- Last updated:
- 15 Mar 2021
The following list of Frequently Asked Questions seeks to address a broad range of questions concerning this project. Alternatively, you can download a copy of the FAQs document.
To put it simply, mass transit is a convenient and easy-to-access public transport system which moves people efficiently. A well-designed system reduces car usage, especially at peak times, and may include:
- trams or light rail vehicles
- a metro or subway
- passenger trains
The Sunshine Coast’s population is expected to grow from 320,000 to more than 518,000 over the next 20 years. This number is projected to be more than 600,000 by 2050.
A mass transit solution is a means of managing the effects of growth by providing the choice of a sustainable mode of travel that is a frequent, reliable, convenient and comfortable alternative to reduce dependence on private car travel.
Mass transit is one solution that is part of our future transport plan, which will be needed to enable our region to stay connected and accessible and manage congestion as we grow.
The Queensland Government is responsible for public transport services and infrastructure.
Council has taken a lead on planning for the Sunshine Coast’s transport future. This will ensure our community is well positioned to:
- secure investment from the State and Commonwealth Governments
- deliver a high-quality mass transit transport system that meets our community’s needs.
The Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Options Analysis is the second phase of the business case process. It focuses on local mass transit in the coastal corridor from Maroochydore to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, is considering several options to address the growth in travel demand including:
- business as usual
- road network upgrades – road upgrades in the coastal corridor which would benefit all users including buses
- region-wide bus system operation enhancements – new and existing routes with improved frequency, more direct routes and better connections
- region-wide bus system upgrades supported by key bus infrastructure such as improved shelters, sections of bus priority lanes and park ‘n’ ride facilities
- quality bus corridor – a high-frequency bus service running in dedicated kerbside bus priority lanes with features such as high-quality vehicles, pre-paid boarding and quality bus stops
- bus Rapid Transit – 25 metre-long battery-powered, rubber tyred vehicles running at high frequency in a dedicated busway corridor mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling
- light Rail Transit - 45 metre long modern rail vehicles running at high frequency on a dedicated trackway mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling
- trackless tram - 32 metre long battery powered rubber tyred multi axle guided vehicles running at high frequency in a dedicated corridor mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling
- wLRT - A wire-free light rail system - identical to the light rail option, minus the overhead wires, with on-board batteries and charging equipment at select stations.
Bus system operation enhancements would include the development of new routes and enhancement of existing routes with:
- improved frequency
- more direct routes
- better connections.
These upgrades would deliver bus system operation enhancements such as:
- the development of new routes
- enhancement of existing routes with:
- improved frequency
- more direct routes
- better connections
- key bus infrastructure upgrades including
- improved shelters
- sections of bus priority lanes
- park ‘n’ ride facilities.
Road network upgrades would deliver improvements, upgrades and expansions of key routes in the coastal corridor such as Aerodrome Road and Nicklin Way.
The Queensland Government business case process requires a range of options be considered to resolve the issue or service need. It is important that all options are investigated to determine the solution that will best address the service need. These will be shortlisted through the Options Analysis. While it has been determined that mass transit will provide the best outcome in managing local transport demand, it is important that all viable options, including road networks upgrades, are adequately investigated.
A quality bus corridor allows buses to run in the kerbside bus priority lanes. It may have additional features such as queue jumps at critical intersections, and special branding of buses and stations to improve wayfinding and access.
Bus rapid transit consists of 25-metre-long, battery powered vehicles with rubber tyred wheels running in a dedicated busway, typically in the centre of the road. The dedicated corridor improves efficiency in travel time as the vehicles are not impacted by use of kerbside lanes from turning vehicles, parked cars and cyclists. This option would include high quality stops and stations, level boarding, and on-platform ticketing. Standard route buses would not use the mass transit busway as the system supports specially designed vehicles that are given traffic signal priority to ensure efficiency and reliability.
Trackless Tram – a vehicle that looks very similar to light rail but has rubber tyred wheels and uses a painted line and optical sensor for guidance instead of grooved steel tracks. The more advanced version includes multi-axle steering technology to attempt to achieve near light rail ride quality in longer vehicles (up to 32 metres). Subject to future approvals from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, it may be able to run in existing traffic lanes, but would best meet the objectives of the Sunshine Coast mass transit project in terms of achieving a reliable, congestion free journey if it ran in dedicated busway. Further information can be found in this report.
