2001 No. 1 - April 2001 - ISSN 0155-8234


A bookshop in King Street, Newtown, lost some books to a shoplifter who chose to escape by bus. Nonplussed, the shop assistant gave chase on foot and easily reached the next stop before the bus, recovering the books.

The books taken included "On the Road", by Jack Kerouac.


A Sydney Morning Herald article (30 Jan) about the threat to bicycles in China because of the growing number of cars, notes that there are now around 15 million cars in China, whereas 20 years ago it had very few. The increase in motor vehicles is even greater in India, which now has almost three times as many as China. Indonesia and similar developing countries have also shown high rates of increase. Because over half the world's population lives in south and east Asia, even restrained attempts to follow the West in car usage will result in great increases in fuel consumption.

The growth of motor vehicle numbers in China and less developed countries is a topic which has been rarely mentioned in discussions about rising world oil prices. But it is clear that world oil production cannot cope indefinitely with a combination of rapid increases in vehicle numbers in the Third World, together with gradual increases in developed countries, including America which has increasingly defined its settlement patterns according to accessibility by car.

The world's proven oil reserves will last for only 41 years at 1998 production levels (Middle East & North Africa, Europa Publications, 46th annual ed., 2000). That time scale will be shortened by rapid increases in vehicle numbers in the Third World. And remember that almost four-fifths of the proven reserves are in Middle Eastern and other OPEC countries. Be prepared for big pressures on oil prices in the future.


The airport railway which opened last May in time for the Olympics has failed to live up to expectations. Passenger numbers have fallen far short of the numbers expected. As a result the owner, Airport Link, is now in receivership. There are reasons for this, the most important being the high cost of a single ticket to any of the four stations owned by Airport Link. But there are other reasons which could and should be remedied quickly.

One obvious deficiency is that more than half of the trains from the Waterfall and Cronulla lines do not stop at the connecting station of Wolli Creek. Instead the trains go straight past Wolli Creek without stopping, forcing passengers into a longer trip via Central to the airport line stations. How can the Government expect to maximise traffic on the new line when more than half of the trains from these lines do not stop at the connecting station? The present time-table has some ridiculous anomalies. For example the 6:59 pm Cronulla train does not stop at Wolli Creek, but it does stop at Tempe, at a time when there are no connections at Tempe, because all East Hills/Macarthur trains are travelling by the airport line (the last train via Sydenham/Tempe stops at Tempe at 7:12pm). CityRail needs to recognise the importance of Wolli Creek as a connecting station, and ensure that all trains from these lines stop there to provide convenient access to the airport stations and to the Central Industrial Area stations of Green Square and Mascot.

Another deficiency is the lack of seating at the airport line stations. Apart from the seats located adjacent to the stairs there are no seats on the platforms. This is clearly a disincentive for people contemplating using the line. The sight of passengers standing along the length of the platform, with others trying to balance themselves on suitcases as seats, speaks for itself.

Another problem which has particularly affected Green Square is that the opening of the railway station has come well ahead of the proposed re-development of the area around the station, including the site of the Zetland incinerator. At the present time many areas close to the station are vacant. Green Square is located a little too far from the biggest employers in the general area, the RTA and IBM offices at Rosebery. Under earlier plans the station was to be located closer to these complexes and to be called Beaconsfield. Now that the Green Square site has been chosen, until re-development takes place the station will lack both local commuters, and visitors to industrial and business sites in the area.

Simultaneous with the opening of the airport line, off-peak services were cut back to inner west stations such as Newtown and Stanmore. This demands prompt attention.

State Rail is promoting the airport line by recorded announcements at City railway platforms, but the lack of street level signs identifying Green Square and Mascot as railway stations does not help. APT asked Airport Link for these signs when the line opened but the company declined, citing its desire for a distinct corporate image. Anecdotal evidence obtained by one of our members reveals that many locals thought Green Square must be another shopping centre.


