Archive for April, 2014

Monday: South West Rail Link to open next year

All stations and track on the South West Rail Link (SWRL) have now been completed, with 95% of signals and 80% of overhead wiring installed. The new line, which connects Glenfield to the South West Growth Centre and can be extended to a future airport at Badgerys Creek, is currently 12 months ahead of schedule and will open some time next year. It is also $100m under its $2.1bn budget. However, both the timetable and budget is still well above the original planned $688m cost with a 2012 completion date.

Tuesday: Bus depot sale rumours confirmed

Bus depots at Neutral Bay and Waverly could be up for sale, either as a land sale or by selling the air rights above them. Then Finance Minister (and now incoming Treasurer) Andrew Constance said that proceeds will be invested back into public transport services and infrastructure” (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Investors queuing up for sale of prime Neutral Bay bus depot). This follows initial rumours from earlier this month.

Thursday: Opal exands to more buses in Sydney’s East

Five bus routes, 326, 327, 355, 361 and L24, will go-live with Opal over a two-week period from Monday 28 April. Opal enabled buses will have stickers identifying them (see image below). Pensioner Excursion Tickets, which entitle users to unlimited travel for $2.50 will no longer be sold onboard buses from 1 June 2014. However, pensioner Opal cards have not yet been released to the public, nor have concession Opal cards. Pensioner Opal cards will become available at some point in 2014.

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Thursday: Transport Minister talks up light rail and harbour rail crossing

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has used the strong increase in demand for the Inner West light rail extension to Dulwich Hill to predict that the CBD and South East Light Rail may struggle to meet demand when it opens in 2019. The light rail line saw a 30% increase in patronage in the week following the opening of the extension. The comments were made in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in which she also noted her intention to begin the 2nd Harbour Rail Crossing project before the North West Rail Link is completed in 2019 and that the main beneficiaries of a Harbour Crossing will be user of existing lines due to the increased CBD capacity that it will provide. Many lines currently run at below their maximum capacity due to constraints in the network once trains reach the CBD.

Saturday: Transport Sydney receives its 2,000th comment

First time commenter AK left the 2,000th comment on this blog when posting in the comments section of the Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts post. He raised concern about aircraft noise and whether there is enough demand from Western Sydney to warrant an airport at Badgerys Creek.

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Bus services in Sydney are operating well and are set to improve when compared to a survey of US bus operators showing what changes had been effective in improving travel times. However, the lack of traffic light priority, no plans for all door boarding for buses, and inability to design new motorways for express buses means these improvements will not be as effective as they otherwise could be.

The survey, included as part of a report called Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds, found 11 improvements used to increase bus speeds. Streetsblog USA has included a good summary of the report, parts of which have been quoted below. These are, from the improvements most widely implemented to least:

Consolidate stops

More than half of agencies have thinned bus stops, some by focusing on pilot corridors, and others by gradually phasing in policy changes. Many agencies moved stops to far side of intersections at stoplights, and 13 agencies adopted physical changes like longer bus stops or bulb-outs, which help passengers board faster and more conveniently.

Bus stops in Sydney are generally not found clumped together with 100m or 200m between them. However, the current plan is to ensure that bus stops are placed every 400m for most bus services, with “Rapid Bus” corridors having bus stops every 800m to 1km (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Bus Future, p. 6). Bus bays are also quite common.

Verdict: Currently often good, but being improved.

Streamline routes

Straightening out routes, trimming deviations, eliminating duplication, and shortening routes didn’t just simplify service, it also sped up service for two-thirds of the agencies that tried this approach.

The current CBD bus network is complex, inefficient, and leads to unnecessary congestion. The current proposal would consolidate buses into 3 main North/South corridors and 1 East/West corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney's Light Rail Future, p. 17)

The current CBD bus network is complex, inefficient, and leads to unnecessary congestion. The current proposal would consolidate buses into 3 main North/South corridors and 1 East/West corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Light Rail Future, p. 17)

Much of Sydney’s inner suburban bus network is a continuation of its old tram network, parts of which have been around for 100 years or more. The result is a tangled web of bus routes that are hard to interpret, include many deviations, and are often duplicated. Current plans involve simplifying the bus network to make “routes more direct, reduces duplication and increases the number of locations which customers can travel between by bus” (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Bus Future, p. 5), though details have been light beyond proposals for changes to the bus network following the opening of the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) at the end of the decade (see image above). Proposed changes to the suburban bus network with the CSELR have more details, but as with the CBD changes these are 5-6 years away and are far from guaranteed.

