I’m one of six members of Brisbane City Council’s ‘Public and Active Transport Committee’ (which although it sounds like it might have a bit of influence, is actually a relatively powerless rubber-stamping committee that only meets for half an hour per week). A few people have asked me about what’s happening with proposals for a green bridge between Bulimba-Teneriffe or Hawthorne-New Farm. Mayor Schrinner still hasn’t decided/announced where his fifth new green bridge will be, but it seems like the LNP are backing away from the idea of a Bulimba bridge, even though a lot of residents seem to think it’s a good idea.
Here’s my read of the landscape as it stands…
A bridge would be very very expensive.
We don’t know accurate cost estimates of either a bus bridge or a walking/cycling bridge over this stretch of the river. We know a feasibility study was undertaken by the State Government, but the cost estimates haven’t been released. There are heaps of variables influencing bridge costs, but based on recent cost estimates we’ve seen for other bridges in Brisbane, even a simple pedestrian/cycling bridge is likely to be $150 million minimum. A bus bridge is almost certainly going to cost more than $200 million and perhaps upwards of $300 million once you include land acquisition costs.
This stretch of the river presents particular challenges
The river is reasonably wide between Bulimba and Teneriffe. A bridge has to be tall enough to allow vessels to pass under it, but the taller you make it, the steeper the climbs become and the more ramping you need at either end to get up to the required height. All levels of government seem keen for a bridge that won’t obstruct taller vessels coming up this part of the river. The Story Bridge has a clearance of 30 metres. While it’s not especially common these days for such tall vessels to come that far up the river, I can see why governments are reluctant to permanently close off navigable river access.
The alternative is to build some kind of drawbridge or opening bridge that could be quite a bit lower than the 30m Story Bridge, but which can be opened occasionally when taller vessels need to pass through. Still expensive and tricky though.
Some people might argue that it doesn’t matter if you have a lower bridge, but cutting off inner-city access altogether for tall-masted vessels is potentially going to attract much more opposition from other groups who for various reasons feel it's important for these vessels to keep accessing the inner-city.
It would probably have to be a bus bridge to be worthwhile
There’s obviously a bit of demand for a walking and cycling link between the eastern suburbs and the 4005 postcode, and likely to be even more demand in future as more people take up emobility. But there isn’t as much high-density development on either side of the river there, or major local attractors/destinations like universities and train stations that supported the case for the West End pedestrian/cycling bridges.
I think reasonable people can and will disagree on this point, but my sense is that it would be pretty hard to justify spending $150 million purely on an active transport link when there are other more urgent active transport spending priorities around Brisbane. For a bridge here to be worth the money, I reckon it would really need to carry buses too.
Bus bridges take up a lot more room
Modern road design standards suggest safe bus lanes need to be 3.3m wide minimum, and ideally 3.5m or 3.6m. Even if in future you were to use a smaller style of electric minibus or a more slender light rail vehicle, a bridge needs at least 6.7m of width to accommodate a single vehicle lane in each direction. Add on some very narrow bike lanes and pedestrian paths, and we’re looking at a bridge structure that’s AT LEAST 12 or 13 metres wide, and probably a lot wider. (For comparison, the UQ Green Bridge to Dutton Park is around 20 metres wide.)
Whether you have a taller bridge with a 30-metre clearance, or a shorter bridge that opens and closes, it’s still going to be a reasonably bulky structure. You also need room at both ends for buses to access the bridge (ideally without getting caught up in general traffic). Finding enough room for a bus bridge and the landings is almost certainly going to require some property resumptions on one or both sides of the bridge. As we’ve seen with the West End bridge proposals, riverside residents are also likely to object quite vocally to impacts on their river views.
To attract funding, a bridge would need a lot of political support
The LNP council administration announced that they would build 5 new green bridges for Brisbane (one of these is only over Breakfast Creek so it’s really more like 4 ½). But they’ve only allocated $550 million towards these projects, which means they’ll need a couple hundred million in additional funding from either state or federal government if they’re going to build all of them. In general, it’s unusual for local councils to build major infrastructure like this, and there’s a reasonable argument to be made that such projects should be state government or federal government-led, rather that State MPs ‘calling on’ a local government like Brisbane City Council to fund such projects. But Mayor Schrinner has already publicly committed to the bridge, so he’s kinda backed himself into a corner a little bit. He’ll probably be seeking federal funding if the state government remains reluctant to chip in.
If a bridge is seen as controversial because of the impacts on local residents immediately around the landing areas, politicians and senior public servants are much less likely to see it as worthwhile to allocate a lot of funding towards such a project. It’s not enough to have citywide majority support for a bridge along this stretch of the river. To get funding prioritised towards a Bulimba bridge ahead of any number of other infrastructure projects that governments might be tempted to fund, it’s not enough to have 51% support for something. You need really widespread and enthusiastic support, particularly from local residents.
At both the local and state level, some Labor Councillors and MPs have been suggesting they support a bridge across this stretch of the river, but without explicitly acknowledging the costs and challenges I’ve mentioned above. There’s no serious interest at all from Queensland Labor to put even partial funding towards such a bridge.
Meanwhile, the LNP council administration seems to have decided that there would be too much local opposition to a green bridge in Bulimba/Hawthorne from people who live nearest the landings, and that it would be too politically damaging to push for a bridge in this area.
The federal MPs who cover the two relevant electorates – Griffith (on the inner-southside) and Brisbane (on the inner-northside) – haven’t yet said anything much about whether they support a bridge or which level of government they think should fund it. I know a couple of cycling advocacy groups have written to them to ask, but I’m not aware of any public statements yet.
Basically what all this boils down to, is that from what I can see, unless there is a really strong and enthusiastic bottom-up push for a green bridge from residents living in Bulimba, Hawthorne, New Farm and Teneriffe, the political establishment will probably decide it’s not a high enough priority for funding compared to all the other stuff that money could be spent on. ‘Enthusiastic support’ would look like a petition with thousands and thousands of signatures (not just a couple thousand, but several thousand), a wave of emails from local residents to the mayor and the relevant State MPs calling for the bridge, and public meetings/rallies demanding a better public transport link between the inner-north and inner-eastern suburbs.
In the absence of that kind of well-organised advocacy from locals themselves (as opposed to just from local politicians) I don’t see a bridge over this stretch of the river happening any time soon, and I expect the LNP will be looking at other locations further up the river (upstream of the CBD) where there’s more space along the river banks to play with and fewer potential objections from wealthy riverside residents who don’t want their river views obstructed.
Personally I think a green bridge somewhere along this stretch of the river would significantly improve our public and active transport network, but I’m still not sure whether such a project would represent good value for money compared to other projects that the money and resources could potentially go towards. I’m interested to know others think about this…
Don't read too much into this image. I was just drawing lines across the river at points that seemed like they wouldn't require too many private property resumptions...
After multiple unsuccessful enquiries and eventually resorting to submitting formal document requests, we’ve finally secured copies of the feasibility studies that partially informed the bridge landing options that BCC has put out for public consultation.
We remain of the view that BCC ought to have provided more information about the possible bridge options right at the outset of their consultation process, to facilitate higher-quality, better-informed public feedback.
