CONVERT TO THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT CAUSE
Roads minister Michael Knight was reported in the press and heard on
talk-back radio discussing Atlanta's huge congestion problems due to
large crowds moving around for Olympic Games events. He said that
Sydney had a better public transport system than Atlanta and wouldn't
have such problems in the year 2000. APT hope that some of the
minister's enthusiasm for public transport rubs off onto his Roads
and Traffic Authority.
Less impressed were the Federal minister, Mr Sharp, and the Leader of
the Opposition Mr Collins, who have called on the NSW Government to
construct Stage 3 of the Eastem Distributor quickly for the sake of
Olympic Games traffic. This 1.5km tunnel under Taylor Square in
Darlinghurst is well away from all Olympic venues and stands to cost
about $600 million. Any money spent on it represents money taken away
from meeting permanent transport needs in the greater West of Sydney
in the name of a 2-week sporting event.
PEDESTRIAN COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA
APT was involved in the development of this Council, which was mentioned in the Herald of 9th August. However, we have reservations about the ability of some of its members to forget their motoring and see things from outside the car.
NEW N.S.W. TRANSPORT MODELLING POLICY
The Department of Transport has called tenders for the supply of new modelling systems in order to better address the issues of the 1990s" and beyond. The systems are to be capable of modelling user behaviour. APT hope that the new systems can model the extra traffic induced by new roads. The RTA has consistently refused to recognise such traffic.
WESTERN SYDNEY PUBLIC TRANSPORT STRATEGY
The NSW Department of Transport is preparing a Greater Western Sydney public transport strategy, which covers the Western and Macarthur regions of councils (generally, everywhere west of a north-south line through Parramatta) and will soon produce a report for public consultation. Public transport is generally very thin in this large part of Sydney; several commentators have pointed out that that region has developed in a way that is inconsistent with good, viable, public transport services.
A transport study of Chatswood Town Centre for the local council has found that priority for public transport was consistently and overwhelmingly the favourite of four objectives identified by the study. The others were improved pedestrian facilities, minimising traffic from new development, and using parking policy as a traffic management tool.
Curiously, the study assumes that private motor vehicles will continue to be used for the majority of personal transport. This view is out-of-date, especially in a study which claims to look 20 years into the future. The study goes on to welcome the soon-to-open M2 tollway, which will run from North Ryde to Seven Hills, ignoring that the M2 will actually damage Chatswood by congesting access roads.
The study also describes plans of CityRail for extra platforms at Chatswood station. Unfortunately, these plans are unlikely to be realised in the present political climate. In fact, Chatswood recently lost a platform.
NEW HOMEBUSH BAY RAILWAY LOOP
This project is to be operational by the end of 1997, which will not be easy, ready for the 1998 Easter Show. There will be a single-track loop which splits into two tracks for the station, each track having a platform on each side. It is to have a capacity of 48 000 passengers per hour under Olympic conditions and 36 000 for Easter Show and Grand Final events. This assumes 1600 passengers per 8-car set for Olympic loads, in 30 trains per hour. In order to achieve this throughput, departing passengers may have to assemble on the station concourse and move en masse to the platforms for immediate boarding.
In a string of letters, APT have been asking the relevant Ministers
and/or the RTA to acknowledge (i) that roadbuilding generates
additional road use (ii) that the Department of Urban Affairs and
Planning has a responsibility to oversee proper administration of the
Environmental Planning & Assessment Act (iii) that proper road travel
demand management should have stated targets and clear means for
reaching those targets.
MORE HEAVY TRUCKS
On 1st July, the old B-double permit system expired, and it became possible to run a B-double in NSW for a registration charge of about $5000 p.a. This gross under-recovery of road surface damage and other costs represents a heavy subsidy of B-double operations, and will tilt the balance even further away from rail freight haulage. The truck industry is pushing for the semi-trailer gross weight limit to be raised from 40 to 45 tonnes. Some hardliners even want this without any increase in registration or other charges!
Road surface damage is often considered to be related to the fourth power of vehicle mass, so adding 12% to mass corresponds to raising road surface damage by about 60%. This gross under-recovery of road surface damage and other costs represents a heavy subsidy of semi-trailer operations, and will tilt the balance even further away from rail freight carriage.
Many public transport users, who often need to walk a few blocks to get to their destinations, would be aware of traffic signs reading TURN LEFT ON RED PERMITTED AFTER STOPPING in some locations. The proliferation of these signs is said to stem from a visit to America by Wal Murray when he was Minister for Roads; he apparently thought they were a good idea. They are generally inappropriate for places with significant pedestrian traffic, yet they can be found in many parts of inner Sydney. Enlightened planners in some councils have realised that the signs constitute a danger to people on foot, essentially because motorists hardly ever stop (strictly speaking, all vehicles should come to a full stop before the first stop line, proceed to the intersection and if necessary stop again). Consequently, several of the signs have been removed recently in some council areas. If you know of any such signs anywhere you walk regularly, why not write to the local council and suggest their removal?