Verdict: Currently not being achieved, the goal is in the right direction but plans are still sketchy.

Transit signal priority

The 22 agencies with signal priority can change stoplights for approaching buses. They mostly report a minor to moderate increase in bus speeds as a result. In fact, agencies singled out traffic engineering approaches like TSP as the closest to a “silver bullet,” one-step solution.

Traffic light priority for buses is theoretically possible in Sydney, but has been opposed by the RMS (and the RTA before that). Plans to introduce traffic light priority for the Parramatta to Rouse Hill T-Way were scrapped when it opened in 2007 because of RTA opposition. This remains the single improvement that could potentially provide the biggest improvement that has yet to be even partially implemented.

Verdict: This has been a missed opportunity.

UPDATE (30 April 2014): A Transport for NSW spokesperson has sought to clarify this issue by stating that “Bus prioritisation started at Sydney traffic intersections in 2006 when the first public services under the State Transit Authority began. The Public Transport Information Prioritisation System (PTIPS) tracks about 5,000 buses in real time across the Sydney, Wollongong and the Newcastle regions and allows the buses to be prioritised through some 1,000 intersections to provide reliable and on time bus services for customers.”

Fare policy

Several agencies changed fare structures or payment methods. The one agency that collects fares before passengers board, and lets them board at both bus doors, decreased bus running times by 9 percent.

Prepayment of bus fares was first trialed in Sydney in 2004, and has since been expanded to a number of bus routes and bus stops in high patronage areas of Sydney (Source: Sydney Buses, Prepay). The rollout of Opal readers to all buses during 2014 will further expand prepayment. However, there have been no announcements or plans to allow all door boarding of buses once Opal is fully rolled out.

Verdict: Good progress on prepayment of fares and introducing Opal, but could be better with all door boarding.

Bus Rapid Transit

Ten agencies combined multiple approaches on specific routes and launched BRT service. Of those that measured the impact, almost all reported a significant increase in speed, typically around 10 to 15 percent.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was first introduced to Sydney in 2004 with the Parramatta to Liverpool T-Way, then added to in 2007 with the Parramatta to Rouse Hill T-Way (Source: Roads and Maritime Authority, Sydney’s T-Ways). There were originally plans for additional T-Ways connecting Strathfield to Parramatta and then onto Blacktown as well as between St Marys and Penrith as well as others (Source: Transport Sydney, New Transport Plan for Sydney). Today, other corridors are under consideration for BRT or light rail, including Parramatta Road, Victoria Road, Anzac Parade, and the Northern Beaches (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Bus Future, p. 6).

Verdict: Positive achievements in the past, with a promising future of further expansion.

Vehicle changes

More than half of agencies have moved to low-floor buses, which reduce loading times by one second per passenger. Smaller buses might be more maneuverable in traffic, and ramps can speed loading for wheelchairs and bicycles.

Since the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) by the Commonwealth Government, accessible public transport has been made a legislative requirement. Though a long lead in time has been allowed for existing vehicles, noticeable improvements have been made. For example, the proportion of low floor buses in service has increased from 38% in 2007 to 73% in 2012 (Source: Transport for NSW, Disability Action Plan, p. 17). Government operated STA buses are more likely to be low floor, 75% of publicly operated buses are low floor compared to 70% for private operators, but the gap between public and private has narrowed. Transport for NSW has set itself the aim of having entirely accessible services by 2022.

Verdict: Good progress in the past, with the achievable goal of 100% accessibility by 2022.

Limited stop service

Although new limited-stop services offered only minor to moderately faster speeds, it’s a simple step and 18 agencies reported launching new limited routes.

Limited stop services currently exist, and these are being expanded and standardised with plans to introduce “Rapid Bus” services with stop spacings of 800m to 1km (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Bus Future, p. 6).

Verdict: Good usage in the past and into the future.

Bus lanes

Dedicated lanes are used by 13 agencies, and one reported that “most routes are on a bus lane somewhere.” When implemented on wide arterial streets, this moderately improves speeds.

Bus lanes were first introduced into Sydney in 1992 and today there are 90km of bus lanes on Sydney streets (Source: Roads and Maritime Service, Bus lanes). Additional bus lanes are regularly considered and added as needed and appropriate.

Verdict: Good usage in the past and into the future.

Adjust schedules

Almost all of the surveyed agencies have adjusted running time, recovery times (the time spent turning the bus), or moved to more flexible ”headway schedules.” All of these actions improve on-time performance reliability for customers, and reduce the need for buses to sit if they’re running early.

