“Madhouse” Sydney traffic congestion approaching Asian city levels

By Leith van Onselen

Another week, another #SardineSydney story in the mainstream media on how the city’s population is swelling way above the capacity of its infrastructure.

The latest example relates to Sydney’s traffic congestion around the airport, where a deluge of high-rise apartments has created never-ending traffic snarls. From The Canberra Times:

Within about one kilometre of Sydney Airport, Mascot’s town centre is becoming a motorist’s nightmare. Cars crawl along streets lined with new apartment buildings.

Within a few years about 7000 new dwellings are forecast to be crammed into a 30-hectare area in the suburb in Sydney’s south, piling more pressure on local roads.

And leaked documents marked “Cabinet in confidence” reveal the congestion looming for roads at Mascot and other suburbs neighbouring Australia’s busiest airport and second-busiest container port, dubbed the country’s gateway to the world…

Bayside Council’s Labor mayor, Bill Saravinovski, said congestion on roads in and around Mascot was already “just a madhouse”.

“It’s fine for governments to put pressure on councils to increase density but there is no infrastructure. Public transport has to be increased massively,” he said. “We are copping it in terms of traffic, the noise and the pollution.”

Geoffrey Clifton, a lecturer in transport management at Sydney University, said… traffic congestion in Sydney was not at the levels of Asian cities where every side street was clogged.

“But unless we create suburbs where people can take public transport, can walk or bike, we are going to see this super saturation of traffic once the population density gets high enough,” he said.

Crush-loaded trains, crush-loaded roads, crush-loaded schools, crush-loaded hospitals, crush-loaded prisons, and woefully unaffordable housing. It’s the same old story that we’ve read over and over again.

As shown in the next chart, Sydney’s population has increased by 774,000 over the past decade, or by 77,400 people a year or 1,500 people a week, which has already crush-loaded the city’s infrastructure:

And the situation is set to deteriorate badly over the next two decades, with the State Government projecting that the city’s population will expand even more quickly – growing by 87,000 people a year (1,670 people a week) – with Sydney to add an addition 1.74 million people – equivalent to a Perth:

Clearly, the best way to alleviate Sydney’s infrastructure and housing woes is for the State Government to tap its federal counterpart on the shoulder and demand they slash Australia’s immigration program. Because under current settings, incumbent residents of Sydney are facing big cuts to their living standards along with hugely expensive infrastructure bills.

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  1. I have been to the international terminal twice recently.
    The traffic snarl on Marsh Street is caused because there is a choke point on the entries to the car parks and the limited capacity of the departure level ramp to handle the number of drop offs. The free express pick up is also near capacity at peak times. The approving authority should be sacked.

    • I have to make 100+ trips a year to and from the airport & it is a nightmare. Marsh street can be backed up to the eastbound entry of the M5 tunnel, particularly on a Saturday or Sunday morning from 05:30 am as everyone heads to pick up aunty Flo from international. Recently there have been police directing traffic exiting the M5 tunnel onto Marsh St. Fortunately most of my journeys are outside peak hour.

    • Face it, Australia, you are becoming a 3rd world country. The signs are everywhere:
      – you can’t keep the lights on
      – your big city roads and railways are too congested to work
      – your educational standards are low and falling fast
      – your hospitals have year long waiting lists, and people die in ambulances waiting at emergency departments
      – your Internet speeds rank 56th in the world, below Kazakstan!
      – you have a small land-owning elite
      – your government distracts you with trivial issues same sex marriage, at the same time cracking down on freedom of the press.
      – many of your new homes are just high-rise slums
      – your highly educated youth is emigrating to escape these problems and high HECS debt.

      You thought you were just importing third world cheap labour, but you got other 3rd world problems with them as a bonus too!

      • I agree with Eric on the message, I would like to bring up another point for thought:
        – you struggle to maintain an economy that offer goods or services that are unique, competitive and attractive to the rest of the world over the long term

        The system has steered the economy away from short or long term innovation in exchange for enjoying a commodity and FIRE-led spring.

        I fear Australia is becoming the fable grasshopper that has forgotten the possibility (or probability) of winter (and the need to hedge against it), given that spring has been around for 26+ wonderful years, at least for certain generations.

      • Yes, Allan. It’s a horrible cliche these days but “Winter is coming”. No joke.

        Hopefully a hefty chink of the recently arrivals turn tail and bugger off from whence they came.

        (Sorry, that’s “chunk” not chink. Freudian slip)

    • I move we use the perforated paper model around Syderney – so that when it collapses under its weight, it tears along the perforations, sinks safely into the ocean – and it leaves a nice round bay – ocean-views as far as the eye can see…

      Win – Win – Win: Win that we get rid of them, Win because you extend the coastal length of Australia, and Win because you can then set up a tourism business for wreck diving!

      What’s not to like?

      Kinda’ reminds me of that Futurama episode with the lost city of Atlanta: “Oh Barnaby (sorry – don’t know what came over me… sh*t, “came”… sorry I couldn’t hold back … dammit! I can’t stop!) Fry! I want you to make a mer-woman outta mer-me”

      • boomengineeringMEMBER

        Sounds good to me we are good swimmers
        The other units on my CC factory complex of 6 are bit worried that the amount of weight in mine will act like the ”Titanic” and lift them into the air berfore sinking.

  2. “Geoffrey Clifton, a lecturer in transport management at Sydney University, said… traffic congestion in Sydney was not at the levels of Asian cities where every side street was clogged.”

    Still good by Asian standards, so expect further deterioration. Global congestion arbitrage.

    • truthisfashionable

      I’m not too sure Sydneysiders can deal with Asian traffic.. the level of roadrage and aggression seems far higher here than it does in KL or Jakarta.. maybe we just need our souls broken over generations to accept a higher level of traffic.

