PYRMONT-ULTIMO LIGHT RAIL
Readers would be aware of the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer light rail system to be built between Central Station and the fish market, planned to open in 1997. Less well-known is that the system will be worthless unless it is extended, because it will be no quicker for most trips than would be walking. Extensions have been suggested for each end - a City loop up Pitt Street to Circular Quay and a westward extension to Annandale.
Sydney Light Rail Company, incorporated by the consortium which made the successful bid to build, is preparing a submission to the State Government suggesting that these extensions should be built as soon as possible. However, the Government seems likely to reject the submission if it calls for any public funding.
APT and other organisations are trying to convince the Government that the extensions are justified.
PETROLHEADED PUBLICATIONS 1- STATE
"Only the most one-eyed ideologues [sic] could suggest that even significant upgrading of public transport standards and availability could replace the private motor vehicle as the most versatile and preferred form of travel for family or business use"
- Noel Mason, CEO of Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, in The Road Ahead, Oct-Nov 1995.
PETROLHEADED PUBLICATIONS 2- FEDERAL
APT have received a copy of Motoring Directions, Spring 1995, published by the Australian Automobile Association. The front cover carries a cartoon which may be intended to show what bad condition Australian roads are in and how poor they are in comparison with over-funded railway lines. It shows a narrow road in a rural area with a speed limit of 75 km/h. A small truck is travelling on the wrong side of the road; a railway in the background has a modern passenger train apparently at high speed.
The magazine contains a report on the AAA's recent survey of Australian motorists, saying that people value their cars highly and will not accept any substitute transport especially if it is seen as falling far short of needs.
Another article, whose author is represented as having environmental interests, argues that urban freeways generally help the environment. It says that traffic generation by road expansion is irrelevant to the Australian situation where vehicle ownership is already high. It ignores the well-known link between transport and land-use development. A third article argues that reducing urban speed limits is likely to increase fuel consumption. Recent editions of this newsletter have carried many references discussing flaws in the AAA arguments. APT have a good stock of literature showing that the AAA view is now discredited.
SCHOOL BUS PASSES
The general press have already reported that an unexpected result of the N.S.W. State Government's tighter restrictions on free school bus travel might be a reduction in the number of bus services provided. A spokesman for the private bus industry has said that if students abandon the bus and walk (or cycle), rather than pay a fare, then services may become uneconomic and could be withdrawn.
There is, of course, a theoretical point that society is better off if unnecessary transport is minimised. One way of moving towards this ideal is to make the user (or other beneficiary) pay in proportion to the amount of transport consumed, so that parents would have an incentive to enrol their children in nearer schools. The general press have not discussed this matter.
The committee set up by the former Government to investigate the best form of transport expansion for the Warringah area has settled on a new railway from Chatswood to Dee Why and/or Brookvale, with a recommendation for immediate measures to give priority to buses through Mosman. Unfortunately, some delegates from Mosman and Ku-Ring-Gai (long noted for their not-in-my-back-yard attitudes) remain unable to see the benefits to wider Sydney that will accrue from public transport expansion. These delegates are still finding disadvantages to the railway and are pressing for road expansion across Middle Harbour. APT hope that the majority view prevails. However, the Government will not be anxious to spend money in an area long dominated by Liberal voters.
THE VALUE OF TIME SAVINGS
APT note that the consensus of transport authorities overseas is slowly but surely moving towards agreement that travel time saved is the important reason why people select a mode of transport. Regular readers will be aware that comparatively small time savings are exploited by the RTA to "justify" many road projects. Sydney now has a roads network that, except in peak hours, permits car journeys almost everywhere which are much quicker door-to-door than the same journey would be if made by public transport. The effect of this time advantage on the choice of travel mode is all-too-apparent. The proportion of Sydney's trips made on public transport has fallen greatly since 1950. At recent public seminars on public transport fares, organised by the Government Pricing Tribunal, APT were disappointed to see the chief executives of the State Rail Authority and the State Transit Authority both deny the paramountcy of time savings. They contended that they could win passengers by merely "improving services". Time will tell, in more ways than one.
