WHAT A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD
Changes to Countrylink buses have given Lithgow new importance as a bus-rail interchange. About 260 SRA bus movements per week occur at the station, hopelessly overloading the roads there. Ironically, not too much can be done about the station without relocating it, as it is an island platform in a cutting. The buses could be handled at Bowenfels but that is 3km away. This winter will be the first under the new arrangements. We expect that long-distance passengers will not appreciate carrying heavy baggage long distances in the snow to reach their buses. Narrow paths will not help.
It was decided to rebuild the station. Plans were drawn and public comment sought. Alas, work started three months before the comments were in and had to be stopped.
PARK STREET TUNNEL
An EIS on this proposal has been prepared ($25 from the Council of the City of Sydney) and public comment will presumably be sought. The deciding authority is to be the Central Sydney Planning Committee. APT wonder whether the comments will be opened, let alone taken into account, because all the signs are that the authorities are just as determined to build this traffic generator as they were to build the larger underwater version in 1986.
For the record, APT remind you that as originally proposed late in 1988, the project included a bus interchange for Town Hall station. According to the CCS feasibility study dated January 1989, there were to be 900 car spaces. This grew - according to the Sydney Morning Herald of 28 June 1989, there were to be 1000 car spaces. The car spaces at first were to be offset by reducing the allowed car spaces in the redevelopment of the Waltons site adjoining. Late in 1989, a consortium of Kumagai and Concrete Constructions was announced as the "preferred tenderer" and invited to prepare the EIS.
At some unknown date(s) between then and now, (i) the bus interchange was dropped (ii) the number of car spaces grew further to 1200 (iii) the offset was dropped, restoring the Waltons parking to the CCS code (iv) the bridging-over of Park Street to connect the two halves of Hyde Park reverted from private expense to public expense. See the Herald of 28 June 1990. It seems to have escaped the attention of those involved that this location is as well-served by public transport as anywhere else in the world. The only reason to have a car park there is to give the lucky owners a licence to print money.
APT are concerned that any attempt to oppose the project will be met by buck-passing between the Government and the City Council. Needless to say, we are also very concerned that commercial organisations are acquiring an interest in continuing car use. Projects such as the Sydney Harbour Immersed Tunnel, QVB restoration, Capitol Theatre and now the East-West City Tunnel all depend on revenue generated from a level of car use which is based on an extension of past experience. However, if constraints on such car use become imperative in the future (which is not an unreasonable expectation), then the vested interest in continuing car use will make the constraints more difficult to implement.
The Park Street road tunnel will have to be lowered if the MetroWest rail tunnels are built. It will be interesting to see who pays for the lowering.
An additional irony of the 28 June 1990 report is that on that day, the Premier announced that a reduction in loan funds from Canberra meant that NSW's capital works program would have to be further retarded. How can 1200 extra cars get to town if not on suburban roads financed by loan funds? By the way, the 1500 people who occupy those 1200 cars could easily fit on one 8-carriage double-deck train.
MOTION ON NOTICE
The MLA for North Shore, independent Robyn Read, has placed on notice a motion for the creation of a standing committee to co-ordinate transport and landuse planning in the Sydney region. APT would have thought that putting planning onto the mainstream political agenda in a bi-partisan way merited hearty endorsement from all sides.
Motions from independents wholly depend on the Premier's goodwill. We commend this one to him.
The NSW government has released a discussion paper on a greenhouse strategy for the state. Public submissions are invited by 31st August The paper covers saving fuel and many other issues. APT find strange its presumption that "low-energy transport" means bicycles. Transport is responsible for a large fraction of greenhouse emissions; APT cannot understand why transport minister Baird is not in the Cabinet committee on climate change.
THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN
On 26th June, large advertisements in metropolitan dailies said that the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) were having prepared a Supplementary EIS into the proposed South-West Freeway. The RTA is apparently fearful of a formal Inquiry into this project. The ads listed co-operating organisations; the list had obvious omissions.
The catch is that the whole process presumes that the road will be built. The absent organisations were those which could not accept this presumption. It appears that some of the listed groups were there only in a watchdog role. No consideration was given to public transport and/or land-use changes that might meet south-west needs. Remember an early Greiner promise that no authority would be allowed to assess its own EIS?
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE
Your correspondent noticed on 14th June two Fl50 paddy-wagons stopped outside police headquarters in Liverpool Street blocking a bus stop for an hour or so. The buses had to stop in a traffic lane. APT will be happy to supply the registration numbers of the offending vehicles to police service management.
WARRINGAH RAILWAY IS VIABLE
The Department of Transport report 257 on the North Shore Strategic Transport Study, although dated December, has only recently become available. It compares the benefit-cost ratios of four transport systems for the Warringah area (freeway, railway, light rail, monorail). It finds the freeway the least unviable, with an unimpressive benefit-cost ratio of 0.96. Nevertheless, the Department still would like to proceed with the freeway but APT understand that local MPs are opposed. Therefore, argues the RTA, more traffic will have to be funneled through residential roads in Mosman.
