TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
Some promotional material for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games resurfaced recently. APT were struck by the transport arrangements in the artist's impressions of the swimming pool and the main arena. The pool had 42 cars parked outside it and two cars in motion. The stadium had 41 cars. There was no sign of any other wheeled transport, private or public.
APT hope that a higher standard of Olympic veracity will apply in Sydney!
INTEGRATED TRANSPORT STRATEGY
This discussion paper was formally released by the N.S.W. government on 21st October. Readers will recall the leaking of an earlier version which was never released because high authorities considered it too unfavourable to the roads lobby (actually, it had been emasculated before then but was still too favourable to public transport for Cabinet to want it released).
The main change in the October version was the elimination of all reference to road pricing. As the Minister put it, bean-counting bureaucrats cannot be allowed to inhibit transport. APT's view is that the heavy subsidies taken by road transport warrant some charging of the road user. Further, unless steps are taken to make road transport seem less attractive, public transport cannot attain the passenger loadings it needs.
Oddly, the Strategy still wants "freight routes" built (which must mean truck roads) even though the means of funding them has been deleted. It recommends priority for public transport on public roads, but spoils things by wanting the same for freight. Light-rail advocates took the launch of the Strategy as a chance to distribute their maps showing light rail lines everywhere. APT are not against light rail but cannot accept that it solves every transport problem.
The strategy itself is vague. Its main idea is to identify corridors which are supposed to be good places to develop transport. There are separate freight and passenger corridors. On the whole, the corridors accommodate the RTA's latest wish list for new freeways. The challenge is to ensure that the roads lobby, and the heavy vehicle lobby, do not undermine the vision behind the strategy of achieving a more constrained, less motor-vehicle dependent, greater metropolis.
At least we're better off than in 1988, when the Greiner government had no more to say for public transport than that it "lost" millions of dollars per day and the official position was that there was no need for any new rail corridors.
On the same day, another discussion paper "Sydney's Future" was released. It is mainly about land-use. APT note with interest that much of the Rouse Hill development is still shown as happening, despite unresolved Hawkesbury pollution problems.
PYRMONT LIGHT RAIL
Public Works has announced a plan to construct a light rail line from Sydney Terminal Station (using the same ramps as trams once did) along Hay Street, across George Street, behind the Entertainment Centre, and along the rail alignment to Pyrmont. The basic problem with the Pyrmont-Ultimo redevelopment plans is that up to 54000 new workers are envisaged but only 17000 new residents, in an apparent attempt to maximise the commercial returns to existing property owners.
More residential areas close to the city are now seen as desirable to reduce commuting distances, and this is consistent with the current property market interest in residential, not commercial, development for Pyrmont-Ultimo.
The light rail transport task is therefore back-to-front. Rather than taking residents to the city to work, it is being designed to bring workers into Pyrmont-Ultimo. Consequently it incorrectly links with Central Station to provide access from most parts of the metropolitan area. It also appears to be too short to be effective as a transport facility.
The need is to redirect the rail link into the CBD, underground if necessary, and extend it at each end to form a viable east-west transport corridor. It should serve Leichhardt and beyond in the west, and Taylor's Square and the Sports and Cricket Grounds in the east.
Ticketing should also be totally integrated with rail. The monorail shows clearly how people vote with their feet if mode-changing becomes complicated.
Light rail was chosen partly because the Federal funding was conditional on it being a "demonstration" project. Light rail may well be a novel mode to the Department of Transport but isn't novel in dozens of other cities throughout the world. Light rail enthusiasts should see the importance to all of us that this rail line must work in every sense of the word. If it doesn't, the likelihood of getting more light rail lines is reduced.
A new business-hours bus service from Chatswood to Bondi Junction has just been announced, due to commence on 22 November. This service would be welcome if it genuinely offered opportunities for new public transport patronage on a cross-regional route, but this appears unlikely as it merely parallels existing rail lines in and out of the city. As such, a repeat of the post-Tunnel bus lane experience can be expected, with patronage gained mostly from rail not car.
APT hope that the Department of Transport will survey this aspect of the new service before trumpeting success just on patronage numbers, which it did when claiming the Bridge bus lane to be a success.
APT noticed that a city bus stop had been relocated. Passengers arriving in King St on the route 500 from Ryde now arrive 80 metres further from the centre of the city.
