian crossings and bike lanes is not a good look for a city council. After the immediate news story is forgotten, the lasting memory in the collective subconscious is that people are unhappy with the council’s approach to road safety and transport planning. The desire to counteract that negative perception helps shift policy priorities and accelerates change.
A few people have suggested to me that rather than blockades, we should instead focus on actions that disrupt meetings in City Hall or Parliament House. While I think protests of that kind do have positive value, they generally get less media coverage and do not make as big an impact on the collective consciousness as protests that actively disrupt roads or commercial precincts. From what I've seen during my time as a city councillor, it's actually pretty easy for politicians to ignore a bunch of protestors who disrupt their meetings. It's much harder for politicians to ignore the broader sense of public discontent that civil disobedience actions on roads or in shopping malls can create.
While other cities around the world are actively embracing walkable neighbourhoods and safe bike infrastructure, Brisbane has fallen behind. The problem is not that our city is uniquely car-dependent, or that the influence of the motorist lobby is particularly strong. It’s that without the pointy-end, antagonistic protests, there’s not enough political pressure for anything more than minor incremental gains. And we can’t afford to wait another twenty or thirty years for the political establishment’s current bias towards cars to die out.
There probably won’t be a direct and immediate political response to the kinds of actions we’re organising. But a year or so from now, when political parties are deciding their policy platform and funding priorities for the next Brisbane City Council election campaign, the memory of these protest actions will subtly but significantly influence those big decisions.
If blockades were the only tactic used in advocating for change, I would agree that the division and hostility they cause might not justify the positive impacts. But as part of a multi-faceted strategy, they are effective and necessary.
The risk-averse advocacy groups who condemn and distance themselves from these kinds of controversial actions would do well to remember that the cities they point to – particularly in Europe and South America – as examples of good urban transport planning have had decades of controversial direct action in order to get to where they are today.
Divisive tactics will inevitably put off some people. But Brisbane cycling and pedestrian safety advocates have spent the last decade asking politely and carefully avoiding any action that might annoy or aggravate motorists, even as more and more of our friends end up in hospital. It hasn’t worked. We need to shake things up. Our lives depend on it.
Council has released further info about what it's referring to as the 'Kangaroo Point Bikeway Project'. I think the title is a bit misleading, because the project actually falls within the suburb of South Brisbane, and focuses on Lower River Terrace, Dock St and Little Dock St, which is the link between the Veloway bikeway (which runs along the Pacific Motorway) and the Goodwill Bridge. I tend to refer to it as the 'Dock St Bike Link'.
You can find the basic details and give feedback via the council website.
I'm pleased to see this project going ahead and have been pushing for it for some time. We were particularly concerned about conflicts between bikes and cars, and also bikes and pedestrians. A lot of people would probably agree that in particular, the current design of the pathways leading up to the Goodwill Bridge is suboptimal.
I'm very supportive of most aspects of the draft concept design. In particular, I'm quite excited about the 'shared street' proposal for Little Dock St, which will clearly signal to cars that they need to share the road and be more conscious of pedestrians and bikes.
However, I think there are two key missed opportunities in this preliminary design that need to be reconsidered.
1. The lack of pedestrian and bicycle priority at the Lower River Terrace crossing coming off the Veloway.
2. The loss of public green space at the intersection of Dock St and Vulture St.
Pedestrians and bikes should take priority over cars
As shown on the right-hand side of the second page of the prelim design (pictured above), the proposed crossing from the Veloway 1 Bikeway over Lower River Terrace still gives priority to cars ahead of bikes. I understand this decision was made because council didn't believe it was possible to design a safe crossing point that gives priority to bikes, but I simply don't buy that. If the concern is that cars turning onto Lower River Terrace wouldn't stop or slow down in time to give way to bikes, it should be possible to narrow the road corridor with chicanes or install additional speed bumps to slow down motor vehicles.
We already have examples in Brisbane where bikes are given priority over cars along key cycling routes. One such example is the crossing at Albion near the intersection of Somerset St and McDonald Rd (see below). Although not 100% perfect in its design, this intersection gives priority to bikes and pedestrians on a 50km/h road in an area where heavy vehicles are common. If a car fails to give way to a pedestrian or bike at this kind of intersection, the driver would be responsible for the accident in the same way as if they had run a red light or hit someone at a zebra crossing.