The light rail transit technology under consideration for the Sunshine Coast is similar to systems already operating in other Australian cities.
The key feature of such a system is a dedicated trackway. This is often in the centre of the road so that the light rail vehicles do not have to share road space with general traffic except when passing through intersections.
Light rail transit operates with 45-metre-long vehicles. These have priority travel through sensors that trigger green lights at the approaches to intersections. This makes travel time more efficient. This option would include:
- high quality stops and stations
- level boarding
- on-platform ticketing.
- turn-up-and-go frequencies - services so frequent that no timetable required.
One transport solution alone will not solve our transport challenges, but mass transit has been identified as the first and most critical element. This is because:
- it will be located in an area that is already experiencing significant road congestion
- where the concentration of activity will see it deliver the greatest benefits.
Council has produced a strategic plan for a future public transport system to meet the needs of the Sunshine Coast that incorporates:
- the upgraded existing regional heavy railway line running from Beerwah to Nambour
- a new regional heavy rail connection linking Beerwah to Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore along the CAMCOS corridor. This route provides for longer distances between stops
- a new local mass transit system along the coastal corridor suitable for shorter distances between stops
- an improved high frequency bus network connecting to other key destinations such as the hinterland
- an improved supporting network of feeder buses, park n rides and active transport connections.
The heavy rail connection along the CAMCOS corridor would suit travelling longer distances with limited stops.
A local mass transit system along the coastal corridor would enable shorter travel with more stops. Stops would be close to employment nodes, facilities and services.
Integration of these systems will enable greater connection across the whole region:
- providing an efficient public transport option
- making it easier and more convenient for people to choose sustainable public travel as an option.
Without sustainable transport options, the reliance on private vehicles will continue. Public and active transport:
- shifts people towards healthier, more efficient and sustainable choices
- leaves room on our current roads for freight, business and other trips that help to drive our economy.
By 2041, without shifting people to sustainable transport:
- we will see up to 830,000 extra car trips on our roads each day
- traffic congestion and lost productivity could cost the Sunshine Coast economy up to $3 billion a year.
A mass transit system would provide a viable, sustainable and efficient alternative to private vehicle travel for many local trips. This will deliver major environmental benefits through reduction of carbon emissions.
Mass transit would provide a means to better manage traffic congestion. This increases as more people move to the Sunshine Coast.
The solution would link to major centres and to other modes of travel. It would benefit the region by enabling them to beat congestion and get them to work, shops or the beach faster.
A mass transit solution would better accommodate population growth. It may also create more jobs as businesses see the potential for growth due to an efficient transport system.
Mass transit would also support our $2.7 billion tourism industry by enabling visitors to efficiently and affordably connect our:
- key centres
- events precincts and stadium
- accommodation and lifestyle hubs
- other transport modes such as regional rail.
Modern mass transit systems are:
- well integrated with the local area
- designed to improve connections to and within nearby neighbourhoods.
They are complemented by streetscape upgrades. These improve local amenity and promote quality urban outcomes. Delivery of mass transit presents opportunities to improve safety and amenity in pass through areas.
Advances in mass transit technology continue to provide new design options. These include battery powered vehicles and turfed rights of way. Technological advances will be considered in the Detailed Business Case phase.
Mass transit can also support walkable communities. This can be achieved through investment in active travel infrastructure.
An electric mass transit system is much more efficient (on a per passenger emissions per kilometre basis) in terms of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This is compared to individuals driving cars fueled by petrol or diesel.
Stage 1 is being considered in the Options Analysis. This stage runs from Maroochydore to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. This section was determined to be most critical. It already:
experiences significant traffic congestion
has the greatest concentration of activities benefitting from improved public transport.
Stage 2 is proposed to connect the Sunshine Coast University Hospital with Caloundra. It would also be integrated with other transport elements. This would provide a region-wide transport network that better meets the needs of everyone in the community.
Population growth is inevitable as more people choose to move to the Sunshine Coast to enjoy everything it has to offer. Capping growth:
- increases the cost of housing
- stalls business activity
- prevents our children's ability to afford to live here or find work here.
