Posts Tagged ‘Cars and roads’

NOTE: Apologies for the lateness of this week’s post. It was written up, but then not posted immediately.

Thursday: Opal card fare hack discovered

Opal users can reach their weekly travel reward for $13.86 in under 30 minutes on Tuesdays if they have made 2 journeys on the previous Monday. The “hack”, as it has been dubbed by the Opal Card App developers who discovered it, comes less than 3 months after the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian encouraged the public to seek ways of cutting their fare costs using their Opal card.

VIDEO: Opal Card Hack

The method requires customers to have already made 2 journeys on a previous day, due to the $15 daily cap. Customers must also travel during off-peak (outside of (7:00AM-9:00AM and 4:00PM-6:30PM) in order to receive the off-peak discount. It also makes use of the fact that Macdonaldtown Station and Erskineville Stations, the two stations that are the closest on the network, are only 350m apart.

An adult Opal card. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

An adult Opal card. Click to enlarge.
(Source: Transport for NSW)

By tapping on at one and tapping off at the other, customers simulate catching a train and making 1 trip. By returning to the original station and tapping on again, a new trip is initiated. However, these 2 trips do not appear to be linked, thus making them independent journeys for the purpose of reaching the weekly travel reward. Normally customers must wait 60 minutes between tapping off and tapping back on in order for trips not to be linked and thus count as 2 separate journeys.

The 2 stations must also be ungated, ruling out any CBD stations as well as major suburban stations.

Thursday: Pedestrian countdown timer trial

The NSW Government is set to trial pedestrian countdown timers at six intersections in Sydney to determine if the timers help improve safety for pedestrians. A yellow countdown timer, displaying the number of seconds left for pedestrians to cross the road, will replace the red flashing “don’t walk” signal.

VIDEO: Putting pedestrian countdown timers to the test

Friday: Real time data comes for ferries and trams

Real time locations for ferries and light rail is being introduced to transport apps, in addition to the existing real time vehicle information previously available for buses and trains. Real time data will be available on six transport apps: NextThere, TripView, TransitTimes+, TripGo, Triptastic, and Arrivo Sydney.

Saturday: Second Harbour road crossing planned

The NSW Government is planning a second Harbour road crossing, linking the Balmain peninsula to the M2 at Lane Cove. The plans, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald and yet to be officially announced, are reportedly contingent on the 99 year lease of the NSW electricity distribution network. It will link up to the Northern extension of WestConnex, which will link up WestConnex to the Anzac Bridge.

Commentary: Why a 2nd Harbour road tunnel is a good thing

WestConnex and its new North-South extension to the Anzac Bridge and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact Sheet 4, p. 1.)

A new Harbour crossing would begin at the current end of the proposed Northern extension to WestConnex and end at the M2 in Lane Cove. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact Sheet 4, p. 1.)

Sunday: 60,000 apartments for Parramatta Road

Plans for 60,000 new apartments to be built along the Parramatta Road corridor are set to be released by the NSW Government. One quarter of the new homes would be built in Granville, while a third would be built in Homebush. The plan includes improved bus connections between Burwood and the city, set to coincide with the completion of the M4 East portion of WestConnex parallel to Parramatta Road. Though the existing M4 is set to be widened between Parramatta and Concord, no details have been announced about any public transport improvements in this part of Parramatta Road. Over two thirds of the 60,000 apartments are to be built in this Western portion of Parramatta Road.

This follows a push by the opposition for these plans to be made public immediately, rather than in 2015.

Advertisements

It was revealed earlier today that the Government is making plans for a new Harbour tunnel, which would link a proposed extended Westconnex freeway near the Anzac Bridge to the M2 in Sydney’s North. Such a corridor was not news, it was included as one of the 4 corridors for investigation in the 2012 Transport Master Plan. But it now appears that the Government has moved beyond investigation and is actively planning for its eventual construction.

Road projects recommended by the Transport Master Plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 140.)

Road projects recommended by the Transport Master Plan. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Transport Master Plan, page 140.)

