Image: Cockburn Central

Perth and transit-oriented development (TOD) have somewhat of a chequered history. Whilst projects such as Subi Centro, Cockburn Central and The Village at Wellard could rightfully lay claim to TOD status, for every good Perth example, there are a multitude of examples of stations being placed in large freeway road reservations with “planner applied” densities spattered either side. And while not every train, bus or light rail stop can or should facilitate transit-oriented development, Perth can certainly do TOD better and do it more often.

So what does the state government’s current MetroNet initiative mean for TOD and the development industry in Perth? If nothing else, MetroNet will provide TOD opportunities – but of course opportunities need to be taken and realised by both government and private sector. From a historical planning perspective, not since the mid 00’s with the opening of the Perth the Mandurah line and the early 1990s and the opening of the northern line to Clarkson, will Perth be afforded the opportunity to deliver on true transit-oriented development. In these instances TOD development was somewhat hit and miss.

So how do we collectively better capitalise on the opportunities provided by MetroNet?

MetroNet is examining a suite of transit projects across the metropolitan area – from line extensions (Yanchep, Byford and Thornlie-Cockburn), to new stations (Karnup, Midland and Bellvue) and level crossing closures on the heritage lines. Of course, central to the MetroNet initiative is the long-awaited Morley to Ellenbrook line. All of these initiatives have the ability to assist in the facilitation of TOD but changes to colours on plans alone won’t deliver the desired outcome. To that end, delivering on TOD is far more than just a planning and design exercise. Understanding and responding to local residential, retail and office markets, implementing value capture structures early and community buy-in are just as important as best-practice planning and design practices.

In many MetroNet locations, market realities mean the level of development intensity required and desired may not occur in a short-medium term horizon – which historically has resulted in underdevelopment in the early stages of TOD projects. This is where government have a role to play.

The Urbis experience locally, nationally and internationally is that the best TOD examples more often than not have some level of government intervention. In a MetroNet context, such initiatives could include:

  • A streamlined planning framework. Implementing Improvement Plans/Schemes and placing development control powers in the hands of one single agency to expedite approvals processes will make high density and commercial development sites more attractive in the early stages.
  • Providing up-front amenity. The provision of traditional open space solutions will not cut-it. Early public realm intervention that provides for a sense of place and activation, will be critical in generating early buyer and user interest in these new precincts.
  • Developer Incentives for the early provision of higher densities and commercial development. Whilst somewhat controversial, stamp duty concessions, project development agreements, rating agreements and developer contribution offsets are all potential financial incentives government could employ in seeking to generate higher residential densities and activation within these new TOD precincts. Such concessions should also be afforded to those developers providing for housing diversity (small lot, townhouse and apartments).

Experience says, there is no silver bullet to delivering quality transit oriented development. What is clear however is that both government and the private sector have an equal role to play. Let the MetroNet journey begin…

Contributed by UDIA’s Principal Research Partner Urbis