Planning for this project is running a couple of months behind schedule. Submitting the Environmental Impact Report to the Minister is now likely in about April, with approval expected about May. Despite pressure from a number of sources (some well-meaning, some not) the preferred route remains, with the low-level bridge over Lane Cove River at Fullers Bridge.

By the time the railway opens, it will be urgently needed to ease peak-period congestion on the section between Redfern and Strathfield, which will be carrying even more trains than now.


Many public transport users have reported problems with the 131500 transport information service, particularly with its website. We confirm that despite protracted negotiations, neither Stellar (the Telstra-offshoot contractor) nor the Department of Transport (who pays them) has given us any cause for optimism that the problems will be solved in the short term. A wait of six months has been mentioned. In the meantime, we suggest readers avoid the website and make all enquiries by telephone.


Plans for a future railway, known as "Metrowest", under the western edge of the Sydney central business district are again under threat from developers who find it irksome to have to deal with the Rail Infrastructure Corporation. APT has presented submissions to City Council in defence of the rail corridor.


A new group, "Eco-Transit Sydney", has been formed to promote public transport infrastructure projects. See http://www.ecotransit.org.au.

Meanwhile, Rail 2000, which was a good exponent of federal transport issues, has been absorbed into the Railway Technical Society of Australia.


After much prodding from commuter groups and IPART, CityRail has produced a draft Customer Charter. The resulting document is not something that CityRail's customers can put much faith in. The charter as proposed is merely a statement of intentions and policies, similar to the content of numerous glossy brochures. There are plenty of promises, but no penalties for failure; plenty of qualities but few quantities for measuring results; lots of “we”s and “you”s but no specified parties, performers, auditors, judges or enforcers.

Both APT and CityRail are well aware of what an effective Customer Charter should contain. There are plenty of examples overseas, and - closer to home - in Melbourne.

CityRail does not have the systems in place to collect, analyse and present a wide range of statistics, and until some money is provided to install such systems, then no effective measurement of performance from a customer point of view can be obtained.

The State Transit Authority seems so far to have escaped calls for a similar charter for bus and ferry users, but APT believes that if CityRail needs to have one, then so does the STA.


CityRail and State Transit have made submissions to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) requesting average fare increases of 3.3% and 10% respectively for the year commencing 1st July 2001. State Transit has gone so far as to project that similar increases will be sought in each of the following two years.

It was unfortunate timing that on the day the requests for increased fares were announced, the prime minister, Mr Howard, announced a reduction in petrol tax of 1.5 cents per litre in response to voter rebellion.

Public transport users were already hit with higher fares when the GST was introduced last year, while the price of cars and petrol went down. Attempts to have the GST on fares reduced or removed, as is the case in many European countries, came to nothing. Now again we have governments, professing to encourage the use of public transport, but giving financial incentives to private motorists.

APT, in its submission to IPART, will put the case to limit fare increases to the extent of CPI increases only, any additional operational or capital expenditure requirements to be met by government subsidies or capital grants.

At last year's IPART hearings, APT suggested that the STA should follow CityRail's practice of maintaining a master fare schedule as well as a published fare schedule. By this means, percentage increases are calculated on last year's master fare, not on the rounded up (or down) ticket prices. APT is pleased to note that the STA has introduced a master fare schedule too.

IPART recently commissioned a research paper on issues, other than hard economic ones, for setting fares. It is not clear that the paper will change anything.


In a surprise move just after Christmas last year, the STA withdrew its BusTripper tickets (buses all day for $9), its DayPass ticket (buses and ferries for $13) and, with CityRail, the Day Rover ticket (buses, ferries and trains for $22). These were replaced with a single DayTripper ticket costing $11. While this was a bargain for people who could use the train, it disadvantaged people in non-rail areas as their minimum all-day ticket increased from $9 to $11. No approval was sought for this effective price increase of 22%.

