Imagine a more accessible, more liveable 30-minute city

Sydney. There are things we love. There things we hate. There are things we do well. And there are things that leave a lot to be desired.

You might support WestConnex, but you might really hate the stadium plan. You might be a fan of the new metro line, but be sceptical of the benefits of light rail. A new Badgerys Creek airport – great. Higher density living – not so great.

Ultimately, we all want what’s best for Sydney, and at Deloitte, we’ve identified access as key to making the city more liveable for more people.

People and economic activity are drawn to Sydney precisely because of its liveability, but it’s a delicate balance –  we also need to manage our environmental impact, congestion levels and city density to maintain the liveability we all want for ourselves, our families and our communities.

A city can’t be truly liveable if people can’t readily access the things they need to do and the places they want to be. So we’ve undertaken some new analysis to add to this important topic. We’ve asked; just how liveable is Sydney right now? And what are the most valuable changes, tangible or otherwise, that all of us, across government, the private sector and as individuals, can make to improve liveability?

We’ve focused on the things that are central to our working and non-working lives – jobs, public transport, schools, hospitals and shops. And we’ve concluded that if we could create a more accessible 30-minute Sydney, the NSW economy could benefit from a potential $10 billion annual economic dividend via reduced daily commuting times, productivity gains from agglomeration and infrastructure investments.

But Sydney is still a largely monocentric city, and for too many people, we have a fair way to go to be a true 30-minute city.

To make what we hope is a meaningful contribution to conversations (and action) about Sydney’s future, we’ve also developed a 30-Minute City Index that measures the number of jobs, shops, hospitals, and schools that can be accessed across metropolitan Sydney by area, within 30 minutes, as well as traditional liveability measures such open space and safety.

Areas that rank higher provide greater accessibility to the jobs and services that are central to our lives, and are more ‘liveable’ as a result.

Not surprisingly, our most accessible and liveable 30-minute neighbourhoods are currently clustered in and around our CBD job hub. But that doesn’t mean they are the only great places to live, and the Index’s ‘Top 50’ also includes areas further afield that also currently offer higher levels of accessibility to jobs, transport and other services.

We agree with the Greater Sydney Commission’s three-cities Directions for a Greater Sydney vision to 2056 that Sydney becoming a 30-minute city is a matter of need, given population growth. There are clearly social benefits, but also economic benefits from having a greater number of ‘hubs’ and clustering of business activity.

Ultimately, any economic and employment hub requires infrastructure to support activity and an innovative approach to transport will be the key to unlocking 30-minute city potential. Yes, these infrastructure investments will likely be costly (and the state government should be applauded for much of its transport vision), but they will also result in significant and sustainable economic growth benefits for Sydney.

Improving liveability in Sydney and giving people more choice in, and autonomy over, their lives, will require a truly collaborative effort involving government, business and communities.

Governments have an important role to play in ensuring the right incentives exist for businesses and individuals to distribute throughout the city, and in supporting a policy environment where urban and transport planners can adapt flexibly to changing needs.

Businesses can contribute to the public discussion on what is needed to support business investment and operations. Businesses might also consider the benefits of clustering along transport networks or expanding their current footprint into Western Sydney. And they can embrace agile and flexible work practices which may alleviate commuter ‘pinch points’ or, in some cases, potentially remove the need to commute altogether.

And individuals and communities will be the ones driving the change they want to see from governments and businesses – that should come through demand for flexible working for example, as well as clearly articulating the culture, amenities and facilities they would like to see in an area that would attract them to live there.

For most, Sydney isn’t close to being a 30-minute city. But with the right commitment, planning and investment, we think creating 30-minute neighbourhoods for as many Sydneysiders as possible is a challenge worth choosing.

How can we create greater liveability for Sydneysiders? Read more blogs on how we can make Sydney a 30-minute city here, or visit our ImagineSydney: Live webpage.

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