FAHEY DOES A BRERETON
The NSW premier has issued a directive to government agencies involved in construction to erect notices bearing the words Building a Better State at every construction site. He has also directed that the cost, which we estimate at $2 million, is to be met by the agencies.
With 10 months to the next state election, we imagine that the proliferation of such signs might be intended to create a positive image of the present in the mind of the electorate, in the fashion of the former Labour Government capital works minister Laurie Brereton. If that is so, then the Liberal party should perhaps be contributing to the cost.
COUNCIL PLANS CITY
Early this month, the City Council held a workshop about city planning. APT attended. We were pleased to hear that some reduction in city traffic is being planned. Council is considering removing a traffic lane and widening footpaths in Market Street and elsewhere, resulting in the Pitt-Market area becoming a more pleasant area for pedestrians. Council is also giving some thought to diesel noise and fumes in the Castlereagh St chasm under the Centrepoint bridge.
From early July, CityRail's off-peak and weekend services in the western and north-western suburbs will be improved. There will be extra trains on the Richmond, Penrith, Fairfield and main Northern lines.
There has been a growth in demand on some lines. In particular, Quaker's Hill station is experiencing noticeable extra patronage due to new residential development around Rouse Hill.
When the Casino announcement was made on 6th May, the Premier said that the cash payment by the successful tenderer might be used to fund various "urban renewal projects" that were already "in an advanced state of planning". He mentioned the Eastern Distributor and "the Parramatta-Hornsby railway".
As for the former, APT's understanding was that the Eastern Distributor was to have been a tollway and the Government have often said that tollways are built at no real cost to the public. The railway also perplexes us. APT have for years been urging that the Carlingford line be altered to connect Parramatta to Epping and to connect Carlingford to the north-west (see map in the September 1990 issue of this newsletter). But we are sure that the closest any government plan has come to this is replacing the Carlingford train line by light rail. Light rail does not have enough capacity to cater for the planned future Parramatta which is supposed to grow from the present 35000 jobs to 80000 in the year 2011. And of course no amount of road expansion could handle enough cars for the new workforce. The private bus industry will no doubt press for a bus system which they allege will serve Parramatta satisfactorily but will in reality degenerate into something which maximises their profits. Buses cannot match the timekeeping or comfort levels of rail systems without very expensive segregated busways.
As for funding it, APT feel that the provision of public transport infrastructure to Parramatta or anywhere else should be an integral part of the Government's transport/land-use planning process and capital works program. It must not depend on a possible "jackpot" to the Government from casino profits.
With the approach of the next state election, many MPs are starting to listen to their electorates. If your local MLA holds a public meeting, why not go along. If (s)he thinks that massive road construction programmes can solve traffic congestion, ask why after 30 years of expressway building (and virtually nil railway expansion) the congestion is still rampant.
ARE THEY INDEPENDENT?
APT were surprised and disappointed that the three independent State MPs (Clover Moore, Hatton and MacDonald) voted with the Government to kill an Opposition motion for a full Parliamentary Inquiry into the handling of the proposed M2 Tollway (variously known as the Castlereagh Freeway and the NorthWest Transport Link) by the Roads and Traffic Authority.
The debating was good but neither the Minister for Roads nor other Govemment members showed any depth of understanding of how urban transport functions.
Our theory is that the Independents were lobbied by a M.P. from the north-west who convinced them that the road would solve congestion problems or was favoured by a majority of voters. APT trust that the Independents would not accept that story.
In order to guide future actions, APT wrote to each of them asking why they did not support the motion. The only reply raised more questions than it answered.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT WEEK
APT were involved in National Public Transport Week, which ran from Sunday 1st May to 8th May. Events included a "Public Transport Derby" in which entrants received points for reaching various destinations during the day (readers with long memories may recall that APT organised a few such derbies in the late 1970s). The derby attracted much radio attention.
APT hope that the publicity produced enough of the right sort of interest in public transport to make the week worthwhile.
EASTER SHOW PROPAGANDA
Visitors to Sydney's annual Show were once more treated to a pavilion-full of state government promotions. The large Roads & Traffic Authority stand claimed that they were "improving" the environment with their urban freeways.
APT's opinion of the abuse by the RTA of its own environmental
policies was vindicated during April when, in a well publicised move,
the Australian Conservation Foundation withdrew from the RTA's
Environmental Council. The Foundation referred to its being used "to
provide green window-dressing for greater car dependence and, hence,
further destruction of the urban environment".
