Light rail critical to developing viable city centres, says expert

LIGHT rail is critical to developing strong, economically-viable city centres, according to US-based urban planning expert Rodney Tolley.

Mr Tolley’s comments came days after the State Government confirmed it would explore the cheaper alternative of buses to service Perth’s northern suburbs, including the Mirrabooka Town Centre development.

Dr Tolley, who spoke at a seminar on urban density in Perth last Monday, said adequate transport was key to the development of liveable city centres.

‘The critical thing about density is that on its own, it’s not going to deliver high quality urban environments,’ he said. ‘Anybody who imagines that just crowding people into a smaller space is going to deliver good quality urban environments is mistaken because you need very good public transport to service it in the first place.’

Heart Foundation cardiovascular health director Trevor Shilton, who also spoke at the forum, said if the State Government was committed to building vibrant, healthy communities, it would invest in light rail.

‘There’s a lot more to this; if you’re only interested in moving people, then buses and light rail are pretty much the same, but if you’re interested in this broader notion of developing communities, then light rail is the answer,’ Mr Shilton said.

‘It’s going to be better for business, it’s going to be better for development; clearly there’s an environment and traffic congestion element, and we’re interested in that, but we’re also interested in health and social development and wellbeing. This ticks all the boxes and one might call it a no-brainer but it requires government investment and leadership.

‘Light rail is the solution, it needs to be the objective, whether that means it takes longer, then so be it.’

Mr Shilton said linking communities to heavy rail via light rail was critically important through Stirling and Perth’s northern suburbs.