Some tight schedules currently mean that buses sometimes do not begin their route on time, negatively affecting reliability. Infrequent services make this worse, with “bunching” of buses forcing passengers to wait long periods between bus services. More frequent bus services, which rely on short headways for “turn up and go” services rather than reliance on a timetable, would improve this. This was partly achieved with metrobuses, introduced in 2008 to run at 10 minute frequencies in the peak and 15 minutes in the off-peak, but these are limited in coverage. It will be further improved with rapid and suburban bus services as they are introduced over time (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney’s Bus Future, p. 6).

A Metrobus on George St in the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author)

A Metrobus on George St in the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author)

Verdict: Room for improvement, with plans promising but lacking in detail.

Signal timing

Synchronized stoplights along transit routes can make sure that buses face more green lights than red, but only have a mild impact on operating speeds.

As with traffic light priority, this is theoretically possible but has not been implemented.

Verdict: This has been a missed opportunity.

Express service on freeways

This strategy had the largest impact on speeding up buses for the three agencies that tried it.

Bus lanes along the M2 motorway in Sydney’s North West, along with bus stations in the median and routing most of these buses through the Lane Cove Tunnel through to the Sydney CBD, has easily achieved this goal. However, other motorways have not been designed with bus services in mind, particularly the M7 which provides a North-South connection in Western Sydney. This is the one area where Sydney has taken a step backwards.

Verdict: Excellent achievement with the M2, but few accomplishments since then.

Summary

2014-04-21 Bus traffic light scorecard

Overall, Sydney is doing well in improving its bus services. They are accessible, contain bus lanes as well as BRT, often feature prepayment of fares, and have limited stop services with fewer stops to improve speed. For the most part, Sydney has also been moving in the right direction. But in order to improve services further, serious consideration needs to be given to traffic light priority and signal timing, allowing all door boarding once Opal is rolled out, and designing new motorways with bus services in mind.

A Sydney CBD shuttle bus. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author)

A Sydney CBD shuttle bus. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author)

Monday: Opal rolled out to 24 bus routes on Upper North Shore

Opal cards can now be used on 24 bus routes operating in the Kuring-gai and Hornsby region. These include all routes between 556 and 599. It can also be used on the 333 bus route between the Sydney CBD and Bondi Beach, as well as all trains and ferries. The next buses to become Opal ready are expected to be in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, with Opal readers to be rolled out to all buses by the end of 2014. Light rail is to become Opal ready in 2015.

Wednesday: Road upgrades and new rail line for Badgerys Creek Airport

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced $3.5bn in funding for roads around the proposed site of Badgery’s Creek Airport, with $2.9bn to be provided by the Commonwealth and $600m by NSW. A corridor for extending the current South West Rail Link through to the airport and then up to the Western Line will also be preserved, including a tunnel and cavity for a station under the airport runway. While the roads are mostly funded by the Commonwealth and expected to be completed in time for the airport’s opening in the middle of next decade, the rail line is not expected to be opened until after the airport is completed and will have to be funded entirely by the NSW Government.

3 major road improvements - The Northern Road, Bringelly Road, and a motorway along Elizabeth Drive - as well as a rail line from Leppington through the airport and through to the Western Line, are planned to support an airport at Badgerys Creek. Click to enlarge - the image is quite large. (Source: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.)

3 major road improvements – The Northern Road, Bringelly Road, and a motorway along Elizabeth Drive – as well as a rail line from Leppington through the airport and through to the Western Line, are planned to support an airport at Badgerys Creek. Click to enlarge – the image is quite large. (Source: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.)

Thursday: Gladys Berejiklian to stay on as Transport Minister

The Premier Barry O’Farrell’s surprise resignation on Wednesday has resulted in the Treasurer Mike Baird replacing him as Premier. The Transport Mininster Gladys Berejiklian becomes Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, but retains the Transport portfolio. There was speculation that she may have made a run for the top job or given the Treasurer’s position.

The new Premier Mr Baird has been a strong supporter of the state’s “asset recycling” policy, where state owned assets are sold off in order to fund the construction of new assets. It is speculated that the sale of the state’s electricity poles and wires could raise as much as $30bn in proceeds that could fund infrastructure projects like the North West Rail Link, Second Harbour Crossing, and light rail from Parramatta to Macquarie Park or Castle Hill, but the outgoing Premier Mr O’Farrell had been uncomittal about taking privatisation of the poles and wires to the next state election.