APT have reviewed this document. Our consultant reports errors, including ignoring changes in car ownership, heavily biasing the conclusions in the study. The original findings were (with our revised figures in parentheses):
|Light Rail||0.42||(1.06 to 1.23)|
As you can see, we believe that a Warringah railway would be justified. The 1988 Blunden study into traffic and parking around North Sydney concluded that such a railway would be the only way North Sydney's business district could grow any more.
APT would like to see a full-scale feasibility study into reverting Harbour Bridge lanes 7 and 8 to serve a new rail line to the Warringah area. The obvious date to close these lanes to car use would be August 1992, when the Tunnel opens. Constructing a new railway from Chatswood to the north-west via Epping should also be studied; Sydney should work towards a multi- centred rail network.
A new Countrylink timetable has been launched. An innovative presentation shows up and down connections much more clearly, including connections to Victoria and Queensland. The next printing should, APT suggest, include a state-wide index/route-map on the now-blank inside front cover. Pleasingly, the latest print of the tourist leaflet for Paddy's Markets includes a route map showing Flemington, Redfern and city stations.
APT never criticise the amount of money spent on passenger
information - the transport authorities' reaction is all too
predictable. How else but with the diagrammatic layout would it be
possible to see that one can travel conveniently from Robertson to
Tullibigeal (for example) or Warren to Woodstock?
GOOD NEWS FROM CANBERRA
Australian Centennial Rail Transport Bill 1990 sets up a trust fund for rail projects. The bill is sponsored by the Democrats and therefore needs wide support, preferably from both sides, to succeed. Details are available from your federal MP; asking her is the best way to signify support for the bill.
APT noticed recently in Surry Hills that the block of Albion Street between Elizabeth Street and Mary Street has recently been changed to two-way traffic. This is presumably to help crippled RTA executives driving out of their new car park.
Many workers would give their eye-teeth to be located as close to a railway as is 260 Elizabeth Street. Yet these executives drive between home and work (as evidenced by the baby seats in many of their cars) AT PUBLIC EXPENSE. Next time you go for an early-morning walk, look for cars with RTA or RTB number-plates in your suburb.
APT's tax advisor doubts that fringe benefits tax is being paid on the parking spaces.
ONE SHOT CAN KILL
So runs the media handbook on road safety issued by the RTA. We were pleased to see soapie producers being told to always show their characters using seatbelts/helmets/marked footcrossings.
APT would be even more pleased to see television characters using public transport. After all, 78% of workers arriving in the CBD do. There just has to be some image in public transport - a prize of $500 worth of ferry, rail or bus travel is being awarded by the Daily Miff or in a recent competition.
TELE COMMUTER CLUB
APT were extremely pleased to see the Daily Telegraph running a series of articles about Sydney transport [starting 18 June 1990] to which APT members contributed. The Tele has set up a commuter club.
There was talk of such a series in the Herald eighteen months ago but nothing came of it.
WHILE I LIVE, I'LL GROW
The steel tree erected last year on Redfern platform 4 supporting three trial types of electronic train destination indicators is to be removed, apparently because the indicators are not suitable for locations with direct sunlight.
NEW SUBURBAN TIMETABLE
Despite coverage in this paper and other media, there is still widespread public ignorance of the import of this proposal. It is being sold to the traveller as the solution to all late-running; we are told that congestion of lines in peak hours is a common cause of lateness.
It would be more truthful to say that congestion rarely causes lateness. Much more significant causes are vandalism, defective trains, defective signals, overhead wiring faults and crew shortages.
Although the timetable itself is still unobtainable, statistics of the proposed new services are available. All lines are to be standardised at half-hour services all weekend, Saturday shopping notwithstanding. APT do not believe that half-hour spacing will be implemented on any lines presently enjoying more frequent services; we hear that public response has already seen to that.
There will, however, be reductions in peak frequencies on all lines. This will facilitate running of some Central Coast inter-urban trains via the North Shore. APT doubt that the reduction will of itself lessen the proportion of trains which are delayed; it may make recovery from these delays quicker. One would expect crew lateness to be exacerbated by any reduction in service frequencies.
Secondly, there will be reductions in stops at less-used stations.
APT suggest that this will adversely affect users of such stations,
resulting in a significant number of rail users switching to car
LET THEM TRY IT
APT take up the suggestion in a recent letter to the editor that our public transport services might be better if the politicians responsible rode in them occasionally (we know several who ride in them daily). Assistant transport minister Bob Rowland-Smith has effectively admitted in a letter held by an APT member that he has never ridden in a Tangara or a red rattler.
So also should those transit executives who don't regularly rely on their charges. APT understand that senior rail executives now have cars in their salary packages.
