Posts Tagged ‘Northern Beaches BRT’

Tuesday: Budget includes $60bn for infrastructure

The NSW Budget included funding for $60bn of planned infrastructure spending over the next 4 years. The spending includes new heavy rail lines (North West Rail Link, South West Rail Link), light rail lines (CBD and South East Light Rail, a yet undetermined light rail line from Parramatta), roads (WestConnex, NorthConnex, roads around Badgerys Creek in Western Sydney, Northern Beaches roads and Bus Rapid Transit), and new public transport vehicles (trains and buses).

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

Wednesday: NWRL Skytrain construction begins

Construction has begun on the 4km Skytrain viaduct for the North West Rail Link (NWRL). Two stations, Kellyville and Rouse Hill, will be on this portion of the NWRL, elevated above the ground. It will also include a rail bridge crossing Windsor Road.

Video: NWRL Building Skytrain, Transport for NSW (17 June 2014)

Friday: New Rail Operations Centre for Sydney Trains

$11.4m will be spent this year to create a new Rail Operations Centre, which will consolidate the operations and communications functions that are currently geographically dispersed across Sydney. The concentration of these operations will allow for improved communications in responding to incidents on the network.

However, concentration of operations has been criticised in the past. Last year a fire at one of Sydney’s signal boxes (there are 19 in total, with most equipment concentrated in 2 depots) caused a virtual shut down of all trains for 30 minutes on the Sydney Trains network (other than the T4 line). The lack of contingency was blamed for the shut down, with no back up plan available to take over once the signal box was evacuated.

Friday: Transport Police make 5,000 arrests in 2 years

The Public Transport Command (PTC), police responsible for safety on public transport, was established in May 2012 and since then have issued 92,000 infringements, laid 9,000 charges, and made 5,000 arrests. Along with Transport Officers (responsible for checking that tickets are valid) the PTC replaced the old transit officers. Police and Transport Officers now patrol all forms of public transport (Transit Officers were only found aboard trains) but have been criticised for being fewer in number than the old Transit Officers.

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Hits

Happy New Year. 2013 has been an eventful one. This blog received almost 138 thousand hits during a year in which:

In the coming year, we can look forward to the opening of the Inner West Light Rail extension to Dulwich Hill and the completion of the Opal rollout (currently scheduled for the end of 2014). Meanwhile, expect the major parties to begin to announce their transport plans ahead of the next state election in early 2015, with things like a Second Harbour rail crossing, a Western Sydney light rail network, Bus Rapid Transit for the Northern Beaches, and potentially plans to privatise the state owned electricity transmission network as a means to pay for all the much needed infrastructure all likely to feature prominently.

But until then, here are some of the major events and stories from the past year, as posted, shared and commented about on this blog —

Posts with the most hits

  1. Draft 2013 timetable (part 1): Introduction 20 May 2013 (7,959 hits)
  2. 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network 22 February 2013 (4,844 hits)
  3. What the 2013 timetable might look like 13 May 2013 (3,908 hits)
  4. Draft 2013 timetable (part 2): AM Peak 22 May 2013 (1,430 hits)
  5. WestConnex plan finalised 19 September 2013 (1,296)

The new timetable drove a lot of traffic to this blog over the previous year, particularly when a draft of the timetable was leaked in May.

Posts with the most comments

  1. 17km Macquarie Park light rail proposed by Parramatta Council 30 August 2013 (50 comments)
  2. How might the NWRL work? 16 October 2013 (49 comments)
  3. Should the North West Rail Link be a metro? 8 February 2013 (47 comments)
  4. How might the CBD and SE Light Rail work? 9 October 2013 (46 comments)
  5. North West Rail Link – policy or politics? 11 June 2013 (43 comments)

The clear thing in common here is the North West Rail Link (NWRL), which tends to generate a lot of discussion back and forth in the comments section. The post on the Macquarie Park light rail was the most commented on post and not actually about the NWRL, but the comments soon shifted towards discussing the NWRL.

Posts with the most activity on social media

  1. All Day Challenge (October 2013), 1 October 2013 (89 shares on Facebook and 3 tweets on Twitter)
  2. Draft 2013 timetable (part 2): AM Peak 22 May 2013 (43 shares on Facebook and 8 tweets on Twitter)
  3. The worst sort of NIMBY 25 September 2013 (27 shares on Facebook and 6 tweets on Twitter)
  4. Opal running 4 months ahead of schedule 28 August 2013 (31 shares on Facebook 2 tweets on Twitter)
  5. Western Sydney makes its case for an airport of its own 15 February 2013 (11 shares on Facebook and 9 tweets on Twitter)

This probably understates the level of sharing over Twitter as tweets are only counted once, regardless of how many times that one tweet may be re-tweeted, whereas Facebook shares are each counted uniquely. That said, the most shared posts have tended to be driven by shares on Facebook rather than tweets on Twitter.

Most searched terms

  1. westconnex (635 searches)
  2. cityrail map (323 searches)
  3. westconnex map (257 searches)
  4. transport sydney (170 searches)
  5. sydney train map (170 searches)

WestConnex was by far the biggest generator of hits from web searches, with the home page being the destination rather than the post itself (preventing those posts about WestConnex from ranking higher) and reflects the fact that the car remains the primary mode of transport for Sydney residents. This is in contrast to activity in the comments section and social media, both of which are more likely to be transport enthusiasts, neither of which had WestConnex in their respective top 5 for the year.

This does perhaps provide a reminder to some advocates of public transport (the writer of this blog included) that there remains some disconnect between them and the regular person on the street when it comes to enthusiasm for public transport and dislike of cars or roads.

