Requiem for liveability

Sydney is morbidly obese!

A city whose arteries are choked with traffic, continues to stuff itself with high-rise residentials at both an astounding and appalling rate.  Domestic and foreign investors alike, armed with fatty deposits, force-feed the metropolitan area a high density diet of apartments, towers and developments.  Sydney groans as it rubs its stretched-smooth belly, belches and, dabbing at its jowls, rasps, “oh alright then” at the offer of yet another crane to prop open its metropolitan mandible.

This may seem rich coming from a committed carnivore known as that guy at the wedding reception buffet (or any buffet for that matter) that simply doesn’t know when to say when.  They say it takes one to know one and as a festively plump glutton who doesn’t eat ‘til he’s full but eats ‘til he’s tired, I can say that Sydney’s days of liveability (and affordability for that matter) are numbered!

I should at this point remind everyone that I’m neither a doctor nor a town planner.  Just one of those appalling people that will interrupt his channel flicking to pause on an episode of Air Crash Investigations just to see how the incompetence of a few led to avoidable tragedy (in some cases).  Don’t hate me for what I am, pity me for what I’ve become.


The Symptoms

Here’s a city whose arteries are clogged with slow moving traffic – trucks churning through the gears (the low ones) as commuters along the M5, M4, M2 and the M@#$ sit idly by because they have no other choice.  Buses and taxis engage in an extended series of 150m sprints between bottlenecks and bus stops with repetitive whiplash an unexpected bonus for their occupants.  Knights in shining leather or lucre armour mounted on two wheel steeds risk life and limb to worm their way between stationary cars and do so against a soundscape of hissed epithets and/or shouted expletives.  The accompanying sign language is deafening and underpins the bagpipe-like drone of car horns, truck horns, bus horns and the occasional enthusiastic offer of sexual favours (I assume that’s what it means).

Peak hour commuters drive or are driven past the primary cause of their slow torturous journey to distraction - the ubiquitous high rise developments. Look past the sea of metal (okay plastic probably) and watch in awe as fluoro armies command legions of earthmovers, cranes and diggers.  Onwards and upwards!  Here’s a thought dressed in a three question suit:

  1. Are extra lanes and thoroughfares being added to the main arteries of our enormous city?  You know, to keep pace with the in-suburb population spikes. 
  2. Or do we simply rely on common sense and expect the new occupants to embrace life in the bus lane or train station. 
  3. Do all rhetorical questions require question marks?

Real talk: for about a year I was a good (hmmm, I mean bad) 16kg overweight.  I knew it because not only did my scales grimace at my approach as they steeled themselves for their morning exertions but my gait was laboured, my joints burned with resentment, and the only parts of me enjoying daily rigorous exercise were my sweat glands… and alimentary canal but let’s… just… yup, moving on.  Horrifically, not only did I become accustomed to the discomfort but accepted it and then, stunningly didn’t notice it.  And my death march towards whatever fat man’s disease lay in wait continued both unabated and fuelled by diet kebabs and cheese.  Of course, that is a redemption story for another blog but there’s no room for redemptive story arcs whilst talking urban condemnation.

Sydney, are you listening?  This is serious!


The Failed Quintuple Bypass

As a delayed response to the realisation that thousands and thousands of people would commute city-wards from Sydney’s south-west corridor, the M5 tunnel was born… with a birth defect!  It was supposed to have 4 lanes (surely) but commuters for decades to come would be funnelled through a dual carriageway tunnel.  The M5 tunnel. @#$% ‘nough said… or is it?

The Cross City Tunnel allows vehicles to trade the chaos of CBD gridlock for subterranean tranquillity for a mere $8,129 per visit – at least it feels that way which is why people avoid it like the plague.  Yes, it’s unfeasibly expensive but it’s also empty! It’s as if the road down there is teeming with killer bees and death adders.  Weird.

The M2 and M7.  Not much to say here.  Sure they feature daily on morning radio shows’ traffic reports using playful words like “bingle”, “delay” and #$%^ carnage” – move along, nothing to see here.  Oh, you can’t – gridlock.  Moving on?

Light Rail:  Alas poor George St, I knew him.  And what’s going on with Anzac Parade?  I have seen first hand, taxi drivers shake their heads in bewilderment as we negotiate the newly-constructed chicanes and hairpins in super slow-mo.

Here’s what we know.  Or more correctly, what I think I know (again, not a doctor nor a town planner).  As long as Sydney and her counsel and councils continue to say yes to just one more “wafer thin” development approval – or thousands and thousands of additional apartments, it will remain in intensive care on the critical list.  In short, Sydney, despite a number of potentially lifesaving operations, is being kept alive by (earthmoving and construction) machines and an insatiable appetite for rental income and rates.  Which is also killing it.


Turn off the machine

At some point we’re all going to have to summon up the courage to walk away from the all-consuming, bloated, diseased Sydney that looks so beautiful at night from: the hillocks of Vaucluse; tourist altitudes (think Bridge Climb and Centrepoint tower); and/or vast distances. 

Sydney moves at a snail’s pace as peak hour encroaches upon all parts of the day and night except the hallowed hours between 11pm and 5am.  It groans and wheezes with the sound of hydraulic breaks and tortured gearboxes and wails in protest with every blaring car horn.  It’s cruel and awful and at some point, despite the vast oceans of money both foreign and domestic to be banked, it’s got to end at some point. 

There it is.  The horrible truth… as I see it.  And yes there is half a bottle of Coruba Jamaican rum at my elbow but that doesn’t mean that every word of this isn’t true.


Space, the final and most sought-after frontier

Perhaps the great William Shatner said it best way back in the 60s as he fronted the iconic TV series that launched a thousand spin-offs, weirdos, fans, cool ears and nerve pinches.  Space is indeed the final frontier but it’s also the only cure for a bedridden Sydney who can only muster the energy these days to say yes to more high-rises. 

Stay tuned for more stunning developments.


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