Free public transport flagged to boost CBD

By DAMIEN NOVAK

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has backed the idea of free public transport to Sydney’s CBD on certain days, in a bid to boost economic activity in the city centre. 

The Lord Mayor said she’d “love to see” free public transport into the CBD – an idea raised by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet at today’s Sydney CBD Summit, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Free public transport to the city centre could occur “on certain days and at certain times”, Mr Perrottet told the summit.

“We want more people back in the city, whether that’s working of shopping or coming for entertainment and dining,” he said.

The Lord Mayor suggested that Friday would be an ideal day to provide free transport, posting on social media this evening: “Free public transport on Fridays to bring people back into the CBD? I’d love to see it.

“Today I joined the Treasurer, community, business and industry leaders at the State Government’s second CBD Summit. We stand ready to do whatever it takes to breathe life back into our city centre.”

The public transport suggestion was one of numerous ideas to come out of today’s summit, at which the Berejiklian Government announced it would invest an additional $20 million into the CBD Revitalisation strategy.

“We need to continue to drive growth in Australia’s global city as we emerge from the pandemic, and today a diverse mix of people came together in Australia’s global city to help make this happen,” Mr Perrottet said in a media statement. 

“The government will allocate an additional $20 million which will be used to help our city grow. We want more people back in the city, whether that’s working or shopping or coming in for entertainment and dining.”

The new funding brings the total CBD revitalisation investment to more than $40 million, mainly from the state government but also including more than $5 million from the City of Sydney Council.

The funding comes as businesses in the CBD continue to struggle with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the normalisation of working from home, leading to a plunge in people working in the CBD and spending money downtown.

Minister for Small Business Damien Tudehope said: “Commercial occupancy rates in Sydney remain around 50 per cent due to continuing flexible working, well down from the pre-pandemic rate of about 90 per cent.

“When people return to the office, they support small businesses and local jobs by buying lunch, shopping in store rather than online, and going out to visit cultural institutions as they stay open after dark,” he said.

The lack of international tourists, too, has had a severe impact on the CBD, according to NSW Minister for Tourism and Jobs Stuart Ayres

“International travellers to Sydney contributed more than $1 billion to the economy over the summer of [2019-2020] and the city is still grappling with that loss, despite improvements on the domestic tourism front,” Mr Ayres said.

“The CBD needs to mature from being a place we go to work into a 24-hour destination with a diverse range of experiences.”

The increased funding announced today will go towards initiatives such as CBD accommodation vouchers, bolstering such such schemes as the Dine & Discover program.