We discovered that the relocation was due to the introduction of the new Scania Orana 14.5-metre buses, of which only a handful are in service, and which will never exceed 10% of the STA fleet. Because the longer vehicles need more room to turn, the stop between York St and George St was moved back to a location between Clarence and York Sts.
This issue is now with the STA chief executive and the minister.
APT were invited to a conference in Canberra last month which was, according to its promoters, intended to "provide the platform for launching Australia's National Road Safety Action Plan into the next decade".
We were disappointed to notice that the program seemed to presume that everyone important drove 15000 km per year and would continue to do so. This is definitely not the case. Modern thinking is that road safety can be aided by such matters as proper planning of large cities so as to reduce the need for driving long distances. Accordingly, APT wrote to the organisers and suggested they add an appropriate slot to their conference. Their reply was disappointing. They said that the conference programme could not be varied.
APT attended the unveiling of the new trains which are restoring services to Armidale and Moree and replacing old trains on the Canberra line. The ceremony was addressed by both the Premier and the Minister.
We came away feeling that if there's one thing the N.S.W. Government get right, it is providing television stations with material for superficial but spectacular reports. As for the trains, when booking be sure you don't get the seats next to the services duct. These seats have no view and no overhead lighting.
CITY LIGHT RAIL LOOP
There has been a proposal, endorsed by a City Council committee, that all bus routes should terminate at the periphery of the CBD Passengers would transfer to light rail for any travel within the CBD itself.
The planners who thought this one up probably never ride in buses. Riders are averse to changing vehicles even when there is no waiting; the proposal would deter significant numbers of public transport patrons. APT cannot imagine a worse suggestion for public transport! We hope that in the interests of all, it not be allowed to proceed further in its current form. Let us consider the practicalities.
There are three proposed bus/LR interchanges at the perimeter of the CBD, viz. Wynyard, Railway Square, and Park Street. An APT examination of current bus timetables shows that these interchanges would have to accommodate an enormous number of buses in the 8am-9am peak - 138 at Wynyard, 236 at Railway Square and 205 at Park Street
At Railway Square, that is one bus every 15 seconds (if only one platform) or 1 every minute (if 4 platforms) or 1 every two minutes (if 8 platforms). This might just be enough if they come in evenly spaced. Then, of course, they have to go somewhere to "lay-over" until they to commence their outward journeys. Would there be separate arrival and departure platforms?
All up, the proposal appears to offer few benefits at substantial costs. Far better to extend the light rail system into the inner western and south-eastern suburbs (see Pyrmont Light Rail above) to reduce interchange problems.
The Manchester system, and plans for Dublin, seem to offer a
realistic model: combining city street running with reserve running
outside. Similarly, the recent Sydney Metrolink proposal to connect
the Pyrmont and Warringah light rail proposals is enlightened,
although this raises the issue of how best to use the eastern Bridge
lanes. Clearly heavy rail can offer the highest long-term capacity on
this vital harbour crossing.
We are please to report the escape route for fare evaders at Sydney Terminal station reported in the May issue has been closed.
APT attended a talk by the manager of the Tangara project. We learned, among other things, that the noisy brakes which are the bane of passengers on underground and enclosed platforms (see our May issue) may be fixed soon.
Seats for the inter-urban Tangaras (referred to as "outer suburban"), which will enter service from June 1994, have been built and APT have tried them. They are a great improvement on the suburban Tangara seats, in comfort and anatomical correctness. Unfortunately, the best that can be done for suburban Tangaras is to rake all seats backwards 5 degrees, which will improve comfort but do nothing for the incorrectness of the curves of the back and may even exacerbate back problems for commuters.
The new trains will probably feature reversible 3+2 seating, one toilet with wheelchair access per 4 cars, drinking water dispensers and luggage racks. Commuter groups representing users of these trains would prefer the seating to be 2+2, which would mean larger seats but fewer of them.
New Zealand's government railways have been sold to a United States consortium for $NZ400 million. The N.S.W. Director-General of Transport is about to leave for the United Kingdom in order to study the privatisation of railways.
OLYMPIC GAMES ANNOUNCEMENT
Watching the euphoria displayed in Sydney at the time (4:30 am.) of the announcement of Sydney's success in bidding to hold the Olympic Games in the year 2000, APT saw many lessons. For instance, no better argument could be found against having a heliport in the city than that given by the two press helicopters hovering around. Their noise was overwhelming yet they were useless - because of the pre-dawn dark, nothing could be seen of the ground by them.
