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A Metropolis of Three Cities—Sydney Seeing a Promising Future

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

By John Few, MSC, MSW, G Cert Property

As the largest mega-city in Australia, Sydney has always been a magnet attracting an enormous amount of people per annum. In the past 20 years, this stunning city is becoming more and more crowded and sometimes even chaotic (still charming though). Future development of Sydney requires an integrated and coordinating overall planning. Instead of letting each council narrowly focus on individual interests, a dedicated organization should be involved to do more profound researches and make reasonable, comprehensive and forward-looking development plans. Apart from the Department of planning alone, other authorities should also participate in such work, and planning on public transportation, road, water & electricity, schools, hospitals and employment must align themselves with the overall planning as well. This is why the newly released OUR GREATER SYDNEY 2056 is extraordinarily cheering—it shows the great emphasis Sydney government puts on forward-looking overall planning.

Complementary Connection among Three Cities

A year ago, the Greater Sydney Commission came up with the ambitious plan of dividing Sydney into three for the first time. This year, more details about zoning and future development are articulated in OUR GREATER SYDNEY 2056.

The Sydney Triplets would be the Eastern Harbour City, Central River City and Western Parkland City. This is the extension of another version of Sydney Polycentric Urban Planning. At first, it’s only one city. Then Parramatta was added as another central hub, radiating a series of sub-centers at different levels. Now, it’s transforming to a three-city layout which suits Sydney perfectly.

The city development of Australia has always been a radial pattern sprawling from the city center to peripheral areas. With growing population living in suburban areas, most working opportunities still remain in city center. Such development is unsustainable. Moving away from monocentric model to polycentric model should be an ideal and sustainable choice for city development in Australia.

The relation among the Sydney Triplets is more complementary than competitive. The Eastern Harbour City enjoys favourable weather and iconic landmarks, and will build on its existent economic strength, keeping its focus on finance, FinTech, medicine and education industries. Central City will be the Central Business District, developing industries like medicine, education, administration, finance and commercial facilities. Western Sydney is to be transformed into an Aerotropolis where trade, warehouse logistics, manufacturing, medicine, education and technology are centered on the new Western Sydney Airport.

The Deputy Chief Commissioner of Greater Sydney Commission Geoff Roberts said the development of the three cities wouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Turning Parramatta into the second CBD is very difficult at the very beginning, he told the public, especially in attracting and convincing companies to choose Parramatta. Last year, when the concept of three cities was proposed, the development of Parramatta has been quite smooth. The geological advantage of Parramatta clearly stands out as it would surrounded by two other cities on each side.

2056 Greater Sydney Region Plan

The newly released The Greater Sydney Region Plan sets a 40-year vision and establishes a 20-year plan. It contains four key themes: infrastructure and collaboration, livability, productivity and sustainability.

According to this plan, we can also see the changes of the three cities in 2011 and 2036. Currently, the proportion of jobs filled by local people in Eastern City largely outnumbers the proportion in the other two cities. The gap would shrink in 2036, which is exactly what the government expects. Besides, the population and dwellings in the western two cities would be steadily growing as time goes by, even though Eastern City would still enjoy the largest number of population and dwellings.

Another important aim of this plan is to improve Sydney’s 30-minute-commute rate, the proportion of people who can commute to work from home within 30 minutes. Currently, only 39% dwellers can enjoy 30-minute-commute. The government expects to raise that proportion to 64% in 2036 and further to 71% in 2056 by thoroughly considering and planning terrain, residential area, employment area and transportation.

Significantly different from previous long-term planning, the release of Our Greater Sydney 2056 comes with a corresponding transportation plan—Future Transport Strategy 2056 by Transport for NSW. To build three cities in Sydney, corresponding transportation support must be implemented. More than merely building more railways and roads, the most cutting-edge technologies should also be applied to predict the loading capacity of future transportation and design an effective transportation system where 70% Sydney residents can commute to work within 30 minutes. The Future Transport Strategy 2056 consists of Regional NSW Services and Infrastructure Plan and Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan with a series of supporting plans.

This future transport strategy indeed talks a lot about future transportation tendency and possible solutions, such as automatic cars, Demand bus, UAV, new energy vehicles and intelligent transport system. Now, let’s take a look at the “World-Class Mass Transit Network”, or railway network. Currently, even though Sydney railway network is undoubtedly the best in Australia, we can still see huge blank in the future Western Parkland City. In 2026, the railway network is more exhilarating. The north-western Metro line will connect Rouse Hill and Campbelltown-Macarthur via Marsden Park, St Marys and Western Sydney Airport. The middle line will go from city to Parramatta, and finally to the Western Sydney Airport, while the south-western line would go to the Western Sydney Airport via Leppington. Such planning would not only enable the new airport exert greater influence, but would also connect the entire Metro as a circle, forming a channel between Western Parkland City and the other two cities with better efficiency and loading capacity.

The Greater Sydney overall strategic planning is not a brand-new concept coming out of nothing. Instead, it is based on solid theoretical and systematical research and planning. I personally am very excited about this urban planning. Further adjustments and changes might be inevitable, but the government must have a very comprehensive and long-sighted consideration on the future development of Sydney, towards which we should all feel optimistic.


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