Metropolitan Sydney

Sydney is a globally recognized city with the most famous harbour, the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and awesome beaches. In addition to being the most famous city in Australia, it also has the highest population and contributes around a quarter of the national GDP. Sydney too is ranked high in the world's most liveable cities.

However, with strong population growth and competition in cities throughout Australia and the world, Sydney's pace is slowing in comparison. Two important natural hindrance is that 1) the current CBD is actually far to the east of the Sydney metropolitan area; and 2) the harbour (which ironically is what made Sydney great) is acting as a barrier to efficient transportation and is limiting the growth of the city.

The NSW government has realized for many years that to ensure Sydney remains globally competitive, productive, sustainable and liveable, the best strategy forward is to strengthen "a city of cities." The image below is taken from the “Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036” and shows the cities and centres in Metropolitan Sydney.

It is clear that the current harbour CBD is not the centre of Metropolitan Sydney. Parramatta is the closest to being considered the centre, and is in fact already officially regarded to be the second CBD of Sydney. Forecasts show that half of the population in Metropolitan Sydney will live west of Parramatta within the next 20 years.

The NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure has pointed out that the best strategy going forward is to ensure most of the jobs and homes are close to the existing or planned cities and centres. I agree with this strategy and also many points in the long-term planning document, except that not enough emphasis is placed on growing Parramatta to be a truly great CBD.

I would like to have the second Sydney CBD to rival that of Melbourne, with:
  1. the tallest skyscrapers in Australia;
  2. motorway and world-class traffic interchange with heavy and light rail connecting other cities and centres in Sydney; and
  3. high-speed rail connecting Parramatta to the harbour CBD, airport, and other Australian capital cities.
The current habour CBD can continue to be the world famous tourist destination. The two CBDs can work hand-in-hand, playing their respective strengths, to ensure the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of the whole metropolitan region.

Parramatta is still far from being a premier CBD, but there is certainly the potential if you buy into
the vision and help make it happen. Parramatta is the true geographic centre of Metropolitan Sydney, and it'll be to the benefit (think more affordable housing and less traffic congestion) of all Sydneysiders if it can become a truly amazing CBD.

We need everyone's help, no matter how big or how small, to make Sydney a competitive, dynamic and liveable city. Our home.
  1. Design and build iconic landmarks and skyscrapers in the second CBD.
  2. Locate company headquarters and government organizations there.
  3. Work, live, shop and dine in central Sydney where possible.
  4. Provide feedback on the "NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan," asking for more transport investment for Parramatta.
  5. Spread the word!


Car Sharing in City of Sydney

The City of Sydney has a Car Sharing program that offers some 350 cars for very easy, convenient, and affordable self-service car sharing. The rate can be as low as $6 per hour and $68 per day (incl. 150km for free), with insurance and fuel included.

All you have to do is apply with one of the three providers (GoGetGreen Share Car, and Flexicar) with a small joining and/or monthly fee, and you'll get a starter packet containing a smart card. The picture on the right (source) shows the available cars offered by the three providers.

 After becoming a member, you can easily book a car by the hour via their website or via phone, and then use the smart card to access the car (lock/unlock door). The photographs on the right shows the smart card reader attached to the windshield for a car I booked with GoGet. You'll have to prepare your own GPS.

The car key is inside the car, and there's a fuel card (pin code was mailed to me after booking the car) that allows the car to be refueled at selected gas stations without paying out of your pocket.

The car sharing scheme seems to be very convenient for people that live within the city and have little need to drive most of the time. They wouldn't need to buy a car, buy/rent an expensive parking space in the CBD, or service and clean the car. And when they do want to use a car once in a while (e.g., visiting nice places in Greater Sydney, moving large items, or looking for a great affordable home to buy in central Sydney), they can easily book a car for a few hours or a few days.


Harbourside Apartment

This time I chose to rent a one bedroom at the Harbourside Apartment, which is right next to the McMahons Point‎ Ferry Wharf. There are ferries connecting the wharf to Circular Quay, Darling Habour, and Pyrmont every 30 minutes or so (timetable), making it quite convenient.

Commuting by ferry turns out to be feasible but not cheap -- the best choice would be MyMulti 1, which costs $43 a week and allows for unlimited ferry, bus, tram, and short-distance train.

