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1...Grafton Street

The Historical Society of Cairns has written an article titled "Women in Cairns". On page 2 of this article are the following comments: "…Cairns had quite a number of sex workers. In the early days they were concentrated in Grafton Street (then called Sachs Street) because this was the site of Cairns Chinatown. Why was Chinatown considered suitable? - because European Australians looked down on Chinese Australians, so undesirable things like brothels could go on in their part of the town…" Would the Chinese tourists be offended by such remarks? Personally I think the answer would most likely be yes.

A logical place to honour the Chinese for their contribution to the Cairns REGION, would be City Place not Grafton Street.


2...Overview of proposed changes to the CBD as outlined in the Grafton Street feedback

I am quite sure that the proposal to redevelop the area which includes the old library site, as mentioned in the feedback, would just about please everyone who is concerned about the CBD. That is: City Place remains intact (and improved), a fume free bus station near the centre of the CBD would help revitalise public transport usage (click here to see how this underground bus station could work), a better produce market site than the present Rusty's site and more CBD parking, would all attract more people back to the city centre.

Whether or not the owners of this vacant property site would be interested in the proposal mentioned above, is yet to be determined. The Council has approved the construction of two residential towers with retail activity or "urban plaza" at its base. However, if this project is to go ahead, it will most certainly depend on that great arbiter of most things - the market.


3...Comment sent to the CRC on the 4th March 2013

In today's Cairns Post, in an article by Liam Parsons, was this comment: " leaders calling for the CBD revamp to be completed for the [G20] meeting..."


It is very important that the CRC gets this one right. My feelings are that, in the end, this new CRC proposal will FAIL because the central issue is not addressed. That is, in the last 25 years in Cairns, it is the growth of shopping centres placed in more convenient locations that are attracting the lion's share of shoppers.


4...Comment sent to the CRC on the 11th March 2013

Before the Cairns Regional Council proceeds with their City Centre Alive proposal, they must clarify to the citizens of Cairns precisely what changes there will be, and the resultant effects of these changes.


One example is the removal of a bus route from the lower part of Abbott Street. The bus-stops in this part of the street appear to be popular. Perhaps this is because of the close proximity to shopping, the entertainment and dining areas of the wharf area (including the Casino), the Esplanade and the Lagoon. Without doubt, the removal of the bus-stops, especially the two that are near Woolworths and the Court House Hotel, would upset a number of bus passengers.

Car parking

Another example is car parking. Although I believe, as a general rule, that the motorists of Cairns do not have a parking problem, the problem that they do have, is walking. However having said that, I do know that a sizable number of people in Cairns rate the availability of car parking as very important. Calculations shown below indicate that the City Centre Alive proposal could reduce the number of full time car park spaces by more than 67. Clarification of this is as follows: According to this proposal, in the Lake Street Shopping Precinct there will be a gain of 18 car parks. Car park loss at the northbound and southbound bus stations at the northern end of Lake Street will be 42. In the nearby vacant site where the CRC has set up a temporary parking area, there will be a major loss of parking once, if ever, the proposed buildings are constructed. This loss could be about 50 or even more.

At the moment in the part of Shields Street that will be referred to in the future as the Entertainment Plaza and Shields Street Urban Park, there are now 21 permanent car parks. It is along here that the CRC will launch their shared zone concept, where during shopping hours, specified areas will be car park and at other times they will be open space for the general public to enjoy (cars will be excluded from these areas by hydraulic bollards). The CRC must reveal just how many car parking spaces will be available here during shopping hours under the new scheme.

However, there will be a gain of car parking spaces with the closure of four bus-stops in Abbott Street with car parking to be put in this space. Assuming seven angled car spaces per bus stop, the total of car spaces gained using this method would be 28.

Overall, by these calculations, car parking spaces gained would be 46 and full time spaces lost would be 113, leaving a total LOSS of round about 67 full time car park spaces. Therefore obviously, the Cairns Regional Council must spell out to the motorists just how much they will be affected by these changes in the CBD.

The "opening up" of City Place to traffic

But the most contentious issue of all is the intention of allowing traffic through City Place, or the soon to renamed, Shields Street Square. Before proceeding with this, the CRC must prove to the citizens of Cairns that in allowing this, there are no dangers at all to pedestrians also using this space. There are two main dangers for the pedestrian: Collision with a vehicle and the dangerous exhaust fumes emitted by the vehicles.

Although the 10 kph speed limit may make the buses safe as far as collisions go, the same cannot be said for private vehicles. With their freedom to cruise the length of Lake Street, will their speed be monitored and penalties applied to those who travel in excess of the 10 kph limit when going through Shields Street Square? Also, if the traffic flow along that part of the Esplanade nearest to Shields Street Square can be a guide, then we could expect this same, sometimes constant, flow of traffic in the new square.

The petrol and diesel exhaust fumes could lead to serious health problems for the pedestrians, especially later in life. Research by the The World Health Organisation has found a link between diesel exhausts and lung cancer and the information here is about vehicle exhausts and the general risks that they can impose upon human health. It is from BBC Health.

NOTE: If the CRC allows exhaust fumes to be emitted in this public place that are at dangerous levels, then this may contravene the State Government's Public Health Act 2005. Click here.

Therefore, the CRC must do a better job in presenting all the potential problems created for the people of Cairns by this 30 million dollar facelift. Once that is done and the changes made, it should then be fully and clearly explained to the public.


5...Comment sent to the CRC on the 18th March 2013

Gridlock at Shields Street Square?

