CANDID PICTURE OF THE ROAD SYSTEM
At a rail freight conference held in Edinburgh earlier this year, Ed Burkhardt of Wisconsin Central characterised the road system as "the last great Stalinist enterprise" since it was not subject to market pressures.
There and here, road pricing is the issue. User charges should reflect track, road and environmental damage and congestion, he said. (Modern Railways, June)
Brian Fleay, of Perth, has been touring Australian capitals giving lectures about the effect which dwindling access to cheap oil supplies will have on our society. He was in Sydney at the end of September. A good idea of what he was saying can be gathered from http: //www.ecotopia.corn/hubbert/, which includes many graphs illustrating the countries where large deposits of unrecovered oil are and where oil is being used (American people use, on average, 150kg of oil each per day!). However, that WWW site does not examine the Australian situation which will see us 50% dependent on imported oil (which the USA is now) by 2002.
The largest audience he attracted in Sydney was about 80, to a well-publicised meeting at the Parliamentary Theatrette. He later addressed a seminar, convened by the Department of Transport, whose audience included staff from the RTA, NRMA, DUAP, etc. Unfortunately, discussion of his findings in the Press was essentially limited to a story in The Australian of 16th September. APT were told that the Herald was reluctant to devote space to what it regards as "just one man's view"! The expected date of 50% self-sufficiency quoted above was arrived at by the Australian oil industry itself.
However, the Herald did cover a forthcoming Department of Resources green paper about Australia's domestic oil supplies, which will be reviewed in this newsletter,
We are pleased to bring you the world's shortest Annual Report. 1996 has not been an exceptional year. As usual, the number of issues we have raised has far outweighed the number that have been resolved to our satisfaction. Nevertheless, public transport advocates can claim successes under the following headings:
Bus destination displays - State Transit's low-floor Scanias have much improved rear route numbers; The all-modes Day Rover ticket, withdrawn in July 1989, has been reintroduced; fare increases have been held roughly.within the CPI; Direct-to-city buses have been introduced from the north-west (Route 500) on Sundays; an interchange station will be built at North Arncliffe, connecting the Illawarra Line and the new airport railway; the Homebush Bay Olympic station is to be built on a rail balloon loop, rather than as a "terminal" station, as originally planned; a Pedestrian Council has been formed, to represent the views of that neglected group of road users;
CityRail's new November 1996 timetable includes many consumer requests, both in train scheduling, and in the format of the pocket-timetable; City Council withdrew its opposition to passenger shelters for Light Rail patrons at the heritage-sensitive city stops; intermodal travel has been facilitated with the introduction of weekly bike tickets, and bicycle facilities at stations and on Endeavour trains. Bikes will be carried on Light Rail when it opens in May 1997, and are already carried free on off-peak CityRail services.
Issues which we have been unable to conquer, despite persistence, have included the early running of bus and ferry services, better information for intending ferry passengers, and reduced abuse of Transit Lanes.
We have met monthly with officers of State Rail and State Transit, and have participated in a number of other forums, including the Transport Safety Advisory Committee. We made innumerable submissions to various Enquiries.
Our weekly management meetings have been busy, and the social meetings which usually follow have been entertaining:-Members attended well over 100 seminars, forums, public meetings, etc. On the social front, we had a conducted walk over the former Lapstone Zig Zag railway route.
A financial report has been provided to members.
The Management Committee thanks members for their financial and moral support. The new Committee, elected at the AGM on 8 November, is Kevin Eadie (Convenor), Jim Donovan (Secretary), Allan Miles (Treasurer), NS, John August, Malcolm Cluett and John Hoyle (Management Committee).
LIGHT RAIL OR BUS?
South Sydney council has been assisting in a research project with the Dept. of Geography at the University of Newcastle on the perceptions and attitudes people have towards light rail. Several transport lobby groups were sent questionnaires and a number were given to the general public.
The organisers hoped to find whether the high popularity of light rail had any basis other than the smoother ride. They also investigated public understanding of the role played by local government in promoting public transport.
On 6th November, the prominent design theorist Peter Katz (who was in Sydney for a New Urbanism conference) spoke at the Town Hall. He made quite clear that the permanence of light rail relative to bus services is an advantage, in that investors will not have confidence in the future of transport services without it. That is, sites adjoining light rail routes are considered more suitable for major investment than comparable sites on bus routes.
