APT have received a letter from a resident of Thursday Island. Who said that public transport was for cities!
APT have a copy of the Environmental Impact Statement into the planned third runway at Kingsford-Smith Airport Amounting to two hefty volumes, it takes some time to absorb. We doubt that the cabinet ministers who voted to include the runway in a jobs creation announcement had read it. We further doubt that they read the 200-page document on the project that was available to them before making the decision. Informed commentators agree that the EIS does not justify the runway but merely parries some counter-arguments. A proper evaluation of the airport's use would disclose that the main beneficiaries of a third runway would be cargo and small planes which would remain free to use the airport at peak hours. It would be unconscionable to spend $300M of public money on such a poor cause. Moreover, building the runway would be counter to the Federal government's Build Better Cities programme - it would be better to build an airport at Badgery's Creek and thus put jobs near the residential areas of the West. And increasing aircraft noise problems over the Tempe area cannot be consistent with urban consolidation.
A better use for the money would be to invest it in public transport improvements; the small planes could land at Bankstown or Badgery's Creek and connect with transit systems to other suburbs. In about ten months' time, the Harbour Tunnel will open and the public might start to realise that transport should not be planned politically. The monorail operators are rapidly learning that!
The anti-runway groups have not given up. The fight is moving into the legal arena under N.S.W. law.
The runway announcement has a positive side to it. As stated in the preceding issue of this paper, there is a need for better rail services to the southern suburbs. This need will be increased by extra air traffic. Now would be a good time to press for a new Southem Suburbs railway and the Wolli Creek Preservation Society has issued a leaflet describing one. The society can be contacted at P.O. Box 270, Earlwood 2206.
Several other factors make this proposal attractive now.
There is a political need for a gesture towards suburbs which will be adversely affected by the new runway.
There is a bid under way for the Olympic Games to be held in Sydney that cannot succeed unless a major transport initiative is announced. The Southern Suburbs line would obviate the sextuplication of the tracks between Sydenham and Erskineville that are running at capacity in peak hours. And finally, the public would benefit from capturing the value increase of the public land around the stations at Alexandria, Mascot and the airport terminals.
To get this railway running, we will need
THE USER BEGINS TO PAY
One long-running issue in the history of private motoring is the balance of costs between ownership costs and running costs. The latter have always been artificially low, leading to excessive reliance on private cars because the owners have no reason for not using them. The subsidy to running costs of cars is enormous; quadrupling the price of petrol to about $2.50 per litre could be justified.
The new third-party insurance system is likely to lead to insurance charges proportional to the amount of driving an individual does. This is because several of the approved insurers are going to have no-claim bonuses and this would probably see the owners of cars that cover 50,000 kilometres per year paying much more insurance than the owners of cars that barely travel 2,000 kilometres.
APT would like to see the Road Tax component of registration
calculated via some system of charging for distance travelled rather
than by a flat levy per car.
A contract was awarded in September for 300 new buses for the State Transit Authority. APT are disappointed that STA engineers appear to be evading input from the Commuter Council; the result may well be less user-friendly buses.
NATIONAL HOUSING STRATEGY
The Commonwealth government has released a background paper on financing urban infrastructure. Written by Richard Kirwan, the paper recognises the value of public transport in large cities. At the risk of quoting out of context, APT cite page 96. which says: "Public transport is the one case in which a general subsidy is thought to be justified ... The rationale is to reduce the level of demand for road space and hence the cost of congestion." We trust that the NSW government obtain and study carefully a copy of Kirwan's paper.
TRANSPORT PLANNING IN N.S.W.
The Department of Transport has advertised for an Executive Director, Transport Planning. The stated intention is to position the DoT as the focal point for all major transport planning initiatives, and develop an integrated transport strategy.
Perhaps the chorus of community demands for integrated land-use/transport planning has finally been heard, and the RTA is to lose its present dominant position. However, the lack of any Government publicity on the implied change of direction puzzles us. Is this genuine or just another attempted cover-up?
APT record the federal Opposition's proposal to revamp the tax system if elected, replacing some income tax revenue with a broad-based Goods and Services Tax. There are to be other adjustments, including a reduction in the price of petrol.
Lowering the already-low cost of fuel would lead to further distortions in the perceived cost of transport, notably car transport. Given the needs of large Australian cities already noticed by the Build Better Cities programme, it would be more logical to raise the price of petrol. What to is a moot point. Something of the order of $2.50 per litre could be justified by demonstrable costs of motoring not met by the motorist but foisted onto others.
APT are writing to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson) with a copy to the Treasurer expressing our view.