The Dock St bike link in South Brisbane is one of the most popular commuter cycling routes in the country. Many more bikes pass through this spot than cars, and given that we are trying to encourage more people to ride rather than drive, it makes a lot of sense to give bikes (and pedestrians) priority over cars when crossing Lower River Terrace. As part of this project, council could also look at lowering the speed limit on Lower River Terrace to 20 or 30km/h, with further garden bed build-outs/chicanes. Lower River Terrace is not a key connector road - if we need to slow down motorists in order to make pedestrians and cyclists safer, so be it.
It's important to recognise that based on council's current draft plans, even if motorists technically continue to have right of way at this intersection, many cyclists will not necessarily realise this and will tend to ride as though they do in fact have priority. By designing a crossing with a raised platform that slows cars down and gives cyclists a flat run, but still technically assigning priority to cars, the council may inadvertently be making the crossing more confusing and thus more dangerous.
We should sacrifice road space rather than green space
The intersection of Dock St, Vulture St and Stanley St is a problematic spot for pedestrians and bikes and will be undergoing a major redesign as part of the neighbouring Woolloongabba bikeway project. The northern side of this intersection (Dock St and Vulture) clearly needs an expanded pedestrian island (shown in yellow in the below image) to accommodate the volume of pedestrians and bikes travelling between the Goodwill Bridge and the Mater precinct.
Unfortunately, to create space for this pedestrian island, BCC is proposing to substantially reduce the size of the small park on the corner. Although it doesn't look especially impressive, this little park is used by local workers (particularly from Griffith film school across the road) as a shady spot to eat lunch. The park is also a welcome patch of green at an intersection that otherwise feels very built-up and dominated by concrete and bitumen. This plan would essentially bring the roadway closer to the established trees in the park and reduce the size of this green space.
A better alternative would be for council to remove one of the general traffic lanes heading straight out of Dock St, so that Dock only has 1 left-turn slip lane and 1 lane for vehicles turning right or going straight ahead. Rather than reducing public parkland to make room for pedestrians, council should be reducing the amount of space we allocate to cars. Many of the vehicles travelling straight out of Dock St are commuters rat-running via Lower River Terrace and Ellis St to get to Somerville House or the hospitals. This also increases the time it takes for local residents of Dock St to get through the intersection and out of this precinct. This is not a shortcut that council should be encouraging. Reducing Dock St down to one lane would also reduce the amount of time pedestrians require to cross here, which should also help improve the overall efficiency of the intersection.
In a neighbourhood with such high volumes of pedestrians and cyclists, and which is well-serviced by a range of public transport options, it simply does not make sense to rank the needs of a minority of motorists ahead of the majority of active transport and public transport commuters.
I'm broadly supportive of the Dock St bike link. The shared street approach on Little Dock St is a great step forward, and one of the first of its kind in Brisbane, and the designers should be applauded for thinking outside the box. But the two issues I've outlined here are quite concerning, and need to be reconsidered in the final designs.
I'll be providing these comments to the council. You can also give your feedback by emailing the project team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
West End/Highgate Hill Resident Parking Permit Scheme Update
5 February, 2019
After sustained pressure from my office, council has finally agreed to release the draft map of the proposed new parking rules, which will be introduced into the southern half of West End and Highgate Hill on 18 March.
- Areas marked in blue will remain unlimited parking for everyone.
- In areas marked red, it will only be possible to park for two hours during the day on weekdays, unless you have a resident permit (in which case you can park as long as you want). No rules will change for weekends or nights.
Depending on your browser settings, you should be able to zoom in on this map, or download a PDF of the map, but if you're having any trouble interpreting it, feel free to call my office or email email@example.com and we'll try to talk you through the implications for your street.
The council has asked me to emphasise that this map is a draft, and that a few more minor changes might be made prior to the signs being installed in March. The officers have tried to balance the competing needs of neighbouring residents. Some people wanted more of their street signed as resident permit parking, while others didn't want any changes to their street.