We still haven’t had time to read all of these documents in detail. They show that BCC and the private consultants considered a much wider range of possible bridge landing options, most of which were deemed less suitable for various reasons.
Importantly, the two more recent reports were drafted by private consultants for council, but it seems council officers working on the bridge projects also considered other factors and arrived at their own position. The six location options that BCC ultimately put out to public consultation suggest they agreed with the private consultants in some respects and disagreed on others. I actually think this is a positive sign in that it shows public servants (who are experts in their fields) were also thinking for themselves rather than just doing whatever the private consultants recommended.
In some respects, the documents are quite technical, and easily capable of being misinterpreted if you rush through them. In publishing them here, I want to encourage residents who read them not to cherry-pick or rely too heavily upon individual statements (such as the very rough preliminary cost estimates) and to consider them holistically.
After an initial look at these reports, one of my main concerns is that the feasibility analysis of various bridge options still gives a lot of weight to proximity to existing bus service routes, even though bus routes are comparatively easy to reconfigure.
When planning a bridge project costing in the range of $150 million, it makes sense to place a lot of emphasis on topography, and on the current locations of more expensive infrastructure that’s harder to relocate (such as train stations and riverwalks). But given that these bridges are likely to remain in place for decades to come, it’s short-sighted to decide the best place to land a bridge based on something as changeable as the locations of existing bus stops or bus routes.
Other important stuff to keep in mind when reading these reports:
- The earlier documents were produced prior to BCC’s 2020 round of public consultation, after which council confirmed very clearly that the proposed Toowong and St Lucia bridges would not carry buses
- The 2020 and 2019 reports were produced for council by private consultancies, and none of the 3 reports have been published by BCC, so they should not be misinterpreted as being indicative of council’s current position on the bridges (they certainly don’t reflect my views)
- Some of the analysis regarding key destinations and nearby land uses is already out of date due to new development, as are the assumptions about how far a less-confident rider might be able and willing to travel (considering the recent proliferation of ebikes and escooters)
- two of the documents are still labelled 'Draft' but there are no 'final' versions of these documents. Apparently this is reasonably common within government projects. Documents that might be politically sensitive or require further development are left as 'drafts' so that they can leave certain questions open-ended. In this case, one of the key questions regarding bridge alignments is which alignments have public support, so I can see why the alignment study is still sitting in draft mode. It's possible (but perhaps unlikely) that once the public consultation period ends, BCC might even ask GHD to update their alignment study to take account of the public feedback received
Image from 2020 'West End Green Bridges Alignment Study' showing wider range of options considered
Personally I don’t think too much weight should be given to the recommendations and analysis in these documents. These kinds of studies exemplify a common (and, I would argue, flawed) approach at all levels of government, where political decision-making is outsourced not to the general public through deliberative and direct democracy processes, but to private consultants who apply their own values to what are essentially political decisions.
The options analyses in these documents, where different bridges are assigned scores to help rank their suitability, are highly subjective processes. Consultants seek to quantify some of the qualitative impacts and benefits of various options, but such exercises are always tainted by the values of the company in question.
For example, while one consultancy might see the creation of a concrete plaza leading up to a proposed bridge as a positive contribution to the public realm (and something which benefits the community), other consultants might see the proliferation of concrete and loss of actual green space as a detriment. Such questions are subjective and political. To pretend that they are politically neutral decisions that can be outsourced to ‘experts’ is to undermine the basic premise of democracy. So instead of treating such reports and analyses as definitive, we should recognise that they are merely the perspective of one particular company that has been paid to look closely at an issue or project.
Ultimately, it’s better if the community as a whole gets to make such decisions, but we still need access to enough detailed information to inform our decision-making.
Documents available for download via these links:
More and more residents have been asking for the stretch of Riverside Drive Parkland north of Jane St to become car-free. Riverside Drive is designated as public parkland, and it's unusual for so much space in a public park to be used for free car parking.
Based on previous consultation, we have already asked council to remove all street parking to the north of the boat ramp, and are now exploring whether to remove the rest of the parking between Jane St and the boat ramp. Further consultation about the long-term future of the boat-ramp is also required, as the need for vehicles to access the boat ramp is in direct conflict with pedestrian safety.
For now, we're asking whether residents support removing all parking (including boat ramp parking) or if you only support removing street parking on Riverside Drive but would like the boat ramp parking retained for now.
If parking on Riverside Drive itself is removed, residents with limited mobility would still be able park at the end of Jane St or Hockings St in order to access the park. We can explore converting some of the parking on Jane and Hockings Streets into priority parking for people with a disability if necessary. If boat ramp parking is retained, this could also remain available for people with impaired mobility.
The results of this survey will be published via Councillor Sri's website, email list and social media accounts. This survey is not a binding community vote, but will be heavily influential to the decision-making of the Gabba Ward Office (the more people who respond, the more weight the survey results will carry).
For more info on our broader vision and strategy for transport in the inner-south side, check out this page.
Data Use: We are collecting your name and contact details to help guard against duplicate responses and to inform you of the results of the survey. Collecting address details also helps us understand trends regarding whether people living in different neighbourhoods have different views about the survey question. Your data is stored in the dedicated database of Greens Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri. Your name and contact details will not be shared with Brisbane City Council directly or with other third parties without your express permission.
We've had some important wins with the Brisbane Metro project, including convincing council to make sure the new vehicles run on electricity rather than diesel. As I've explained previously, Brisbane Metro isn't perfect, but overall it does seem like a step in the right direction.
But the Metro project presents another great opportunity that we don't want the city to miss out on...
Grey St at South Bank is gradually becoming noisier and more dangerous because it's being used as a through-corridor for traffic heading to and from other parts of the city.
This is placing additional strain on the badly congested intersection of Vulture St and Grey St, and is making it harder to support Grey St to become a vibrant, active transport-friendly precinct.
A lot of commuter cyclists continue to ride along the South Bank riverfront because Grey St doesn't feel like a safe riding environment, and local residents living along Grey St have to deal with noisy trucks and faster-moving traffic.
One of the major costs and complications of the Brisbane Metro project is how to redesign the intersection of Melbourne St and Grey St to accommodate high volumes of buses and metro vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Anyone who has tried to walk along Melbourne St to South Bank, QPAC or the museum knows how uncomfortable this intersection is for pedestrians.
But what if we were to close Grey Street to through-traffic as part of the Brisbane Metro redevelopment of the Cultural Centre Station ?
We could maintain local vehicle access for residents, businesses and the major South Bank carparks, but close it off just before the intersection with Melbourne Street, to keep through-traffic on Merivale St and Cordelia St where it belongs. This would reinforce Grey St as an active travel precinct, encouraging more walking and cycling, and improving connectivity through to South Bank.
There's another added benefit of closing off Grey Street near Melbourne Street...
We could convert roadway into green space to create a large new public park!
By closing off Grey St to cars just after the QPAC loading dock driveway, we could maintain a turnaround and drop-off zone to access the South Brisbane train station, while preventing cars from travelling through the Grey St-Melbourne St intersection.