CITYRAIL PRINTED TIMETABLES
Timetables for Sydney suburban trains have in recent years been issued in separate booklets for each line. APT suggest that, with major changes coming to train operation at the opening of the Parramatta-Merrylands Y-link next year, CityRail should take the opportunity to re-organise the present fourteen booklets. Even now, trains from Campbelltown can come into the CBD by four different routes, and there are several cross-country services each peak from Sydenham via Bankstown to Blacktown.
CityRail has recognised the significant changes which will occur with the introduction of the October 1996 timetable, and has been distributing discussion papers and holding public meetings in an effort to generate public participation in the process. It will be interesting to see how CityRail meets the challenge of presenting user-friendly timetable information as the rail system gradually changes from a single-centred network to a multi-centred one.
Some suggestions for possible changes are:
1. A separate booklet or card for the Eastern Suburbs line, additional to the current full Illawarra booklet.
2. A separate booklet for the inner west, showing only the all- stations trains between Central and Strathfield. The current Parramatta timetable contains services to inner-west stations but they are buried among many blanks due to fast trains.
3. An inner suburbs timetable booklet, covering (say) the 10km around the CBD.
4. A Bankstown Loop timetable booklet.
5. Inclusion of stations between North Sydney and Chatswood in the timetables for the Western and Northern lines.
6. A return of the all-lines timetable book at a suitable price.
SYDNEY WEST AIRPORT
More and more people are coming to the conclusion that the Badgery's Creek project is simply a very expensive attempt to save the Keating government, which realises that it cannot afford a reversion to 1994 operations at the long-established Kingsford-Smith airport by running flights over the electorates of Messrs. Brereton, Punch and Carr. In the long term, nor can the government afford to ignore the rage of the inner western suburbs which have seen their property values depressed by an amount estimated to range up to 21% (Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October) since the majority of flights were moved off the east-west runway. Parts of Sydenham have been devastated.
There are convincing reasons why the major airlines won't move their establishments to Sydney West. In the first place, moving would cost them hundreds of millions each. Secondly, the passengers would switch their business to airlines which stayed at Kingsford-Smith. And the government is unlikely to force any move until Sydney West is able to handle large aircraft. Of course, operators of budget tours might choose to use Sydney West, encouraged by huge financial concessions from Canberra.
Some support for this interpretation can be found in the corporate structure which the Government will use when selling Sydney's airport(s). The two are to be in separate companies which will be sold together. The buyer will essentially be at liberty to follow market pressures in deciding how many flights to run at Sydney West. The history of privatisation in Australia shows that Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) operators often extract generous unannounced concessions from governments.
Meanwhile, the Opposition is jubilantly promising to re-open the east-west runway in 1996, knowing that it has nothing to lose in the south-eastern suburbs, but that's a side issue. Another side issue is that long-distance aviation is dependent on cheap oil supplies; APT have been advised that Australia's oil self- sufficiency is already falling and that the current low air fare levels cannot be sustained.
Readers will be aware that the RTA's plans for the western part of
Sydney include the 'Orbital" (which, despite the name, actually
passes through the CBD). The asserted demand for this road includes
airport traffic. So this Badgery's Creek airport fiction is not only
to cost hundreds of millions of dollars directly,
but also is being exploited to justify some very damaging roads.
The suburban passenger rail network in Newcastle is small by capital city standards (it used to be bigger but the Toronto line closed several years ago and few people now alive remember the long-gone Belmont line). The centre of Newcastle has moved westward and weakened, partly due to the influence of private cars; the surviving rail system is still focused on the old centre.
Despite this, the Newcastle network can boast three additional stations in 1995, a feat not often matched even in metropolitan systems. They are Warabrook (Univ. of N.), Metford (east of Maitland) and the forthcoming Glendale station next to the former Cardiff railway workshops.
At a conference held in Brisbane on 6th October, a traffic reduction strategy based on busways was announced by Brisbane City Council. Some of the speakers were road lobbyists; amateur public transport lobbyists were not invited to speak. APT have reservations about over-reliance on bus systems. Simply, buses aren't chosen by travellers who have any alternative.
Delegates from councils of other capital cities described what was being done in their cities to manage transport issues and improve the quality of life. The exception was Darwin which, despite a population of 75000, does not promote public transport as part of a traffic management strategy.
