PLUS CA CHANGE
"Work is now in progress in the city of Boston, on a subway or underground railroad system, which is designed to do away with congestion, and which it is believed will take care of the traffic adequately. The idea is that by having a tunnel devoted to the railroad alone, and free from all interference of vehicles or pedestrians, schedule time will be made by the cars, which can naturally be run at much higher speeds than is possible on a crowded street."
- Paragraph from Scientific American August 1895.
Surprisingly, the item seems to associate speed with keeping to timetable. Sydney's buses have neither quality but in fact the two questions are distinct.
A study by the Australian Road Research Board (SMH, 29 January) has found that the full social cost of private car travel was around 40c per km; up to 4 times the perceived cost of 11c to 14c per km. The Report also trots out the old chestnut that Sydney traffic jams cost $2200M per year without acknowledging that this assessment assumes elimination of the congestion without any increase in traffic volumes; an impossible, and certainly not cost-free, situation.
Commenting on the report, the NRMA's Manager of Engineeering & Environment, Mark McKenzie, said the key to controlling traffic congestion was the quality of the alternatives, particularly for the people of western Sydney.
On the costs of air pollution, the Environment Protection Authority said the community cost of pollution from private cars in Sydney was $393M a year, but only $22M from buses, a bus with 40 passengers polluting much less than 40 cars.
PROMOTION OF BUS SERVICES
You may have noticed advertisements on the sides of Sydney Buses vehicles saying that "We'll even take you to" followed by a picture. APT have learned the secret: the picture conceals the name of a bus destination in a style usually confined to the children's puzzle pages of the Sunday newspapers. For instance, the sheep with a gate in it is Ramsgate and the saucepans with hands are Potts Point. The aeroplane is presumably a Concorde! Whilst people may recognise that they are being sold something, we wonder whether they realise that the commodity advertised is bus services.
Contrast the above with advertising of private operators. Recent issues of the Bankstown Torch contain full-page advertisements with schedules of Baxter's Bus Lines services and an issue of the St. George Leader contains route maps of Crowther's Coaches.
TRACKWORK DISRUPTION SHOULD BE MINIMISED
There are WWII stories that in Nazi Germany, replacements were kept for the tracks which comprised vital railway marshalling yards. This permitted the Germans to restore within a few hours any tracks damaged by RAF bombs. Commuters may well wonder why something similar can't be done for Sydney rail services, such as that part of the Illawarra line which was out of action for most of January due to planned trackworks.
Trackworks also affected inner west trains. On 21st January, APT
noticed a substitute bus bearing a destination sign "WHO CARES"; we
submit that passengers certainly do care about reduced services,
passenger inconvenience, and discomfort.
WOLLI CREEK RAIL INTERCHANGE
Rumours abound that a station for passenger interchange between the Illawarra Line and the New Southern Railway (airport and East Hills line) at Wolli Creek north of Arncliffe will not be built. After much buck-passing between the Federal and State administrations, the NSW Minister for Transport has assured APT he is confident funds will be found for the work.
BOUQUETS & BRICKBATS
APT applaud Federal Treasury for withdrawing the unjustifiable tax breaks for privately-funded urban tollways, and condemn the NSW Government for failing to honour a 1995 election promise to appoint an independent board to oversee the RTA.
Late last year, some members of APT and other organisations wrote to the Premier asking to meet him in order to discuss the urban environment. This request was declined.
We were subsequently told by an activist with Labor connections that the NSW cabinet is not quite as it appears. All important decisions are made by Messrs. Carr, Egan and Knight, but none of these gentlemen has time to see deputations. An official of an inner-suburban Labor Party branch confirmed this.
For a democracy to function, community groups must have access to decision-makers.
CITYRAIL TIMETABLE REVIEW
APT reviewed the CityRail document "October 1996 Timetable Review" which was issued in December 1995 after customer inputs had been received through questionnaires and workshops.
The first comment that must be made is that the whole idea of public input at the timetable formulation stage is most welcome. Also appreciated is some attempt to define an operating philosophy and specific goals, examples being the all-day railway, service frequencies and the 10 minute connection target.
The first issue is access to Parramatta. Just as the East Hills to Glenfield link bifurcated the Campbelltown to City stream, with Liverpool and other key stations no longer being served by all services, the Granville "Y" will further bifurcate services north of Liverpool. However the timetable response in each case has been to provide additional services, rather than divert existing ones, to accommodate traffic growth and thus avoid the potential service dilution that such bifurcation can cause. This feature of - additional service frequencies in association with the opening of the Granville "Y" should certainly be retained.
