The NSW Parliament is giving the Olympic Roads and Traffic Authority total control over all transport authorities for the duration of the Olympic Games.
If the power that Bradfield had, as Director of Public Works, in the 1920s had continued to the present, Sydney would almost certainly have a much better transport system than it has. Readers would be aware that the shape of our transport, and with it our city, is largely governed by the Roads & Traffic Authority's programme of road-building. The RTA has no accountability for the proportion of trips made on other types of transport such as trains and buses.
Both major political parties have a fixation on getting everything right for the three weeks of Olympic Games. Yet neither party is interested in permanently reviving Bradfield's function, except when it's needed to impress rich visitors.
Under new arrangements, University of New South Wales commuters waiting for express buses in Eddy Ave are encouraged to validate their tickets before boarding. Passengers with validated tickets can then enter their buses via the centre door, reducing loading times and hence the amount of kerb needed to load buses.
If enough people pressed for the widespread adoption of systems to reduce bus waiting time at places such as Railway Square (where there used to be a queue conductor at busy times) and university exits, a considerable improvement in bus timekeeping could result.
Sydney Ferries now charges intermediate passengers on its inner harbour services i.e. passengers travelling between two suburban wharves, the same fare as passengers travelling to the city. This policy seems a little hypocritical, given repeated representations by Sydney Ferries to the fare-setting authority I.P.A.R.T. for a fare system that reflects the distance travelled. Growth in patronage of cross-harbour services, such as the excellent service between Balmain and McMahons/Milsons Points, will also be discouraged. A fare of $3.20 seems a lot for a three-minute journey.
The much acclaimed 80% public transport patronage to Sydney's 1998 Easter Show in April vanished abruptly in July when traffic chaos surrounded the Homebush Bay exhibition and sporting complex. A number of concurrent events made Sunday 26 July the busiest day at the Olympic site since the Easter Show. Most of the 40,000 visitors to the site arrived by car. There was no coordination of transport on the day. Major retailer David Jones placed numerous full-page newspaper advertisements for its on- site sale, warning of the limited number of parking spaces but omitting any detailed information on public transport services. "For timetable details", it said, "call your local transport authority".
The site is booked for exhibitions on every weekend for the next twelve months. Given the success of the transport arrangements for the Easter Show, APT believe more must be done to encourage people to go by public transport. CityRail, O.R.T.A., and the exhibitors should promote alternatives to the car. Community awareness needs to be raised that going to the showground by public transport is quite possible and very normal.
The NSW Parliament has decided the interests of car owners should take precedence over the rights of landowners. The Local Government Act has been amended to ban wheel clamping or other measures a resident may take to deal with trespasses by car drivers. The government has issued some suggestions for landowners who suffer this problem, but without giving them authority to deal with it. Landowners can enter an agreement with their Council for enforcement - or install fences and gates at their own expense.
The Government has attacked a symptom - wheel clamp operator irresponsibility - not the cause of trespassing cars.
APT ask what countervailing enforcement measures will be used to restrain trespassing cars?
The RTA has opened a new propaganda centre in prime CBD retail space. It is obscene that money is being spent on road promotions like this while public transport is in such need of funds. It is also unusually blatant, but then there's an election coming.
Standards of train information available to the travelling public have been rising recently - platform staff at City stations now have computer displays showing them where trains are, as distinct from where trains are supposed to be. This results in more accurate announcements. Yet there is room for improvement. Not all destination indicators on trains work, and some work but are incorrect. Tenders have been called for new on-train indicators.
APT look forward to all indicators being in full working order as soon as possible.
In August, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communication, Transport, and Microeconomic Reform, Mr Paul Neville M.P. released a report "Tracking Australia". The report made 16 recommendations and found that the existing mainline interstate railway track is in urgent need of upgrading to the point that investment of $1 billion ($250 million already committed, plus an extra $750 million of Commonwealth funding) over the next three years is needed. Otherwise the viability of rail will continue to deteriorate and intercity rail will become "irretrievable". After 2001, a further $2 billion should be invested. These amounts are in line with earlier estimates of the former National Transport Planning Task Force, and were supported by the extensive evidence tendered and the Committee's own hearings and site inspections.
