When does the game finally change?

TRANSPORT IS THE KEY: Centre for Western Sydney director Professor Phillip O’Neill says it's time for less talk, more action.
TRANSPORT IS THE KEY: Centre for Western Sydney director Professor Phillip O’Neill says it's time for less talk, more action.

In 2013 Premier O’Farrell launched WestConnex as a game changer. 

Now Prime Minister Turnbull and Premier Baird both say an airport at Badgerys Creek will be a game changer.

Committee for Sydney CEO Tim Williams says a north-south rail line through outer western Sydney would be a game changer. 

Tim (again) says a fast train to the west from the CBD would be a game changer. 

Planning Minister Rob Stokes says light rail through Parramatta CBD will be a game changer.

Ann Macgregor, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, says moving the Powerhouse Museum west will be a game changer.

So many people making the same confident prediction that the game will change? Want more of them? I could go on.

Sometimes sitting through their speeches I feel the urge to ask what this game in western Sydney is that always needs changing. But then politeness gets the better of me, even though I don’rt always think it should.

Maybe we should be more aggressive about this game change caper.

Let’s face it. In western Sydney – where we have all decided to make a life for our families – the stakes are big for all of us. 

From now on, two out of every three new Sydneysiders will live in western Sydney and in 20 years’ time western Sydney will be home to three million people.

Quite rightly, we have concerns about where we put all these new folk. 

But maybe more important is where western Sydney’s growing labour force will find jobs. 

What economic sectors will be jobs generators, not jobs destroyers? What skills will workers need? These are critical questions.

There is also the question of where jobs will be located, because this determines the daily journeys people have to make to and from their places of work.

At the Centre for Western Sydney we’ve completed a report called Western Sydney’s Jobs Slide (you can find it on the web – just search the Western Sydney University website). It reveals some worrying trends.

In the next 20 years the number of workers residing in western Sydney will grow by more than 300,000. 

If nothing much changes, this growth will add a quarter of a million extra cars to western Sydney roads every morning and another quarter million every evening.

There are two obvious reasons for our car dependence.

One is that jobs in western Sydney are increasingly dispersed – away from public transport routes – meaning people have to take to their cars.

The other problem is that the region isn’t generating enough local jobs. 

Our report predicts that by 2036 nearly half a million western Sydney workers will be forced to leave the region every morning to journey to their places of work.

Put these two problems together – the scattering of jobs and a growing jobs deficit – and we know the result.

And that is roads in and out of the region continue to be packed both morning and night, while commuters bound for the CBD face mad scrambles for inadequate parking at local railway stations and then face a long ride on uncomfortable and over-crowded trains.

This is the game that needs changing, no? 

Traffic congestion and poor public transport services are driving us nuts, strangling our daily lives, and driving up business costs.

New infrastructure is important. We need more public transport and more efficient roads. 

But most importantly we need large concentrations of jobs in the region so that the excessive time, high cost and daily tedium of getting to work are drastically reduced.

Large concentrations of jobs are the real game changer.

Professor Phillip O’Neill is Director of the Centre for Western Sydney, at Western Sydney University. You can follow him on Twitter @CentreWS