APT can accept that traffic congestion and myriad other factors will cause scheduled public transport services to run late. But early running is totally unacceptable, except where the actual service frequency is about 10 minutes or less, when it doesn't matter. APT have complained repeatedly to State Transit, in particular, over many years about early running buses. STA has always promised to investigate - they have even introduced new driver control systems, but any success in controlling the problem has been short-lived.
We decided to ask the Minister for Transport what he was prepared to do to honour his pre-election commitment to integrate bus, train and ferry services to ensure better connections. Here are some excerpts from his reply:
"I assure you that the Government is fully committed to ensuring that public transport services operate according to their published timetables" - "The transport authorities are aware that the early departure of services is unacceptable and regularly monitor departure times to ensure that services adhere to their time tables" - "random monitoring ... records instances of early running ... appropriate disciplinary action is taken" - "A review is underway ... on all ferry services" - "CityRail regularly issues reminders to all train running staff" - "The Public Transport Advisory Council must prepare an annual report"
In short, with the possible exception of the ferry "review", it appears the Minister is not prepared to do something to reduce the current level of early running. APT believe that until he does, he cannot hope to accomplish his election promise of better connections between services.
LET'S CLEAR THE AIR
A campaign under this name has been organised for Sydney's local councils by their regional groups. A report Let's Clear the Air - Innovative ways of Working Together has been prepared which purports to tell councils how to manage air quality, a global problem, locally.
The report recognises Sydney's over-reliance on the private, car but offers no effective solutions. Councils who adopt the report will be wasting everyone's time and won't achieve their goals. The 1970 Ralph Nader book Vanishing Air, which foresaw modern pollution and said what ought to happen, illustrates the risks of delay!
North Sydney council has for many years followed policies of restricting car parking in its business district, with the gratifying result that about 80% of workers there arrive by public transport. Late in May, Leichhardt council decided not to proceed with a link road passing under the Iron Cove Bridge, even though the road would be substantially paid for by developers and the RTA. Councils who are serious about limiting traffic growth could follow these examples.
MORE CAR INFRASTRUCTURE
Old habits die hard. Recent development applications provide for 350 car parking spaces at the Waltons site in Park St. 1100 at the St Leonards station site (despite a new 4-track railway station underneath), and 1900 at the former Grace Bros site on Broadway.
Each of these sites is in a region with traffic problems and the first two will be only a few moments' walk from frequent train services. Parking should be limited at such locations.
Despite several replies, none of these has yet been agreed. We will continue to write.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGAINST RAIL FREIGHT
On 29 July, Ross Gittins' article "Treasury and the IC take over the world" in the Sydney Morning Herald took to task the Government policy to merge the the Industry Commission (IC), Economic Planning Advisory Commission (EPAC), and the Bureau of Industry Economics (BIE) to form a new Productivity Commission (PC).
The PC's recent report "Stocktake of progress on microeconomic reform" shows bias, errors of fact, and significant omissions in its treatment of land transport. Some bowlers follow:
In preparing the PC report, submissions were only received from
invited participants including four road transport/road interests
(AAA, NRMA, Natroad Ltd and the Road Transport Forum) and no rail
advocate interests. In fact, neither the Australasian Railway
Association or the Public Transport Union were invited to make
submissions, despite a good track record with the IC. The bias in the
report reflects this lack of balance.
The Walsh Bay Masterplan seeks redevelopment of several old wharves and bond stores near Miller's Point. There seems to have been a regrettable failure of the Government to govern, resulting in the production of a plan which is less than optimal for the State, for the travelling public, and even for the developers. The underlying principles of planning, that land-use and transport must be planned conjointly by the same authority as a continuing activity, and that the provider must be a separate person from the decider of what is to be provided, seem to have been overlooked.
There are two proposals by competing developers, one by C.R.I. Limited to build a railway station and some commercial development near the Observatory, and the other the Masterplan of Walsh Bay Properties. Each would benefit the other yet neither can be assured that the other will happen. Therefore, each developer has to estimate revenue and costs on the basis that the other may not happen.
Even if the CRI railway station is built as currently envisaged, it will not be of great benefit to the Walsh Bay proposal. However, CityRail have been working on a project called Metro-West which involves extending outer-suburban trains from Sydney Terminal station northwards to new stations at about Darling Park and The Rocks. In APT's view, the Metro-West project should replace the CRI project and should be further extended under the Harbour to the North Shore. For instance, the extension could have stations serving the centre of North Sydney's business district, some distance from the present North Sydney Station, and Crow's Nest and then join the North Shore line at St Leonards.