But worse was to come. Apparently the STA had jumped the gun, and arrangements had not been finalised with CityRail. Two weeks later, the price of the DayTripper was increased from $11 to $13 - probably a more realistic price. However, for people with little or no access to trains (especially the northern beaches and the south-eastern suburbs) the price of an all-day ticket had now increased by 44% - all without reference to the Pricing Tribunal.

APT successfully called for the re-introduction of the $9 BusTripper ticket.


Now that the Roads & Traffic Authority has succeeded in ringing Sydney with motorways, following federal government approval of its Western Sydney "Orbital", it is again promoting 1950s era radial freeways, the "spokes" of the orbital. Construction of the obscenely expensive Cross-City Tunnel is due to commence next year. There is also talk of extending the F3 freeway to the south, through large tracts of sensitive bushland, to link it to the M2 motorway at North Ryde. Significantly, the F3 extension does not appear in the State Government's "Action for Transport 2010" transport plan for Sydney. These new motorways just increase the area of the road network. They don't reduce travel times or congestion, because more vehicles enter the system, existing drivers offset any time-savings by making longer trips, and many of them clog ordinary streets in an attempt to by-pass the toll booths. In a Sydney Morning Herald feature on 6 Jan. ("Poisonous one day...") Chris Henning summed it up with "Let's build a community by not building motorways". Existing tollways are becoming the elite transport of the rich with usage of the M2, M4, & M5 falling between 5 and 15% in the last twelve months after hefty toll increases. The Western Sydney Orbital will be a catalyst for more environmentally-damaging urban sprawl in the Hawkesbury - Nepean catchment and a possible revival of Badgerys Creek Airport.


Passengers waiting on Sydney's underground railway platforms are now obliged to listen to crass commercial advertising whether they want to or not. In December 1999 the State Rail Board approved the letting of a contract for seventy-six audio-visual advertising screens on the platforms of ten inner city railway stations. This was despite the public's firm rejection of previous experiences with audio advertising on trains and buses. The public condemned the idea with livid letters to the press. As recently as 16 March, Herald TV wit Doug Anderson ridiculed the "vile video billboards".

APT blames a Board more interested in accounting than in its passengers' welfare, and a State Treasury obsessed with reducing the cost of public services. Complaints to politicians were met with platitudes from CityRail's public relations propaganda people, which most pollies, with notable exceptions, failed to question. CityRail claimed 93% approval for the screens from so-called surveys. APT's position is that it's not about approval ratings, but the public's right to quiet. CityRail has failed to honour its undertaking that the noise from the screens would be confined to a 5-metre radius.

It's not over yet.


A brochure "Bus Users in Sydney", published by the Transport Data Centre, presents the latest information on bus travel and passenger characteristics in Greater Sydney, whose inner suburbs are served by State Transit, while the outer suburbs, Illawarra, Blue Mountains and Central Coast are served by privately owned bus companies. Some interesting figures emerge. State Transit has 1000 network kilometres, while the "privates" have 3600 km. On an average weekday in the above areas, nearly 1 million people use a bus. 48% of STA's passengers pay full fare, but only 19% of private passengers. At the height of the peak period (8:30am) there are 70,000 people on private buses and 45,000 on STA. On an average weekday, half of all trips are made as a vehicle driver, a quarter as a vehicle passenger, 16% as pedestrian, and only 6% by bus and 5% by train. One third of all households in Sydney have two or more vehicles. The brochure is available free from TDC on 9268-2858.


This ambitious Warren Centre project, involving perhaps $3 million worth of donated professional time, is nearly finished. It will report to governments later this year. One finding of the project is that more people want public transport developed than want more roads; APT have a copy of the paper concerned.

The project recently brought to Sydney the German expert on transit costs Professor Carmen Hass-Klau. Readers who would like a copy of her recent monograph comparing buses with light rail etc. can order it via http://www.lrta.org.