Concerns have been raised about the continued expansion of the freeway network. One source reportedly asked “where does WestConnex end” while transport advocacy group Action for Public Transport said the proposal was “bad policy” and that “more roads = more congestion”. Urban planner Lewis Mumford famously said in 1955 that “building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity”.

The author of this blog sympathises with these views and believes strongly that a sustained investment in expanding public transport infrastructure should take priority over road infrastructure in Australia’s major cities.

Despite that, roads are still needed. While it makes sense to encourage mode share towards public transport and away from cars, there are some trips that are more suited to public transport and other better suited to cars. Trips into the CBD and other major centres or within the dense inner city, for example, are well suited to public transport. This is evident by the high mode share which public transport already has into the CBD (70% of all journeys to work in the 2006 census). In these places, it should be further encouraged through greater investment in public transport, more bus lanes, or even pedestrianisation of streets. However, trips from dispersed and/or low density origins and destinations are much better suited to car transport and here car trips hold a high mode share (85% of all journeys to work in the 2006 census). Consider that a single occupant car is much more sustainable from both a financial and environmental perspective than a bus with a single passenger. In these cases, investment in roads is needed to provide the most efficient mode of transporting people.

Too many times ideology clouds what should be a mode-agnostic review. If the best mode for a particular area is rail, then rail is what should be built. If it is walking, then wider footpaths are needed. If it is cars, then more roads should be the solution. Extremist and ideological views, such as opposing all urban freeways or all urban railways, are not helping.

Which brings us back to the proposed tunnel. This tunnel, much like Westconnex, does not actually take traffic into the CBD. It acts as a bypass, allowing cars to go from the very dispersed origins and destinations mentioned earlier. It is a ring road which, as this blog outlined last year, is the best kind of road. It allows cars to do what they do best – transporting people and goods to and from dispersed locations; meanwhile it quarantines the CBD for what public transport does best – transporting large numbers of people into a small area.

The smart thing to so would be to push for improvements to the proposal, rather than oppose it. For example, this would provide a great opportunity to have bus lanes all the way along the Western Distributor, Anzac Bridge, and Victoria Road. This would be similar to the bus lane that was instated on the Harbour Bridge when the Harbour Tunnel was built. This would go well with the planned urban renewal of the surrounding Bays precinct, which would need additional public transport capacity to support additional development. Light rail, either a spur from the existing line to Dulwich Hill or a new line along the Victoria Road corridor, should also be considered.

What is not helpful is the idea that this is an either/or situation. Sydney can and should have more road and public transport infrastructure. What matters is not the mode, but whether that mode is appropriate for the purpose.

Monday: High speed rail costs could be halved

The Australasian Railway Association has released a report showing that, based on international construction costs of $35m/km, a high speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne could be built for $63bn. This is significantly less than the $114bn in the Australian Government’s recent high speed rail study.

Tuesday: 4 routes shortlisted for Parramatta light rail

An initial list of 10 possible light rail lines from Parramatta has been cut down to 4, with a final decision to be made in the near future. The government is set to pick a line connecting Parramatta to either Castle Hill, Macquarie Park, Olympic Park, or Bankstown.

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Tuesday: Fuel excise indexation introduced via regulation

The indexation of the fuel excise is to be introduced by the Australian Government despite the Senate having blocked legislation to enable it. Reintroducing indexation will cause the price of petrol to rise by about 1c per year and is expected to raise $2.2bn over 4 years. The move is expected to put pressure on Senators to pass the measure so that the additional revenue raised does not have to be refunded to petrol companies.

Tuesday: Mobile apps to help with accessibility

The Government is calling on app developers to help create a series of apps that will meet the needs of people with a disability using public transport. This is aimed at ensuring compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act to provide better services for people with a disability. “Planning a journey, knowing that our stop is coming up next or even knowing which side of the train to alight from are tasks that most of us take for granted,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said, adding that “for customers with disability or impairment it can be a huge cause of anxiety”. Selected app proposals will receive seed funding, ongoing access to real time transport data as well as promotion of their product by Transport for NSW.

Thursday: Gold Opal card to be released

A Gold Opal card for seniors and pensioners is to be released on Monday 3 November. The card will feature a $2.50 daily cap and also offer free travel after the first 8 journeys each week. Speaking about existing paper tickets for seniors and pensioners, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said that “the paper Pensioner Excursion Ticket will continue to be available on Monday November 3, and well into the future”. Gold Opal cards can only be obtained online or over the phone.