GREENACRE ROAD LINK
The state government has announced that it will construct a flyover at the Hume Hwy/Roberts Rd/Centenary Drive intersection. As with every road expansion, any time saved initially will be reduced by extra congestion due to the additional traffic that such expansion generates. Such developments only serve to lock Sydney further into car dependency.
APT had a representative at the media launch at the golf course near the intersection. When our rep spoke to a man we think was the minister's press secretary (a rather large and imposing figure), he was told "Media function only, MATE!".
In spite of the initial tension, Roads minister Michael Knight later had a brief word with our rep. While APT have long lobbied for roads money to be redirected to public transport, because of its potential to improve the city form, the minister's case was that present legislation stops money from being redirected from roads, and the Government is unable to change the legislation because of numbers in the upper house. If this is true, it is a rather unfortunate situation.
Nevertheless, the minister also told our rep about forthcoming legislative changes allowing road money to be spent on road- related public transport - that is, bus priority and parking stations at railway stations. If it means more money for public transport, we can only welcome this initiative - even if the Government continues to promote road expansion as something which will "fix" Sydney's problems.
Cynics would say that this link, together with the RTA's proposed M5 East motorway (which includes a link from the Prince's Highway to General Holmes Drive) will one day make it easier for the RTA to argue for a Cook's River Valley tollway. Look at a map and decide for yourself!
PASSENGER INFORMATION 1
In its admirable drive to equip more bus stops with timetable information, the State Transit Authority is reducing the clarity of the information being provided. Previously, display cases showed a specific-point timetable - that is, the times that the buses passed that stop. Newly-installed display cases (and some of the older ones) now have a full route timetable - that is, the times at both termini and at two or three intermediate points.
That's fine, if you know where you are waiting in relation to one of those points. APT appreciate the cost savings to the STA in using a standard timetable for the whole route, but deplore the loss of the individual touch. With modern technology, single- location timetables ought not be impossible, even with bus stops served by multiple routes. It is precisely those stops served by multiple routes, typically on main roads near the CBD, where the need for detailed information is greatest.
The Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency has funded an ambitious project in capital cities to test the value of community education in promoting public transport. Co-ordinated from Melbourne, the Sydney project will include raising community awareness of pollution issues arising from motor vehicles in the Campbelltown to Parramatta corridor.
This corridor will have amplified capacity due to the opening of the Harris Park to Merrylands Y-link, scheduled to open during 1996. If the Y-link is to work, services between Granville and the south will need to be maintained. Therefore, there will have to be new services through Liverpool. A large effort will be needed to attract additional passengers; this effort will have to include better co-ordination with feeder buses, integrated ticketing, and probably controls on parking and/or car access to Parramatta. Readers will be aware that the Parramatta business district is to be Sydney's second business centre and is planned to grow from the current 35000 jobs to 80000.
It is hoped that the results of this community education project will not only promote the Federal Government's air quality objectives but will also facilitate other public transport projects around the city.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW are carrying out the Sydney project.
APT will watch the project and keep you informed on its accomplishments.
An increasing number of transport experts around the
world are emphasising the significance of time savings to people's
choice of transport practices. APT would of course prefer to see a
project which significantly improved services in some way relative to
car travel (an obvious way would be to reserve some main roads for
public transport at the expense of cars),
In the May 1993 issue of this newsletter, we showed a lorry carrying containers stacked three high as a possible trumping of double-stacked containers on rail wagons. Readers may be interested to know that triple-stack containers are now undergoing trials on U.S.A. railways. The containers are of somewhat reduced height and are used to convey potatoes.
National Rail Corporation is already running double-stack trains between Adelaide and Perth. Those services could be extended to the high-volume Melboume-Sydney-Brisbane corridor, theoretically doubling the capacity of the railway and getting semi-trailers off the highways, if only our Federal politicians could recognise the potential economic and social benefits and allocate appropriate funds to railway upgrading.
GOVERNMENT SPONSORS UNUSUAL ACADEMIC
The Department of Transport has sponsored the visit for a year of an American professor to the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Sydney. He is giving a seminar series intended to foster thoughtful and productive planning.