The problem that the City Centre Alive proposal has is that when this design attempts to solve one problem, all it does is create another one that could be worse. That is, the solution for the vehicles not to run over pedestrians is to reduce the vehicle's speed limit to 10 kph. This speed restriction will most certainly create a bottleneck at the new square. You only have to look at the nearby Esplanade to notice the following traffic pattern: First, there is a stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic followed by traffic that is more dispersed, and this is followed by virtually no traffic at all. This pattern is caused by, of course, the traffic lights at the beginning of the eatery section of the Esplanade.

When the Shields Street Square is constructed, a similar pattern could appear in Lake Street except that there would be two streams of traffic, this time including buses, heading towards Shields Street Square. The problem with this is that the dangerous exhaust fumes emitted by these vehicles will not disperse as readily as they would if the vehicles were travelling at their normal speed. The situation could be especially dangerous if gridlock occurs.

These exhaust fumes may include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, particulate matter and nitro-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. (Diesel motors generate the last two).

Considering the dangers that these chemicals impose, the Cairns Regional Council ought to ask the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to, at this stage, hypothetically estimate the future air quality at the Shields Street Square so as to establish if the bottlenecking of traffic can cause dangerous pollution levels. This link goes to a PDF of the Environmental Protection (Air) Policy, which is part of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. In this PDF, go to pages 9-12 of Schedule 1, and you will find the air quality objectives that are recommended in Queensland. Also this will link to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website and indicates the location of the air monitoring stations in Queensland. You will notice that the nearest stations are in Townsville. The monitoring of air quality in Cairns would then, of course, be out of the question, therefore the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection would have to simulate the Shields Street Square situation at, say, Townsville's Pimlico air monitoring station so as to give some sort of idea of the dangers imposed upon public health at the proposed Shields Street Square during congested traffic.

The results of this investigation should then be presented for perusal to the citizens of Cairns in the clearest possible way.

6...Comment sent to the CRC on the 28th March 2013

Fort Street Shared Space, Auckland

The Cairns Regional Council has gone out of its way in promoting the shared space concept using Fort Street as an example, photos of which are shown below:

Fort Street is one of a number of streets in or near the CBD of Auckland that are now sharing their space with vehicles, pedestrians and bikes. Apparently it is working well over there.

To get an idea of what Fort Street looked liked before its reconstruction select Fort Street, Auckland, select copy, click Google Maps and then paste Fort Street, Auckland into Google's search box and do a Street View. Notice that Fort Street was originally a narrow street with a bitumen roadway servicing cars mostly.

In fact all the shared space projects that I could find on the internet are similar to Fort Street in that the idea is to encourage the pedestrians to share space on the roadway with vehicles, and where this space was originally for vehicles only. You will notice that in this link to Auckland Council's Fort Street evaluation report, the authorities congratulate themselves for the reduction of vehicle numbers compared to before the change; they see the shared space concept as a form of traffic calming.

This is the opposite of the intention to what is to happen at the Shields Street Square proposal. This proposal is to allow vehicles to use a space that is currently for pedestrian use only. No one would call this traffic calming.

Therefore it is wrong for the CRC, when promoting the shared space concept, to use examples that are quite different in their intention.

Looking at the shared space concept that are in use around the world, reminds us that to open parts of a CBD to vehicular traffic will not increase shopping, while limiting this traffic would most likely assist in an increase in visitation and shopping, like what has happened in Fort Street.

Remember: Cars do not shop. People shop!

The CRC's role in the demise of the CBD

A decision was made in the nineties to move the administration section of the CRC from the CBD to a "green acre" site in Spence Street. The old CRC library building was demolished and the area around it was put up for sale. The old council building in Abbott Street was to become the new home for the city library.

A question could be asked here. Would it have been better for the CRC to use their own land around the old library site to construct a high-rise building? This building could have been strata-titled, with parts of the building sold off for retail, commercial and residential use. And, of course, the CRC could themselves have been located here. In addition, to solve the problem of the exhaust fumes emitted by the buses in Lake Street, the bus station could have been relocated to the basement of this new building. The exhaust fumes could then be dispersed up into the air far away from humans. (See note below).

This new building could have been populated with people, CRC staff included, who could use the CBD for their own enjoyment and as well, do a bit of shopping during their lunch hour. To add to this convenience, these same workers would have the opportunity to catch a bus home by simply getting a lift down to the bus station below.

But to be honest, what I've just mentioned is all: "what we shouldda done" stuff. However, I do believe all is not completely lost. In the web page Feedback for the Chinese Heritage Concept Plan for Grafton Street, I mentioned the possibility of using the currently vacant site of the old Cairns library to construct a building that I optimistically predicted in Footnote 2 would: "…just about please everyone who is concerned about the CBD."

Approval, however, has been given by the CRC for a developer to construct a building on this site with carparking underneath, but not for a bus station to go there. A proposal with a bus station may interest the developers of this project. Who knows? Maybe someone should ask them about this. They can only say no.


Note: We should not forget that Bustech in their 2009 website promised that by the following year (2010) that their sister company Sunbus would have hybrid buses on the road. This, of course, did not happen. A hybrid system is an important thing for buses to have. For example, at traffic lights and bus-stops, in congested areas, or in confided spaces such as an underground bus station, the pollution problem of the exhaust would be eliminated if the driver of the bus switched the motor to hybrid and diesel electric mode only. In 2011, the NSW Transport Department commissioned a bus trial about the benefits and the problems that hybrid and diesel buses can have. A PDF of their final report can be found here.

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