People should be home in time to ''read to their children at night'', NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance says, delivering a pre-election transport splurge aimed at appeasing frustrated commuters in key seats.
Western Sydney and the northern beaches are major beneficiaries, in line for multibillion-dollar road, rail and bus funding. Some projects are already under way but others are decades away and are contingent on the Baird government being returned and business cases stacking up.
Projects confirmed include $400 million for a Parramatta light rail network and $125 million for a ''bus rapid transit'' system from Mona Vale to central Sydney, which would speed up bus trips but may slow down journeys for other motorists.
Early planning will also begin on several major roads projects, including an extension of the F6 freeway from St Peters to Loftus.
A $4.6 million study will begin to identify land for the M9 outer Sydney orbital. If the project comes to fruition, it would run from Camden to the Hawkesbury in a north-south passage along the foot of the Blue Mountains, linking two major population growth corridors. Estimates in 2008 put the project cost at $3 billion.
Mr Constance said congestion adds an extra 185 hours of travel time to the average commute each year.
''Stranded on a train platform or sandwiched on a bus, sitting in a car ... equates to losing a full week every year stuck in traffic,'' he said.
''We want to see people ... getting to their workplaces, getting home to be able to read to their children at night.''
With an eye firmly on the election next March, the government is shoring up its prospects in western Sydney by funding new road and rail work and meeting its commitments on existing projects.
Aside from the Parramatta light rail system, work will continue on projects already announced or under way. The north-west rail link gets $863 million, and $103 million will be spent finalising the south-west rail link so services can begin next year.
Western Sydney road upgrades totalling $209 million include completing sections of Schofields Road, Richmond Road and Camden Valley Way, and more will be spent on roadwork supporting Sydney’s second airport at Badgerys Creek.
The government will overhaul bus commuting from the northern beaches by substantially reworking the congested Military-Spit-Pittwater roads corridor, which runs through Premier Mike Baird’s Manly electorate.
A $125 million kerbside rapid bus system will convert transit lanes to bus lanes in peak periods, forcing general traffic out of those lanes.
A study in 2012 found that prioritising buses by removing general traffic lanes would lead to longer trips for other vehicles. North Sydney Council says removing on-street parking would devastate businesses in Cremorne and Neutral Bay. The government says it will work with councils to replace parking and loading zones.
In the longer term, the government has confirmed a $5 million study will begin into a tunnel under Military Road linking the northern beaches to the Warringah Freeway.
Also on the northern beaches, $400 million will be spent over five years on road improvements around a new hospital at Frenchs Forest, including two underpasses on Warringah Road.
Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the government was ''pouring billions of dollars into wasteful and ill-conceived projects'' such as WestConnex, for which tolls will be charged, and the north-west rail link, a privately-run driverless system which will not integrate into the rest of Sydney’s rail network.