A small park or plaza could also be created on the north side of the intersection between Melbourne St and Fish Lane. This plaza would allow for pop-up markets and public events in front of Fish Lane, while retaining a turning lane for buses to get onto the Victoria Bridge if necessary.
All up, we could create almost 5000m2 of new public parkland, right in front of the South Brisbane train station.
As South Brisbane develops and densifies, we need to create new public green space for apartment residents who don't have their own backyards. Converting road space into bikeways, pedestrian boulevards and public parks is a cost-effective and sustainable way to improve inner-city quality of life.
Creating a park on Grey St would bring some much-needed greenery to this hot and heavily concreted precinct, while also offering a much more appealing introduction to South Bank than visitors currently confront when they step out of the South Brisbane train station.
From an active transport perspective, there are so many advantages to this approach, as pedestrians would be able to flow freely from South Brisbane train station to the new Metro station to QPAC, the museum and the South Bank riverfront, without having to wait for cars.
This would also improve the efficiency of other intersections at both ends of Grey St - particularly the intersection of Peel St and Grey St, which could have a greater focus on moving through-traffic travelling via Merivale and Cordelia.
We're not saying this proposal definitely HAS to happen, or is the only way to redesign South Bank. But we wanted to put it out there as another possibility to broaden the parameters of debate and make sure all options are on the table when council and the state government are debating options for redesigning the Culture Centre station as part of the Brisbane Metro project.
The opportunity to create 5000m2 of additional public parkland is not something we should be passing up too hastily.
I’ve spent the past four years listening to the community to better understand what kinds of improvements local residents and small businesses want to see happen around the suburbs of South Brisbane, Highgate Hill, West End, Woolloongabba, Dutton Park and Kangaroo Point.
My vision for the Gabba Ward is continually evolving in response to community feedback, so please let me know what you think of it by emailing [email protected].
It’s difficult to comprehensively list all the changes I’d like to see happen in our neighbourhood, particularly the community projects and social and cultural transformations that should happen alongside the delivery of physical infrastructure and government services. Alongside the so-called 'hard infrastructure,' I believe there should be far more council funding and support for community services, sporting groups, and the arts.
The priorities featured below tend to focus on the projects that I think Brisbane City Council and the State Government can realistically deliver in the next few years, but with an appreciation of the need to also plan ahead for long-term challenges.
Rather than vague statements, I've done my best to clearly outline my current position on a range of local issues so residents know exactly where I stand. It won’t be possible to deliver all of this in just a few years, but this is what we’re working towards... If there’s anything you’d like clarified, please get in touch.
Rethinking Development in the Inner-City
We support heavy restrictions on for-profit development within the low-lying flood-prone parts of the Gabba Ward. We support well-designed mixed-used, medium-density development that’s accompanied by adequate infrastructure and services. We support more trees and green space being delivered within new developments. Currently, developers are only required to allocate 10% of site area for deep planting. The LNP publicly committed over a year ago to increase the requirement to 15% but haven’t yet implemented this. We believe all new high-density developments should set aside a minimum 20% of the site area for deep-planted trees.
Streets for People – Reimagining Transport in Brisbane
Our citywide philosophy for reimagining transport in Brisbane can be found at this link. Broadly speaking, we want more pedestrian crossings, wider, shadier footpaths, lower speed limits on residential streets (with more traffic calming where necessary) and separated bike lanes on main transport corridors. Check out the link, and view more details about specific transport commitments below.
Free Off-Peak Public Transport for Everyone
To reduce congestion and improve accessibility and connectivity, we’re calling for free off-peak public transport. We can make buses and CityCats free during weekdays and weeknights in the off-peak period, as well as free all weekend. More details available at this link.
Free Cross-River Ferries and Kangaroo Point CityCat
In addition to calling for all bus, CityCat and ferry services to become free for everyone during off-peak periods, we support making all existing cross-river ferry services free, 24/7. We also support reviewing the CityCat timetable and network to introduce a CityCat service to the Holman Street ferry terminal at Kangaroo Point.
Two New CityGlider Routes
We are calling for two new CityGlider routes, one running east-west from West End to Bulimba, and the other running north-south from Annerley to Fortitude Valley (through Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba). More details at this link.
Full Bus Network Review
We are calling for a full network review of Brisbane bus routes, with a strong focus on increasing the frequency and reliability of services running through the inner-south side, particularly the 192, 196, 198 and 234 bus routes.
We’re calling for new footbridges from West End to Toowong and Kangaroo Point to the CBD. Other parties have expressed cautious support for these projects, but have not committed to allocating funding for them. We believe these bridges should carry pedestrians, cyclists and escooters, but not buses.
We are also open to supporting the proposal for a footbridge between West End and UQ St Lucia, but believe further detailed research, transport modelling and a cost benefit analysis should be conducted (in addition to more robust community consultation) before any project funding is allocated. A detailed write-up about my position on the footbridges is available at this link.
As part of the Kangaroo Point footbridge project, we believe council needs to deliver a wheelchair accessible Story Bridge underpass. The current underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St has multiple sets of steps and so is not wheelchair accessible. Depending on detailed design and engineering investigations, it may be more cost-effective and less disruptive to create a second, new underpass connecting from slightly further north along Deakin St directly to Scott St.
New ‘Kurilpa West’ Citycat Terminal
Recent and anticipated population growth for the western side of the Kurilpa Peninsula (particularly along Montague Rd) means that new high-capacity public transport services will be needed to move people in and out of West End.
We support a new CityCat terminal being delivered along Riverside Drive. The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan identifies Victoria St as a possible location for a new terminal, however it may be more appropriate to locate the terminal slightly further north near Beesley St to facilitate better access to and from Davies Park.
I do not believe that proposals for a new footbridge and CityCat terminal are mutually exclusive. The two projects meet different transport needs and are complementary. Both will be necessary in order to help inner-city residents transition away from car-dependency.
Convert Flood-Prone Industrial Sites to Public Parkland in 4101
We support acquiring the large blocks of land along the northern end of Montague Rd which are currently used for industrial purposes, and converting these into public parkland and sporting facilities. Sites including Hanson Concrete, Parmalat and I-O Glass are all highly vulnerable to flooding, and are not appropriate for high-density residential or commercial development.
To cater for the green space needs of West End’s rapidly growing population, and to mitigate the negative impacts of flooding, these sites should be restored as public parkland.
This large new riverside park could include dog off-leash areas, a full-size skate park and BMX track, a sports field, a large children’s playground, vegetated nature reserves and outdoor event spaces.
Completing the Kangaroo Point Riverwalk
Completing the missing links of the riverside footpath between Dockside and Mowbray Park is essential to reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for the Kangaroo Point Peninsula. There are only a few missing links between existing pathways that have already been completed, and we believe council should allocate the funding to build these sections immediately, rather than waiting years for private developers to do it. The riverwalk should be designed with extra-wide footpaths and clearly delineated separation between pedestrians, slower-moving cyclists, and faster-moving bikes and escooter riders. You can read more about the riverwalk via this link at the section titled ‘Completing the Riverwalk’.
