HOIST WITH THEIR OWN PETARD
APT were amused to read in 'Transport Retort' of a school essay competition conducted in England by a large transport company. Each entrant was to choose a topic from the field of transport. The sponsors hoped for entries supportive of their efforts to improve profitability. Their understanding of profitability often involves inflicting costs on others. All the winning entries had just one theme: the need to cut road traffic and road building on environmental grounds and to improve public transport.
Not only did the sponsors have to publicise the winner, they even had to print his anti-truck essay in the road freight industry journal!
LONG-DISTANCE TRAIN DISAPPEARS
APT were staggered to find that the Indian Pacific, Australia's most famous train, was not shown in the CountryLink timetable. We were told this was because the train is run by another authority (it is, Australian National) and they have no control over it. APT suspect that a more candid story would be they didn't want to publicise a service that competed with CountryLink buses, especially since the relevant bus leaves Broken Hill at 4 a.m. After APT complained, the train re-appeared in the January reprint of the timetable. Oddly, our March inquiry at Circular Quay station yielded only the April 1993 timetable.
Another point, yet to be attended to, is the unacceptable presentation of CountryLink timetables. APT would like to see the timetables made easier to read. The road coach competition issues timetables which don't have confusing symbols everywhere - why can't CountryLink?
RURAL TOLL WAYS
These have become the flavour of the month. Officially, their purpose is to provide safe roads for trunk routes between State capitals. The sorry record of interstate coach crashes in recent years is unlikely to be forgotten. The tolls are not severe, given the time savings, and in any case the old main road remains as a free alternative.
The real cost of building tollways to prevent accidents which ought to be prevented by controlling the coach industry will be seen when there are enough of these routes to make interstate car travel increasingly competitive with air. Intercity road traffic will grow beyond our wildest guesses. Note that the Hornsby-Newcastle F3 is already carrying more traffic than its builders forecast for 2007. The huge costs of catering for this traffic in metropolitan areas will include amplification of highways from the perimeter right into the centre and of course a great increase in the numbers of homes severely affected by traffic noise. Ironically, there will be more road accidents in the suburbs.
AP suggest we would be better off in the long term if we encouraged all this rural traffic to use the railways which already exist along all the likely tollway mutes. Rather than making roads compete with flight, we should make rail more competitive with road.
A previous issue remarked on the lunacy shown by the plan to replace the ramps at Strathfield rail station, which are too steep for modern wheelchair standards, by lifts and stairs. APT have discovered that, in the United States, there is no federal funding for transit systems unless they cater for wheelchairs. Vehicles and stations built to comply with this policy cost much more to build and much more to operate and maintain. The upshot of this is that fewer vehicles are built and services are therefore poorer. It would cost less to move wheelchairs in taxis. Unfortunately, our leaders are more concerned with equality than service.
APT trust that major policy decisions such as the U.S. one are made with full public appreciation of the consequences. We understand that the Australian policy may soon come into being via a court case.
AAA NATIONAL INVESTMENT POLICY
Last November, the Australian Automobile Association (the peak organisation representing all Australian motorists' associations) released a study which appeared to recommend increased investment in roads on the ground that the GNP was increased. Ralph Nader is supposed to have said tongue-in-cheek that every road accident increases the GNP! More to the point, the study ignores externalised costs of transport and totally overlooks the issue of whether the community is truly better off with more trucks hurtling everywhere through it.
APT are speaking out against the AAA's published results.
RAIL PASSENGER INFORMATION AT CITY STATIONS
APT are alarmed at what seems to be a trend for a reduction in standards of basic facilities at these very busy stations. For instance, the new facilities at Circular Quay (opened this month, cost $5.2 million) do not provide even a departure board outside the paid area. There was a mechanical arrangement for many years but it has not been replaced. The concourse clock is so over-stylised that it is quite hard to find and not easy to read accurately.
A new system being trialled at Town Hall whereby platform indicators only illuminate when the train is approaching is likewise unhelpful. It does not give passengers sufficient time to realise that the train is theirs and then prepare themselves to board it. It requires intending passengers to stay within sight.