Some parts of the peninsula, such as the southern side of Highgate Hill and the high-density area to the west of Montague Rd, will not have any significant changes to existing rules, so residents in those neighbourhoods will not need to apply for permits.
Please note: When you apply for a permit online, you are not told that it's possible to get a physical, hard-copy visitor permit. But I strongly encourage all residents who are applying for visitor permits to call up 3403 8888 and specifically request a physical visitor permit. Having a physical permit that can easily be passed from one visitor to another is much simpler than having to go online to register each visiting vehicle. You can apply for a visitor permit even if your household doesn't have a car of its own.
29 January, 2019
Hey everyone, council is sending out letters to the southern part of West End and Highgate Hill this week, advising that the resident parking permit scheme will be introduced in mid-March 2019.
I think this is a really botched job of public communication, because they're telling residents that the scheme will be introduced, but not providing any detailed info about how the rules and signs will change on individual streets.
I've previously (and repeatedly) requested that council publish a map showing the proposed changed rules so residents can view them and make comment before the new signs are actually installed. It's common sense that council would tell people how the rules are changing on their street before actually making the changes. Either way, once the new signage is rolled out, we can also still make further changes easily enough.
The most confusing bit is that in some parts of West End and Highgate Hill, council has decided based on resident feedback that they won't be making any changes to existing parking rules (which is good) but they are still sending out a general letter to all residents saying that the permit scheme is coming. So people might mistakenly believe that the rules on their street are changing, when in fact it's just a generalised notification letter that the whole suburb is receiving.
The following images show the other information which council is circulating internally.
In response to concerns about insufficient street parking in West End and Highgate Hill, I’ve asked Brisbane City Council to consult with residents about introducing a ‘Resident Parking Permit Scheme’ throughout the southern end of the 4101 peninsula (the northern and eastern parts of West End and Highgate Hill are already covered by permit schemes).
A Resident Parking Permit Scheme usually means that unless a particular section of street is designated otherwise, you can only park there for two hours (2P) unless your car has a resident permit or a visitor’s permit (in which case you can park there as long as you want). In other schemes around Brisbane, a common arrangement is for one side of the street to be free unlimited parking for everyone, while the other side is 2P (free two-hour parking) for everyone and unlimited parking only if you have a resident permit.
Importantly though, the scheme allows a lot of flexibility so that different streets can have sections signed as free 4P, 8P etc., and areas near small businesses can have more ½P and 1P parking bays to make it easier for customers who are visiting briefly to find somewhere to park.
Because 4101 has a high proportion of short-term renters, it might be the case that in some streets, only small sections will be resident permit areas and the majority of the street will remain free unlimited parking. It will be up to residents to talk to your neighbours and agree on what parking rules you want in your street, then provide that feedback to council.
Returning the council form and saying you support the introduction of a resident parking permit scheme doesn’t necessarily mean you support specific parking rule changes on your street. It means you support the council engaging in further research and consultation with residents to determine what parking rules would most effectively strike the right balance between the parking needs of residents and those of visitors to the suburb.
HOW THE PERMITS WORK
There are two types of permits:
- Resident permits, which are permanently attached to the front windscreen of a particular vehicle that’s registered to an address within the permit zone
- Visitor permits, which are made of cardboard and can be placed on the dashboard of any visiting vehicle
Currently, council charges an annual fee of $10 per resident permit per year. It’s possible that this fee might increase or decrease in the future. It’s also possible that resident permit fees might be abolished altogether, but this seems unlikely.
The BCC has told me that each household will be eligible for a single visitor permit even if you don’t have any of your own vehicles registered at your address.
HOW MANY PERMITS PER HOUSEHOLD?
The most difficult question in introducing this Resident Parking Permit Scheme is deciding how many permits each household should be allowed. If every household is allowed to park as many cars on the street as they want, the whole point of the scheme will be defeated. The BCC is suggesting that each household should be limited to two permits.
Why Brisbane residents should maintain a healthy scepticism towards Urban Renewal Strategies and Neighbourhood Plans
Neighbourhood plans and urban renewal strategies are major catalysts for change. Usually, such documents include a lot of positive elements that the vast majority of residents and local businesses support, such as more trees and garden beds, better pedestrian connectivity, and sometimes much larger infrastructure projects. The trade-off is that new neighbourhood plans almost always permit higher density development within parts of the plan area.
