Brisbane's urban blueprint

Brisbane's blueprint for urban infrastructure 

Coordinating infrastructure development - especially funding - across multiple levels of government can often be a massive challenge, particularly when your city spans multiple jurisdictions. In some of the most mature and developed cities of the world, jurisdictional disagreements can (and often do) delay or derail even the most critical infrastructure projects.

State and city administrators in and around Brisbane, Australia, however, seem to have largely solved that challenge. "We now have a pretty mature blueprint for how we identify, plan and deliver infrastructure in the South East Queensland (SEQ) region," said David Stewart, Director-General of the Department of Transport and Main Roads for the Queensland State Government. "On the whole, the approach is well supported by the State government and Local Councils who work together to plan the region's growth and identify the key infrastructure priorities for the short, medium and long-term." "The Australian government also see it positively in their consideration when allocating federal funds.

Booming Brisbane

Brisbane may not be the biggest city in Australia, but it is the fastest growing. Having seen consistently strong growth over the past 35 years, the population has continued to boom through the Global Financial Crisis and is now expected to expand by more than 45 percent to 4.4 million in the next 20 years.

"In SEQ, we have a very clear regional plan that has mapped out future land-use and growth patterns, "This, in turn, assists us develop our transport infrastructure requirements in order to meet those growth projections. We then overlay the region's 20 year Infrastructure Plan and Program, and work to support local integrated infrastructure plans through local Councils who translate strategies in a way that makes sense for their community's unique needs.

A mandate to integrate

Supporting this structure are a number of government initiatives aimed at creating more integration between government departments and services. At the policy and investment level, the Queensland government has amalgamated the former transport and highways (main roads) agencies into a single integrated transport department and established the TransLink Transit Authority with a charter that is focused on public transport service delivery.

This model allows the State Government to focus on testing alternate policy and investment choices across transport modes in a more integrated manner. It has also enabled the government to integrate services across multiple operators and jurisdictions, ensure a high level of service quality, and retain some of the levers that it needs to influence usage. In recent years, TransLink introduced a smartcard to support integrated fares across the city's public transit network, and already the card has been adopted by almost 80 percent of local transit riders.

"We also have a very unique process called TravelSmart where we send people out to individual houses to help walk families through some of their options for reducing their drive time, using local transit or taking more 'active' transport like biking or walking," added Stewart. The results speak for themselves: in a recent trial in north Brisbane, car usage dropped by 13 percent. The region has also seen a 22 percent increase in transit use and a whopping 50 percent increase in cycling and walking in many neighborhoods.

Putting a unique spin on global best practices

Mr. Stewart is also quick to credit other world-class cities for ideas that Brisbane has adopted, such as the city's new busways which are now experiencing patronage growth of around 20 percent; an idea adapted from Ottawa, Canada over a decade ago. "We've looked at great working models like the Transport for London ticketing systems and the New York Taxi service to see how they get their best outcomes," notes Stewart. "But we still want to be Brisbane, because there is a lot of uniqueness that we love about our part of the world."

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