Restore Boggo Road Gaol as a Visual and Performing Arts Hub
Boggo Road Gaol is ideally located along the busway and train lines, and in close proximity to UQ St Lucia, Dutton Park State School and the future Dutton Park State High. This historic site should not be privatised and sold off to developers, but should be restored as a publicly funded music and arts hub, with workshop spaces, studios, rehearsal rooms, exhibition spaces and theatres. Boggo Road could become the south-side sister of the New Farm Powerhouse, celebrating history while providing affordable spaces for artists, innovators and hackers. A heritage museum component and a strong emphasis on history tours and storytelling would allow this precinct to serve as a hub for local history groups and knowledge-keeping.
Separated Bike Lanes along Vulture Street
Vulture St is a key east-west connector across the Gabba Ward, but riding between West End and Woolloongabba is currently quite dangerous. Existing narrow footpaths can no longer safely accommodate rising numbers of cyclists and escooter riders, so it is imperative that council creates safe, separated bike lanes running along Vulture St from Montague Rd, West End to Christie St, South Brisbane. This would provide a direct connection to the Goodwill Bridge and to the new Woolloongabba Bikeway along Stanley Street.
Safer separated bike lanes are also needed along other main roads such as Montague Rd and Gladstone Rd, however we currently consider Vulture St to be the highest priority.
Convert roadway into parkland at southern end of Boundary St
Regardless of whether a new footbridge is delivered between St Lucia and West End, we have an amazing opportunity to create more useable public green space at the southern end of Boundary St by combining under-utilised roadway with the neighbouring block of State-owned land at the corner of Dudley Street. Boundary St could end at the intersection with Glenfield St, and the roadway could be ripped up to create a riverside public park with an area of over 3300m2.
Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Musgrave Park
Local Aboriginal community groups have been advocating for decades to establish a purpose-built cultural centre in Musgrave Park. This project should be designed, led and controlled by First Nations peoples, with funding from all levels of government. Council should play a supporting role in delivering this project, facilitating conversations and providing access to resources and support staff to empower Aboriginal community leaders to deliver this project.
Redevelop Kurilpa Hall and Library as a Multipurpose Community Facility
We support converting the carpark of Kurilpa Library and the adjoining Kurilpa Hall site into a multistorey multipurpose community hub that caters for the community’s changing needs. We believe a redevelopment of this site should respect the heritage and integrity of the historic Kurilpa Library building. A redeveloped community facility would include space for the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League organisation that currently manages the existing Kurilpa Hall, as well as a wide range of other community groups and projects.
An expanded library would include dedicated meeting rooms, fully accessible toilets and a wider range of resources. Depending on further community consultation, it could be possible to design a dedicated theatre space or concert hall within the facility, but such elements would require careful design and extensive sound-proofing to avoid negative impacts on neighbours. We are calling for multiple rounds of detailed community consultation and an inclusive participatory design process before any changes are made to the existing facility.
Composting and Sustainable Waste Management
The Greens are calling for free green bins for every household, in order to divert organic waste from general landfill. We are also calling for the green bin service to be adapted so it can accept food waste too. Organic waste can be composted and reused for gardens. The gases from composting organic matter can be captured as a source of energy.
We also support establishing more community composting hubs particularly within the inner-city, and are calling for more council funding and support to train apartment block residents how to manage community composting hubs on their own apartment block sites, while also establishing more hubs in public parks alongside community gardens.
We are calling for a vacancy levy on all homes, shops and vacant lots that are left empty for more than six months without a valid reason. A vacancy levy would reduce homelessness, place downward pressure on residential and commercial rents, and help bring life back to struggling shopping precincts. More details about this policy can be found at this link.
Default 40km/h Speed Limit
We support a default speed limit of 40km/h on all streets in the Gabba Ward, with the exception of some sections of Ipswich Rd, Main St, and Shaftson Avenue. I believe that even busy roads like Dornoch Terrace, Montague Rd, Gladstone Rd, River Terrace, Cordelia St, Merivale St, Vulture St and Stanley St should all eventually be reduced to a limit of 40km/h, but that this transition should happen gradually alongside other changes to road design and transport services.
New Pedestrian Crossings
The Greens have called for council to create 250 new pedestrian crossings around the city each year. We have recently secured funding for new traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd (near the West End Aldi) and work will be starting soon.
Traffic lights will also be installed along Gladstone Rd near TJ Doyle Memorial Drive to connect the new Dutton Park State High School to the Dutton Park green space.
Looking ahead, we believe that within the Gabba Ward, the highest priority locations for new crossings are:
- Boundary St near Brighton Rd
- Dornoch Terrace-Hampstead Rd intersection – possibly lights, depending on detailed investigation)
- Gloucester St-Stephens Rd intersection
- Leopard St, Kangaroo Point – zebra crossing near Lockerbie St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights near Donkin St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights at/near Ferry Rd
- Multiple locations along Dornoch Terrace - unsignalised zebra crossings
- River Terrace, Kangaroo Point – traffic lights near Bell St, and a new zebra crossing north of Paton St
- Vulture St near Exeter St, West End
- Vulture St near Thomas St and Bunyapa Park
- Wellington Rd – traffic lights near Mowbray Terrace and Toohey St
Safety Upgrades for Existing Pedestrian Crossings
Many pedestrian crossings throughout our city need major safety improvements. We believe the highest priorities for safety upgrades to existing crossing points are:
- Converting the intersection of Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St into a four-way scramble crossing (like the Boundary St-Vulture St intersection)
- Redesigning the zebra crossing on Gladstone Rd near Park Rd West as traffic lights
- Zebra crossing on Park Rd near Merton Rd
- Intersection of Dornoch Terrace, Hardgrave Rd and Ganges St
- Zebra crossing on Hawthorne St near Gibbon St
- Orleigh St near the West End ferry terminal
- Zebra crossing on Montague near Brereton St
If the community is opposed to installing traffic signals, often the best way to improve pedestrian safety at a zebra crossing is to lower speed limits and narrow the road width on the approaches to the crossing by building out the footpaths and/or installing separated bike lanes.
New Public Parks at Gabba Station and Boggo Road
Woolloongabba is under-served by public parkland, but inner-city land is extremely expensive. In the short-term, the most cost-effective and practical pathway to creating new public green space catering for rapid population growth in the 4102 postcode is to ensure that large public parks are included on the publicly owned sites which are being redeveloped for train stations as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Rather than selling off the land above the train station for private highrise development, the State Government should retain ownership and control over these sites and deliver large new green spaces and community facilities. You can read a more detailed vision for the redevelopment of the Gabba Cross River Rail station site at this link.
New Public Park for Highgate Hill/South Brisbane
We support covering over the exposed train line immediately to the north of Gloucester St to create a new public park with an area of 1.1 hectares. This would provide much-needed additional recreational green space for residents living between Annerley Road and Gladstone Rd while also providing additional wildlife habitat and reducing noise pollution and air pollution from the train line. More details at this link.
New Park for Kangaroo Point Peninsula
A new park should be created for the northern end of Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Lambert St to cater for the rapid population growth in this vicinity. A new riverside park could include a dog off-leash area and other recreational facilities, and could connect to the completed riverwalk leading north to Dockside.