The Minister for Urban Affairs & Planning has given his conditional approval to the composite redevelopment of the Westfield and Grace Bros. shopping centres at Bondi Junction. According to the Minister, his conditions ensure that vehicular traffic is managed to minimise its impact on public transport services.

APT had submitted that the proposed development would generate an unacceptable increase in traffic congestion and atmospheric pollution, and that a comprehensive transport study should be initiated to determine the likely impact of additional traffic on the broader community. We pointed out that Sydney's eastern suburbs enjoyed the highest quality bus and train services of any urban region in Australia, and that no attempt whatsoever had been made by the developer to encourage access to the enlarged shopping centre by public transport (there is no provision for convenient access to the new shopping centre from the Bondi Junction railway station or its brand new bus station, immediately to the west of the development site). We said that if the enlarged shopping centre was built without acknowledging the significant public transport infrastructure and services on its doorstep, it would become a testament to the failure of urban planning policies and practices in Australia.

We believe the Minister's conditions to be very weak. They require a Pedestrian Activity report prior to construction, and a Public Transport Strategy prior to the occupation of the new centre to "encourage" use of public transport by workers and shoppers. They require a "continuing advertising campaign" to encourage access to the centre other than by car, and the provision of information kiosks. They require the developer to make a "Section 94" contribution of $2,318,640 to Waverley Council for the improvement of public transport access and "facilities throughout the centre". APT could find no mention of trains, the railway station, or State Rail.


The Speedrail project was to build high-speed railways starting with one between Sydney and Canberra. It would have revolutionised railway travel around Australia. It has been abandoned. Yet NSW premier Bob Carr has been silent.

Why? It would have been very good for the NSW environment. Is the Carr government too beholden to other transport interests?


TV-style train departure indicators, known as "plasma screens", are now well-established on the CityRail network. They are satisfactory when trains are running to schedule, but can be inaccurate, and confusing, when disruption occurs.

Concourse displays specify each train by departure time; platform displays do not. To identify the next train, intending passengers must add the due out in x minutes figure to the present time shown. But is it right even then? Of the information shown, which times are scheduled times, and which are "real" times? Does anybody know? Train stopping information is also confusing. For example, City Circle services are shown as "limited stops" at City Circle stations, when that is never the case.


In the relentless effort to improve traffic flow on Sydney's arterial roads, the RTA frequently moves or abolishes bus stops. In all the cases that APT can cite over the last decade or so, the improved traffic flow has been to the detriment of bus users, who have had to walk further to a relocated stop, or have lost amenities like seating and shelter. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the RTA has voluminous statistics about numbers of vehicles and the flow of traffic, but negligible information about the numbers who use buses, their economic importance, especially to the CBD, or the economic and social costs of inconveniencing them.

Then there is the funding. The big-budget RTA pays for the roadworks but not the bus stop infrastructure, which it leaves for the local council to sort out.

We're working on it.


APT met with Sydney Ferries after the Olympics to discuss long term strategic planning. Sydney Ferries are preparing a business strategy focused on service provision and we sought to ensure that consumers have a role in this process. Discussions will continue.


CityRail's printed timetables for "bustitution" during track closures now include detailed maps of station precincts to help passengers find the bus stops in nearby streets.

In February, CityRail asked Hunter Valley customers whether they preferred buses or reduced train services during trackworks. How about also asking Sydney suburban travellers?


APT is represented on a community reference group which is participating in a review of access to the Centennial, Queens, and Moore Park complex, and circulation within the parks. One of the main aims is to reduce the impact of motor traffic on the parks. A draft plan was to go on public display in late March.


The transfer of Rivercat ferry services from the Darling Harbour Aquarium wharf to the new King St Jetty No. 3 on 8 January was notable for the absence of clear signage, seating for waiting passengers and minimal publicity. Unimaginative flyers omitted the jetty number or a map of the King St complex, and those passengers who were able to find the wharf were confronted with a complete absence of basic facilities such as seating and toilets. STA has planned a bus service to the new wharf but detailed planning has been delayed because of the demands on the transport consulting industry for the Cross City Tunnel. Ironically, any new bus route also requires the approval of the RTA.


