THE centre of Sydney would be returned to the people under a radical plan to push out cars, create public squares at Town Hall and Circular Quay, and ultimately tear down the Cahill Expressway and the Western Distributor.
The Herald has obtained the blueprint for the biggest transformation yet envisaged of the city centre. The acclaimed international planner Jan Gehl will unveil it for the City of Sydney on Monday night……..Upon completing his report, Public Spaces, Public Life For The City Of Sydney, Professor Gehl asks: “We have one question for this city: what do you value more – your people, or your cars?”
His plan does not require tearing down the city and starting again. Rather, it could be transformed in stages. But for it to succeed, the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, will need the financial and political support of Kevin Rudd’s newly elected federal Labor government and of Morris Iemma’s State Government.
Transforming George Street into a “vivacious” promenade and shopping strip is critical to Professor Gehl’s vision. Its 2.5 kilometres would be closed to private vehicles and dedicated to public transport and bicycles. It would be punctuated by three public squares – at Central Station, Town Hall and Circular Quay.
At the quay, the Cahill Expressway would be demolished and the railway station put underground to make way for a public square that would allow the half-million people who visit and work in the city every day to appreciate Sydney Harbour.
At Town Hall, the Woolworths headquarters would be demolished to create open space. The city council has already bought this and neighbouring buildings, and has long had such a plan. Pedestrians would no longer need to press a button at traffic lights. No one should have to “apply” to walk across the road, Professor Gehl says. It is a human right.
Walkers would no longer take a stop-start journey along George Street, the smog-filled thoroughfare that he says should be Sydney’s main promenade. They should not even have to step down to the road at intersections with traffic crossing the city. It is the cars that should wait, he argues. Parking would be restricted to the edges of town…….
A quick way to reduce city traffic would be to introduce congestion charging. Drivers would be required to pay a fee for driving through Sydney centre. The rate would vary and be more expensive during peak times. That would certainly reduce traffic. The funds raised could be used to support public transport, perhaps Mayor Clover Moore could come to an agreement with the private sector to expand the tram service.