Finding land for this park would involve acquiring privately owned land that would otherwise be redeveloped as highrise, while also narrowing the bitumen roadway and reclaiming road reserve as green space.
Hampstead Common and Implementing the West End Green Space Strategy
The West End Green Space Strategy identifies a long list of opportunities to create additional green spaces throughout the Kurilpa Peninsula, predominantly by converting existing road reserve back into shaded boulevards and pocket parks. We support this strategy, including narrowing Hampstead Road and extending the existing community orchard along the footpaths leading down from the top of Highgate Hill.
Although some of these projects sound costly, they are essential if we are to preserve a high quality of life for current and future Gabba Ward residents. We can afford to deliver all of this if we make property developers pay their share, generate additional revenue from a vacancy levy, stop outsourcing core council services to private contractors who add in fat profit margins, and reduce spending on ineffective and sustainable road-widening projects.
Repurpose Space Under the Story Bridge for Community Purposes
There's a lot of under-utilised space beneath the Story Bridge at Kangaroo Point that can be converted for other uses. Some of this space which is currently used for council carparking could double-up as space for weekend farmers' markets and artisan markets. Some space could also be used for community concerts and movie nights, exercise equipment and perhaps even sporting facilities like cricket nets or basketball hoops. Obviously any redesign of this space should be subject to detailed community consultation, and should remain mindful of the need for off-street parking in the area. I believe council should put funding into a detailed community planning process to give residents and local small businesses control and decision-making power over the long-term future of this space.
Close Grey St to Through-Traffic and Create a New Public Park in South Brisbane
As part of the Brisbane Metro project, BCC and the State Government will be working together to redevelop the Cultural Centre Station and the adjoining Melbourne St-Grey St intersection. I'm calling for serious consideration of the possibility of closing off Grey St to through-traffic, so we can create 5000m2 of additional public green space between QPAC and the South Brisbane train station. This would have a range of positive flow-on impacts, including:
- improved traffic flow at the Peel St-Grey St and Grey St-Vulture St intersections
- giving higher-speed commuter cyclists a safer alternative to riding along the South Bank riverfront
- helping Grey St flourish as a low-speed active transport-focussed environment
You can find out a lot more detail about this proposal at this link.
As mentioned above, our vision for the Gabba Ward is based upon the feedback we receive from residents. If you disagree with some of it, let us know! If there are other projects or ideas that you think should be included in this vision, please write to us! This is an ever-evolving list that will change in response to the needs and priorities of local residents.
At the end of the day, it's not just up to me to articulate what I think should be the future of our community. All of us should get a say and all of us should meaningful control over how our city changes and evolves.
This week, I'm calling for the introduction of two new CityGlider routes to fill gaps in Brisbane’s public transport network.
Getting from one suburb to another by bus or train is often a lot harder than getting in and out of the CBD, and we need to improve inter-suburban connectivity so that people can make the shift away from depending on private vehicle transport.
These route proposals are not final or definitive. We’re putting them out there to seek feedback and crowdsource residents’ insights to create the best possible route alignments. Where should the stops go? Exactly where should the services terminate? And are these the best streets for high-frequency buses to be using?
The Green CityGlider route is focussed on cross-suburb travel, connecting people from predominantly residential areas like East Brisbane and Hawthorne to employment and service hubs like the major hospitals in South Brisbane/Woolloongabba.
It would run from the intersection of Vulture St and Montague Rd in West End, and turn around at the Bulimba roundabout where Oxford St meets Hawthorne Rd and Riding Rd.
The Green CityGlider connects to two train stations – South Bank and the future Cross River Rail Gabba station – as well as a couple of key busway hubs, including future Brisbane Metro stops at Mater Hill and South Bank.
It connects to several big schools, including West End State School, Brisbane State High, Somerville House and St Laurence’s College, Lourdes Hill College and Bulimba State School, giving students and staff a reliable all-weather public transport alternative to driving.
Crucially, it provides a direct connection between West End’s high-density areas along Montague Rd, through the Boundary St commercial precinct to South Brisbane and Woolloongabba, without having to go in and out of the Cultural Centre bottleneck.
The north-south Orange CityGlider would fill one of the biggest gaps in inner-city Brisbane’s transport network, connecting Kangaroo Point, Annerley and Woolloongabba to major destinations in Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills. It also picks up quite a few school catchments along Ipswich Rd and Main St which currently generate a huge amount of peak-hour traffic.
We suggest the Orange CityGlider could run from Cracknell Rd, Annerley to Campbell St, Bowen Hills.
Both of these routes could be augmented by introducing dedicated peak-hour bus lanes through key choke spots, so that catching the bus is always quick and reliable. They would run at high frequency, so that you could turn up to the stop at any time of the day or night and be confident of getting a ride. They intersect at the Gabba Station and Stadium, reinforcing this as a transport node so that people can easily change services and head to different parts of south/east Brisbane without having to go all the way into the Cultural Centre to transfer.
Cross-suburb connections like these also improve network resilience, as these high-frequency routes can still flow reliably, even if a car crash or flooding causes a traffic jam on one of the main roads leading directly in and out of the city.
Alongside our call for free off-peak public transport for everyone, a change like this would greatly improve connectivity and mobility, particularly for lower-income residents who don’t have access to private vehicles.
For those who are wondering about funding, we’ve estimated that these new routes would each cost around $5 million per year to run. But we know that other services such as the Blue CityGlider actually earn the council more than that in ticket revenue because they are so popular. Thinking bigger-picture, it is actually cheaper and more efficient for people to move around the city via public and active transport than by private vehicles.
Each year, council spends hundreds of millions of dollars maintaining and widening roads, as does the State Government. Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport is great for the environment, and would also save a lot of money in the long-term, because a single bus needs much less road space and causes a lot less wear and tear on the road than dozens and dozens of cars.
12 May 2021
A simple summary of the results of our online vote regarding the proposed bridges from West End to Toowong and St Lucia is available at this link.
31 March 2021
Amy MacMahon and I have just sent off our joint submission to BCC regarding proposed locations for the West End bridges. You can read our submission via this link. Our submission focussed heavily on the potential impacts to public space and immediately surrounding communities, as this was the main issue of concern that residents were raising with us.
Since 2016, the Greens have been advocating for new footbridges between Kangaroo Point and the CBD, and West End and Toowong. We’ve also expressed interest in a footbridge between West End and St Lucia, but have said that we consider the Toowong bridge and a new CityCat stop for the western side of West End are both higher priorities than a St Lucia bridge.
Brisbane City Council has now confirmed funding and gone out to tender for the Kangaroo Point bridge, and is seeking feedback from residents about possible locations for the Toowong and St Lucia bridges.
BCC Consultation Process
BCC has announced three possible locations for the Toowong-West End bridge, and three possible locations for the St Lucia-West End bridge, with their ‘official’ public consultation period closing at the end of March 2021. Crucially, BCC is only asking residents which of the three nominated locations they prefer, as opposed to whether both bridges have general public support.