The professor's prime qualification is not in transport planning. APT have previously noted a reluctance on the part of the RTA to support anyone who might say that new roads generate extra traffic. Could this influence have extended to the Department of Transport?
APT are represented on a number of forums dealing with the
provision of transport to the community. Recent topics for discussion
- train frequency to stations Toongabbie to Harris Park
- train services to use the Harris Park Y-link
- passenger problems at the new Blacktown station
- station lighting standards
- train connections at Redfern
- proposed on-board ferry destination signs
- public transport fares
- refurbishment of older suburban and inter-urban rail carriages.
M5 EAST RE-SURFACES
Readers will recall how the Castlereagh Freeway was rejected by the
Woodward Inquiry but is nevertheless now being constructed as the M2 Tollway.
The Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed tollway from King George's
Road to General Holmes Drive is to be (re-)released soon.
It will be on exhibition until at least the end of the year.
It still contains many untrue statements intended to make the road look better.
In particular, it falsely claims that constructing the M5 East will reduce
traffic on many nearby streets.
At the time of writing, APT do not yet know what attitude the EIS takes to
extra traffic that invariably is generated by opening new
roads such as the M5 East and which, if taken into account, would
offset any travel time savings that might otherwise justify the new road.
But we expect it to be dismissive of the many other difficulties there will be,
such as colonies of rare frogs in the Wolli Creek area.
PASSENGER INFORMATION 2
APT wrote to members of the Rail Strategy Forum in October, suggesting that they should press for improvements to the specified passenger information at Parramatta station. This provided for an "Interchange Indicator", which could be used for special messages such as "Next fast train to City from Platform x". The specification called for only two such signs, to be placed only at the existing Argyle Street and D'Arcy Street entrances.
APT' are of the opinion that this information should be made available to all persons entering the station, and even perhaps to people already on the platforms.
We also suggested that intending passengers should have enough information to distinguish between the fastest service and the next direct service to such destinations as Eankstown, the Central Coast, and Campbelltown via Merrylands. Only some services will run direct to these destinations.
APT commend the Westbus company for its attempts to increase public transport patronage with its recent 2WS radio advertising. The ads promote the congestion-reduction possibilities of public transport, and Westbus' hail-it-anywhere Nepean Nippers.
At its Annual General Meeting in September, the former Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations became the Consumers' Federation of Australia. Its members include APT and some other alternative-transport groups in several cities.
The work of C.F.A. has in recent years been focused on retail consumerism and the financial sector. APT would like to see some attention given to the transport packages which Australian cities are being sold; we will press for this.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Transport Reform Moving Forward - conference, Auckland, 28-30 August 1996. Abstracts have been called for. Enquiries to P.O. Box 90-040, Auckland, New Zealand.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Article by O'Connor, Darby and Rapson in September issue of People and Place, published by the Australian Forum for Population Studies. Shows how urban consolidation policies have failed to make any impact on Sydney and Melbourne; the trend is still towards cities with empty centres and sparse outer suburbs, the highest densities being in the middle-distance suburbs. This form, known as the "doughnut shape", is what urban consolidation hopes to avoid.
Ecology of the Automobile - book by Freund and Martin, Black Rose Books, 1993. Looks at the whole picture of car-based transport systems and what they do to cities as opposed to what public transport systems do.
Urban Australia: Trends and prospects - research report 2, published by Australian Urban & Regional Development Review. Order from Department of Housing and Regional Development, (06)277 7680.
High-Speed Rail: Another Golden Age? - article by Eastham in Scientific American, September. Shows how high-speed rail systems complement road and air transport. Premier Can is a new convert to this view, having ridden from Tokyo to Osaka during his recent trip.
Why Go Anywhere?: - comment by Cervero in Scientific American, September. Shows why small cities should have lively central cores within walking distance of most residents. Says that large cities should have clearly-defined regions, each having centres near most people, so that the need for car travel is minimised. Criticises the so-called Intelligent Transportation System (the car lobby's "solution" to urban congestion) on the grounds that it increases fuel consumption, worsens air pollution, and causes urban decay and suburban sprawl.