A recent finding by the University of Melbourne Transport Research Centre is that on average, people spend about one hour per day travelling (October 1993 issue of TRC News, cited below). This figure is not correlated with how far from the CBD people live but the mode of travel of course is so correlated - there is a much higher proportion of private vehicle travel in outer areas.
This spatial evidence adds to that already available from Manning of a tendency for travel time per person to remain constant over the period that Sydney has been transformed from a walking and public transport city to a car-dominated one. Additionally, Newman & Kenworthy's cities database also shows this constant travel time tendency over different cities with various modal mixes.
The significance of this tendency towards travel time constancy shows that travel time savings claimed for new road projects must be treated with the utmost suspicion. APT believe this tendency may also apply to commercial vehicles, where tonne-kms travelled have grown much faster than tonnes lifted along with faster roads (see Commercial Vehicles below). One explanation is the location of retail and distribution centres being determined by considerations of travel time from their customers and clients rather than by distance.
COMMERCIAL VEHICLES' HABITS
Some interesting figures for rigid and articulated trucks from BTCE Occasional Paper 38 dated March 1993 on the Road Freight Transport Industry are set out:
Million tonnes lifted:
Distance per haul:
It is clear that road tonne-kms have grown much faster than tonnes lifted. This can also be seen by the increased distance per haul for road transport from 1975-76 to 1990-91, suggesting that this has been the main impact of faster rural highways.
Of particular interest is the distance per haul for the growth in road traffic; it is the same as for rail! This suggests that faster roads have simply captured new traffic that otherwise would have travelled by rail.
SAFETY ON EVENING TRAINS
APT members will have seen the "Nightsafe" zones painted on railway
platforms. CityRail ought to have taken the opportunity which the
introduction of this system offered to ease access for the majority
of passengers. For instance, they could have adjusted such things as
the point on the platforms at which short trains stop. Many examples
could be given (look at stations on your own line) but the most
obvious is Town Hall, which at night first closes the stairways
at the southern end of the platform.
Ironically, most late-night traffic at Town Hall on weekends comes
from the George St cinemas and wants to use the closed stairs!
IT'S AN ILL WIND
APT understand that mad closures and traffic diversions in central London, introduced in 1993 following terrorist bombings of office buildings, are having beneficial effects on the city environment. When the Bishopsgate bomb exploded, much planning and modelling work had already been done towards reducing vehicular access to the City. Advantage was taken of this work; access was reduced to eight points just four weeks after the bomb. Air pollution has fallen (as has crime, apparently); the thinner traffic moves so much more freely that it may have to be slowed down for the sake of pedestrian safety.
A member has expressed concern about the hopper windows which are being fitted to overhauled suburban rail cars. On the upper deck, the unprotected edges of the panes are at eye level. Especially when opening them, there is danger of facial injury to the nearest passenger in each of two seats.
APT urge that the overhaul specification be modified, at least to make the window opening indexed or gradual, and preferably to split the window into separate halves for the two seats. Otherwise, we fear the matter will ultimately result in a personal injury court case.
C.B.D. TRANSPORT STUDY
Just before Christmas, a joint study was announced by the City Council and the Dept. of Transport. According to the press release, it was aimed at making the city more attractive to tourists.
APT are concerned that the release departed from the booklet which,was circulated later - for instance, the press release postulated that we ought to provide more parking for use by shoppers. However, short-stay parkers are responsible for much of the traffic. The booklet contained several plausible ideas and seemed to recognise the problem. Transport planning is too important for hit-and-miss operation. Oddly, the more-parking-for-shoppers theme resurfaced in the Central Sydney Planning Committee's submission to the Integrated Transport Strategy. It sounds as if commercial interests are having too much influence on CBD transport policies. APT hope that this influence is cut down to size soon.
CENTRAL SYDNEY TRANSPORT IDEAS PAPER
This document reached APT a few days after the announcement mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Are they connected?
The Ideas Paper contains much sense.
Figures in the Paper speak for themselves. At present there are about 173000 work journeys each peak, being 72-76% (125000-131000) by public transport and 48000-42000 by car.
Future plans for 220000 work journeys and an 80% modal split require 176000 by public transport and 44000 by car. There will have to be a 45000 or 50000 increase in public transport and no increase in car usage just to maintain existing street conditions, if street conditions are to improve, it means a reduction in through traffic and/or a further modal shift, particularly if buses are envisaged as part of the public transport mode.