Council info about the proposed bridge options is available via these links:
Elected Greens Representatives' Consultation Process
We believe the BCC consultation process has some significant gaps and deficiencies. These include insufficient protections against someone filling out the anonymous online survey multiple times on different devices, and concerns that the questions council has posed don’t distinguish between opposition to particular locations, versus general opposition to all bridge proposals, thus diminishing the quality of the feedback.
So as well as a public forum on Saturday, 27 February, and other forms of on-the-ground community outreach, we’re running an online poll to guide what position we take as elected representatives. The more responses the poll receives, the more weight the outcome will carry and the more influential it will be on our decision-making.
Please click on this link to vote in our poll. We ask participants to provide contact details and create a voting account to help guard against fraudulent duplicate votes.
Our polls show the results in real-time, and include optional preferential voting, which means participants can rank multiple bridge landing locations and clarify whether they’d prefer ‘no bridge’ over one of the particular options BCC has proposed.
My rough ‘options analysis’ as of February 2021
All of the bridge landing options BCC has proposed arguably have some negative impacts. I haven’t yet formed a final view on which options I officially support, and will wait to see the results of our poll, but I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from residents which is inevitably shaping my views.
The council has published some estimates on its website for how many people are likely to use each bridge location, but I don’t think these trip estimates are reliable or worth paying much attention to, because the numbers for the St Lucia bridge assume the Toowong bridge doesn’t exist, and vice versa. The council’s trip estimate modelling is heavily skewed by proximity to existing public transport stops. The transport modelling algorithms estimate higher trip volumes for bridge landings that are close to existing bus and ferry stops.
But I think that rather than basing the bridge location decision on proximity to existing public transport services, it would be preferable to pick the best bridge location in terms of active transport routes, and then add nearby public transport stops if necessary.
As such, I'm more interested in how many local residents think they are likely to use a particular bridge, as opposed to how many people Brisbane City Council modelling says are likely to use a bridge.
For the Toowong bridge, at this stage I’m leaning towards supporting Option A, because:
- It will have a smoother incline, without the need for a big curling ramp at the end
- There’s an opportunity to link it to a larger new green space on the former ABC site at Toowong
- It will likely have less impact on river navigation and recreational river uses than a bridge that’s closer to the bend in the river
- It will offer a more direct connection between Riverside Drive, West End and the bicentennial bikeway in Toowong
For the St Lucia bridge, it’s a harder call to make and I’m genuinely still undecided.
Option A seems likely to have the biggest impact on existing public parkland, landing in the middle of both Orleigh Park and Guyatt Park, and arguably duplicating an existing cross-river link already provided by the Citycat terminals.
Option B is much less likely to directly impact existing residential homes or established trees, but lands partway along Ryan St, and does not directly connect to key public and active transport corridors.
Option C (the Boundary St-Keith St alignment) is the most direct route between UQ St Lucia and the commercial centre of West End. It also offers the added benefit of a more direct connection for residents riding to and from Fairfield, Annerley and the PA Hospital to the heart of West End (via the existing Eleanor Schonell bridge). However the current design proposed by BCC for Option C also involves acquiring three residential homes, could remove quite a few large trees, and would result in quite a long component of the bridge stretching overland almost as far as Paradise Street, arguably reducing neighbourhood amenity.
I’ve sought more information from council about whether it’s possible to land a lower-impact bridge at the southern end of Boundary St without removing established trees or residential homes, and will publish answers on this page if/when I receive them.
A few residents have asked me whether it’s possible to get the funding for one or both West End footbridges diverted to other more urgently needed local infrastructure or services. My analysis of the current political landscape is that this would be quite difficult. The LNP administration are emotionally invested in fulfilling their public commitment for ‘five new green bridges,’ and the Lord Mayor has already shown his reluctance to divert funding elsewhere.
Last year, BCC undertook public consultation on the proposal for one of the five green bridges to be built between Bellbowrie and Wacol. Apparently the majority of residents in those suburbs who provided feedback said they didn’t want the green bridge, and preferred the money to be spent on other local infrastructure. But even though both Bellbowrie and Wacol are represented by LNP Councillors, the LNP Lord Mayor still declined to support this approach. The Bellbowrie green bridge proposal was scrapped, and the council is now looking for another location along the river for its fifth green bridge. Meanwhile the suburbs of Bellbowrie and Wacol missed out on any investment.
So if local residents of Brisbane’s inner-south and inner-west oppose bridges from St Lucia and Toowong to West End, there’s certainly no guarantee that the money which would’ve been spent on those bridges will be reinvested in other local projects.
Addendum: As of early March 2021, we have just managed to get hold of some of the formal reports that were produced internally for council, including the 2020 Draft Alignment Study produced by GHD Consultants. You can find these documents at this link.
Here, again, is the link to the online poll. Please click through and cast your vote on your preferred bridge locations.
I've been advocating for better active transport connections for the inner-south side since before I became a city councillor. Providing direct connections for pedestrians and cyclists helps reduce traffic congestion and car-dependency, and ends up saving council money in the long-term by reducing the costs of building and maintaining roads.
I'm very supportive of a Kangaroo Point-CBD footbridge, and I'm pleased the council has agreed to my requests to fund the construction of this bridge as a high priority.
I've also been advocating for a West End-Toowong footbridge, but before starting any work, 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 bit more convincing before supporting a West End-St Lucia bridge, as I’m not yet sure that the benefits justify the costs.
As explained below, 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.
22 November, 2019:
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 told me 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 [email protected] 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.
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 protected].
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.
The State Government is just beginning its next round of ‘consultation’ regarding the Cross River Rail project, with a particular focus on future options for the new station in Woolloongabba, immediately to the west of the Gabba Stadium. If you haven’t heard much about the Cross River Rail project before, you can find more info at this link.
The new Gabba train station and the redevelopment of the government-owned GoPrint site is a massive opportunity to transform the central part of Woolloongabba for the better. As I’ve outlined in previous statements, there’s a strong local need for more public green space, more community facilities and more public housing. Unfortunately, there’s not much sign of that in the initial documentation and concept designs released by the government.
The government’s initial concept design:
Sadly, the State Government is even less consultative than Brisbane City Council when it comes to planning big new development projects. They tend to survey a small proportion of people to get a rough (often unbalanced) idea of what the public wants, but will generally only pay lip service to public opinion and instead defer to the priorities identified by the public service and the private sector. In the case of the Gabba station, the main question the government is interested in hearing from the public about is what should happen above ground. The more input people provide via the government’s various engagement channels (such as consultation stalls at community events, or by emailing in feedback to [email protected]) the better chance residents will have of influencing the final outcome.
Other stakeholders, such as the Gabba Stadium and major commercial interests, will be advancing their own agendas via detailed submissions and private meetings, so it’s important that residents and local businesses also speak up as loudly and as often as possible, not only by engaging with the proscribed consultation channels, but by directly contacting your State MP, Jackie Trad, at [email protected].