The general public have not realised that, like Darling Harbour, the Games will have to be paid for and something else will have to be foregone. In the words of a Herald correspondent, we are spending money we don't have in order to impress people who don't matter.
A "terminal" station, as distinct from a "through" station, is planned for the Homebush Olympic site. This design could only have been chosen by someone totally opposed to rail transit - perhaps a planner with an interest in the bus industry. The delays to trains caused by their having to reverse at a terminal station can be witnessed daily at Sydney Terminal. It's a pity someone didn't marry the National Rail Corporation's preferred freight railway (from Flemington Junction direct to Concord West) with Showground/Major Sporting Arena needs, and run freight trains during the week and "through" passenger trains direct from the north (Rhodes), the south (Campsie and Belmore), the east (Strathfield), and the west (Regent's Park and Granville) on weekends.
The planners of the airport rail link have certainly realised the benefits of a through link.
WARRINGAH FREEWAY EXTENSION
Different arms of the state government have separately called for proposals for a transit system to the northern beaches area, and for expressions of interest to build a privately-financed road crossing of Middle Harbour.
As if that lack of co-ordination weren't odd enough, note that the region is already serviced by three free roads (Mona Vale Road, Roseville Bridge, and the Spit Bridge). It is unlikely that any tolled new road would attract much patronage outside peak hours. Therefore, the level of toll would have to be substantial, further reducing the traffic attracted. Further, note that much traffic from that direction continues across the Harbour which is already tolled $2 per southbound vehicle. Sydney motorists would not be happy about paying two tolls in a short distance.
The government appears to be happy to subsidise motorway companies directly. APT wonder how much of the construction cost might come out of public funds.
The Roads and Traffic Authority continues to mislead the community with its "public participation" workshops on the selection of new highway routes. On 7th October, the RTA invited 40-odd participants to choose their preferred route for a new highway between Liverpool and Hornsby. From a short-list of five alternative routes, the participants were invited to mix-and-match bits of each route to select their preferred option. There was no no-build option and no improved-public-transport option. An increasing awareness of the politics of roadbuilding was apparent among the participants, but there is still a strong community perception that to solve traffic congestion, the "obvious" or only answer is to build more roads.
A number of community groups boycotted the workshop, as they have other R.T.A. public relations programs. (There was an interesting report on the R.T.A.'s new public relations contract in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 September.)
We have suggested to the R.T.A. that it should make greater use of traffic demand management. This is effectively excluded from its present planning process, which imposes a forecast of future traffic levels on the community. The forecast does not need to be justified, only the need to accommodate it does, in the RTA's view of the world.
This project is to be built with Commonwealth funds. APT would have thought improving rail connections between Brisbane and Melbourne more likely to yield benefits than this road; it is typical of the RTA to presume that the funds can only be spent on a new road.
Meanwhile, the R.T.A. is to lose its determining authority status for
environmental impact statements, which will pass to the Department of
Planning. There will be some interesting politics as the Planning
tail tries to wag the R.T.A. dog.
BETHUNGRA SPIRALS ON
Many readers will be aware of the Bethungra Spiral between Junee and Cootamundra, which trains from Melbourne to Sydney must climb. It dates from the era of steam traction.
APT understand that the National Rail Corporation intends to spend about $6 million to stabilise its rock slopes. This seems to be a great waste, when for only about $15 million, the whole thing could be done away with and the trains run faster up an easy grade of 1 in 66. For the higher sum to be raised, New South Wales would have to contribute; they would stand to benefit from their rail freight systems being more competitive with road haulage.
This story has much in common with the 1992 re-building of railway bridges at Craven, between Maitland and Taree. An opportunity for improved track alignment was missed there - even though designs had been prepared for new bridges on easy curves, the old tight curves were kept.
Interestingly, Queensland's north coast main line upgrades includes 80 kilometres of deviation between Nambour and Gladstone with a ruling curvature of 2200 metres - ideally suited to tilt trains. It is understood that this is noted by NSW transport minister Bruce Baird.
APT attended a talk given by John Smith, Director of Planning in the N.S.W. Department of Transport. We were disappointed. The Department is well aware that there are problems which lead to too many roads being built in cities. Unfortunately, this process looks set to continue with the RTA's plans further undermining the viability of any new rail corridors.
Mr Smith indicated a willingness to engage in more open dialogue, but the community's mistrust of the DoT will remain while it continues to be a propaganda arm of the Government. Examples include support for the F2 freeway and the Harbour Tunnel.