CityRail has announced a historic contract with the state government for Community Service Objectives. APT applaud this move because it simplifies CityRail's management objectives, but there is another side to the CSO story.
CSO payments are supposed to be for community benefits received, and therefore the community is entitled to have the nature and magnitude of these benefits identified. There has been no public discussion on this accountibiity to taxpayers.
APT believe the true economic, social and environmental benefits are much greater than the CSO payments currently in place. We suspect that the government's approach is driven by a desire to hide, rather justify, the CityRail financial shortfall.
A SMALL THING
Why not ensure that your workplace and/or college has relevant public transport information at the enquiry desk? Some American companies are going further - perhaps your employer could encourage public transport commuting by e.g. a minibus to the railway.
The issue of personal safety of rail passengers has been raised recently. APT cynically note that the perceived importance of safety is more affected by the quantity of publicity at the time than by actual need. There appear to be three measures available which do not involve CityRail in extra expenditure:
Taking these in order, regular train travellers will be aware of the Tangara design features which maximise visibility through the train. APT understand that over 200 Tangara carriages have been built - where do they go at night? The visible presence of guards would be a strong disincentive to trouble-makers; this newsletter in the past has mentioned the reluctance of guards to patrol their trains even though they receive an allowance for so doing. APT have also mentioned the reluctance of some guards to be visible even behind the window of their compartments. Lastly, a plan to lock unnecessary carriages, effectively concentrating passengers into the few open ones thereby increasing security, commenced a few years ago but fell away. APT feel that CityRail needs only the will to activate these measures for all passengers to benefit
N.S.W. LOCAL GOVERNMENT REVAMP
Proposals have been announced for the reform of the Local Government system. Just as in road projects, it would appear that the decisions have already been made, notwithstanding public comment being sought on the proposed changes.
APT feel that the reforms proposed, mostly intended to increase accountability of local councils, miss the point. It is high time that for planning purposes, the fiction that local areas are isolated entities should be discarded. By such actions as creating industrial parks in areas unserviced by public transport and remote from residential areas, councils cause enormous amounts of car travel. This car travel has effects well beyond the municipal boundaries. Even though council planners theoretically co-operate with State departments, it is clear that many decisions affecting transport demand could be better-made if based on a wider view. APT urge the minister to consider re-vamping local land-use planning.
Another manifestation of too-local government is a predominance of NIMBY-style [Not In My BackYard] decisions. Fragmentation of the city into tiny wards is associated with this. APT are alarmed at the decision that Warringah Shire is too large and will be divided. Rather, we think that local councils would plan better if they covered larger areas, with Sydney's 40 councils being replaced by perhaps 10 regional councils. This would foster NIABY decisions [Not In Anyone's Back Yard] with benefits for the whole community.
A set of the Tangara suburban passenger rail cars was on display at Central on 24th September. APT report that CityRail are considering various minor modifications to the handgrips at doorways. Also, there has been a Worksafe review of several items, including the seat profile, which may lead to other modifications, This newsletter argued some time ago that the seat back was not ergonomically correct. CityRail seem to be conscious of the need to accept opinions on their operations from others.
This Sydney-Melbourne train ran for the last time on 31st August, In recent years, it had run six return trips per week for most of the year, with a seventh in the summer when demand swelled. Its patronage suffered heavily this year from the airline price war.
APT recognise that country passenger services are heavily subsidised (about $120 per passenger, according to SRA figures). But we feel that its cancellation was an over-reaction to a situation that cannot last. When air fares go back up, will the service resume?
Suggestions made by APT, by the Public Transport Users' Association of Victoria and by rail unions include (i) scaling the service down to perhaps two return trips per week (ii) adjusting XPT services so that the Albury XPT could be extended to Melbourne (iii) adjusting XPT services so that the Albury XPT connects with broad-gauge Melbourne trains. We wonder why these possibilities were not aired.
It is improper that the Hume Highway continues to receive enormous financial support while it inflicts heavy costs on the community, by way of accident costs, road surface damage costs, and heavy fuel consumption at about four times the rate of comparable loads on rail. Meanwhile, the railway has received little Federal money since the days of Fraser.
It is obscene that fuel prices are so low as to permit airlines to
compete with rail and even road. Flying uses about twice as much fuel
as comparable loads on the road and about eight times as much as
comparable loads on rail.
NEW CITYRAIL TIMETABLE
Effective from January (a time of year when Australians are invariably incommunicado) Sydney's trains will switch to a new running timetable. The change, although announced as having great benefits for commuters, is aimed at reducing labour costs. APT doubt that the 1928 "red rattler" trains can all be phased out by the end of 1992, despite a Ministerial announcement. The delivery rate of the new Tangara rolling stock is too slow, and a significant number of K-type car sets (the ones with yellow interiors) are now on the interurban lines.
