A light rail system could run through Wollongong's main street in the coming years, connecting the beach to the CBD, if one city councillor gets his way.
Liberal councillor John Dorahy will next week ask his colleagues to support an investigation of introducing a light rail network across the Wollongong LGA, starting with a track up Crown Street from Marine Drive to the hospital.
It could also link the new communities in growing suburbs, like Yallah and West Dapto, and stretch as far south as Shellharbour to help the large commuter population there to connect to Wollongong.
"It would improve the commuter passage to and from the city, and then it would be a health and environment factor," he said. "Our city needs to become more sustainable, and there is a push towards cutting our carbon emissions, and this would be a way for us to do that."
He said it would also help to improve parking in the CBD, and boost foot traffic to struggling retailers in the mall.
Cr Dorahy will also ask for an investigation into the emerging technology of "trackless trams": electric train-like vehicles which run on streets like buses but along designated tracks to stations, like trams.
"This could help to avoid much of the disruption from construction, and the high costs of light rail," Cr Dorahy said.
According to sustainability expert Peter Newman, light rail has cost $120 million per kilometre in Sydney and more than $80 million per kilometre in Newcastle and Canberra.
In contrast, a trackless tram costs around $6-$8 million per kilometre and can be installed "over a weekend", Professor Newman says.
Next week, Cr Dorahy will ask councillors to vote in favour of an investigation into the potential costs and benefits of light rail, as well as a plan to drum up support from state and federal politicians, business leaders and other stakeholders.
Residents would be surveyed on their views about light rail and a draft plan showing the rail line, costs and a timeline would be developed. If supported, councillors would receive a briefing on the project by mid-next year, Cr Dorahy said.
Asked if he expected to receive support, Cr Dorahy said there would likely be some hesitancy, given the costs, but believed the plan could be a "game changer".
"We cannot continue to go down the pathway of 'she'll be right mate' attitude that will eventuate in a dilemma of traffic congestion requiring a review," he said.
"Get ahead of the curve is my mantra here. Other forward thinking Cities are doing it, why shouldn't the 'City of Innovation, Wollongong' do it?"