Support was also given for the concept of "tracks of national importance" or TONIs, improved rail safety standards, operating practices, and accredited rail training courses. The Committee was more cautious on road-rail competition, but did recommend a need for integrated transport planning, a "more consistent, equitable approach to transport infrastructure charges to ensure competitive neutrality between modes", and a National Land Transport Commission. The report was well received in statements issued by Rail 2000, the Australasian Railway Association and National Rail and also the Federal Minister for Transport, Mark Vaile M.P., who compared Australia with third world standards. However, Mr Vaile recommended ongoing approaches to the private sector for funding. The effective response of Federal Treasury was a new Productivity Commission Inquiry into rail.
Australia will need remedial rail funding in the 1999 Federal Budget, and the national interest demands that the pressing matters raised by the Committee receive immediate Commonwealth leadership. As of September 18, the Leader of the Opposition had committed an extra $150 million for rail, but this offer was not matched by the Howard Government. As the UK-based Railway Gazette International magazine said (September 98, p561), the overwhelming impression is "that the federal government's policy on railways is a complete shambles" and "third world standards could be around for a long time."
Many recent large infrastructure projects are breaking the spirit, and probably also the letter, of the NSW Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. By the time the public gets to hear of the project, it's near to being under construction. Many road projects exemplify this. Opponents of road projects have often based their objections on failure by project proposals to comply with the law, or a lack of public consultation.
Now the disease has reached public transport. For example, the general route of the Parramatta-Epping railway has already been set by CityRail and/or the DoT and is not open for discussion. It should be.
The Department of Urban Affairs and Planning has placed on exhibition a draft regional environment plan for Parramatta, called "City at the Centre of Sydney". Improved public transport gets a mention. Public comment on the plan is invited, before 3 November. Inquiries ph 1800-448-800.
The plan involves great expansion of Parramatta business district. It is pleasing that DUAP have said that about 850 car parking spaces should be closed immediately and that thousands must go within a few years. This change would of course be a great boost for public transport usage in the West.
Don't hold your breath. Those spaces cost their owners a lot of money to build - probably around $15,000 each plus the cost of the land occupied - and are nice little earners. Car parks at shopping centres are far from dead. For example, Hoxton Park, despite its brand-new transitway, is to have a large car park attached to its new shopping centre. Woolworths has been given permission to build a small shopping centre with a supermarket, service station, 15 specialty shops and 830 parking spaces at Carnes Hill, near Hoxton Park. Building will begin late next year. - Daily Telegraph 3 Sept., p7.
The Minister for Transport informs us that a Draft Overview Report on the Transitway, which will consider a range of modal options (bus, light rail), will be available for public consideration late in 1998. By that time, it is expected that construction of a short length of the Transitway at Bossley Park will have commenced. APT believe that commencing construction prior to the public consultation could prejudice the public consultation process.
Bus routes 470 and 443 have lost 5% of revenue since their city terminus was shifted to Gresham St when the City Council closed the road at Circular Quay East. As the routes have lost 5% of revenue, Sydney Buses are pushing to return. They have been receiving plenty of calls.
The yellow diesel-electric buses, featured in leaflets about the Liverpool-Parramatta Transitway, have finished their trial in Sydney and will not be returning.
The State Transit Authority has ordered 150 new Mercedes buses. APT have been having discussions with STA regarding air conditioning, seat design, knee room, passenger signal buttons, and route number displays.
Broadway is the gateway to Sydney's west. It is also an example of overnight urban blight. Bank and hotel closures and relocation of the post office to within the old Grace Bros building have resulted in a streetscape of empty shops facing eight lanes of high-speed traffic. Urban planning is supposed to prevent this happening. But South Sydney Council owns the Phoenician Club building and may re-develop that site, bringing some life back.
One block up the road, the new landscaping for the Victoria Park swimming pool, despite being set in precious parkland in a dense inner area which ought to encourage public transport usage, has six new car spaces!
APT welcome the Department of Transport's new public transport map of Sydney but have reservations about its practical worth. The map once again covers the whole of the metropolitan area and shows bus routes operated by some 35 private companies, in addition to the State Transit services. Unfortunately, this has required the use of 37 different colours to indicate route ownership. It is impracticable for the map user to distinguish between similar colours and so the map is awkward to use for planning a trip.
Again, for no discernible reason, the main map has very broad black margins which reduce its size and scale. Unfortunately also, the map reinforces the idea that a prospective bus passenger needs to know the name of the company operating a given route in order to use the bus. To be attractive to new users, public transport needs to be simple. To catch a bus, a prospective passenger should only need to know the route number (not shown on this map). Who owns the bus is irrelevant. In Perth for example, the various companies disappear behind the marketing name "Transperth".