With regard to the North Shore, the proposal to provide a 10 minute off-peak headway to Hornsby, rather than 7 to Lindfield or Gordon and 15 beyond, appears to require the same resources while recognising the potential of the whole North Shore corridor and the future development of Hornsby. The through working with the west, and the decoupling of Hornsby via Strathfield services from the North Shore, also makes it possible to revise the present unsatisfactory interchange arrangements at Hornsby. The consequential even spacing of Berowra southbound services, instead of 40/20 minutes, and the good connections at Town Hall with Bondi Junction services, are most welcome.
Noting the Hornsby via Strathfield decoupling from the North Shore, perhaps a better customer service pattern, and one that would address the Concord West development issue, would be one train every 20 minutes serving all main line stations rather than the interleaved all stations and semi-express arrangement with 15 minute departures from Hornsby. Of course this would depend on freight, CountryLink and InterCity service needs for occupancy of the same sections of track. A 20 minute interval service to Berowra is also a possibility.
The 10 minute interval off-peak proposal for the North Shore has an interesting implication for peak services where 15 minute intervals exist between some services for Waitara to Warrawee and Pymble (AM peak only). It would violate the reasonable customer expectation that peak service intervals are no greater than those for off-peak services.
In the Regents Park area, the track sections to Bankstown, Cabramatta and Lidcombe seem destined to remain the poor relations of the CityRail network. Service provision is very confusing with a combination of infrequent services.
Eankstown-Lidcombe, Bankstown-Parramatta, Cabramatta-Bankstown, and Cabramatta-Lidcombe. Unfortunately there seems to be no single focus for these services, nor a large population base to justify more frequent services overall.
A better strategy would be to have more frequent services of fewer types. The most obvious from a customer point of view would be between Cabramatta and Lidcombe, and between Bankstown and Parramatta, with changes at Regents Park where necessary. However network constraints suggest otherwise, with the track at Lidcombe and beyond not able to absorb such services while still providing for the West. Also, the proposal for a tumback platform at Lidcombe could mean a second change for customers from Bankstowa (perhaps also from Hurstville eventually), which would not be attractive. Overall, there is a need for a clean-up in this area.
Hypocrisy is perhaps too strong a word, but it applies to proposed "improvements" which merely restore the effect of past changes. Examples are the later peak and the Carlingford line.
It is well known that the later peak (after 5:30 pm) was heavily curtailed when the decision was made to remove all single deck rolling stock withput power doors from the CityRail system before sufficient replacement Tangara cars were available. A gradual restoration process has been taking place with additional services but not through an extension of the peak pattern; however a more definite extension of the evening peak services patterns would be beneficial. The reason is, while it is true that the whole afternoon peak is much broader than the morning, customers are probably more tolerant of high crowding levels in the morning when road driving conditions are also more severe, and therefore additional fast services for the same overall patronage in the evening are warranted. Many drivers seem prepared to put up with the morning traffic hassle, rather than use the train, because driving home is so much more convenient.
With regard to the Carlingford line, the approximately 40 minute service was rationalised to 60 minutes several years ago, and the new proposal is simply a restoration of this. It would be far better to provide a passing loop in a location consistent with the ultimate development of the Parramatta-Epping-Chatswood railway and instigate a 30 minute service.
The concept of "the All-Day Railway", which is contrary to the suggestions from many economists that "uneconomic" off-peak services should be replaced by buses, is most encouraging. This is because commitments, which are beneficial to the community, to more structured urban land use and lower car ownership depend on the availability of frequent rail services at all times. However the all-day railway needs to be delivered, and this means not just a better off-peak timetable but a commitment to actually providing it.
Track closures and off-peak (un)reliability both presently detract from the reality of an all-day railway. On 20th January CityRail failed to deliver after the Symphony under the Stars concert, with the 10:05 pm North Shore train from Wynyard not appearing until after the 10:20 pm train, and which actually departed at 10:28 pm fully loaded with somewhat unimpressed customers.
The all-day railway also requires the CityRail system to be expanded into a multi-centred system, for which the Granville "Y" is the first small step, and for restraining the growth of road traffic by means other than peak congestion. Although outside the scope of this timetable review, the continuing imbalance between road and rail investment indicates that an all-day railway for the whole of Sydney is unlikely to be delivered.
Singapore is to spend $19,000M on public transport in order to
"virtually eliminate the car from the island State" (SMH 5 Jan).