There's limited bus to this area but the North Sydney train station is just 1km away -- though it's uphills to the station so it may take a good 20 minutes of walk. After reaching the station you can easily reach Chatswood and various parts of the Sydney city by transferring at the usual hubs.

Apartment facilities are okay with good swimming pool, laundry, vending machines, and friendly reception that's open 7am-11pm.

The one bedroom apartment has an open lounge + dining + kitchen, which makes it feel quite spacious. The amenities are not great but reasonable, with all the required appliances (LCD TV, DVD player, hifi, refrigerator, stove, oven, dishwasher, kettle, toaster, hair dryer, iron, heater, etc) and kitchenware.

The dual layer curtains are very practical, but as with most apartments the noise from plumbing or neighbours are quite expected. (Note some high-end buildings in Taiwan actually do an excellent job in noise prevention.)

One of the best features of the apartment is the view of the harbour, notably the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Here is a 300x time-lapsed video that shows the view from the kitchen window -- the video is under 3 minutes but captures 15 hours from sunrise to sunset.

 The area at McMahons Point is very quiet with few shops around. It's nice there's greens here where you can lay back, enjoy the great view/sun, and read a good book.

Although I've enjoyed the stay here, the price tag for short stays, at close to $2,000 a week, is too high.


Trip to Blue Mountains (Katoomba, Leura)

Went to the popular tourist destination Katoomba and Leura in Blue Mountains this Saturday. Katoomba is very accessible, with return rail tickets from Central costing only $11.40. Simply search for the Blue Mountains line to Lithgow when you are at Central station. Note trains depart hourly (search for timetable on 131500) and the ride takes 2 hours (driving seems to be 30min faster), so you probably want to bring a good book to read on the way (or do your favorite group activities such as play guitar and sing, card/board games etc.).
Although Katoomba and the nearby Leura are both relatively small towns, it can still take tens of minutes to walk between the various attractions. You can choose to hop on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus (more frequent but more expensive) or the Trolley Shuttle (cheaper, less frequent, last bus runs later) to get to various attractions faster, and save your time for good hikes along the cliff or the valley.

 Scenic World is a major attraction in Katoomba, claiming to have the steepest railway in the world (Scenic Railway), the highest cable car in Australia (Scenic Skyway), the biggest cable car in Australia (Scenic Cableway), and the longest boardwalk in the Southern Hemisphere (Scenic Walkway). Scenic World takes a good 30 minute walk from the Katoomba station, so you'd want to take the Explorer Bus and get off either at "Skyway Eastern Anchorage" (the east point of Scenic Skyway) or Scenic World.

The Scenic Railway apparently holds the Guinness Book of Records for the world's steepest railway. The official certificate says it's 310m long with a gradient of 1 in 0.82, while the sign post in the valley claims it's 415m long with a 206m vertical drop, a 80m long natural tunnel, and with a steepest incline of 52 degrees. Anyway, it's definitely a worthwhile ride, especially if you can get in the front seat like I did!
At the valley there's a coal mine exhibition explaining the mining history of Katoomba and there's elevated boardwalk through the forest. The boardwalk is partially carpeted that allows casual walking in most weather conditions.
I chose to take the Cableway to go back up. It's a huge cable car that claims to be able to hold 84 people. And I also took the Skyway that has a good view of the Kaboomta Falls, and has a part of its floor transparent to see the 270m drop.

Echo Point is a great place to see the Three Sisters and blue mountains at a distance. Below are some of the pictures my colleagues and I took. You can visit my album at Google+, which offers a great photo viewing experience.

There are several nice hiking trails in the vicinity. I took the cliff walk that has several great outlooks. Although the weather is good at the time, some parts of the walk are muddy from the continuous raining previously. On the bright side, waterfalls are likely to be more spectacular. Below are shots of the Leura Falls that is highly recommended by the bus driver (we were originally planning to check out Gordon Falls but the driver persuaded us otherwise). 

A colleague has suggested us to go to Leura for great restaurants after visiting Three Sisters and Scenic Railway, so we pulled out Google Maps and found Silk's Brasserie which had a 5-star rating. Below are photos of the Pan-seared scallops with avocado, salmon, tatsoi salad, light wasabi dressing and the Roast Moroccan lamb loin with couscous, pine-nuts, date, tomato relish + spicy harissa dishes that I ordered. They are indeed very good!