Thursday: 50,000 new homes for Parramatta Road

An additional 50,000 homes will be built along Parramatta Road over the coming decades, with over two thirds of homes slated for the Western end of these Parramatta Road between Granville and Strathfield. The NSW Government is planning to widen the M4 alongside this portion of Parramatta Road while building the M4 East Tunnel underneath the Eastern portion of Parramatta Road as part of its WestConnex project.

Map of the WestConnex freeway. Click to enlarge. (Source: RMS)

Map of the WestConnex freeway. Click to enlarge. (Source: RMS)

Friday: Whitlam Station proposed for NWRL

The terminus station on the North West Rail Link (NWRL) could be named Whitlam, after Blacktown City Council proposed naming a new suburb after the former Prime Minister. The station is currently known as Cudgegong Road.

VIDEO: Man races a train to the next stop

Tuesday: Parking minimums for new developments scrapped

New developments near transport hubs in and around the inner city will no longer be required to include parking spaces as part of government reforms to planning laws. Including a parking space can add an additional $50,000 or more to the cost of a unit, with the changes designed to allow inner city residents who do not need or want a parking space from being forced to pay for one. Developers can still choose to include parking spaces, should market demand for them exist. Opposition to the plan prevented it from being extended to outer suburban locations, with critics worried that it would result in cars spilling over into streets and using up the limited amount of available on-street parking in the inner city.

Tuesday: Replacement Epping to Chatswood Line bus routes announced

Five indicative bus routes have been identified which will run while the Epping to Chatswood Line is shut down during 2018 and 2019. The line is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link and will not operate for 7 months. During this time, additional bus services will operate to connect the T1 Northern Line and T1 North Shore Lines that are currently linked by rail between Epping to Chatswood.

5 bus routes will replace the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in 2018 and 2019 during the 7 months that it is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

5 bus routes will replace the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in 2018 and 2019 during the 7 months that it is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Thursday: Registration of Interest for Maldon to Dombarton Line opens

Update: Northern Line added (10:52PM, 28/09/2014)

The NSW Government has called on private sector investors to show their interest in building and operating the 35km Maldon to Dombarton Rail Line. The freight line would connect Port Kembla in Wollongong to the Southern Sydney Freight Line, potentially removing freight trains from the T4 Illawarra Line that currently travel via Sutherland to reach Sydney from Port Kembla. This could mean a completely segregated freight and passenger rail network in metropolitan Sydney outside of the Western Line and Northern Line, much of which consists of 2 pairs of tracks and can better handle disruptions to passenger services caused by broken down freight trains, while also allowing more freight to operate during the busy commuter peak hour during which curfews are in place for freight trains on much of the passenger network.

Construction on the Maldon to Dombarton freight line began in 1983 but was never completed due to an economic downturn and the forecast growth in coal traffic not eventuating.

Saturday: Rail line building plan to be scrapped

Plans to build high rise buildings close to the CBD by utilising the airspace above the rail line between Central and Redfern Stations looks set to be abandoned. The plan has proven to be too risky and too expensive. This made it unlikely that the private sector would be willing to bear the risk of the project, leaving the Government the risk burden. The plan, which would also contain a redevelopment of industrial areas on either side of the rail line near Redfern, had been compared to Barangaroo in size and scale.

Finance reporter Alan Kohler wrote yesterday about how he believes clearways, the removal of on-street parking from major roads to improve traffic flow, are needed outside of peak hour as congestion problems now last well outside of peak hour; particularly so on weekends. In many cases a 4 lane road dedicates 2 lanes to parking, which restricts the maximum capacity by 50%. Rather than building expensive new roads, Mr Kohler opines that a better option would be to unlock this existing capacity.

Mr Kohler is right about one thing, this is definitely a much cheaper way of improving road capacity than building new roads. Sydney’s WestConnex and Melbourne’s East-West Link alone are reported to cost $11.5bn and $18bn each, with State and Commonwealth Governments contributing a combined $9.3bn to the road projects so far. But removing on-street parking will only dramatically improve traffic flows if parking is the major bottleneck. In many cases, removing on-street parking can just see it replaced by intersections and bus stops as the bottleneck.

