CEO says hang on for the ride

City of Melbourne CEO Ben Rimmer has told CBD residents to hang on for a fast and furious technological wave of change.

Speaking to the EastEnders residents group at the Kelvin Club on July 2, Mr Rimmer predicted driverless cars would make up a “significant proportion” of CBD traffic within 10 years.

He said the council needed to think about how it was going to replace the $80 million it currently generates from parking if driverless vehicles left the city to be parked elsewhere.

“I am convinced that the 10 years will bring even more change and technical and sustainability opportunities than we have encountered in the last period,” Mr Rimmer said.

Mr Rimmer said there was no reason to think of municipal councils as slow lumbering bureaucracies and pledged that, under his direction, the council would test and trial new ideas and adapt rapidly to new challenges.

He spoke of a prosperous future for the inner city and pointed out that the CBD was a major economic contributor to the national economy.

He said that, as a globally-connected city, Melbourne had more in common with Boston and Shanghai than it did with Adelaide.

However, he also cautioned residents that growth was a double-edged sword and that they needed to adjust their expectations around noise and other amenity issues.

He acknowledged the tension between inner-city urban redevelopment and amenity but said it was necessary to avoid urban sprawl in places like Donnybrook.  He said outer fringe development cost $120 billion more per million people settled in infrastructure costs than urban redevelopment.

“Yes, noise needs to be managed,” he said. “But, in all honesty, I can’t say it will reduce.  It will increase.”

In particular, Mr Rimmer spoke of a six to eight year construction period for the Metro Rail project when there would be a 40 metre hole between Flinders and Collins streets.

“But the final product will result in a significant increase in transport capacity and will set the city up for the next 10 years of economic growth,” Mr Rimmer said.

He said the council was already exploring ideas about what to do with Swanston St between Collins and Lonsdale streets when the street would be without trams or bikes.  Mr Rimmer said early ideas included a farmers’ market or planting grass.

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