Transit Oriented Developments - the way city life is changing


James Berry is the Global Director of Transport at Woods Bagot, a global architectural and consulting practice founded in Australia.

Integrated transport planning will be key to addressing many of the issues that are currently facing Perth including employment, housing affordability, car congestion and connectivity into the city.

The recent $20 billion funding announced by the Federal Government for rail projects to cut congestion in Australian cities, grow the regions and create thousands of employment opportunities has come at the right time. The reallocation of some of the existing funding for the Perth Freight Link project to Metronet will help deliver world-class public transport through the creation of new lines from Joondalup to Yanchep the linking of Thornlie to Cockburn and the much needed circle line.

While Metronet will improve land values and provide additional revenue for the State, it will fall short if the design of the rail and associated transit oriented developments (TODs) is not considered in an integrated way. This means ensuring the connections between modes of transport are optimised, the buildings are designed around the people who use them and the public spaces - the urban design and "placemaking" - creates safe new city districts that are loved by the people who live there.

Human habitation has been defined by transport systems since the beginning of time. From early settlements located next to navigable waterways, to medieval towns and cities where roads were the width of a horse and cart and rarely extended beyond a four mile walking distance.

The great global cites of London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, located on strategic trading routes, were originally planned around their transport networks and as transport technology has changed, many of the cities have been rebuilt to accommodate new infrastructure such as airports, railways and ports.

Well-designed TODs can bring huge prosperity to a city and regenerate previously run down urban neighbourhoods by creating mixed-use precincts, which provide the convenience of more densely populated developments close to transit stations.

Globally, Woods Bagot has designed many TOD's in London, Dubai and Australia as well as Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and New York. The success of these developments depends on a design outcome that capitalises on the mixed-use expertise of the firm, bringing together transport design with knowledge from the retail, hospitality, workplace and residential sectors. Just as important as the buildings however, is the urban design and "placemaking" around the station entrances to ensure they enhance the city fabric and facilitate people movement and transport mode interchange.

In recent times, Perth has had its own TOD, of sorts, at Kings Square and the Forrestfield Airport Link will create regeneration opportunities at both Bayswater and Forrestfield. Both have the capacity to become well-connected places to live and work with well-designed public spaces and new quarters for the city, with their own "sense of place".

The World Trade Centre twin tower proposal in Perth designed by Woods Bagot is another great example of a TOD, which combines a shopping centre, an international trade convention centre, apartments and restaurants all over, and adjacent to, the existing railway line and Central Station. This will not only be a huge investment in the City but will also reposition Perth as a global player - directly connected by air to London and will no doubt increase the number of tourists visiting the city.

It is not, however, just railway stations that can regenerate an economy. Substantial mixed-use commercial developments around airports are now more commonplace across the globe with major developments in India and, closer to home, the planned Direct Factory Outlet at Perth Airport, which will see the construction of a commercial retail development with multiple tenancies.

Ports can also play a vital part in economic regeneration. Woods Bagot is currently in a consortium preparing for the redevelopment of Circular Quay into a vibrant new quarter and transport interchange. Closer to home the McGowan Government's vision for South Quay will create a world-class welcome for cruise ship passengers. Along with developing a tourism precinct in Fremantle, the connection to the CBD will be vital. Perhaps we should consider using the beautiful Swan River and emulating the romantic, high-speed taxi route from Venice airport to the Grand Canal.

Improved transport infrastructure and interconnectivity will improve life in the suburbs of Perth but it's important that planning policy continues to support the civic centre of the city and it remains a vibrant heart of the community.

As Perth emerges from the downturn, this recent infrastructure investment could not be more welcome. The responsibility of this generation is to ensure lessons are learnt from the best global design thinking and fully integrated TODs deliver well-planned transport systems, great architecture and memorable new districts for the people of Perth.

This story Transit Oriented Developments - the way city life is changing first appeared on WA Today.