Growth brings with it the building blocks for a stronger economy, secure jobs and greater livability. It also provides a focus for addressing the challenges of protecting our natural assets, character and lifestyle.
We need to manage and direct growth in a way that maintains our community’s quality of life and protects and preserves our beaches, hinterland and natural landscapes.
Naturally with growth, comes the need for governments to invest in infrastructure. Through this they can support the community. It is important we ensure these investments are sustainable, smart and healthy for our community and environment.
The Queensland Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan (ShapingSEQ) provides a framework to manage growth, land use and development. ShapingSEQ aligns with council’s policy for a sustainable pattern of development. This focuses more growth in existing urban areas.
ShapingSEQ directs that 62 per cent of all new residences be in existing urban areas across the local government area. These areas include the coastal corridor from Maroochydore to Caloundra. By supporting sustainable growth in this corridor we can offer a relaxed coastal lifestyle within walking distance of our iconic beaches.
Growth will continue to be located in new communities such as Caloundra South and Palmview. These will connect with efficient and reliable transport. Accommodating further growth outside these planned areas will result in a sprawling Sunshine Coast. This would impact the lifestyles of everyone in this region. It would consign us to a future dominated by the car and the congestion that comes with it.
Based on past experience much of the expected growth will occur:
- in the region’s south-east
- along the coast between Maroochydore and Caloundra, an area where significant proportions of the Sunshine Coast’s population and jobs are located.
Without a sustainable plan for managing growth we risk ad hoc development catering only to market demand. This is likely to threaten our lifestyle, lead to poor local outcomes and threaten our environment and communities.
The revitalisation of Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Kawana, Birtinya and Caloundra centres are part of this plan. It aims to provide more jobs, attracting investment and offering diverse housing choices. This will enhance the coastal corridor as a key location for delivering more sustainable growth into the future.
More people mean more transport demand. If all this new demand is met by private motor transport an inefficient and congested transport system will result.
Delivering local mass transit in the coastal corridor would provide sustainable transport choices located where significant population and jobs growth are forecast to occur. These choices would ensure that we maintain our lifestyle and housing choices as we grow.
The mass transit system would be a way to manage the effects of growth by providing the choice of a sustainable mode of travel. This type of travel is a frequent, reliable, convenient and comfortable alternative reducing dependence on private cars.
It would provide greater opportunities for managing growth. It would also provide an opportunity for urban land use change. This change comes from the benefits of greater numbers of people travelling on a dedicated and efficient transit service. For example, old ‘big box’ retail warehouse buildings may transform into new dining or residential precincts. It would make more sense for this type of activity to be close to where people can access mass transit stations.
The locations that are suitable for higher density development may include our major centre of Maroochydore and our key activity centres. There may also be opportunities for increased density along the mass transit corridor – but this does not mean ‘high density’ or ‘high rise’ – and this can only be determined through engagement with the community (including statutory consultation in accordance with the Planning Act 2016).
Maintaining and enhancing the Sunshine Coast’s valued lifestyle, character and identity in the coastal corridor can be achieved through suitable land use changes such as:
- promoting a series of urban villages that contain a mix of uses in local community hubs that are connected to the major centres of Maroochydore, Kawana and Caloundra
- providing for a range of desirable housing choices that suit our coastal lifestyle and offer affordable options for our community
- producing built form outcomes consistent with the Sunshine Coast’s existing setting and character and preventing excessive high-rise development.
Urban land use planning would also consider placemaking priorities for the key centres, around potential new station precincts and areas in the urban corridor to ensure we continue to provide vibrant public spaces that are green, accessible, inclusive and representative of the values of the Sunshine Coast community.
Consultation on mass transit and urban land use proposals has been a feature of all relevant council planning scheme and strategy development since 2012, including:
- A Line in the Sand (2012)
- Route Planning and Impact Assessment (2013)
- Economic Development Strategy (2013)
- Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme (2014)
- Shaping our Future (2014)
- Route Options Brochure (2014)
- ShapingSEQ - South East Queensland Regional Plan (2017) (Queensland Government)
- Environment and Liveability Strategy (2017)
- Integrated Transport Strategy (2019)
- Community Strategy (2019).
Council will continue to work closely with the community as the projects progress.