Sydney airport's Third Runway will commence operations in September. Both it and the future Badgery's Creek airport are significant additions to Sydney's public transport picture. (Even the most enthusiastic motorist will use a plane for a faster journey). They will have significant impacts on residential amenity and travel patterns in Sydney. In 1992, APT participated in the public consultation phase of the third runway development. Lack of resources has prevented our continuing involvement but we have watched the consultation process with interest and we acknowledge here the efforts of the volunteer members of the Community Advisory Committee. Come September, their efforts may be overshadowed by politicians and hence not get the recognition they deserve.
SYDWAYS STREET DIRECTORY
A newcomer on the directory scene is Sydways, produced by the same people as Melways. Unfortunately, while the Melbourne book has good public transport information, the Sydney book is limited to railways and ferries. The new book even has a rather pointless section showing where each railway station is. Would you expect e.g. Hurstville railway station to be anywhere other than Hurstville?
PERTH-BRISBANE SLEEPER SERVICE?
With the imminent completion of the standard-gauge track between Melbourne and Adelaide, Australian National Railways is considering running the Indian-Pacific train via Melbourne as an alternative to the Broken Hill route.
With thought, the I-P could be extended to Brisbane, providing competitive sleeping berths with Countrylink. Countrylink's sleepers are dearer than I-P sleepers, but their XPTs do not have single rooms, private toilet facilities, dining and lounge cars and motorail facilities.
Many APT members will have waited 20 or more minutes in uncomfortable conditions for a bus, only to see three suitable buses arrive together. This is caused by random fluctuations of load and traffic which make some buses run later than others. The late-runners tend to get delayed even more, as more passengers accumulate at the stops ahead of them, requiring more time to be spent at each stop. The buses behind catch up but are unlikely to pass; even if they do pass, they are held in the cluster by the heavier loads picked up by whichever bus is in front from time to time.
The most-obvious sufferers from clustering are people who ride along trunk routes near the city which are served by several bus routes, such as Anzac Parade, City Road or Military Road. These people expect perhaps six buses per hour; three clusters of two will at least double the total time that people spend waiting. Also, travel in fuller buses is less comfortable. Both these reasons lessen the attractiveness of bus services and thereby discourage bus patronage.
APT field agents are surveying clustering in the Newtown and Bondi services. We hope to gather sufficient data to discuss the matter with the STA and to use in pressing for traffic measures aimed at bus priority.
For about two years, the STA has been "trialling" a system whereby specially-fitted buses can be traced by radios mounted on signal posts at major intersections, So far, the only buses fitted are the Airport route 300 series and the only known benefit from the system is that the bus stop in Eddy Avenue has a device which purports to show how soon the next bus is expected. How well it works is not clear - on the day APT last checked, it showed that the next bus would arrive "within 25 minutes", which is ridiculous, given the tabled 4 buses per hour. Such a sign is of no benefit to passengers.
If the road system gave more priority to buses, so that their travel times were less affected by vagaries of traffic, clustering would be less of a problem. We have bus priority measures (mainly transit lanes) but the authorities lack the willpower to make them effective. Alternatively, if transponders were fitted to all buses, and some workable arrangement were devised of displaying the data to a central controller who had the power to direct buses so that clusters could be broken up, the STA might be able to reduce clustering.
TRANSPORT FOR THE DISABLED
In the March 1994 newsletter, we expressed concern about the cost of making all public transport facilities and vehicles accessible to the disabled. Those concerns are echoed by the bus industry in the May edition of Truck and Bus Transportation.
In a brochure describing its "Draft Commonwealth Disability Strategy", the Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health says "People with a disability should be able to use buses, trains and other forms of public transport". Interested persons are invited to contribute to the refinement of the draft by writing to Brian Elton & Associates, Box 2, Farrer 2607 (phone 06-290 1551), by 17 June.
A recent article in New Scientist (12 March) mentioned growing concern overseas about adverse health effects from motor vehicle exhaust emissions. It has been discovered that small particulates, less than 10 micrometres across (hence the name PM1O), lodge in people's lungs and are responsible for many deaths and much disability; so much so that the true road toll may be double that caused by crashes. There is reason to believe that the New South Wales air quality officials do not take PM10 as seriously as officials in Victoria and overseas.