If Sydney's doughnut growth continues with more people living in middle and fringe areas, then rail must be the main public transport mode. This implies such links as Warringah, Airport and Macquarie & north-western. Certainly more road capacity must be the last priority. To support more residents in inner areas, an east-west rail link (not just a Pyrmont light rail stub) may also be desirable.
Diverting traffic around the city by faster road routes only encourages more road use through the effect of "time constancy" (see the Melbourne University TRC newsletter issue cited below), making conditions worse for many others.
APT hope to be part of the proposed Workshops; we need to promote the four Cs (Centres, fast rail Corridors between centres, area-wide traffic Calming, and beneficiary Contributions to development of the centres) and the rail benefits/time constancy principles from which they derive.
APT have prepared a position paper showing that the same inept (deliberate?) mistakes are being made with this mad that we have all seen before. Examples include concentrating on problems in a limited geographical area and ignoring adverse effects elsewhere; claims of time savings despite increasing evidence (see Commuting Habits below) of a behavioural tendency for people to set constant travel time budgets; and ignoring the adverse impact on potential public transport corridors, being the Airport Railway, Warringah and Macquarie.
Our preferred solution is traffic calming through the streets of east Sydney and building up the above-mentioned public transport corridors for line haul use.
STICK TO THE FAX
Had any problems faxing to Wynyard rail station recently? if so, it could be because they've been using all their expensive fax paper to post signs threatening huge fines for people who use the clearly-marked exits. Because not all passengers will ever have magnetically-encoded tickets and because some passengers cannot use automatic exit turnstiles, there will always have to be a gate staffed by a human. Delays at the auto exits have caused large numbers of people to use the gate.
APT members have noticed many ticket vending machines out of service or displaying messages such as EXACT FARE ONLY which suggest that they are not being serviced often enough by cash carriers.
If automatic fare collection is to succeed, it will need more careful introduction than it has been getting up to now.
Readers will be aware that the private Bill which would have stopped construction of the Pyrmont heliport was "deferred for six months" by the Legislative Council on the vote of Rev. Fred Nile. [Why didn't the locals start a rumour that helicopters have gay flight attendants?]
Exactly what helicopters accomplish may be illustrated by supposing that there are twenty movements each day at the heliport - say, ten in and ten out. Optimistically assuming an average payload of three passengers, that's only sixty people moved. Meanwhile, tens of thousands are disadvantaged by noise nuisance to their homes.
APT predict an exponential growth in flights, especially once all the
new housing at Pyrmont has been sold. The 2000 Games will see
non-stop helicopter traffic to the Games sites and the airport.
As last year, APT made a 1994 submission. In it, we accepted the principle of fare increases along the lines of inflation. We were pleased to see in the State Transit Authority submission a paragraph foreshadowing the ultimate introduction of a day-rover ticket, valid on all buses, trains and ferries over a large area. APT have been urging the restoration of this ticket for years!
Interestingly, the STA remark on an increase in patronage on certain bus routes which have benefited from such road works as the Harbour Tunnel and the Gore Hill Link. They also conjecture that bus passengers elsewhere have been lost due to the same roadworks. APT foretold this; we are pleased to be vindicated by a Government authority.
APT note that CityRail have called tenders for a Timetable Support System, which is intended to computerise the production of its operating timetable. We hope that the following connection problems (and many others) can be fixed with this new system.
Weekend North Shore to Eastern Suburbs:
North Shore to Town Hall at nine mins. past the quarter
Town Hall to Eastern Suburbs at nine mins. past the quarter
Eastern Suburbs to Town Hall at four mins. past the quarter
Town Hall to North Shore at three mins. past the quarter
Considering the long transfer path, connections are impossible at Town Hall and a 15 minute delay is incurred for these journeys.
Weekend North Shore to Main North:
North Shore to Homsby at 14 mins. past the quarter
Hornsby to Main North at 12 mins. past the half
Main North to Hornsby at 14 mins. past the half
Hornsby to North Shore at 13 mins past the quarter.
