Great cities are defined by effective transport networks, and no great city is defined by its roads.
That’s why the Gold Coast needs a multi-modal transport network that goes beyond cars, buses and rail. As we discuss in our Great Ideas for the Gold Coast report, the linear nature of the city means that we can no longer continue building roads to address congestion issues.
Our city has a unique opportunity, thanks to its 260 kilometres of navigable waterways, for a public ferry service to activate the waterway network and provide an efficient service for residents and visitors.
Based on current population forecasts, the Gold Coast has enough people to support a public ferry service – and this is before we consider the demand likely to be generated by the significant number of tourists who visit every year.
A public ferry would complement the existing transport network, and take pressure off our increasingly congested roads. Importantly, it would unlock parts of our canal network currently only accessible by car. The service could link key destinations from Labrador, Southport and the Spit to Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
Just like the light rail, a ferry service could start with a small route servicing strategic locations and expand over time. It could grow sustainably, and in step with passenger demand.
Like any public transport, it will need to be government subsidised. However, as the city matures, we need to acknowledge that investment in creating an integrated transit system will set our city for future success. It’s about investing now for the benefit of future generations.
Concerns about the six-knot speed limit and the height of bridges within the city’s waterways aren’t real barriers to an effective public ferry service – these issues can be managed by the right operator with a suitable ferry design.
Critical to its success is the location of terminals and the distance between them, so some time and research needs to go into this.
We know there are groups who have expressed interest in delivering a ferry service for the Gold Coast. Collectively, government and the private sector need to agree on a model to support its delivery.