Removing on-street parking removes one bottleneck, but often only sees it replaced with other bottlenecks. Bondi Road, nominated as a possible all day clearway by the NSW Government, shows how bus stops without bus bays and intersections without turning lanes can cause through traffic to get stuck behind buses and other cars when clearways are introduced. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author.)

Removing on-street parking removes one bottleneck, but often only sees it replaced with other bottlenecks. Bondi Road, nominated as a possible all day clearway by the NSW Government, shows how bus stops without bus bays and intersections without turning lanes can cause through traffic to get stuck behind buses and other cars when clearways are introduced. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author.)

A major road without additional turning lanes at intersections can see delays as through traffic is delayed by cars waiting to turn. However, because parking is not allowed near intersections, this effectively creates turning lanes. Thus, through traffic does not get stuck behind cars waiting to turn. This isn’t particularly problematic during peak hour as most traffic is through traffic headed towards a few major centres . However, outside of peak hour and on weekends in particular trips tend to be dispersed and this encourages more turning movements rather than through traffic. The effect of this is to enhance the benefit of clearways during peak hour but diminish it outside of it.

The absence of bus bays can also cause through traffic to get stuck behind buses picking up or dropping off passengers at bus stops. With on-street parking, bus zones act as de facto bus bays, allowing buses to pull in and allow through traffic to continue undisrupted. However, unlike turning lanes, this is a bigger problem during peak hour when buses are more frequent.

(There are alternatives to improving traffic flows. Putting aside additional investments in public transport to encourage car users out of their cars and into public transport or even considering bus lanes rather than clearways, the best way to allocate scarce resources is to put a price on it – in this case by pricing both driving and parking. Alan Davies has written on road pricing here and here, while Paul Barter explains how better pricing of parking can cut congestion.)

Extending clearways by removing on-street parking can improve traffic flows, but not all of the time. Care needs to be taken to ensure that doing so will actually improve traffic flows and not just replace one bottleneck with another. The best possible outcome is that these are considered on a case by case basis to improve traffic flows where it is possible rather than where it is not. The worst possible outcome would be that this does little to improve actual traffic flows but instead gives the impression that it will, encouraging extra road users into their cars and thus worsening traffic congestion.

Monday: 40km speed limits for the city

A large part of Sydney’s CBD will become a 40km per hour speed zone for cars by the end of September. The Roads Minister Duncan Gay said that “the new 40km per hour limit zone will operate in the area bound by Castlereagh Street to the east, Kent Street to the west and Hay Street to the south” and was due to be introduced by the Christmas shopping period at the end of the year. Large parts of the central Sydney area already have 40km per hour speed limits, including Millers Point, Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Redfern, Chippendale, Rosebery, Leichhardt, and Erskineville.

Tuesday: NWRL trains announced but will include 6-7 month shut down for Epping to Chatswood Line

Trains on the North West Rail Link (NWRL) will run every 4 minutes in peak and 10 minutes during off peak initially using a fleet of driverless 6 carriage trains. With platforms designed for 8 carriage trains, these can eventually be upgraded to longer trains. The line will initially have a capacity of about 17,280 passengers per hour, which could be doubled (34,560) if the maximum capacity of 30 trains per hour is reached. This maximum capacity of almost 35,000 passengers per hour is higher than the current 24,000 passengers per hour capacity for double deck trains, but will see fewer seated passengers per hour.

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The line will require a 6-7 month shutdown of the Epping to Chatswood Line in order for it to be converted to operate on the new Sydney Rapid Transit system. This will occur in early 2019 and possibly also late 2018.

Friday: Rail workers lost right to not be retrenched

Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink employees have agreed to an enterprise agreement in which they have given up conditions which protected them from job redundancies in exchange for a higher pay in the agreement. Previously rail employees could not be retrenched if their positions were made redundant, a working condition that had become increasingly rare. The agreement was agreed to by two thirds of employees and according to Transport for NSW the state will save $20m per year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 200 rail employees are currently employed despite having their positions being made redundant. The organisation responsible for managing these employees, INS, spends a reported $8m in administrative costs each year. Employees will be able to be retrenched after 12 months if no job is found for them during that time.