      • Of the places I’ve driven (admittedly not much in Asia, but quite a few countries across the western world), Sydney’s drivers are far and away the most angrily aggressive.

      • Yes that’s true. Drivers in Beijing, Jakarta, Hanoi never new what it was like to travel at 60kmh on a suburban street. There was always potholes, millions of cyclists, oxen and various contraptions piled high with hay and livestock. Sydney drivers are truly scary though, particularly heading west on the M5.

      • Agree with drsmithy…we are the worst.

        Driving in NYC or USA generally is a pleasure with such polite drivers at the wheel.

        I asked a friend, a local NYC resident why they are so polite behind the wheel. He response was….”Ya never know if that sucker that just cut you off has a gun in his car. So better to let him do his own thing.”

  3. Was in Sydney on the Weekend- Whilst in the turning lane awaiting a light change ,I witnessed a minor accident. Little did I know there was a separate more serious accident involving a truck and car at the front of the same lane. – My mind boggles at the scale of environmental and financial costs of this madness.

  4. Increased public transport infrastructure isn’t going to help. The Government’s own report found that despite 30 odd years of urban consolidation policy, public transportation’s mode share has barely shifted. Most people whether they live in an apartment or not still choose cars as preferred transport mode. Unless govt is willing to mandate all apartments have no parking spaces at all congestion will continue. Density = congestion. See page 13: https://soe.environment.gov.au/sites/g/files/net806/f/soe2016-built-launch-20feb.pdf?v=1488792899

    • It’s because Public Transport is a nightmare unless you live within 20kms of the city center and are travelling to / from the city – anywhere else and you are f***ed

    • Pubic transport trips can be really inconvenient. I’m now in Melbourne and to go the 7.X KM from my Apartment in South Melbourne to see specialist dentist in Malvern via public transport takes 50-55 mins depending on how fast my change of trams occurs.

      Some trips can be reasonably rapid, but cross city trips seem to not be served well in Australia.

    • Got cornered by a survey field worker for the light rail network last week. The questionnaire asked those Dorothy Dixer questions that govt and online businesses ask about customer satisfaction though the product is not available viz. Do you think the light rail will be a good service? Completely useless survey questionnaire format. NSW govt cooking their survey data to make it look brilliant.

      • Yes the “Have Your Say” polls from Transport f NSW are a form of push polling. e.g. you want to tell them you hate the lack of green space in the new proposals but the question is phrased “Do you think its good that we haven’t bulldozed Park X and replaced it with apartments (unlike other nearby parks)? Strongly agree…Strongly disagree”

  5. Enjoying the new Chrome “MB Comment Sidebar” extension.

    It now shows how many comments someone has made on the thread and the % that represents of the total.

    Now you can see if the stats backup your impression that there is a windbag blowing hard.

      • I understand the algorithm does not count pearls of poetry and fine wordsmithery.
        So I could not have been referring to the works of haroldus.

        Anyway you should be able to bask in the magic statistic

        haroldus (1) (100%)

        for a few minutes come the witching hour on Friday at least until the usual suspects pinch some of your share of voice.

      • That reassurance just shot me up to (2)(6.7%)

        I dread what this observation has done to my figures.

        I can feel the draught already.

  6. The crowded footpaths on the main streets in Syd and Melb are a big concern. Hard to walk without being injured.

      • Paul-Henri Spaak

        I’m having people walking through car parks looking at their smart phones – I’m in a massive Toyota so there is a huge sense of satisfaction watching them drop their smart phone as I blare the horn right in their face……it honestly feels like some sort of tiny revolutionary victory – I don my Phrygian cap.

      • And there is the problem (you are the problem). When are private vehicles going to be banned from the CBD?

    • The hard part is adjusting whether to walk on the left or right depending on which suburb, day of week, time of day. To queue or not to queue.

  7. 10 years ago you could drive full speed along Airport Tunnel on weekends heading to the city. Now it is as if driving during peak hour traffic weekdays.

  8. I was in Canberra last week. Although I note Canberra is growing fast too, it was such a pleasant experience to not have to deal with traffic all over the place.
    I could feel the stress levels rise as I re-entered SW Sydney.

    • NO NO NO!! Micheal is having a joke. Canberra is the shittest of holes, and no sane person would want to live here…I mean there…

      If you come…I mean go…from Sydney and buy a house in Canberra, it is guaranteed that You Will Die Cold, Poor and Alone.

      Avoid Canberra like the plague, or clichés.

      • mild colonialMEMBER

        That’s right. Canberra is where vibrant souls wither and die. No reusachtige parties ever. Awful. I hear Kunnanurra is by comparison delightful.

      • @colonial boy…Spot on! Between now and your death, you will never have relations (other than remakably expensive commercial transactions at Fyshwick but what would I know) if you live in Canberra.

        It’s a cold, barren, sexless living hell full of zombie-like public servants shuffling around in cheap, ill-fitting polyester pants and cardigans who drone on interminably about equality of outcomes in APS employment processes and similar nonsense. The only moisture in this place is in lake Burley-Griffin.

        Stay away from Canberra if you know what’s good for you.

  9. If I don’t leave home by 7.30am on the weekends, it takes me more than 45 min to get to Bunnings from the east of Syd?
    I think what most miss about the immigration debate is that even if we reduce immigration today, tomorrow will just be a tad less crap then today,..but still crap, as the gates been open now for to long.
    thanks John Howard you pathetic little man

    • 8mill, John Howard might have increased immigration but it was Rudd who really opened the floodgates in response to the GFC when house prices started to wane. Gillard said she didn’t want a Big Australia, and then opened those floodgates even wider. This is a bipartisan policy, or should I say, tripartisan as the Greens want to keep cramming as many as possible in as well. And all to keep the housing bubble going.