The new organisation Road Action Group East, which has strong connections with the Liberal party, held a well-attended public meeting at Paddington on 17th September. Several speakers told the audience of worsening problems of road traffic and pollution in the eastern suburbs (and acknowledged that problems were even worse in the west).
The audience seemed unconvinced that the Eastern Distributor tollway would solve all their transport problems, even when presented as such by Clover Moore and mayor Vic Smith. However, they were receptive to proposed light rail lines from Oxford St to Coogee and Maroubra.
The advertised feature speaker, federal Environment minister Robert
Hill, was unable to attend but sent the House spokesman on the
environment. Mr Smith assured the audience that the federal
government had solutions to these problems; he was not well received.
When asked what Australia was going to do about dwindling supplies of
domestic cheap oil, he said that self- sufficiency was the key and
that continuing exploration for new reserves and research into
alternative fuels would provide it. He did not comment on why
America, whose self-sufficiency is now what ours will be in about six
years' time, finds it necessary to support a large military presence
in the Arabian Gulf.
ACCESSIBILITY AND EQUITY
Caroline Stone, of PPM Consultants, presented a paper on this subject at Sydney University in October. The major point in her talk was that there should be a single government agency controlling accessibility, instead of multiple transport agencies providing mobility. Such a fundamental change would of course involve many changes and new legislation; APT have a copy of her paper.
TRAVEL DEMAND MANAGEMENT
After much effort, a letter has been obtained from the RTA starting to explain their interpretation of this. Despite having collaborated in the preparation of national guidelines for TDM, and despite NSW planning policies providing for increasing public transport usage, the RTA sees no harm in building roads to meet traffic demand. The letter showed no recognition that roadbuilding caused travel demand.
By failing to acknowledge that travel can be generated by building transport routes, the RTA is going against the mainstream of world opinion. Perhaps it will change its policies when the so-called Orbital road has been completed, costing in total several billion dollars that could have gone into public transport.
NEW CITYRAIL TIMETABLE
The 3rd November timetable claims noticeable numbers of "extra" services on many lines. Maps in the new-format books show four new lines of which one has so far been opened. The growth in services has been accomplished by raising the utilisation of the existing carriage fleet.
Only time will tell how the high utilisation, and further increases for the opening of the Homebush Bay loop (end 1997) and the New Southern Railway (1999-2000), can be accommodated without reduced reliability or shorter trains. The next train purchase (formerly called the "Olympian", now the Fourth Generation Train or 4GT) is planned to be delivered from late 1999.
Why doesn't the STA provide ferries after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights during December and January to cater for the large number of people who stay late in the city at those times? These have been suggested many times but rejected on the ground of cost.
Some suburban rail routes and most main bus routes have had later services on Friday and Saturday nights for many years now.
CITY BUS PRIORITY
A proposal affecting George Street and other CBD streets is on exhibition at level 2 of Town Hall House. It is hoped that consequent improvements in timekeeping will permit some services to run through the city instead of terminating there. This is important as it may set a precedent for bus priority systems around Sydney.
Please have a look and submit your comments by 26th November (address is on page 4). Unfortunately, the display map is incorrect, with wrong colour coding for bus terminals,
The state Cabinet Office recently issued two green papers, under the curious name of "enhancement", which seem intended to introduce Thatcherite self-regulation into NSW planning and other matters. APT made submissions to both Regulatory Innovation and Integrated Approvals. If the matters progress to white papers, we will keep readers informed.
M2 TOLLWAY PROGRESS REPORT
WestBus say they may divert some of their CBD and North Sydney services to use the M2's busway when it opens. Their decision will take travel speeds into account - congestion around Lane Cove may be significant. Note that the busway only goes as far east as Epping, so any travel beyond there would have to be in general-purpose lanes.
The possibility of opening the eastern half first has been mooted by the builders. This is an interesting suggestion; the eastern M2 is the same road that the Woodward inquiry found unjustified on social, environmental and economic grounds.
After much delay, the RTA has revealed its answer to congestion problems which the extra M2 traffic will cause through Lane Cove. This, of course, is quite a big step for the RTA; the official attitude has been that the M2 solves problems rather than causes them. Epping Road is to be widened by one lane in each direction, according to the plan. The RTA say that otherwise they will have to return transit lanes to general use (one wonders which arrangement they thought of first).
