Special events like Vivid need better public transport

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , ,

I had the chance to see Vivid on Saturday night. I found it interesting, but it was far too crowded for my liking. Still, it’s great to see cultural events in Sydney that bring so many people in. Such events are what make Sydney such a vibrant place to live in and what makes so many people want to come here.

Vivid at Circular Quay on the night of Saturday 8 June 2013. (Source: Author)

Vivid at Circular Quay on the night of Saturday 8 June 2013. (Source: Author)

The problem caused by large numbers is the transport problems that it creates. It was pretty bad on Saturday night when I went – George St was closed Northbound past Wynyard and we had to get out of our bus early and walk the rest of the way. But it was even worse the following night on Sunday.

The rail system was overwhelmed, with weekend timetables being run despite the huge numbers of extra people:

Video: byupyu

But crowds had an impact even before the final weekend. It affected me almost 2 weeks ago when I was trying to catch a bus home from Fox Studios, as numerous buses went by full without picking anyone up. It reached the point where some people waiting at the bus stop gave up and walked off before a bus let us on.

It soon became clear that Vivid was causing peak hour like crowds in the CBD, but without peak hour capacity.

This is not the only time when big crowds converge into the CBD and then try to get home, it happens twice a day in the morning and evening peak hours as well as during the New Year’s celebrations, but generally handled well in each of those cases. Given the quantity of people, public transport is the best way to move them. But in this case, there doesn’t seem to be enough capacity to keep up with demand (as well as other occasions – the Christmas party season comes to mind, particularly given the alcohol consumption that forces people into either public transport or a taxi in most cases).

Demand for public transport is a good thing, but only if it is met with sufficient supply. This was the problem faced in Melbourne a decade ago, and this is how the PTUA, their public transport advocacy group, was instrumental in fixing the problem of insufficient public transport. Hopefully we can achieve something similar here in Sydney for major events like Vivid.

Video: PTUA

Update (7:59PM, 10 June 2013) – There were some additional bus and ferry services timetabled for Friday and Saturday nights, though no additional trains nor anything for the Sunday of this long weekend that just passed. Roads Minister Duncan Gay has reportedly told 2UE that  “We’ve now got effective New Year’s Eve [crowds] and frankly we need to treat it that way”.

  1. Dudley Horscroft says:

    What is really needed is better coordination between the sponsors of events like VIVID – whatever that might have been, and the public transport authorities. Worked will for the Olympics, needs to work well all the time.

    PT authorities are well aware of what is needed for the normal things like Christmas, New Year, and similar regular events. One offs are more awkward, especially if weather encourages far more people than the sponsors expect to attend.

    Light rail certainly should help – IF the event is located along the route AND it links to the other main transit interchanges – Central and CQ come to mind. One particular advantage of LR is that the vehicles should be able to run in multiple unit operation – two or three coupled together, but still with only the one driver, thus not requiring increased staff numbers. Not possible with buses, which require one man per bus. This will help if the tracks are in the right place, and it is not peak hour, so that stock normally idle after the end of the peak can be brought into use.

  2. mich says:

    exactly right. coming back from another place at 7 PM on sunday, I was amazed by the huge crowds of people headed towards the CBD. I didn’t know what was going on. It was like new year’s eve.

    people were being advised not to drive, to use trains instead. They could “stroll” from place to place. Actually, it’s a bloody long way from dawes point to pyrmont.

    And if you buy a return train ticket from Penrith or Cronulla to Circular Quay, and then you then want to catch the train two stops to Town Hall to visit Darling Harbour, and then go home afterwards, well you can’t. You’re screwed.

  3. MrV says:

    But thats the key question, how long does it take, for example for Sydney Buses to bring into service all articulated buses instead of regular size ones during periods of unexpected demand, or run additional shuttle trains, even if just in a limited corridor, say Chatswood to Strathfield?

  4. Davo says:

    The Newcastle line was closed for the long weekend too which put extra cars on the road heading into the CBD to see Vivid.

  5. mich says:

    They have buses instead, which are actually faster than the trains. It seems to be amazing how many people don’t seem to know this. I could fill at least the fingers of one hand with comments I have seen in the past two days that “the trains were not running, so I was forced to drive”.

  6. RichardU says:

    Inadequate public transport in Sydney is not the only issue. We went to Vivid on a weekday by public transport. Transport was no problem but that left us with a (somewhat less) crowded weekday venue but also highlighted another favourite issue of mine, namely that the Sydney CBD, geographically constrained, as it is, is just too small for the people who seem to be destined to cram into it be it for special events or on work days.

    Compared to other major capitals, the Sydney CBD is tiny and can be walked north to south AND east to west. All plans seem to be made without considering the unprecedented advances in ecommunicitions which no longer require white-collar works to cluster together in a central area. More thought should be given to intelligent zoning and intelligent design (limited parking) for business activities nearer where people prefer to live. This would kill many expensive birds with one stone., hopefully including an expensive new harbour crossing.

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