Bruce Baird failed to remark on ABC radio (13 June 1990) when discussing restoration of the Holiday Coast XPT that co-operation in the federal registration. scheme would play a big part in making the renaissance a reality. The history of Federation in Australia is full of instances of states spoiling desirable Commonwealth initiatives.
On the other hand, it was very pleasing to hear the minister say on 4th July that developers would be asked to contribute to construction costs of the new MetroWest line. Mind you, overseas cities have been funding public transport that way for years.
COSTS OF MOTORING
APT note that the motoring organisations are persisting with their campaign to have road funding increased, relying on the fallacious premise that all road fuel tax should be spent on roads. Accordingly, we have decided to rewrite their campaign so as to convey the message that the motorist is ridiculously undertaxed by comparison with what he costs the community. While the motorist might think he is paying his way, the truth is that he pushes very noticeable costs onto others.
Sydney has about 20000 kilometres of road with average width perhaps 20 metres. If there were no cars, this 400 square kilometres could be reduced by about 60% or 320 sq km. The value of this land is colossal, If the average hectare is worth $500000, about $15 billion of land could be charged to the car. This amortises to about $1.5 billion per year for Sydney's 3 million people or $500 per person per year. Many Sydney cars spend 20 hours per day parked on public land.
For an urban planner's view of land wasted in commercial parks which rely on car access, see article "The office in the suburb [is] not always good buying" in the Financial Review of 4th July. APT point out that land is wasted in some Sydney suburbs; the most extreme example is Parramatta where 75% of workers bring a car, preventing high densities being achieved. The process is self-sustaining; the longer distances to be covered militate against walking!
Add 20% to the above cost - say $200 per vehicle per year. This covers car parking on private land.
A Sydney house with 10000 motor vehicles passing it per day is worth, depending on suburb, $100000 less than the house behind it. Amortising this cost to $10000 per year gives about a quarter of a cent per vehicle. If the suffering owners of the houses could collect this money from the owners of passing cars in the form of a toll, motorists would pay perhaps 10 to 50 cents per kilometre to drive along residential roads.
It is now established that road surface damage from cars is trivial compared to heavier vehicles. Operators of trucks and buses should therefore bear this cost, which would be about $500 to $1600 each per week.
Research into the cost of road accidents is still being refined. The order of costs is at least 3 cents per vehicle kilometre, excluding human costs but including medical and property repairs and lost production. This figure reduces sharply on expressways, but Sydney will never have many kilometres of these. Accident insurance premiums amount to only 2 cents per vkm.
Additional cars entering a congested road delay others, the delay increasing sharply with the degree of congestion. Figures in the order of 10 to 50 cents per vehicle kilometre, depending on the level of congestion, are estimated. Very little Sydney driving is in clear traffic conditions.
Economists seem to be unable to estimate the damage to the national economy done by over-reliance on imported fuel but they concur that we cannot expect to continue to operate this way. More visible is pollution damage; German estimates are 1.5% of GDP through damage to buildings, plants and people. APT's consultant suggests a lower figure for Australian conditions, possibly 1%. This would be about $1 billion per year for N.S.W., or about $250 per person per year. Neither APT nor anyone else has any suggestions for estimating costs of the greenhouse effect so we will merely point out that they are very likely to be substantial. Consuming fossil fuels increases the greenhouse effect. And what happens to dead cars and tyres?
Adding all the above, how on earth can motorists claim to be overtaxed, except perhaps for ownership taxes?
FOR YOUR ADDRESS BOOK
NSW Transport Action Council/Group, P.O. Box 37, Captain's Flat 2621
Hunter Rail Users' Association, care Mark Jackson, S Kent St. Hamilton 2303. (049)61-5661
FOR YOUR DIARY
Green Consumption Seminar, 21 July, Masonic Centre. Australian Consumers' Association, 558-0099.
Urban Environment Conference, 28 July, YWCA Building, 5 Wentworth Avenue. 698-7461 or 27-1497.
Road & Rail Transport - The Future, Seminar, 20-21 July, Adelaide Convention Centre. Rail 2000, Box 29, Hindmarsh 5007. Barbara Perry (08)46-9351
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Traffic, Parking & Pedestrian Study for Sydney CBD, Gutteridge Haskins and Davey et al. Try the Department of Planning.
Social Implications of the VFT, Fast Train Polis Action Group, P.O. Box 171, Eltham 3095. APT have a few copies available for $3 each.
Page 1, June issue. Our doubt that advanced cities would tolerate a line closure purely for trackworks was misplaced - several New York lines are being disrupted for nine weeks while a bottleneck is removed. But it is planned to close the railway between St Marys and Penrith in January 1991. AVE's archivist points out that Bradfield electrified the whole Sydney system, including re-aligning much of the illawarra line, without disrupting services at all!
Page 4, June issue. For Gouburn read Goulburn.