VIDEO: Dancing Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy

Monday: WestConnex construction to cost $473m per km

Analysis done for the Sydney Morning Herald finds that the WestConnex freeway will cost $473m/km to build. The high cost has been attributed to the high level of tunnelling required to build it; large parts of the 33km freeway will be entirely underground. Comparable surface only roads have a much lower cost per km, such as the M7 ($58m/km), or the planned roads to support an airport at Badgerys Creek (ranging in cost from $50m/km to $89m/km). Roads in other states that make heavy use of tunnels came in with higher price tags than WestConnex, such as Melbourne’s East-West Link ($1,000m/km) or Brisbane’s Airport Link ($747m/km).

Monday: Lane Cove Tunnel court case begins

Courts have been told that initial traffic forecasts for the Lane Cove Tunnel (LCT) of 57,686 cars per day were inflated up to between 150,000 and 187,000 cars per day in a bid to win over investors for the project. The LCT ultimately opened in 2007 with 66,000 cars per day, a figure much closer to the abandoned projection than the final one used. The forecasters, Parsons Brinkerhoff and Booz Allen, are being sued by two funds, AMP Infrastructure Equity Fund and the Retail Employees Superannuation Fund, who claim they relied on the forecasts when making investment decisions about the LCT. The funds are seeking over $144m in damages, more than half of which is interest on the initial loss.

Wednesday: Treasurer calls petrol tax progressive: poor people don’t drive as much

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey described proposed changes to the fuel excise as progressive, telling ABC radio that “the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases”. His comments were strongly criticised and Mr Hockey apologised for making the comments 2 days later, saying that “I can only apologise for any hurt I’ve caused”.

Wednesday: M4 widening EIS released

The Environmental Impact Statement for the M4 widening, the first part of the WestConnex freeway, was released. The M4 widening will see the existing M4 between Parramatta and Homebush widened up to 6 or 8 lanes, from an existing 4 or 6 lanes. The EIS forecasts that Eastbound peak hour travel between Parramatta and Homebush is expected to rise from 12 minutes (2014) to 19 minutes (2031) if nothing is done, or drop to 5 minutes with the M4 widening. Westbound peak hour travel between Homebush and Parramatta is expected to rise from 5 minutes (2014) to 15 minutes (2031) if nothing is done, or rise to 9 minutes with the M4 widening. (Source: M4 Widening EIS, p. 14.)

The M4 will have additional lanes added between Parramatta and Homebush. Click to enlarge. (Source: Roads & Maritime Service, M4 Widening EIS, pp. 16-17.)

The M4 will have additional lanes added between Parramatta and Homebush. Click to enlarge. (Source: Roads & Maritime Service, M4 Widening EIS, pp. 16-17.)

The number of vehicles per hour on Parramatta Rd in the morning peak fell 18.9%, from 3,960 (2008) to 3,210 (2011), following the removal of the toll on the M4. The return of a toll will see some cars shift from the tolled M4 to the free Parramatta Rd, while other cars will shift from the slower Parramatta Rd to the faster M4. This will see a predicted 4.3% increase in cars on Parramatta Rd, from 3,210 (2011) to 3,350 (2021). (Source: M4 Widening EIS, p. 21.)

Thursday: Premier seeks crowdsourced solutions to traffic problems

The people of NSW will have the opportunity to suggest ways to deal with Sydney’s traffic problems under a plan by the Premier Mike Baird to crowdsource solutions to this problem. The plan follows similar initiatives in cities such as Los Angeles, Toronto, and London.

Friday: Finance Minister supports Uber

The NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet spoke favouorably of ride sharing app Uber, saying that NSW “should welcome the sharing economy as something profoundly conservative”. This contrasts with the existing NSW Government policy, which puts strong limits on apps like Uber. “Services must be provided in a licensed taxi or hire car, by an appropriately accredited driver, authorised by Roads and Maritime Services” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said, adding that those not following these rules could be fined up to $110,000.