It is clear that the current freeway-building policies of the NSW government worsen air pollution in Sydney. APT are taking steps to have more notice taken in Sydney of the non-polluting aspect of public transport. Interestingly, Melbourne people are becoming more conscious of air quality (there was very bad air pollution there on the weekend 19-20 March) and health authorities there are correspondingly more concerned than Sydney's.
A Parliamentary inquiry into air pollution has begun in Sydney.
APT will make submissions advocating wider user of public transport as
part of a solution.
APT have examined the Environment Impact Statement for the Possum Brush to Coolongolook tollway intended to supplement the Pacific Highway. We were disappointed to find that the R.T.A. still bases its road "justifications' on fallacies. This can only be deliberate.
Although generally not very involved in rural roadbuilding, APT have made a formal submission to this E.I.S. because of the fallacies. The EIS begins by observing that the RTA is bound by its policy to work towards reducing greenhouse emissions such as vehicle exhausts which contain carbon dioxide. The EIS says that roadbuilding clears roads, permitting vehicles to operate more efficiently in the clearer conditions, and thereby reduces exhaust emissions.
Of course, the EIS reasoning ignores extra traffic generated by the roadbuilding. Or does it? The EIS notes that the average speed un the relevant section of the present Pacific Highway is 75 kph (approximately the most fuel-efficient speed of many vehicles) and is expected to increase to 109 kph on the new road. This negates the fuel savings except insofar as travelling distances are reduced by the fact that the new road is more direct than the old and hence shorter.
The EIS goes on to say (page 7.6) "The planned improvement of the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane will not create any greater need for movement of freight or passengers between these centres." But page 6.7 says: "Forecasts for the Motorway Pacific include estimates of the induced traffic effects of the toll road when built as a whole from Hexham to Tweed Heads. These induced traffic effects are increases in traffic that result from major improvements to roads." It then says (page 6.8) "The forecasts for the Motorway Pacific give much higher traffic projections than the modelling carried out for the North Coast Road Strategy. This is because the latter forecasts are for natural growth through population changes, while the Motorway Pacific forecasts include the traffic generation effect that a major improvement like the Motorway Pacific could induce."
Can you work out the RTA's policy on induced traffic from the above? APT can't.
APT intend to be involved in the debate preceding this poll. Willing helpers should ring 819-6052 after 8 p.m. any day.
In announcing the short list of seven proposals for transport to the Warringah peninsula, minister Baird hinted that road toll- ways were preferred because they were "cheaper". The cheapest proposal involved a bridge of pharaonic proportions across the quiet reaches of Middle Harbour. Predictably, Castlecrag NIMBYs reacted explosively. A public meeting was organised immediately. But, even before the meeting, Mr Baird had decided to issue a clarification in terms that no decision had been made and that public transport was still on the list. He also announced the creation of a Section 22 (Env. Planning and Assess. Act) committee, including community representation, to advise on the merits of the proposals.
APT have nominated a delegate for this committee but we are not sanguine about stopping freeways by this means if a full Commission of Inquiry could not dampen the Government's enthusiasm for the M2.
APT understand that the contract for this all-modes public transport enquiry service has recently changed hands. We are pressing for the quality of service to be maintained and the service extended to include private buses. Hours are 6a.m. to 10p.m.
An increasing number of formerly-staid Government organisations are now permitting employees to use office cars for private purposes for a small charge, which goes toward the employer's Fringe Benefits Tax.
APT were astonished to hear that the State Rail Authority is joining this list. For about $5 per day, which is much less than the cost of renting a car, employees with access to staff cars will be able to use them for their own travel. Readers of this newsletter will be aware that car usage is heavily subsidised by the community through vehicle noise, roadbuilding, air pollution, parking and traffic congestion costs imposed on others. We wonder how much the employees would be prepared to pay for this; we are sure that much more could be charged. Ironically, these same S.R.A. employees already get generous free travel on public transport.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
APT gave evidence before the recent NSW P.A.C. hearings into Infrastructure Management and Financing. We suggested that all costs of infrastructure should be taken into account, with particular reference to costs of private transport paid for by outsiders such as congestion, noise etc. From the transcripts, it seems that the P.A.C. failed to grasp the meaning of our submission.
ROLLING DESTINATION SIGNS
APT object to bus destination signs which display messages unrelated to the route or destination. The destination appears for perhaps two seconds out of six. Interleaved might be ALL STOPS (which may be helpful) and/or some junk like WELCOME ABOARD. APT feel that some of our bus managers are unable to distinguish gimmickry from service.