Presumably the planners' idea is to make transport more economical,
socially equitable and environmentally sensitive. Sydney has about
four times as many cars as Singapore and uses them more. The high
cost of our dependency on the private car indicates just one aspect
of how tough it is going to be for Australia to compete with Asia.
Legal action is beginning which might stop the M2 tollway construction. Funds are being forwarded from APT members who bought copies of The Open Street.
Meanwhile, the RTA proposes widening Abbott Road (near the western end of the M2) from two lanes to six. This proposal is not being subjected to an environmental impact study but instead to a much less stringent Review of Environmental Factors. APT deplore this shortcutting of proper procedures.
CBD BUS PRIORITY
The State Govt. has developed a plan for bus priority in the Sydney CBD. We had representatives at a recent seminar on it. The plan incorporates bus lanes in George, York, Clarence, Castlereagh and Park streets, and moves existing bus layovers from QVB, Circular Quay and Wynyard to other areas - notably, the QVB buses will now terminate at Haig Ave. A further long-term goal is to link bus routes coming into the CBD from the north and south into a single route; for example, Mosman and Glebe services would become part of one extended route. This linking cannot be done at present because varying delays in the CBD and elsewhere caused by lack of bus priority make journey times too unpredictable. To the extent that buses will have priority in the CBD, and will go further into the CBD to locations where commuters want them, the scheme is certainly a good initiative. However, APT have concerns about the project.
In the first place, the scheme seems to be driven by occupiers of CBD real estate who want to move "unsightly" buses away from their vicinity. Secondly, the scheme is not as extensive as we would have hoped, and much overdue. Thirdly, by removing some bus services out of Alfred St, it downgrades the quality of Circular Quay as a bus-rail-ferry interchange.
The NSW Legislative Assembley Standing Committee on Public Works has
issued a large report on State Infrastructure Requirements for Sydney
West Airport. The committee found that a rail link is essential to
the success of the airport. However, it also found that the MS East
is essential, but its reasoning is unclear. APT's view is that one
can have a heavily car-dependent city or a city with good public
transport services; one cannot have both.
During the Newtown Festival (Sunday 12th November last) the State Transit Authority did a roaring trade in free timetables and information, despite the vagaries of the weather. APT suggest that at such occasions, they should also stock public transport maps for their own services and for all of Sydney.
At the Glebe Street Fair (19th November), APT distributed promotional material about the Ultimo-Pyrmont light rail line and the possibility of extending it through Glebe to Leichhardt.
APT have recently extended our representation to the new Transport Safety Advisory Committee, which will advise the Minister on passenger safety, and the Sutherland Shire Public Transport Committee. We will report on progress in due course.
ROADS MINISTER RECOGNISES ROAD LIMITATIONS
At the opening of the Silverwater Road extension in Sydney last month, one report had the Minister for Roads claiming that the new work would reduce travel times in peak hours. That maybe so, but it is unlikely that the time savings in peak hours would justify the huge expenditure on the road's construction - for such expenditure to be justified, there need to be savings all day. However, it is gratifying that the difference between peak and off-peak conditions is acknowledged, even though the subject road is one which actually encourages peak-hour motoring. The Minister used the occasion to announce another section of new road nearby, which seems to have similarly faulty economics.
The following week, yet another bit of new road was announced ($42M for 1.7km of unwarranted shortcut at Haberfield). APT understand that the Minister was given a fairly difficult time at the media conference by locals concerned about noise and about their access to part of Dobroyd Point,
RURAL RAIL WISH-LIST
About five years ago, State Rail announced that it was considering options to bypass the existing Waterfall-Thirroul track. Except for the Scarborough tunnel, this is double track with extensive curvature where 14.4 kilometres (46 per cent) are on tight curves of 300 metres (15 chains) radius or less, with 2.7 kilometres on very tight 200 metre curves. This winding route, although scenic, is a well-known geotechnical nightmare.
The cost for a new Waterfall-Thirroul route with a long tunnel is in the order of $250 million. The construction of the new route would increase the efficiency of coal and steel trains whilst speeding up passenger services.
Whilst funding is apparently a barrier to improving the rail service to Wollongong/Port Kembla, the RTA continues to have no problem securing funds for highway upgrading around Wollongong. The latest plans are for highway expansion near North Wollongong, including a grade-separated interchange to funnel more Northern Distributor traffic to the Mt Ousley Road.
