Meet 21-year-old YouTuber Sharath Mahendran as she grapples with Sydney’s misplanning

He started spending hours playing the simulation game Cities: skylineswhere he built a fake city’s transportation network from the ground up.

“At first I just focused on the streets, but then I realized that to be good at the game, you have to build good subway systems. This created an awareness of… subways and trains and how to create good networks. And that’s when I started exploring the real world.”

Sydney’s urban planning: the good, according to Building Beautifully

  • Chatswood: It is so well connected to the train station that there is a healthy concentration of dining, shopping and entertainment options.
  • Rhodes: Basically the same as Chatswood with the added plus that it was formerly a contaminated industrial site. How amazing that they turned it into such a vibrant, dense waterfront neighborhood!
  • Castle Hill: It has evolved from being a car-centric place to a more walkable place. They pedestrianized the Old Northern Road, rerouted traffic around the CBD, added a high-capacity subway connecting to the Castle Towers, and built a lot of density. Brilliant!

Mahendran graduated from James Ruse Agricultural High School with an ATAR of 99.80 and began studying medicine at Western Sydney University. It took him three years to realize that this didn’t come naturally to him, so he decided to study civil engineering.

“[Medicine] wasn’t… what I actually had a passion for. I felt like I had so much to say about Sydney, but I had no way of expressing it. So I was like, ‘You know what? “I’m going to create a YouTube channel.”

The first video on the channel was a detailed, 14-minute investigation of Eastwood, in the city’s northwest, as a casual pedestrian haven.

Since that first upload in January 2022, his popularity has skyrocketed — and his interest in planning has increased.

Sydney’s urban planning: poor, according to Building Beautifully

  • Carlingford: I think there’s too much density here – I’m all for density, don’t get me wrong – but there are huge, huge towers next to a light rail station that has less capacity than trains and doesn’t even go in the city. There are no shops, no restaurants. It’s stupid.
  • Denistone: So good rail links to the city and yet there are only detached houses around the station. Public transport is not a privilege but a right.
  • Camden: There used to be a railway line in Camden but it closed in 1963 just as the LGA’s population was growing. What a mistake!

“I’m really excited about the way we are growing Sydney in the decades to come,” he says. “As someone who doesn’t live within walking distance of a train station, I think we need to build close to train stations first and foremost.”

He has since joined new advocacy group Sydney YIMBY to get his point across, arguing that build rather than exit is “so obvious to me”.

“I think Sydney residents need to realize that we need to rely more on public transport. About 20 percent of trips to work in Sydney are made on public transport. That’s a decent number, but we can still increase it.”


What would he do if he were transport minister for a day? His answer is quick: a heavy rail line along the outskirts of town, from the north-west to Kogarah.

“One thing Sydney lacks is wraparound lines. It’s very easy to get to Central in Sydney…but getting to Parramatta, Hurstville or Penrith is harder because we don’t have lines that take you between suburbs.”

Taking a different stance on the current government – which is critical of the price attached to the Metro West project – Mahendran smiles youthfully: “It would be extremely expensive,” he admits. “But it’s very worth it.”

Justin Scaccy

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