WALSH BAY AND CONNECTIONS
Returning to the Walsh Bay Properties plan, APT have a particular concern that it will attract too many cars to the area. The whole plan is for an area which is amenable to pedestrian access; this is easily spoilt by too many or too fast cars. The conservative development of the subject Masterplan makes it a very suitable place to start limiting cars.
In summary, the Walsh Bay plan should be co-ordinated with expansion in public transport rather than conceived and developed independently.
SYDNEY LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM
APT and other organisations are promoting the extension of this short link northwards to Circular Quay and westwards under Glebe to Leichhardt. These extensions are being studied by the NSW Department of Transport who will soon report to the Government. They are desirable because the system has little substance without them, because they are relatively cheap, and because they open great opportunities for expansion.
However, the system has detractors. It could be criticised for being too expensive, a fault stemming from the agreement signed with the former Government. For example, the vehicles used are low-floor throughout, adding considerably to their cost. The track is being constructed to expensive standards so that services need not be interrupted for any work on underground pipes or cables. The overhead wiring is to be wholly suspended from new structures, rather than being hung from nearby buildings and/or poles erected for other services.
Through ticketing will be available with public rail, bus and ferry systems. But some interesting questions have not been answered. For instance, the builders have carefully arranged that the system has compatible wheels (and therefore rails) with State Rail Authority tracks. However, the power supply is at a quite different voltage from the S.R.A. standard - why?
The extensions also have had a mixed reception. For example, the A.M.P. Society (owner of Centrepoint) has been quite outspoken in arguing against north-south services through the CBD and in favour of east-west services. Some concern has been expressed in Leichhardt that car parking near the western stops might create a nuisance. On the other hand, the extensions ought to be interesting to the large population that Pyrmont will have soon when fully developed, because these people will gain a public transport service towards the west.
Current plans do not provide for passenger shelters at the stops in Hay Street. APT are seeking to have shelters installed.
Priority at road junctions for the Ultimo-Pyrmont light rail has reportedly been arranged with the RTA. APT would like to see priority at road junctions given to all bus services, to the extent that main road traffic is interrupted immediately a bus arrives and is ready to turn onto or cross the main road, even at peak hours. This would make bus services considerably faster and much closer to their timetables. Unfortunately, the RTA are reluctant to grant this.
QUOTABLE TRANSPORT QUOTES
"New urban freeways should be financed by a tax on Sydney motorist rather than by tolls" - NSW Auditor-General Harris, quoted In the Herald of 1st August and the Telegraph of 31st July.
"Slower speeds would delay motorist by no more than 20 seconds per person per day and conserve 48 million litres in fuel [per year] - draft Austroads report, cited in the Herald of 9th August.
WHAT APT HAVE BEEN DOING
- exposing the anti-social financial structure of the Federal Airports Corporation, 45% of whose revenue comes from car parking and which can and does require that roads to airports be amplified.
- monitoring and advising on transport arrangements for the 2000 Olympic Games, but even more importantly, their impact on the citizens.
- advocating the construction of the North Arncliffe interchange station on the Illawarra and Airport railways. The NSW government has since announced that this station will be built.
- considering design elements of CityRail's proposed "4th generation' suburban trains.
- commenting on the guidelines for the E.I.S. for the proposed airport at Badgery's Creek or Holsworthy.
- been writing to Labor MLAs who represent constituencies in western Sydney, reminding them that their area needs public transport improvements even more urgently than do inner areas. We hope their combined influence will win the Government over.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Urban Transport 96 - conference, 26-27 August, Sydney. Also has half-day workshop on urban transport pricing. Enquiries to l.I.R., (02) 9954-5844.
Transport & Communication - Into the Future. Conference, 1-3 October, Melbourne. Registration includes free metropolitan travel Enquiries to PR Conferences, (03) 9816-9111.
Transport Infrastructure - conference, 21-22 October, Sydney. Enquiries to I.I.R., (02) 9954-5844.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Super Cities or Slums? - special issue of Australian Rationalist Autumn-Winter 1996 containing articles by Troy, Mees, Alan Parker etc. Nothing to do with economic rationalists.
The True Costs of Road Transport book by Maddison et al. Contains much interesting material, including a chapter on safety which discusses how to cost so-called road "safety" measures which work by restraining non-motorists. Surprisingly, confines itself to economic costs, without discussing the effect of time costs on travel habits. ISBN 1-85383-268-5.
Research papers on various transport topics, published by Victoria [Canada] Transport Policy Institute. Inspect and order through http://www.islandriet.com/~litman/
Taming the beast - 15-page survey on living with the car in The Economist, 22 June. Also see leading article in the same issue. Points out that technology is unlikely to change the car much and that over-relying on cars will lead to worsening pollution and traffic congestion. Does not seriously address the future of oil as a cheap fuel.