The Short North rail track from Strathfield to Broadmeadow has steep ruling grades. Over this 151 km of track, some 19.6 km are on curves of radius less than 400 metres, There are also nearly 14km of track at various locations which have grades steeper than 1 in 66 on curves tighter than 800 metres. These "red sectors", which were listed in Railway Digest for August 1995, should be replaced by better aligned track. At the same time as the red sectors are being upgraded, sectors of track with either steep grades or tight curves adjacent to red sectors should be upgraded so as to achieve the full benefits. Both freight and passenger services would benefit from such upgrading.
The four km of track between Fassifern and Booragul invites particular attention as it includes 2440 metres of tight curves of radius 320 to 400 metres and a hill - an ideal site for a small deviation, which would halve the distance. It would be good to see this and other work on the Newcastle line done before the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Some would argue that it should be a State responsibility to fund any upgrading of this densely used track. However, a strong case can be made that some Federal funding is also warranted for rail upgrading, to complement Federal Government spending since 1974 of over $1000 million on road works on reconstructing the Pacific Highway between Hornsby and Newcastle.
The Federal Government's election offer of $370M over five years for Track Australia is welcome. It is unlikely to be matched by the Opposition.
GLEBE ISLAND BRIDGE
This latest extravagance in inner-suburban Sydney freeways opened in December in a weekend of celebrations. Sydney Buses were involved in the opening publicity to the extent of having 100 buses drive across in close formation early on the Saturday. APT point out that the bridge should be seen as part of a process which may ultimately see Victoria Road run beneath Darling St at Rozelle and under Lyons Road at Drummoyne. Again, the travel time savings of bus travellers due to the bridge are at least matched by those of motorists, so there is no gain in bus speeds relative to cars.
The new bridge's car-free day on the Sunday was underwritten by a charity. But freeways are generally inimical to the interests of those who don't have cars, such as charity recipients. And in this case, much of the suburb of Pyrmont has been wrecked by the new bridge and by other building works, complicating life for the locals and anyone who supports them. Another problem at Pyrmont is a reported drop in business for shops at the fish markets, due to new difficulties of access by bus and car.
The RTA said it as not possible to open all lanes of the approaches to the new bridge immediately. APT were pleased to see media attention turn to the question of whether the bridge really would relieve bottlenecks when all lanes were operating; it is clear that the worth of road-building is now an issue with the public. RTA officials staunchly defended their investment.
Postscript: Early in February the NRMA claimed that, while the new bridge had cleared congestion on Victoria Road, its opening had led to new delays in the CBD; they pressed for further parking restrictions on roads from Pyrmont.
FOR YOUR DIARY
New Laws on energy et al. - conference, Town Hall House, 31 March, $40. Enquiries to Total Environment Centre, 247-4714.
Transport and Livable Cities - conference, Melbourne, 15-16 May. Enquiries: Phil Harbutt, l.T.E. Australia, (03) 9479-4313.
National Public Transport Week 2-8 June. Watch this space.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Decline of the Age of Oil new book by Brian J Fleay. Shows that Australian oil reserves are running down; we face ten years of falling self-sufficiency, putting us at the mercy of international markets. Australia's oil imports bill will be $5 billion annually by 2005 conservatively assuming that present consumption does not grow and that prices do not rise. Alternative energy sources are expensive, yet governments keep building transport systems which cannot work without oil. ISBN 1-86403-021-6, $14.95.
Toward a just, sustainable & participatory transport policy - a Federal Election manifesto by Newman and Zhukov. 8 pages; send SAE to APT for your copy.
Environment NSW quarterly newsletter of the Nature Conservation Council, now containing some pro-public-transport articles. Subscriptions via NCC, 39 George St, The Rocks 2000.
Cities for a Small Planet - the Reith lectures broadcast on 2RN, 9am, 13 January, Sir Richard Rogers.
Low-impact vehicle article in The Economist 13 January. Discusses the actuality of California's well-meant but impracticable legislation aimed at reducing air pollution in cities. Electric cars are expensive, small, slow, and cannot travel very far between lengthy recharges.
Travel Times Australia 3e. Timetable and ticketing information of 280 coach, train and ferry operators around Australia. $7.95 from major newsagents.
Songs from the Labor Heartland audio CD featuring "Lies, Laurie, Lies" and several others in the same genre. Not copyright. Not obtainable from the usual outlets. Our copy cost $5.
The Rage Against Roads editorial in New Scientist, 6 January. Opposes the Newbury (Berks) bypass, saying it is typical of road plans conceived in the l960s, planned in the 1970s, obsolete in the 1980s, but still being promoted by a government yet to face the 1990s.