City News

Could free public transport revive Sydney’s CBD?

The light rail could become free in a plan suggested at the Sydney summit. Photo: Allison Hore

By ALLISON HORE

As part of an ambitious plan to bring people back into Sydney’s CBD, the NSW government is considering offering free rides on public transport.

After an idea floated at the Sydney CBD summit, NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government is considering allowing commuters to ride public transport to and from the city for free on Mondays and Fridays. 

“I’m very open to looking at ways we can incentivise public transport, particularly on Fridays,” he said.

“It clearly came through today, and as I said, we’ll look at it.”

Despite NSW being mostly open-for-business as usual, economic activity in the Sydney CBD is still well below pre-pandemic levels and commercial occupancy rates sit at only around 50 percent. Before the pandemic, occupancy was at around 90 percent. 

Last week’s Sydney CBD summit gave the NSW government the opportunity to engage with businesses about what can be done to help revive the city.

Monday and Friday were earmarked as suitable days for the free transport scheme as surveys indicate they would be the days people would be least likely to come into work if they had a 3 day in-office 2 day from-home work week. Mr. Perrottet noted data shows business is already especially slow on these days.

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

Other participants added the CBD light rail should be made free to facilitate movement around the city.

“Breathing life into the city”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who was also in attendance at the CBD summit, said free public transport to the city is something she’d “love to see.” She suggested making transport more accessible would be a good way to attract people out of their homes and back into their offices.

“We stand ready to do whatever it takes to breathe life back into our city centre,” she said. 

Free public transport was just one of the ideas pitched at the summit during which the Berejiklian government promised to inject an additional $20 million into projects to support the city’s growth. The new funding brings the total investment in post-pandemic CBD revitalisation to more than $40 million, including $5 million from the city of Sydney. 

Minister for Small Business, Damien Tudehope, said the first CBD summit during the summer brought about many innovative schemes to attract people back into the city.

“Since the first Summit, we’ve gone on to launch Dine & Discover, as well as new Sydney CBD accommodation vouchers which will be available later this year and we’ll consider other opportunities as they arise,” Mr. Tudehope said.

The NSW government will continue discussions over which of the ideas raised in the summit to implement. 

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