Thursday: Final Waratah train delivered to Sydney

The last of the 78 Waratah trains has been delivered to Sydney, almost 3 years since the first one began carrying passengers and almost 4 years since the first test train arrived. The Waratah trains now make up almost half the Sydney Trains fleet, operating on all lines except for T4 (Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra) and T6 (Carlingford).

Friday: Randwick Council to provide $68m in funding for light rail

Randwick City Council has announced its intention to provide $68m over 5 years for the CBD and South East Light Rail project. It is also pushing for the line to be extended to Maroubra Junction, from the current terminus in Kingsford, as well as for additional new parking spaces to replace those that will be lost as part of the project. The light rail line has previously received a pledge of $220m in funding from Sydney City Council. The project is estimated to cost $1.6bn and will be completed by 2019/20.

 

A new airport at Badgerys Creek would be an infrastructure package for Western Sydney that was “roads first, airport second” according to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday. Today he is expected to announce with the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell that $3.5bn would be provided to fund these roads, with 80% being paid for by the federal government and the remainder by the state government. According to the Daily Telegraph, these include:

2014-04-16 Badgerys Creek roads

No federal funding will be provided for rail infrastructure, with Mr Abbott maintaining his commitment to leave the funding of urban commuter rail exclusively to the states. However, there are also plans for an extension of the currently under construction South West Rail Link (SWRL) through to Badgerys Creek Airport, then through to the Western Line via a rail tunnel under the airport. Concerns have been raised that if this rail tunnel is not built concurrently with the airport then the cost of doing so would rise by billions of dollars.

However, although a SWRL extension has been identified as a corridor that needs to be protected, it has not actually yet been protected. Nor has a corridor from Badgerys Creek to the Western Line nor an Outer Sydney Orbital for a future M9 freeway that would link a Badgerys Creek airport both North and South.

Though identified and proposed, corridors to extend the South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek and then North to the Western Lineand an M9 freeway providing North-South connections to the airport (both shown in purple) have not yet been protected. Only corridors shown in green have actually been protected. Click to enlarge. (Source: NSW Transport Master Plan, p. 210)

Though identified and proposed, corridors to extend the South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek then North to the Western Line and an M9 freeway providing North-South connections to the airport (1, 4, and 10 respectively – all shown in purple) have not yet been protected. Only corridors shown in green have actually been protected. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, 2012 NSW Transport Master Plan, p. 210)

The decision to go with Badgerys Creek is the final nail in the coffin for Wilton as a potential airport site. Wilton was not only much further away from the Sydney CBD than Badgerys Creek, but it did not benefit from proximity to Western Sydney as Badgerys did. This is what separates Badgerys Creek from Avalon in Melbourne, to which it is often compared to. Due to the location of Melbourne’s two airports, there are few parts of the city which are closer to Avalon than the main Tullamarine Airport. However, in Sydney anywhere West of Parramatta is closer to Badgerys Creek than Kingsford-Smith at Mascot.

Badgerys Creek Airport relative to Kingsford-Smith and Wilton. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author, with Google Maps)

Badgerys Creek Airport relative to Kingsford-Smith and Wilton. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author, with Google Maps)

This proximity to urban settlement has also been posed as one of Badgerys’ main disadvantages, primarily due to aircraft noise. However, according to Bob Meyer, Planning Director with Cox Richardson Architects and Planners, the noise impact from Badgerys Creek would be significantly lower than that from Kingsford-Smith, with aircraft noise from Kingsford-Smith affecting inner city residents by a factor of 30 to 100 times as much as a Badgerys Creek Airport would affect Western Sydney residents:

“At the 2011 census, at Badgerys Creek Airport, there were 2,913 dwellings within the 20 ANEF contour and 328 dwellings within the 25 ANEF contour.
At the 2011 census, at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, there were 86,017 dwellings within the 20 ANEF contour and 29,457 dwellings within the 25 ANEF contour.”Bob Meyer, A Sydney West Airport, p. 5 (2013)

This is largely due to around 90% of the flight path operating over the Western Sydney Employment Area. Established residential areas are not reached for about 20km, the equivalent of Macquarie University at North Ryde for Kingsford-Smith Airport. Those 2,913 dwellings that are affected can be provided with noise insulation.