This was discussed in Int'l Rly. Jnl, September. There have been
further developments. The NSW and Commonwealth governments have given
support in principle (which does not imply finance) for the
Sydney-Canberra Speedrail fast train. There are three other main
(1) The Tilt Train option with some upgrading of tracks.
(2) Continued use of XPTs over the existing track, possibly with more power.
(3) Magnetic levitation technology (but this cannot be regarded as viable until the Hamburg-Berlin line is operating and complete costs are known).
Whilst the Speedrail concept is an interesting one, there is the question of whether Speedrail can secure the necessary private sector involvement within the scope of recently-announced Government guidelines and support in principle. The NSW Government should state a definite time frame for extending support in principle to Speedrail and in the meantime develop the tilt train option as a fallback.
The existing interstate mainline track alignment in NSW is deficient, and some detailed plans to realign the worst sections of this track are now long overdue. This work would speed up and lower the unit cost of freight train operations as well as improve passenger train services.
The tilt train operation could well be worth further examination,
both in terms of the trains themselves and of track upgrading. In
this regard, an article in Network (Sept-Oct 1996, pp28-29) notes the
following feasible sequence of events:
(1) replacement XPT power cars to use 1500 volt DC (and 25kV AC) overhead power as well as diesel. (2) alignment improvements for about 70km of track. (3) extended electrification for the climb from Campbelltown to Mittagong [which could well be at 25kV AC].
The author of the article, Mr. Lars Brodin of AIB, notes that if this work was commenced in 1996, "we could expect a 1 hour 50 minute service by the start of the Olympic Games, with the potential for later reductions to 1 hour 30 minutes at minimum cost". Whilst two hour Sydney-Canberra passenger services with 70km of new railway track by the year 2000 would be regarded by some people in Government as optimistic, it would be quite feasible as demonstrated by recent Queensland experience.
Former Transport Minister Bruce Baird said in February 1995 his main regret on leaving office was that he did not initiate the straightening out of NSW rail track. NSW should have a much better Sydney-Canberra rail service by the year 2000 than it does now, or at the very least NSW should be able to demonstrate to our Olympic visitors, and the rest of the world, that work was well under way for upgraded rail track. This could be done at significantly less cost than the $600 million Eastern Distributor and would have benefits for the entire state,
FEDERAL FUNDING FOR URBAN PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The Hon. Grant Tambling, Senator for the Northern Territory and Parliamentary Secretary on regional development issues, has informed us that there is no scope for funding new "Better Cities" projects, and nor are there any other Commonwealth programs which address urban public transport.
In contrast, the federal government in the U.S.A. has allocated US$4.38 billion to public transport projects - an increase of 8.2% over 1996. New rail projects will get US$760M, operating subsidies US$400M, and work on the Washington Metro US$200M. (Rly. Gaz. Int'l, Nov)
The recent Commonwealth budget stated that a Charter of Budget Honesty will be enacted within a year to, inter alia, compel the govt to publish an annual Intergenerational Report to "assess the long-term sustainability of current policies".
The legislation is to be based on the Officer report, which shows clearly that "sustainability" refers only to each generation funding its own pensions. It is extraordinary that no intention was shown to examine policies for environmental sustainability, or even any recognition that some policies are unsustainable for non-financial reasons.
The NSW Government has announced plans to give police greater powers to disperse gangs. In consequence, there have been protests from civil libertarians and high-school students complaining about this so-called assault on "youth rights".
If people are to be encouraged to use public transport, it is necessary that it should not only be safe but that it be perceived to be safe. It is clear that many people, possibly a majority, regard public transport at night as being unsafe.
The first priority of the Government should be the safety of law-abiding citizens. For this reason, the protests should be rejected and the Government should stick to its agenda.
The announcement by the NSW Government that a freeway is to be built between Beverly Hills and General Holmes Drive is disappointing to APT. Partly because of withdrawal of income tax concessions to investors in such projects, the project is to be wholly funded by the State. However, in blind pursuance of a perverse election promise to eliminate tollways in the west of Sydney, there will be no toll.
The road therefore represents a loss of several hundred million dollars to other Government responsibilities, including public transport. And of course it will generate extra polluting traffic which will have to be dealt with and it will encourage development of a Western Sydney which will be incompatible with good public transport. It goes against the express aims of the Government's Metropolitan Strategy to concentrate retail and commercial employment in centres and to reduce car dependency for journeys to work in all areas.
