by Oakley Kaddish
Submissions to the NSW Draft Transport Master Plan closed at the end of April and brought local Darlinghurst business owners a step closer to solving traffic problems along Oxford Street.
Business owners are lobbying State Government in an effort to secure the proposed East Sydney Light Rail line journey along Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. The new line, which will connect the eastern suburbs with the city, would provide them with an increase in regulated traffic and potentially more customers. However, transport planners are exploring a route that cuts through Surry Hills in an underground tunnel under Devonshire Street.
The community organisation SOS (Save Oxford Street) has asked city planners to choose Oxford Street, Darlinghurst as the route for the East Sydney Light Rail to Randwick, with stops at Riley, Crown or Palmer Streets.
Stephen Gyrory, a SOS campaigner, says “The 2004 Oxford Street Upgrade has had severe and ongoing repercussions for businesses in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, where the day time trade is now at the point of collapse, traffic has taken over and pedestrians, businesses and visitors shun the street.”
On May 1st, there were 1,360 participants in an ongoing petition run by SOS on www.comunityrun.org. The aim of SOS is to gain 10,000 signatures by June 30 in order to have the matter raised in Parliament.
“I agree with the petition because I think there would be a calming effect on traffic but the biggest point that I can see is that buses go up here at 10,000 kilometres an hour, cars zoom pass you. I think the stopping and starting of trams is much quieter and it will make it a much better place,” Says Ken Holmes, owner of Darlinghurst retail store Aussie Boys.
According to the City of Sydney Oxford Street Safety Strategy, 12 per cent of the recorded local accidents on Oxford Street are caused by moving vehicles and are between the hours of midnight and 3am.
However, some local residents believe that a light rail would not make a significant difference to the amount of people visiting the area and their purpose for visiting.
Steven Aitkins, a local resident, says, “Just think about how Oxford Street survives now with the amount of traffic that flows through that area. Is there really anything worth stopping for? There is zero daytime economy; the strip is dead unless you want some tacky cheap fast food. The trams will be simply be for transporting people past Darlinghurst and on to the footy.”
The precinct has not only experienced a decline in the number of visitors but also an increase in late night violence and drunken behaviour.
There are 122 hotels located within the two kilometre radius of Oxford Street, with 12 located in the Oxford Street shopping precinct.
According to SOS, this is a once in a generation opportunity to reverse the fortunes of what was once Sydney’s premier high street, but planners are not taking wider cultural or economic factors into consideration; they simply see Oxford Street as a traffic artery, not a community.Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that all plans were still open for consideration but would not comment specifically on the plan for Oxford Street.