The Commuter Council was formed in 1976 to facilitate communications between public transport users and the then government transport provider, the Public Transport Commission.
APT and other consumer groups had lobbied long and hard to have the Council established. The Wran/Cox government was supportive as it hoped it might get public transport problems "off the front page".
Last year, the Greiner government's "Facing the World" statement required public agencies to set up customer councils in what appeared to be a great leap forward in consumerism. But the Department of Transport hijacked the Commuter Council to become its own customer council. The result was a complete reversal of agenda setting - instead of consumers raising the issues which concerned them, the Department now tells the Council what it is allowed to consider. There is also evidence of the Minister making appointments to the Council on the basis of political favour rather than consumer allegiance.
The Council did not meet between June and November, 1993. There has been none of the consultation promised by the Department of Transport and the Department is certainly making no effort to publicise the names of the new Councillors.
In defiance of the Department, and in the best traditions of democracy and the consumer movement, the commuter associations have re-established the liaisons with the transport authorities, using the same people and processes as were formerly used by the Council. They have simply changed the name.
XPT TO MELBOURNE
The Victorian government has reneged on its agreement to run daylight XPT services between Melbourne and Sydney. APT understand that their purpose is to reduce costs. How many bus smashes will it take for them to see their false economy?
APT have made a submission to the Commission in its current inquiry into urban transport. We are disappointed that our suggestions on the use of Centres, Corridors, traffic Calming and Contributions from non-user beneficiaries to manage metropolitan development have been virtually ignored on the assertion that such management is not necessary. The Commission places emphasis on improving each element and assume this will also make the whole work better.
APT ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
At the 5th November AGM, the following office-bearers were elected. Convenor: Kevin Eadie. Secretary: Jim Donovan. Treasurer: Allan Miles. Management Committee: Malcolm Cluett, Kirk Bendall, Guy Tranter, Wal Lane.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Cities are Good For Us - book by Harley Sherlock, 1991. History of cities plus a case for close-knit communities, local shops and public transport. Learn why corner stores are preferable to convenience stows in car service stations. UKP7 plus postage
Travel Sickness - book containing chapters by many contributors. Argues that transport policy in Britain is wrong. No single theme - use it for reference as needed. Contains much that is worth knowing and is applicable to Sydney. UKP15 plus postage
Taming The Truck: - Freight Policy & the Environment. Special issue of Transport Retort previews a new study of the problems of road freight and some possible solutions.
Travelling Cleaner: - Dutch and British transport policy compared. Dutch policies are much more likely to reduce car travel than are British (if the British have any transport policies) but both face difficulties. UKP4 plus postage -
Campaigners' Guide to Road Proposals book by Sheate and Sullivan. Legal technicalities are different from New South Wales but many principals are relevant to us. UKP10 plus postage
All Change - a new transport policy for Britain. Argues that Britain has no transport policy at present! UKP5 plus postage
The Rush for Roads - a road programme for economic recovery? Report by Movement Transport Consultancy. Argues that road-building does not help the economy as much as many would claim. UKP4 plus postage -
- all from Transport 2000, Walkden House, Melton Street, London NW12EJ
The F2 Castlereagh Expressway Affair - a case for reform of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority. Article by Goldberg in Urban Policy and Research (RMIT) Vol 11, No 3, 1993.
The Accidental City - planning Sydney since 1788. Book by Paul Ashton, 1993. Hale & Iremonger, ISN 0-868064-87-4. Quite good on the CBD; nothing on the metropolitan view.
Federal Designs on our Cities and Sydney: the Blurred Vision both in Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 2 October. These articles show what a mess the CBD planning process is when inappropriately split among three levels of government. Very similar comments could be made about metropolitan transport planning.
Automobile Dependence - "The Irresistible Force"? Discussion paper by Kenworthy and Newman, published by Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney, August. Automobile dependence is only as irresistible as its opponents allow it to be. Suburbanisation has, according to this paper, increased car usage even though it has brought many people's work closer to their homes; this is because it decimates public transport usage.
Lead, Petrol Prices and the Poor - the Sacred and the Profane. Note by Newman in Current Affairs Bulletin, September. Our affair with private transport has "blinded" us to the damage done in cities by air pollution.
Town Planning and Road Traffic by H Alker Tripp, 1942. A classic. Contains the first exposition of things like turning lanes.
Interview of Phil Goodwin by Robin Williams, 2RN Science Show, 25 September. Goodwin, from Oxford's Department of Transport Studies, discusses transport issues.