We don’t know exactly how much money the government is planning to spend redeveloping the land above the Gabba Station and the surrounding public realm. We think it’ll be around 100 million dollars . This will largely depend on how much political pressure residents apply. We do know that generally speaking, the State Government is pretty cash-strapped, in large part because they waste so much of their money on supporting unethical industries (e.g. coal mining, horse racing) and flawed infrastructure projects (e.g. building expensive new prisons). This means the government will be considering options to sell development rights to private developers, and won’t be able to deliver everything the community needs and wants. So residents will basically have two things to push for:
- As much public funding as possible, to ensure the whole site isn’t just sold off to private developers
- Ensuring that the elements that residents consider priorities are at the top of the list to receive whatever funding IS available
Site Development Options and Constraints
There are some crucial traffic factors influencing how the GoPrint site can be redeveloped. The underground station will make it very difficult to provide much underground carparking. And the busway station along the southern edge of the site will make it almost impossible to have cars exiting directly onto Stanley Street. The land is bounded on all sides by very busy main roads which are heavily congested. This road network simply doesn’t have capacity to handle hundreds of additional car movements that might be associated with a new development. It would be impractical to include much carparking on this site, as this would encourage more people to drive to this location, clogging already-congested roads.
Happily, this location will have some of the public transport coverage in the entire country, with both a train station and busway station. Key destinations like South Bank, Kangaroo Point cliffs, the hospital precinct and even the local primary school are all within easy walking distance, and the Woolloongabba Bikeway project running along Stanley Street will provide great cycling connectivity to major universities and high schools. So this site is the perfect candidate to be redeveloped as a car-free development. With the exception of a small amount of disability accessible parking, carshare parking, loading zones and service vehicle parking, this should be a completely car-free development. People who live or work on the site should be expected to travel by active transport or public transport, rather than driving.
The complicated traffic environment will also tend to increase construction costs and logistical challenges. Even smaller highrise development sites can have dozens of truck movements a day, so to redevelop this whole site in one hit would likely cause huge local traffic disruption, suggesting that construction should instead occur in stages.
A car-free development would suggest that certain kinds of land use options (such as luxury highrise residential) are less likely to be commercially viable for private developers. Mega-rich residents tend to want space for their own cars even when there are good public transport and carshare alternatives available.
On the flipside, building lots of public housing for low-income residents right on top of a train station and busway makes a huge amount of sense. It’s much better to provide affordable housing for low-income residents in the inner-city, close to public transport, than forcing them to the outer suburbs where land is cheaper but they have to spend much more of their income on car ownership and petrol costs.
Structural engineers have also suggested that building extremely tall buildings will be more complicated than normal, as the deep footings needed for skyscrapers might be harder to construct due to the underground station. This doesn’t mean very tall highrises are impossible, but simply that there might be additional challenges and costs.
Public Green Space
Green space is one of the biggest needs in central Woolloongabba. The immediate surrounding neighbourhood is already very under-served by public parks, and is experiencing even more rapid densification with multiple residential and commercial developments under construction. Public green space is especially important for residents in high-density housing who don’t have access to private backyards or large internal entertaining areas. Brisbane City Council’s ‘Desired Standards of Service’ for parks identifies that within an immediate local area, there should ideally be 0.8 hectares of general recreation green space per 1000 residents and 0.6 hectares of more natural vegetated green space. Woolloongabba currently falls a long way short of these targets, so even if no new residential development was included on the Gabba station site, it would still be necessary for the State Government to include a large public park to cater for all the residents in nearby apartments. Adding more residential apartments to the site will necessitate also providing more green space to cater for them.
There’s already almost 8000m2 of green space to the west of the GoPrint site around the Motorway (between Allen St and Leopard St) which would be extremely expensive and difficult to construct buildings on. Spending a bit of money to improve pedestrian access to these green pockets, shield them acoustically from the noisy roads, and vegetate them more heavily as a dense bush reserve with a network of short walking tracks might be one way to provide additional useable natural green space for current and future residents of the precinct. But whether that happens or not, it seems crucial to me that at least one quarter of the GoPrint site (approximately 1 hectare) needs to be redesigned as public parkland for the benefit of residents and workers in the area. (For comparison, the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, which is quite close to the site of the Albert St Cross River Rail Station, is about 18 hectares) You can’t cram people into highrise apartments and office blocks without also giving them somewhere to stretch their legs or sit under a tree.
With many more residents living in highrise apartments, there’s a growing need in Woolloongabba for a range of community facilities and services – public libraries, tool libraries, bookable meeting spaces, halls and venues for parties and community concerts, crisis support services for vulnerable people, workshop spaces, and rehearsal rooms and studios for artists and musicians. So it will be important for the land above the Gabba station to include a large, general-purpose community centre which can fill many of these roles, acting as an anchor for the neighbourhood and helping the precinct flourish.
Right now, there are lots of empty shopfronts around Woolloongabba, so simply building more ground-level retail and commercial spaces in the hopes of ‘activating’ the precinct might not be the best strategy. Instead of cramming heaps of restaurants and shops onto the GoPrint site, it might make sense to have only a modest amount of ground-level commercial uses, and focus on improving connections through to the businesses on Stanley St and Logan Rd. This would free up more space for the kinds of community uses mentioned above, creating a more diverse precinct that doesn’t just feel like all the other restaurant and café destinations around Brisbane.
In recent media releases, the State Government has floated the concept of a big pedestrian overpass linking the new train station to the Gabba Stadium. I do see the logic of such a proposal. And if the government had a blank cheque for this project and was willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the above-ground embellishments, maybe it would be worthwhile. But before we get all excited about the benefits of a pedestrian overpass at this location, let’s take a step back and consider our priorities.
Councils and governments resort to pedestrian overpasses because they don’t want to slow down cars. It would be cheaper and easier to simply change pedestrian crossing signal times to give greater priority to pedestrians to cross at ground-level, but apparently cars are more important.
A pedestrian overpass of the kind shown in this artist’s impression would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, with added costs associated with the complexities of constructing it over a very busy road corridor. It has to be tall enough to allow large trucks to pass underneath, it has to be strong enough to carry high volumes of pedestrians and to resist extreme weather events, and it will probably require elevators and long ramps in order to meet accessibility standards. It’s also worth noting that the big beautiful trees currently growing next to the stadium in Woolloongabba Place Park would have to be removed to make way for the tiered seating showed in the image.
But apart from major event days, an overpass to the stadium might not get much use. Activating the proposed tiered seating and green space next to the stadium is going to be difficult with the noise and air pollution from Ipswich Rd/Main St. Very few people are going to want to hang out on those steps to watch trucks roar past.
Have a look at the large public space in front of Lang Park stadium at Milton. It too has a pedestrian overpass connecting to the train station, and is much better shielded from passing traffic, but most days of the year, it’s just a big empty lonely patch of concrete, because very few people want to visit the stadium precinct except on game days. The Gabba is a slightly different story to Milton as it has a larger local population and more local businesses, but it’s worth being a bit sceptical of these shiny-looking artist impressions.
The central part of Woolloongabba struggles due to the poor pedestrian connectivity across different sides of the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St intersection. Shops along the southern side of Stanley St struggle to attract customers, and the cul de sac of Logan Rd (the old antiques precinct) also feels a bit dead at times.