The new map clearly requires improvement. Perhaps the companion Guide will make things easier when it is delivered to every household in Sydney at a date yet to be announced.
The NSW Opposition has promised road tunnels under Lane Cove and Haberfield-Concord, plus a grand motorway to be excised from the Blue Mountains National Park.
Thanks to readers for your responses to our election campaign wish-list enclosed with the June newsletter. Meetings are being held with kindred organisations to refine the list and develop strategies. If you would like to participate in any aspect of the campaign, please ring Kevin Eadie on 9819-6052.
This is the name given to a Department of Transport proposal designed to measure the quality of route-bus services in NSW. A public discussion paper is available (ph. 9268-2801). Performance measurement is of course essential in order to determine whether a given bus operator has conformed to the conditions of his service contract, and hence whether that contract should be renewed, renewed with conditions, or terminated. Unfortunately for bus passengers, the regime does nothing to address the considerable influence the private bus companies have over the deliberations of the Department. These operators are skilled at arranging matters in their own interests above those of passengers.
At present, and for the foreseeable future, the Department has almost no power over the industry which it is supposed to regulate.
That's the word we use for buses which replace trains when the rail tracks are closed for maintenance - a never-ending source of frustration and delay to weekend train travellers. The good news is that CityRail has appointed a single person to administer all such service interruptions, which should, in future, occur in a more consistent fashion. Note, however, that this function was devolved to line managers several years ago because they were considered to have the best local knowledge.
A recent improvement has been the listing of ALL track closures, Sydney wide, in a single advertisement in newspapers well in advance of the closures. Previously, local managers advertised only in their local press or at stations. Travellers from the other side of Sydney were thus unaware of the service disruption.
Advertising of a recent major disruption affecting all lines through Hornsby went so far as to suggest that passengers avoid that area if at all possible. Such candour is remarkable.
At a meeting with passenger groups, CityRail officials listened carefully to our argument that loadings in some areas warranted multiple and wide doors on substitute buses and also some luggage space. However, because there is only one bus operator with a significant number of such buses, CityRail must be very careful not to seem to favour that operator; they generally prefer not to specify door width. We hope they can see their way open to correct this shortcoming.
CityRail is currently increasing the capacity of the pedestrian subways and stairs at Central station. Additional stairs on platforms 16-17 and 18-19 will connect with old tunnels which have previously been used only for station servicing and the movement of luggage.
According to Public Works Engineering magazine, the federal government has agreed to fund the full cost of upgrading bridges on national highways to cope with proposed heavier trucks. It seems to us that the prime beneficiaries of these upgraded bridges will be the few companies who own the equally few larger trucks, but these companies are not going to contribute to the cost.
Most businesses which require new investment to reduce operating costs have to fund the investment themselves. Why not the elite of the trucking industry?
State Transit reports that the North Shore's Military Road transit lane carries 9,000 people between 7 and 9am, while the adjacent inbound lanes, combined, carry only 4,000.
Having turned much of Sydney's historic Moore Park into a construction site for the Airport Motorway, the Roads & Traffic Authority and its propaganda department have now moved to moulding the minds of Western Sydney.
An RTA brochure glorifies the proposed $800 million, 39 km, Western Sydney Orbital expressway, and promotes increased car use with promises like 63 minutes saving in travel time between Cross Roads and Pennant Hills. At the same time, the brochure promises a 50% reduction in traffic on major arterials like Elizabeth Drive in Cecil Hills. Nowhere does the pamphlet acknowledge that the expressway will itself generate additional car trips, let alone making any attempt to quantify them. The Minister for Roads and the NRMA keep telling us that Sydney's air quality is going to improve, but on 28 July, the same minister's Department of Transport told a Public Works Committee seminar that motor car use in Sydney was increasing and public transport patronage was falling in the long term.
A White Paper on British transport was released in July. It introduces integrated transport planning at both levels of Government. It marks the end of the old predict-and-provide system whereby roads were built to accommodate expected increases in traffic volumes and the volumes promptly grew to absorb the new capacity.
When will Australian governments learn that roadbuilding is expensive and counter-productive?