CITYRAIL CONTRIBUTES TO ROAD CONGESTION
In our May 1994 newsletter, APT drew attention to the contempt which security van companies had for pedestrian safety and smooth traffic flow when they parked their vehicles illegally. The problem has got worse, now that those same companies have contracts to collect the cash from automatic ticket-vending machines at every station in Sydney.
On at least one modera rail system (Tuen Mun, Hong Kong), the cash is collected using a rail vehicle. How about it, CityRail?
PUBLIC TRANSPORT SERVICE INFORMATION
APT have always claimed that more people would use public transport if route and timetable information was easier to get. Our last overview of this subject was in November 1992. Here is an update.
We have been unsuccessful in getting the necessary improvements to the destination and route number signs on Sydney's buses. STA's fleet suffers from absent or faded digits in the route number and electronic signs which are illegible, irrelevant to the destination, or inadequately illuminated. Private bus operators seem totally opposed to side- or rear-mounted destination information, although there have been significant improvements in the bus-front signs in recent years.
The train departure indicator at Circular Quay (see March issue) is unlikely to be operational before November 1995. It will be of a totally new format, similar to those now in use at Sydenham and Sutherland, which list the destination stations in alphabetical order instead of in route order as previously, and show platform number, departure time, and number-of-minutes-before-departure. Ultimately, all major CityRail stations will have the new indicators. (CityRail has agreed to address the majority of the 10 other complaints APT had about the $5.2 million upgrade of Circular Quay station.)
Thanks to CityRail staff for installing the sheet timetables at platform level at Martin Place, as requested. What's even more pleasing is that passengers are making use of them.
CityRail is commended for its 4-page brochure of planned Illawarra track upgrading covering a 3-month period. At Dapto station on 14th April, public address announcements also warned passengers that buses would replace trains on the following weekend. This audible addition to the familiar posters and handbills is likewise commended. Why can't this happen on every line? And when will train guards provide similar announcements en route?
The pigeonholes provided at major CityRail station information boards for self-serve train timetables are now largely empty. Restocking seems unlikely until the new timetable starts in July.
Hundreds of passengers each day must be unnecessarily stressed at Sydney Terminal when they hear the announcement "the next train to ... is due to depart from Platform ...", when CityRail really means to say "the next train to ... will depart from ...".
Some Sydney ferries are being fitted with destination signs. APT hope it will ameliorate some of the problems referred to in our May 1993 newsletter.
This scarcity of public transport service information is not a new phenomenon. It is, in fact, enshrined in the cultural history of the 20th century. In 1942 (?), when RCA decided to present Glen Miller with a gold-plated copy of his record, in acknowledgement of it having sold a million copies, they didn't know they were starting a tradition. The Harry Warren melody had featured in Miller's first movie "Sun Valley Serenade". Lyricist Mack Gordon could not have known either, that he was recording public transport history when he created the opening words "Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo?".
FOR YOUR DIARY
Regular APT meetings. Rendezvous at 5:15 p.m. Fridays, lower concourse, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway.
NSW: Environment in Crisis 16th July, Sydney University. Nature Conservation Council conference; topics include environmental ramifications of transport. 241 2052.
Planning and Funding Urban Transport - Keeping our Cities Liveable. Conference, 15-16 June, School of Environmental Planning, Uni of Melbourne, Parkville. $195. (03) 3446551
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Public Transport in Crisis - why Melbourne can have world-class mass transit. Discussion paper $5 ppd. from Public Transport Users' Association, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000.
Liveable City Times 12-page broadsheet produced by LinkUp.
Greening Adelaide by public transport. $7.95 ppd. from Australian Conservation Foundation, 120 Wakefield St, Adelaide. Book inspired by Greening Melbourne.
Housing and Government Boyer Lectures, 1974, by Hugh Stretton. Published by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The Classless Society Article in The Economist, 19 February. States that the anti-freeway movement in Britain is now drawing supporters from all walks of life.
The Sustainable Development Debate Revisited article in Current Affairs Bulletin, April, by Cola Hunt. Suggests that the concept of "sustainability" in the Bnzndtland report has been hijacked by commercial interests and taken to mean financially sustainable.
Cities for sale - property, politics and urban planning in Australia. Book by Leonie Sandercock, 1975. Argues that Whitlam's policies would have been good for Australian cities even though they were seen by the states as interference. Reveals weaknesses in "planning" as administered by local government.