Aircraft noise from Badgerys Creek will primarily occur over industrial lands, shown in purple. The first major residential area is Greystanes, East of the Prospect Reservoir. Click to enlarge. (Source: Bob Meyer, A Sydney West Airport, p. 6)

Aircraft noise from Badgerys Creek will primarily occur over industrial lands, shown in purple. The first major residential area is Greystanes, East of the Prospect Reservoir. Click to enlarge. (Source: Bob Meyer, A Sydney West Airport, p. 6)

If the Western Sydney Employment Area were superimposed on the Kingsford-Smith Airport flight paths, then the first major residential area would be in North Ryde. Click to enlarge. (Source: Bob Meyer, A Sydney West Airport, p. 6)

If the Western Sydney Employment Area were superimposed on the Kingsford-Smith Airport flight paths, then the first major residential area would be in North Ryde. Click to enlarge. (Source: Bob Meyer, A Sydney West Airport, p. 6)

Even with new residential developments in the nearby South West Growth Centre (SWGC), the direction of flights and industrial land buffer between residential areas and the proposed airport site mean that noise concerns can be kept to a minimum. The map immediately below, created by combining the noise contour map and SWGC, shows the high noise contour lines passing through industrial lands, Kemps Creek, the Western Sydney Parklands, and Austral. Though Kemps Creek and Austral were initially zoned entirely residential, they have since been re-zoned so that areas of it which were to be affected by aircraft noise are now also industrial (see final image).

Aircraft noise from Badgerys Creek and the South West Growth Centre. Most areas affected by high noise levels are industrial. Click to enalrge. (Source: Cammo2004 using Infrastructure Australia and NSW Department of Planning.)

Aircraft noise from Badgerys Creek and the South West Growth Centre. Most areas affected by high noise levels are industrial. Click to enalrge. (Source: Cammo2004, using Infrastructure Australia, p. 333, and NSW Department of Planning.)

Northern parts of the South West Growth Centre affected by aircraft noise that werte initially zoned residential have now been rezoned industrial. Click to enlarge. (Source: NSW Department of Planning)

Northern parts of the South West Growth Centre affected by aircraft noise that werte initially zoned residential have now been rezoned industrial. Click to enlarge. (Source: NSW Department of Planning)

 

Video: The expansion of built up urban land in Sydney (1808-2000), NYU Stern Urbanization Project

The growth of Sydney’s urban fringe, as well as that of other cities, has been documented recently by the NYU Stern Urbanization Project in a series of YouTube videos. In Sydney’s case, it can also be seen in a map produced by the Department of Planning in 2005 for the then urban plan for Sydney (named the “City of Cities”).

The city remained incredibly compact through to the turn of the 20th century, focused on the Sydney CBD and its port.

By 1917, it had spread out to Strathfield in the West, Hurstville in the South, and the coastline in the East. For the most part, it followed the rail network – trams in the inner city, and the heavy rail network in what today would be Sydney’s established outer suburbs (to places like Parramatta or the North Shore).

By 1945, and then later 1975, the private car had become widespread to most households and with it came urban sprawl. The urban footprint of Sydney spread to areas far away from rail based transportation (and in the case of trams, parts of Sydney had their rail transportation taken away from it). However, the urban fringe was still relatively close to the old Sydney CBD, only reaching out about as far as Blacktown and Liverpool in the West.

Growth of Sydney's urban boundary. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Cities – A Plan for Sydney's Future, Department of Planning, 2005.)

Growth of Sydney’s urban boundary. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Cities – A Plan for Sydney’s Future, Department of Planning, 2005.)

It was the 1980s and 1990s that saw the urban fringe pushed further out, primarily in Central-Western Sydney and South-Western Sydney. Parramatta, which lay at the outskirts of Sydney’s urban fringe not much longer than half a century ago, today lies at the geographic centre of Sydney. If Sydney continues to grow outwards at the same rate, then by 2031 it will include the areas shown above in yellow.

Commentary

Most of this land on the outskirts is isolated, far away from major sources of employment, education, and health. It would also involve losing what little agricultural land remains in the Sydney basin. The alternative is infill – to increase housing densities in existing urban areas. This has proven unpopular in the past, with local groups often opposing what they see as “over-development”. What Sydney cannot do is stop population growth. If it plans for no further growth in population, and people continue coming to this city, then what it will achieve is to further deepen the lack of housing supply relative to demand, making housing even less affordable than it already is.

So the choice is simple: build up or build out. And whichever choice (or combination of the two) is chosen, where is the best location for it to happen? This is a conversation this city cannot afford not to have.

Monday: Federal government to pay billions in infrastructure for Badgerys Creek Airport
Billions of dollars are to be provided by the federal government for improved infrastructure for a soon to be proposed airport at Badgerys Creek. This is an increase on the initial $200m rumoured to be provided, but controversially none will be used to fund improvements to the rail network. The federal government has a policy of not funding urban rail projects, on the basis that this is a state government responsibility.