The route seems to have been chosen to provide an impetus to construction of the Cook's River Valley freeway, panned by the 1980 Kirby enquiry, and also, ultimately, the inner M6 to Loftus.
RUMOURED SALE OF MANLY JETCAT FERRIES
We have it on good authority that this was little more than a media beat-up.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Tim Pharaoh will be in Sydney from 25 Nov to 29 Nov. He is a London expert in planning for traffic reduction and public transport. For up-to-date information on how to hear him, call 9351-3516.
Commissioning of new NR locomotives by the Prime Minister. 10am, 28 November at Broadmeadow. Will he announce some rail initiative?
Submissions on CBD Bus Priority close 26th November with Connell Wagner, P.O. Box 538, Neutral Bay. Telephone enquiries to the RTA on 9831-0145.
Submissions on the Tangara successor or 4GT, close 29th November with CityRail Planning & Development, P. 0. Box 349, Haymarket 2000. Fax 9379-4581,
Submissions on Eastern Distributor Stage 3 tollway close on 16th December. This proposed road will compete with the New Southern Railway. Enquiries to 9699-4106.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
The Creative City - book by Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini. Landry was in Sydney last month advising Manly Council. He is a planner famous foi his lateral, no-nonsense solutions to complex urban problems. The book gives many examples of cities and their creative efforts, including transport decisions. ISBN 1-898309-16-7.
Spend, Spend, Spend - how the [U.K.] Department of Transport wastes money and this manages the roads programme. Report for Transport 2000 by Jonathan Bray. Handy reference for opponents to highway proposals. ISBN 0-90734-734-7. Sydney as a Global City - discussion paper by Glen Searle. Covers the importance of public transport to Sydney's future. Available from Dept. of Urban Affairs and Planning. ISBN 0-7310-6290-6.
Telecommuting, travel behaviour and the environment - article in University of Sydney News, 24 October. Research shows that telecommuting does not reduce vehicle-kilometres travelled as much as had been expected and can even lead to an increase in total travel. State of the Region - recent trends and their strategic planning implications for the greater metropolitan region. Handy reference. Available from Dept. of Urban Affairs and Planning. ISBN 0-7310-6242-6.
Alternative transport etc., and discussion of the future of oil- based transport systems http://www.ecotopia.com/
Clean air strategy fails to tackle traffic - article in New Scientist, 31 August. Discusses failure of U.K. campaigns to reduce road traffic.
Evaluating transport investments with national economic models: Australian experience with ORANI - Working Paper 13, from Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics, Canberra, 1995. Questions whether sweeping analyses which claim broader benefits from transport infrastructure than the BCR suggests, such as the Allen report, are meaningful.
Econometric Evidence on the benefits of infrastructure investment: an Australian transport perspective - Working Paper 25, from Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics, Canberra, 1996. Challenges the sweeping findings of pro-road infrastructure bodies like the Business Council and the Australian Automobile Association.
Estimation of Public Transport Fare Elasticities in the Sydney Region - report available from Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. The outcome of some deep research based on stated travel preferences of 649 telephoned people asked questions about how they would respond to changes in fares. Despite the principal finding that people were less sensitive to proportionate rises in single tickets than in multi-ride, there have been higher rises in multi-ride tickets! Unfortunately, there has been no corresponding investigation into the effects of changing time costs of travel.
Greenhouse debate heats up for Australia - article in New Scientist, 3 August. Wasteful transport is a major contributor; there is more to overall welfare than conventional economics would suggest.
Brainy bit unlocks oil reserves - article in New Scientist, 10 August. The cost of finding new oil reserves is soaring.
Urban nightmare drives Americans out of control - article in New Scientist, 14 September. Urban sprawl must be halted if cities are to become sustainable.
FOR YOUR ADDRESS BOOK
Illawarra Suburban Commuters Association, 11A Novara Cres, Como 2226.
Alliance for Airport Location Outside Sydney, 9241-2702.
Perth Public Transport Users Assoc, (09) 386-4516.
South Coast Commuters Association, care Community Relations, CityRail, Wollongong, (042) 235 855.
Sustainable Transport Party [Federal], 9894-5717.
Rails to Trails - NSW offshoot of the successful Melbourne-based group, named after many similar American groups. Its purpose is to encourage the development of walking, cycling, or horse-riding trails along existing or former railway alignments. Kevin Eadie, 9819-6052.