Early running of trains to Hornsby can make connections possible. The result is a 15 (or 30) minutes delay worst case with an unpredictable improvement possible; hardly an incentive to use the service.
These were the lines we checked first. Why not look at the timetable for your rail line; are things any better where you are?
INTEGRATED TRANSPORT STRATEGY
APT have prepared a detailed response to the Department of Transport's October 1993 draft of the Integrated Transport Strategy. We have also seen several other submissions. We suspect from the late public appeal for submissions that not many were received beyond a few along the lines of "too many vehicles drive past my house".
Recent newspaper reports suggest that minister Bruce Baird's idea of an integrated transport strategy is the M2, M5, Eastern Distributor and no new rail links. We wonder where he gets it from. Paris has the Peripherique system, London has the M25. Both are congested! Why do the Baird team think Sydney's Orbital will be different?
GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS
In contrast to our report in 1991, CityRail have officially recognised this year's event through the use of full-length trains, some supplementary services, and no (repeat NO) line closures.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Sydney 2000 Meeting the Infrastructure Challenge, conference, 21-22 March, Sydney Marriott. Transport is considered in passing. A.I.C. Conferences, (02) 210-5777.
TransTech 1994 conference on electronic technology for the trait- sport industry. 23-24 March, Sydney. I.I.R., (02) 954-5844.
Reforms in Urban Transport conference, 23-24 March and
Evaluating, Financing and Bidding for Urban Transport
Projects workshop, 25 March, Sydney. IIR.
National Public Transport Week 1-7 May. Total Environment Centre and the LinkUp people, (02)247-4714.
Mass Transit Asia 1994 conference, Singapore, 30-31 May. I.I.R., (02)929-5366.
Cities and Sustainable Development global forum, Manchester, 24 June to 3 July. Organised by Centre for our Common Future, 52 rue des Paquis, Geneva.
19th Australian Transport Research Forum - Trade-Offs in Transport Reform. Conference, Lorne (Victoria), 28-30 September, organised by Transport Research Centre, Melbourne University. (03) 344-4074.
7th World Conference on Transport Research, organised by University of N.S.W. 16-21 July 1995. 697-3175.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
The Open Street public transport, motor cars and politics in Australian cities. Book by Ian Manning. An unusual perspective on the topic; the photographs show the vehicles which contemporary transit systems used. RRP $27.95, Transit Australia, GPO Box 1017, Sydney 2001.
Ideas for Australian Cities 3e, book by Hugh Stretton. This is a re-issue of a 1970 classic, with an additional essay written in 1989. The book is essential for anyone wanting to understand why we need cities with public transport systems. It has many highlights, such as the description of how Canberra's suburb Higgins had to be designed in a way that did not minimise car trips. This was because it was considered politically impossible to make car trips a few moments longer. There is a detailed discussion of how Adelaide developed from about 1950 to about 1970 with many lessons for people who think that development need not be controlled. The new material, covering the period from 1975, argues that financial deregulation is against the interests of proper development of cities. RRP $34.95, Transit Australia, GPO Box 1017, Sydney 2001.
Infrastructure 2RN broadcast by John de la Lande, Systems Planner, Ockham's Razor, 7 November 1993. Shows what can happen if the best possible system is not adopted from the outset
. T R C News - newsletter of Transport Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, Parkville 3052. See above.
What Freeways Mean to Your City - shows what the roads lobby was up to in 1964. Automotive Safety Foundation, Washington DC.
Citizen Participation in Transportation Planning: the Boston Experience. Describes the 1970 moratorium on new expressways around Boston and the subsequent Transportation Planning Review. Important for APT people and similar types, as it tells how Boston residents brought about a sea-change in public participation practice. In 1994 Sydney, the R.T.A. still does it the old way. Book by Allan K Sloan, 1974. Ballinger Publishing, Cambridge. Massachusetts.
Paradise Lost article on Sydney's planning in Time Australia, 7 February. Highlights trends which our readers will be familiar with; one hopes that its broader audience will benefit
In the November issue, we said that a City Council committee accepted the idea of a light rail system replacing buses within the CBD. We have since been told that the committee examined the idea, was in favour of streetscape improvements, but had great reservations about forcing passengers to change vehicle on entering or leaving the CBD.