APT understand that bus proprietors whose services connect with rail generally need four months' notice of all details of the new timetable. They will certainly not get this notice. APT are working through various channels to expedite publication of the proposed timetable so that Cityrail can be given feedback before it is too late to fix any problems.
Many readers will recall the embarrassment apparently exhibited by a senior Roads and Traffic Authority executive when being interviewed on a television program earlier this year. Against a backdrop of expressway construction, he was asked why the RTA was so determined to build roads everywhere around Sydney when modern thinking was very much that they did not alleviate traffic congestion but rather that they aggravated it by promoting road use. The executive was clearly seen to pause, mumble something, and then ask for the question to be run again.
On the 21st September. APT were invited to an inspection of progress on the F5 being built between Moorebank and King George's Road. Questions were taken afterwards; luckily there was a senior RTA executive available to comment on policy at the highest level. He asserted that a new road would indeed induce extra traffic locally, and it was intended to, but that global induced traffic was a myth. He felt that fuel prices were a more important determiner of global traffic volumes than was roadbuilding.
APT note with bemusement a report in the North Shore Times of 15 November that a RTA regional director said "the RTA has always recognised the need to complete the [Gore Hill] freeway at the same time as the Sydney Harbour Tunnel". Then why didn't they cost it with the tunnel back in 1986?
State Environmental Planning Policy number 4 allows development which is of minor environmental significance, certain development by public authorities, and development of specified land dedicated or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, to be carried out without development consent.
A set of proposed amendments to SEPP 4 was put forward for public comment closing in August. One of the amending clauses, instigated by the Roads and Traffic Authority, will have the effect of letting construction of roads proceed in many cases without development consent. The RTA draw attention to "the high priority now being given to to the construction and upgrading [of] roads of State significance". Whose priority? Certainly the RTA's, presumably the Government's but not the community's, because the community are not being consulted.
APT made a submission objecting to the change. We pointed out that the RTA have a long history of manipulating the environmental assessment process to suit themselves. Time and time again they have proved to be not worthy of the public trust. Removing the need for public scrutiny of their proposals would be a retrograde step.
California Dreaming, 26 September. What went wrong with Los Angeles' transport.
City Limits on World Around Us, 21 September. Shows how Sydney's expansion has been mismanaged. Features David Hughes, Caron Morrison and Peter Newman. Strongly criticises the Rouse Hill-Kellyville development as being too far out, and not nearly dense enough to permit public transport systems to limit the environmental impact.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Light Rail for Harbour Bridge rally and fair. 11 am., Sunday 15 December, Wynyard Park to North Sydney. 398-2044.
Saving our City, 29 February 1992, Darlinghurst. Urban Env't Coalition, 698-7461.
AUSBike 92 Melbourne. 22-25 March 1992. Puts human-powered vehicles in the context of transport. Bicycle Federation of Australia, (03) 670-9111.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Greening Melbourne with public transport. PTUA, P.O. Box 324, Collins St 3000.
The Melbourne Greenhouse Action Declaration. Discusses transportation needs for a low-movement society. Greenhouse Action Australia, P.O. Box 16, North Melbourne 3051.
Green Light For Towns. Environmental, social and economic reasons for having public transport; measures to be taken. Published by Union Internationale des Transports Publiques, Avenue de l'Uruguay 19, B- 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
Sydney Harbour Tunnel Environmental Impact Statement. Watch this one - the latest prediction being fulfilled is the one about inadequate space for 6 lanes under Conservatorium Road. Videotape produced by Environmental Education Project, University of Sydney, 692-2839.
The Environmental Impact of The Car. Includes some discussion of economic and social impacts. 60 pages, good pictures. Greenpeace, 555-7044.
Future Directions. N.S.W. Roads and Traffic Authority. We understand that it acknowledges that current trends can't continue because of increasing environmental and construction costs of roads. It recommends a significant shift to public transport.
Quantity but not quality - what are Floor Space Ratios for in Sydney's CBD planning? Article by Jim Colman in Sydney Review, October.
Those streets aren't made for walking - a pedestrian view of planning. Article by Jim Colman in Sydney Review, November.
Car Cities - the Unsustainable Dream. Article in Choice, October. Land use plans have to be integrated with transport plans.
Regain the City. Book with associated slide kit published by Australian Consumers' Association. From the greenhouse point of view, discusses what could and should be done to cities and their transport systems.
Brisbane Traffic Management An Alternative Approach. Book available from S.E.A.R.C.H., P.O. Box 202, Bulimba 4171. $15 ppaid.