I don’t have a general objection to development and densification. But it’s crucial that population growth is accompanied by timely infrastructure investment and social services. Unfortunately, Brisbane’s current neighbourhood planning framework doesn’t guarantee the delivery of public infrastructure, so you end up with higher density development, but no other major improvements (Some of the main reasons for insufficient local infrastructure are explained at www.jonathansri.com/infrastructure-shortfalls/).
What’s in Scope?
The practical scope of BCC’s neighbourhood plans is quite narrow. A neighbourhood plan can change built form rules (e.g. height limits, boundary setbacks) and zoning for different uses (residential, industrial, mixed use etc), however other elements that require funding from council, such as ‘completing a riverside footpath’ or ‘building a new pedestrian bridge’ are usually only aspirational or advisory. A new neighbourhood plan is not accompanied by strict deadlines and a specific budget allocation for local infrastructure.
Many crucial urban renewal ingredients are also out of scope of a neighbourhood plan, even though the cost to council is quite low. For example, lowering speed limits can increase pedestrian safety and encourage local commerce. However speed limits are controlled by a different section of council, and even where a neighbourhood plan might state that a particular precinct will become a ‘pedestrian-friendly area’ or an ‘activated street’ there’s no guarantee that lower speeds will actually be introduced.
In partnership with the State Government, BCC could introduce rules specifying that a certain proportion of new commercial floorspace can only be leased out to Brisbane-based small businesses and non-profit organisations. You could also include requirements that a certain percentage of new apartments are social housing or affordable community housing, to be rented out to people on lower incomes.
But all this is out of scope for the BCC’s neighbourhood planning process.
The proof is in the outcomes
The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan (the ‘SBRNP’) shows how the practical outcomes of an urban renewal process don’t always live up to the positive propaganda.
Introduced in 2011 (several months after the January floods), the SBRNP rezoned much of the West End floodplain for higher density development. This applied not only to old industrial sites, but to existing medium-density residential properties. The trade-off was that council would improve public parks and intersections, and install a new CityCat terminal near Victoria St in West End to service the growing population.
Seven years later, West End’s density has increased substantially, with many apartment developments approved that are even taller than the height limits set out in the new SBRNP. But there’s still no new ferry terminal or public transport infrastructure for the Montague Road side of the peninsula, and the neighbourhood has seen no significant improvement to pedestrian safety or public green space. (I’ve written more about the broken promise ferry terminal at www.jonathansri.com/victoriastferry)
Pushing for Up-front Investment
When a new neighbourhood plan is being drafted, residents must insist that infrastructure should be funded and delivered up front before any sites are rezoned for higher density development.
It’s also important to recognise that increasing height limits to encourage private development does not necessarily improve affordability for lower-income families. Affordability is improved by increasing the supply of public housing and affordable community housing, not privately owned apartments.
When council tells a community that a neighbourhood planning process will deliver new infrastructure and a better public realm, residents should point to suburbs like West End and ask where and when the money for new public transport, public parks, pedestrian upgrades and communities will be spent.
The hard truth is that if council isn’t willing to spend the money on public infrastructure, the many potential benefits of densification and ‘urban renewal’ will largely go unrealised.
Right now in Brisbane, investment in local infrastructure and services like pedestrian crossings, parks, flood mitigation and public transport isn’t keeping pace with population growth. There are a number of interrelated reasons for this that would take a long time to unpack, but the top three are:
1. Developers aren’t contributing enough money to cover the cost of infrastructure in the inner-city.
2. There is no requirement for money which is collected from development in a certain neighbourhood to be spent in that local area – instead it goes into general revenue.
3. Too much money is spent on costly and ineffective road-widening projects, leaving very little for other kinds of infrastructure.Read more
After months of unanswered questions, Brisbane City Council finally got back to me with more detail about how they’re proposing to address safety issues at the intersection of Montague Rd and Victoria St near the ALDI crossing. Frankly, their plans are a little bit underwhelming.Read more