When we think about connectivity priorities to the new station on the GoPrint site, on most days of the year, there will be many more people seeking to travel in other directions for work and leisure, but comparatively few heading to/from the stadium.
From the future Gabba station, lots of people will be heading northwest to get to the Kangaroo Point cliffs and apartment blocks, north across Vulture St towards residential and commercial properties, northeast towards residences and businesses, southwest towards the Mater Hospital precinct, south across Stanley St to more high-density apartments and office blocks, and southeast to the Logan Road businesses and apartments. Comparatively few people will be heading east across Main St to and from the stadium on an average work day.
A pedestrian overpass directly to the stadium is not likely to give much of a boost to businesses along Stanley Street or help activate the wider Gabba precinct.
So it’s worth querying whether spending millions of dollars on an overpass to connect to a stadium is the best use of money. An alternative approach would be to create scramble crossings at the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St and Vulture St-Main St intersections to improve pedestrian connectivity to the train station, and on major event days, simply close Main St to through-traffic, diverting vehicles via Wellington Road.
Attendance at major sporting events is dropping consistently, and shows no sign of increasing again in the near future. Even if the Gabba Stadium is used more frequently for other big events like live music concerts, I’m not sure that the very high cost of building an overpass is the best use of money.
I’m open to being convinced otherwise on this, but I think I’d rather see the money spent on more public housing.
Selling off Development Rights to the Private Sector?
My general view is that in inner-city areas, where land values are likely to continue increasing long-term, it is short-sighted to hand government-owned land to the private sector, whether on a 99-year lease, as a permanent sale, or in exchange for a developer paying for other works (e.g. a pedestrian overpass). It’s rare for the State Government to have control over such a large inner-city site (particularly one that’s immediately above a train station), so we should not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions and bringing in private developers to build office towers and residential highrises.
Rather than selling off development rights, the government should retain ownership of all future residential and commercial properties built on the site. Well-located commercial properties on a major train station will likely generate significant rental revenue for the government over the long-term. While some residential homes will be rented out at low rents to the most vulnerable members of society, other apartments could remain under public ownership while being rented out at market rates to key workers. There’s a strong and growing need for more public housing in Brisbane’s inner south side, and it makes sense to co-locate public housing with a commercial hub where those low-income residents will have better access to job opportunities and transport services.
If the government feels it does not have enough money available to completely redevelop the whole site immediately, it would be better to stage the project, leaving some parts of the site undeveloped as open green space for a few years until money is available to build more public housing. Retaining ownership of the land and developing it gradually using public funds is preferable to selling it off to the private sector, particularly if the land can be put to other valuable short-term uses in the interim.
Broadway Hotel and Urban Realm Improvements
The Broadway Hotel site, at the intersection of Logan Rd and Wellington Rd, is the southeast gateway to central Woolloongabba. It’s also a key linkage between the massive South City Square mega-development and the Gabba stadium and future Gabba station.
The fire-damaged State Heritage-listed hotel takes up around 900m2 of the 2300m2 site. As discussed elsewhere on my website, due to the requirement to rebuild and restore the hotel, the local oversupply of commercial spaces and the shaky and uncertain inner-city apartment market, it is extremely unlikely that any profit-driven private developer would consider it commercially viable to redevelop the site anytime soon. The hotel has already been sitting vacant since 2010. If this building remains in private ownership, the most likely outcome is that it will sit empty and abandoned for several years to come. This is a poor outcome for the community and a bad look for the neighbourhood.
However, I believe there’s a strong case that as part of the redevelopment of the GoPrint site, the State Government could take a small proportion of the total budget and spend it on urban realm upgrades along key corridors that link to the station.
The Broadway Hotel site is worth somewhere between $3 to $5 million in its current state, which is a comparatively small figure in the context of the Cross River Rail project’s $5.4 billion total budget. As part of the station development, the State Government should be improving footpaths, planting street trees and making other targeted improvements to the public realm (such as better lighting, seating and public art).
The pedestrian routes that need the greatest attention are Ipswich Rd, Leopard St, Stanley and of course Logan Rd. By acquiring this site on Logan Rd, and combining it with the adjoining 800m2 triangle of council-owned land (currently used as a carpark), BCC and the State Government could create a new community centre next to a small public park, which would serve as a significant landmark and point of interest along this corridor. Developing the Broadway Hotel as a civic space halfway between Gabba Station and South City Square would help activate this whole corridor, supporting this stretch of Logan Rd to transform into a vibrant, cosmopolitan mixed neighbourhood, rather than a series of carparks and underutilised warehouses.
If you would like to see the government allocate resources towards acquiring and restoring the Broadway Hotel, please mention this in any opportunities you have to give feedback on the Cross River Rail project.
A possible short-term use of undeveloped land
If, as mentioned above, the State Government does not have the funds immediately available to develop higher-density residential or commercial buildings on some parts of the site, there are a range of options available to make use of this land in the short-term.
One common challenge of new mega-developments is the fostering of connected communities and organic local character. Too often, mega-developments in Brisbane lack soul, and feel just like all the other big shiny new development projects in cities around the world, without interesting or distinctive features. Ground-level retail tenancies often sit empty for several months, and new businesses struggle to attract tenants until there are enough new residents and workers nearby.
One strategy to create an instant community, bring life to an area, and make productive use of inner-city land until it’s redeveloped would be to temporarily designate a small proportion of the GoPrint site as a caravan park, with the intention of creating a neighbourhood of tiny houses and portable dwellings. Small sites could be leased out to long-term tenants for a fixed period of 5 years, or on a short-term basis to tourists in caravans and campervans who are travelling through the city.
Tiny homes can be designed on trailers as off-grid dwellings, with solar panels, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting to reduce the need for expensive mains infrastructure. These homes can either have off-grid compost toilets, or share access to a common toilet and laundry block as is common with other caravan parks in Brisbane. This kind of short-term, temporary activation of a site can bring more people into an area, offering the necessary population base to bring life to local community facilities and customers to local small businesses.
Another obvious alternative use of the land would be to leave a significant proportion of the site available as publicly accessible open green space until the State Government has the funds to develop it. In the long-term, both the State Government and BCC are looking at acquiring large industrial sites to provide more green space for residents of the inner-south side, but until that happens, providing a significantly larger temporary public park on the GoPrint site would make a lot of sense.
There are many potential temporary uses for land on the GoPrint site and I think local residents should be given more input into what happens here over the next few years. What’s important though, is that the State Government doesn’t just go for the short-sighted option of selling off development rights to the private sector. It’s better to hold on to land and develop it later for the public benefit, rather than selling it off to the private sector and losing future flexibility.
There’s so much to think about with this project, but what’s crucial is that residents speak up loudly and clearly at every opportunity. The government’s instinct will be to ignore or pay lip service to residents and local businesses, but we mustn’t allow them to do this.
As mentioned above, if you’d like to provide feedback on the redevelopment of the Gabba station and the surrounding neighbourhood, please send an email to [email protected] and [email protected] (and CC in my office at [email protected] because I’d like to know what you think too).