Sydney transitioning to polycentric model

Sydney could be on its way to evolving into a ‘polycentric’ urban model, or a city marked by multiple ‘sub-centres’, according to new research released by the University of Sydney.

The research found that the transition to a polycentric model is being driven organically by residential suburb attractiveness to residents, with populations potentially aggregating around existing major urban areas, notably Parramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith and Gosford.

The study categorised suburb attractiveness by both available services and size of the population, with incomes offset by rent. When deciding where to settle, people considered the utility of living in attractive suburbs as well as the cost of commuting to work.

Conversely, the study showed that transit times were less of an influencing factor on the changing residential model, despite lengthy commutes being a common complaint of Sydney-siders in recent years.

"The model showed that social cohesion is often more important to Sydney residents than transportation costs, and that changes in social attitudes can bring about more abrupt shifts in urban structure, than changes in travel budget", said lead researcher Professor Mikhail Prokopenko.

According to Prokopenko, the transition of cities between different patterns of urban settlement has become a central problem in urban planning.

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