​Most liveable city – except you can’t really get around to do your living

Sydney has been named the “most liveable” capital city in Australia by a study that includes one caveat: the public transport situation.

Yep, just one small detail. Just a little matter of how, and if, you can get around.

Sydney, concluded boffins from RMIT, is liveable because most people live within 400m of a public open space, and only 1.29km from an “activity centre”.

But its transport fails, with only 2 per cent of suburbs, and 38 per cent of homes, meeting public transport targets.

These include all homes being within 400m of a bus stop serviced every 30 minutes or within 800m of a train station serviced every 15 minutes.

The report said these “ambitious” state government targets are hard to meet – as if that matters in Sydney. 

Real people know liveability has a lot more to do with how much time you spend making traffic, and whether there is a train station nearby, than it does with “targets”. 

What good are bureaucrats’ policies if the trains and buses aren’t actually there? 

Step outside to areas where public transport is reliant on Sydney’s system. 

Ask people if they live within 800m of a train that goes every 15 or 30 minutes and watch them either laugh, or cry.

And Sydney’s not much better if you’re in a car. Peak hour has become 12 hours long.

Most liveable – except you can’t really get around to do your living.

It’s no secret that part of what makes great cities work is their first-class transport. 

Tokyo, London, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne. Sydney had its chance – but nine straight budget surpluses (until 2006) neglected a life-changing investment in public transport. 

Are they about to blow another? 

The big money goes to serve the car. WestConnex is costing more than $17 billion. The F6 extension would cost about $18 billion. But no measure of “liveability” is based on cars.

Getting around is no minor issue. 

Some say the devil is in the details but I say that’s where God resides. 

  • Ben Langford is a Fairfax journalist