Movement has started on the creation of a pro public transport political party in time for the 2003 state election.

APT has had a briefing from one of the proponents.


Obesity has been identified as a major public health problem among Australian children. Meanwhile, parents who drive children to and from school in the family car are creating major traffic congestion and pedestrian-safety problems near schools. These apparently disparate issues are being addressed by Forest Lodge Public School which, with the help of Leichhardt Council, the Pedestrian Council, and government agencies, is to trial a "walking bus". Led by an adult "driver", and trailed by another adult "conductor", the children will walk to school each day as a group, along a fixed route, accumulating "passengers" at "stops" along the way. A report on the pilot is expected during Environment Week, in June. Cyclists adopted a similar scheme for safer group-commuting on Sydney's north shore a couple of years ago.

Readers interested in pursuing the Walking Bus idea can read more about it in Street Reclaiming (details at foot).


The Roads & Traffic Authority claims to have learnt some lessons from the Olympic transport experience which it intends to apply to Sydney's general transport network. In an address to the Institution of Engineers on 6 March, the RTA's Olympic Liaison Manager said the challenge for planners was to attract the Olympic public transport users back to public transport for everyday use. He cited as his tools, flexible working hours, traffic management, park & ride, variable message signs, integrated ticketing, and better information for users. APT thinks this is a pretty weak list. All of these tools have already been used. APT thinks what is needed is a permanent ORTA. The Olympic Roads & Transport Authority had strong legislation to control motoring (and especially parking), control over all modes of travel, and an impressive budget. Question is, has Minister Scully got the strength in Cabinet?


We have often expressed our concern about the abuse of these lanes by illegitimate users and our frustration about the unwillingness of politicians and police to take any corrective action. Similarly frustrated, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been issuing a leaflet to bus passengers on Sydney's north shore, urging them to phone their complaints to the Police Minister, on 9680-0500, or Police Chief Superintendent Sorrenson on 9689-7225. Readers should consider ringing these numbers. The Department of Transport's "soft" print and radio advertising campaign, aimed at informing or embarrassing the same errant drivers is, in our view, next to useless. What is needed is better police enforcement. They might even earn some revenue.


Anyone interested in ferries can join the Australian Ferry Society for the modest sum of $10 p.a. Contact David Lusby, 9427-1856.


Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development: Progress and Development. New Austroads book available from the R.T.A. for $40.

Parking whingers, go heal thyself - article by Larry Hand (former mayor of Leichhardt) in Village Voice Summer Edition, January 2000. Argues that traffic/parking problems will only be solved if people get rid of their cars.

Street Reclaiming: Creating Livable Streets and Vibrant Communities - new book by David Engwicht. Nothing to do with "Reclaim the Streets", who occasionally block traffic at Newtown Bridge, grossly disrupting bus services. ISBN 1-86403-092-5. Pluto Press.

A Very Public Solution Getting Around in the Dispersed City - book by Paul Mees. ISBN 0-522-84867-2. Melbourne University Press. Argues that if Melbourne public transport service standards equalled Toronto's, so would the patronage.

Transport and health: en route to a healthier Australia? - article by Chloë Mason. Argues that there are public health benefits when people walk to public transport rather than drive door-to-door. Medical Journal of Australia, Vol 172, 6 March 2000, pages 230-232.

Between Burb and Burg - a profile of the father of New Urbanism, Andres Duany in Scientific American, March 2000 pages 16-17. New Urbanists design residential areas so that no home is more than a few minutes' walk from public transport and other facilities; this reduces the need for car ownership.


http://www.uitp.com/mobinenew/mobnglob.htm Global mobility news, published by Union Internationale des Transports Publiques