Council is committed to engaging the community during the business case process to build on the extensive consultation undertaken over recent years in relation to the planning scheme and various Council strategies.
Council will be delivering a comprehensive engagement program in early 2021 to seek community and stakeholder feedback, views and ideas on the options for the mass transit project, as well as land use options for managing growth in the urban coastal corridor.
To learn more and register for project updates simply visit sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au.
There will also be future opportunities for the community to have its say, including through the preparation of the Detailed Business Case.
The findings from the next engagement program will be incorporated in and inform the Options Analysis before it is considered by Council in mid-2021. An engagement summary document will be prepared to present the findings of the engagement program and the next steps for the project.
The engagement outcomes will also inform ongoing land use planning for the coastal corridor, which will support the preparation of a land use strategy that is reflective of the community’s position for the Detailed Business Case, as well as future planning processes.
Council has taken a lead on planning for the transport future of the Sunshine Coast to ensure our community is well positioned to secure investment from the State and Commonwealth Governments to deliver a high-quality mass transit transport system that meets the community’s needs now and well into the future.
Council will not control the final design of the mass transit solution or its delivery, but it is responsible for the land use outcomes and will be working closely with other levels of government to ensure our community’s preferences are included in the ongoing planning.
Council is following a three-step process as required by the Queensland Government’s Business Case Development Framework:
Step 1: Preparation of a Strategic Business Case – endorsed by council in late July 2019
Step 2: Preparation of an Options Analysis – expected by mid-2021
Steps 1 and 2 identify the problem, investigate the strategic need and assess the possible solutions.
Step 3: In partnership with the Queensland Government, the preparation of a Detailed Business Case – expected by 2021/22.
The Queensland Government has committed $7.5 million to Step 3.
In 2001, the Queensland Government Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) completed a study called the Caboolture and Maroochydore Corridor Options Study – also known as CAMCOS. More information about this project is available on TMR’s website.
This study focused in part on providing higher speed travel to the south of the region, including to Brisbane. The study concluded the preferred transport mode was heavy passenger rail, similar to the current Citytrain network, and identified a preferred corridor from Beerwah to the Sunshine Coast Airport, which has been protected since. The corridor runs from Beerwah, south of Baringa, west of Pelican Waters, through Aroona, west of Kawana Way and along the Sunshine Motorway to the Sunshine Coast Airport, with a short spur east of Maroochy Boulevard to the Maroochydore City Centre.
In 2012, council released A Line in the Sand, which explored the potential for light rail to serve the needs of the growing population in the coastal corridor. Shaping Our Future was released in 2014 and advanced the argument for a light rail system along the coastal corridor. At that time, light rail was the only proven mass transit technology that offered the capacity to provide the desired standard of service.
The Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project has noted that the majority of trips in the Sunshine Coast are local and under 10 kilometres in length, which requires a local mass transit system as an urgent priority for the region. Both the regional heavy rail and local mass transit systems will be integrated once delivered to provide seamless and efficient connections between public transport modes.
The Detailed Business Case would narrow the options down to a preferred project design and the community will be invited to provide feedback on the preferred option.
Council would work in partnership with the Queensland Government to produce the Detailed Business Case before it is provided to the State and Commonwealth governments as the basis for funding consideration.
No. Population growth projections used in the Options Analysis will be the latest Queensland Government projections available, although it should be noted these are subject to regular review.
As part of the business case development process, the likely future population and employment in the project catchment area need to be considered. The Options Analysis phase will rely upon official projections of future population made in 2018 by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office (QGSO). Projections are made at low, medium and high series. The medium series will be used and these have been translated into more detailed modelling by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. The QGSO projections are normally used for Queensland Government business cases, and are also generally used for planning future government services including education, health and emergency services. They are updated periodically by QGSO and different QGSO projections may be relied upon for future phases of business case development.
Any proposed changes land use regulations to accommodate the projected population growth will be led by Council in consultation with the community as provided under the Planning Act 2016. The market will then dictate the pace of change, which would be likely to occur progressively over several decades.
The business model for the delivery of mass transit would see the Queensland Government responsible for the majority of the capital and all of the operating costs.
The Australian Government may provide significant capital funding, while only a small proportion of capital could be provided by council.