The NRMA has admitted that its soft sell "Clean Air 2000" campaign, designed to get Sydney's drivers to voluntarily reduce air pollution, has failed. Signs of the failure were evident back in July, when the NRMA's David Anderson told a Land Transport in the Twenty-first Century seminar that the rate of adoption of clean air practices by Sydney's motorists had slowed.
The carrot hasn't worked. Will this Government, or the next, have the guts to start wielding the stick?
The State Rail Authority has awarded a contract for the review of existing station signage, and the installation and evaluation of trial signage at eight CityRail stations. The contract requires the analysis of the information needs of CityRail passengers. The needs of ethnic communities and the special requirements of major events are also to be considered. CityRail says inadequate signage has been cited as an excuse by passengers found travelling without valid tickets. The new signs will be trialled in December and January at Central, Town Hall, Circular Quay, Granville, Westmead, Lakemba, Casula and Broadmeadow.
The Victorian Government has called for expressions of interest in the franchising of Melbourne's passenger railways and tramways. We assume this has to do with the economic-rationalist National Competition Policy. This is supposed to contain fare rises by increasing efficiency through competition. The British experiment has been far from satisfactory from the consumers' viewpoint. Long distance train fares are still high, but of more concern is the disintegration of timetable and route information and fares and ticket policies. Perhaps we could have the views of aspiring NSW transport ministers and treasurers on this subject, prior to the 1999 election?
APT's Treasurer is having a clean-out. This will involve throwing out twenty years' accumulation of newspaper cuttings, reports, timetables, leaflets, etc. covering Sydney and Brisbane (but not tickets or books - not yet, anyway). If you are interested in recycling this into your own collection, please ring Allan at home on 9516-1906 before 29th November.
APT's AGM and election of officers will take place at 5.15 p.m. on Friday 13 November. Nominations for office-bearers will be received up to the commencement of the meeting, to be convened in the Lower Concourse of the tower building, University of Technology Sydney, on Broadway, Sydney.
Membership subscriptions fell due on 30 September. A membership renewal form is enclosed with this newsletter. Subscriptions may be paid by mail or at any of our weekly meetings. Only financial members may vote at the AGM.
Join us on Saturday 21 November for a last-chance train ride up the mountain escarpment from Unanderra to Robertson or Moss Vale on the "Cockatoo Run". This steam-hauled service is to cease on 24 November owing to rising track rental charges by the Rail Access Corporation. That's competition and efficiency for you! The connecting CityRail service to Dapto leaves Sydney Terminal at 7.44 am. Booking is essential on the "Cockatoo" - phone freecall 1800-64-3801. Fares for the Cockatoo portion are $26 return to Moss Vale or $23 to Robertson, with various concessions and discounts.
Beyond Oil: Transport and Fuel for the Future - symposium, Launceston, 6-7 November. Presented by Chartered Institute of Transport.
Society, Culture, & Politics: Opportunities for Sustainable Urban Transport in Sydney - Dr. Anna Gõllner, Institute for Sustainable Futures (9209 4350), in room 11, Level 4, Building 2, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway - Wed. 28 Oct. - 12.30-2.00.
Velozity Australasia - Adelaide, 17 - 19 Feb 1999. - $500 (08) 8227-2055 or http://www.velozity.adelaide.net.au
Pedestrian summit - 3-4 Dec. - Pedestrian Council - 9968-4555. Talks, arranged by Smogbusters:
City Design - Ms Michelle Zeibots, Inst. of Sustainable Futures - Thurs 29 Oct.
Where To for Sydney's West?
- Tony Mossfield, Univ. Western Sydney - Thurs 26 Nov.
Swiss Cities - Felix Laube, transport consultant - Thurs 17 Dec. - all at 6 pm in Room A, Level 2, Parramatta Civic Building, (behind Parra Town Hall) - $7/$5 - wine & cheese afterwards.
Blacktown Transport Coalition P. O. Box 308 Doonside 2767. Interested in improving alternative transport in the Blacktown area, including existing services, proposed light rail, etc.
The Sydney Airport Fiasco - book by Paul Fitzgerald telling how the third runway was approved. Shows clearly how the actions of politicians throughout have been driven by party political considerations which are nothing to do with airports or the needs of Sydney. ISBN 086-8066729.
Insight SBS-TV, 8 p.m., 15 October. Includes a discussion of Melbourne's new motorways and asks questions about what they will accomplish.