Tuesday: New Opal cards coming
Opal cards are now available for children and, for the first time, can be obtained in person at the Easter Show. Until now, the only Opal cards available were for adults and had to be obtained via the Opal website.  (TfNSW). The child Opal cards require all children to pay a separate fare, whereas currently only 1 child ticket is required for children travelling with an adult, regardless of how many children are travelling.

Child Opal cards are now available. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Child Opal cards are now available. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Pensioners will get their own Opal cards later this year, with a $2.50 daily cap on fares. However, unlike the existing Pensioner Excursion Ticket, they will not be able to be purchased from bus drivers. No details are available on when concession Opal cards for students above 16 years of age will be rolled out.

Friday: Opal rollout moves from trains to buses
Opal cards are now valid for travel to and from all train stations, on both the Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink networks. From Monday, it will be extended to buses from the Transdev-operated Mount Kuring-gai bus depot covering bus services 556 to 599. It is currently only available on 594/594H and 333 bus routes.

Opal cards will be accepted on more buses on the North Shore from Monday 14 April. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Opal cards will be accepted on more buses on the North Shore from Monday 14 April. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Friday: Double deck trains have higher capacity than single deck trains
The ABC’s fact checking unit has declared that double deck trains have a higher capacity than single deck trains, even after taking into account the fact that single deck trains allow more trains per hour than double deck trains do. This follows claims by the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell that it was a mistake to introduce double deck trains into Sydney and that single deck trains can carry more people per hour than double deck trains can.

Saturday: Bus depots considered for development
Bus depots at Waverly and Neutral Bay were rumoured to be considered for sale to developers for urban development. Both sites are large and close to the major centres of Bondi Junction and North Sydney. It is unclear whether the sites would be sold off entirely, or just the air rights over the depot, maintaining a functioning depot in place.

Monday: NSW Labor promises feasibility study for Western Sydney Light Rail

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson committed the Labor Party to a $20m feasibility study into a Western Sydney Light Rail network if it wins next year’s state election. Parramatta Council has been pushing for a light rail network linking Parramatta to Macquarie Park and Castle Hill, and has funded its own pre-feasibility study into such lines. This mirrors the CBD and South Eastern Light Rail, currently under construction, where Randwick Council funded its own pre-feasibility study before the the then Opposition Liberal Party committed itself to a full feasibility study if it won office in the 2011 state election

This also follows revalations that the NSW Government is considering a Western Sydney Light Rail network after the publication of an official government document showing the light rail lines on a map of Parramatta. If this is the case, support for such a network could receive bipartisan support.

Wednesday: Dulwich Hill light rail extension boosts patronage by 30%

Patronage on the Inner West Light Rail Line has increased by an estimated 30% since being extended to Dulwich Hill last week. Although an additional 4 trams were obtained to maintain 10 minute frequencies on the line during peak hour, the increased demand has led to overcrowding and meant some passengers have not been able to board a tram.

Interior of a Sydney tram. Overcrowding is up on the Cityrail network. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

The 30% increase in patronage on the Inner West Light Rail Line has led to overcrowding, similar to that in this image taken in 2013. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author)

It has also dampened the likelihood of school students being given free travel on trams to get to and from school until overcrowding is addressed. An additional 12 trams are currently scheduled to enter service over the next 18 month to replace the original 7 trams used on the line. Peak hour frequencies are set to increase to one tram per 7.5 minutes from 1 July this year, which will ease overcrowding.

Thursday: Real-time data for ferries and trams coming to transport apps

Real-time data, currently available for trains and buses, will soon be expanded to ferries and trams. There is no fixed timetable for when these will become available, but a spokesman from Transport for NSW hopes that they will be rolledout “within the next year”.

Thursday: Mobile phone reception now available on Eastern Suburbs Line

The Eastern Suburbs Line has joined the City Circle and North Shore Line in having mobile phone reception available in its underground tunnels. Sydney’s other major underground rail tunnels, for the Airport Line and Epping to Macquarie Line, were designed to include mobile phone reception for when the lines opened in 2000 and 2009 respectively.

Friday: Opal rolled out to South Coast and Southern Highlands Lines

Opal readers went online in the South Coast and Southern Highlands Lines, with the Blue Mountains and Hunter Lines to go online next week. 165,000 Opal cards have been registered to date. Opal readers are now being rolled out onto buses, starting with the Upper North Shore and Eastern Suburbs.