One criticism sometimes raised on the O’Farrell government’s transport policies are that all new transport projects are CBD centric. The Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) and Southwest Rail Link (SWRL) will both funnel commuters into the CBD, as will the Southeast and Inner West Light Rail Lines aswell as the Northern Beaches BRT. But what about Western Sydney? The previous Labor government, for all its shortcomings, did build the Y-Link at Harris Park that enabled the Cumberland Line and also constructed the Northwest and Southwest T-Ways, all of which were Parramatta centric rather than CBD centric.

These comments are almost always followed up by calls for the construction of some new transport line in Western Sydney, be it re-routing the NWRL via Parramatta, building the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, or the creation of a Western Sydney Light Rail network. If resources were unlimited, then construction on all of these would begin tomorrow. But they are not, so it poses the question: given the limited transport budget, what would provide the largest benefit to Western Sydney for the smallest cost?

Current transport infrastructure in Western Sydney that is currently underutilised: the Cumberland Line in red and the bus T-Ways in blue, as well as the proposed Parramatta to Epping Rail Link in purple. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map.)

Current transport infrastructure in Western Sydney that is currently underutilised: the Cumberland Line in red and the bus T-Ways in blue, as well as the proposed Parramatta to Epping Rail Link in purple. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map.)

A counter-argument to this is that rather than suffering from underinvestment, Western Sydney instead suffers from poor planning. So rather than building new infrastructure  the government should instead first seek to fully utilise existing infrastructure. The Cumberland Line, for example, runs only 5 trains per day. Yet because this line branches out at Granville, about half the trains go South to Liverpool and half go West to Blacktown, there is plenty of spare capacity on it. It would be quite easy to run 2 or even 4 trains an hour in each direction on this line all day. The T-Ways, while currently providing good service with 10-15 minute frequencies all day (and as many as 20 buses during the busiest hour in the AM and PM), could easily scale this up even further. A lack of layover space for buses in Parramatta’s CBD means buses may need to be through-routed past Parramatta and end their route elsewhere, but this would also have the added benefit of providing additional direct links to Parramatta.

The main reason why this does not happen is the political benefit from it is small compared to new construction. “Government to build new rail line to XYZ” makes a great headline, whereas “Government to provide additional frequencies on existing line with spare capacity” does not. Here the O’Farrell government should learn from the Carr Government’s Clearways Program, which sought to increase the capacity of the Cityrail network by targeting bottlenecks and pinch points in the existing network, rather than increasing capacity by building new lines. It did not get the sort of headlines that the NWRL, SWRL, or WestConnex have, but it achieved the sorts of benefits of these new projects at a fraction of the cost.

The Transport Master Plan has highlighted a number of corridors in which it will consider either better bus connections or light rail, and in light of that it is logical to look at both as part of a larger package.

While it is the role of the heavy rail network to do the heavy lifting in Sydney’s transport network (about half of all people in Sydney live within 2km of a train station), it is designed primarily as a radial network to get people to and from the CBD. So buses and light rail serve to connect people to transport interchanges (often, but not always, a train station) as well as to provide cross city links that do not start or end in the CBD. To do this, the bus network will be redesigned (page 136), from a radial network with the CBD at the centre, to a grid network based on high frequency and transfers (for an explanation on the benefits of a network based on transfer, click on the link to Jarrett Walker’s transport blog). While this is an improvement, it does not appear to be followed with integrated fares. In other words, it should cost the same to get from A to B, regardless of what mode of transport you choose and how many transfers you make, and it does not appear that this will be the case. Instead, you will be charged extra for being inconvenienced by a forced transfer.

A hypothetical “grid” network for the Inner City bus network. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Herald Independent Transport Inquiry, page 315.)

The other major network wide change related to buses in the Sydney CBD. Currently most buses operate on far side terminations, travelling into and through the CBD before terminating on the other end. This is an incredibly wasteful use of CBD road space, as it requires 2 buses to use the same road: one the is dropping passengers off and a second that is picking them up. To ensure a more efficient, and therefore faster trip, buses will either through route through the CBD or begin near side terminations (page 135). Metrobuses currently do through routing, passing through the CBD and then continuing out the other end, in effect halving the number of buses required to travel through the CBD and having the added benefit of providing a cross city connection for passengers starting and ending their journey outside of the CBD. Near side terminations will involve buses terminating at an interchange either outside the CBD or on the edge of the CBD where passengers will be change to a frequent (and also faster, due to less bus congestion) vehicle that will take them to their final destination within the CBD. That vehicle could be another bus, a light rail vehicle or a train, depending on specific circumstances.

As for specific projects, the Master Plan list out a number of corridors, which are listed below in rough order of priority. In the short term, improvements will be made to existing bus services, with a longer term view to putting in place Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail.

Northern Beaches Bus Rapid Transit

An options paper has already been released in regards to the Northern Beaches, and here it has been decided to go with BRT, rather than light rail. What hasn’t yet been decided is what sort of upgrades are to be made. All options require an upgrade of the Spit and Narabeen Bridges to 6 lanes, and include:

  1. Making bus lanes 24 hours. Cost: $336m
  2. Segregated BRT on the kerb. Cost: $488m
  3. Segregated BRT on the median. Cost: $572m
  4. Segregated BRT on the median, but with buses terminating at North Sydney rather than in Sydney CBD. Cost: $552m
  5. Segregated BRT on the median, with a tunnel under Military Road connecting the Spit Junction with the Waringah Freeway. Cost: $1.2bn

The Treasurer, Mike Baird, who’s Pittwater electorate is located in the Northern Beaches, has said that he prefers the tunnel option.

The East-West link between Dee Why and Chatswood would upgrade the bus lanes to 24 hours and cost $77m.

Transport for NSW has shortlisted 6 options for building BRT for the Northern Beaches. The currently predicted alignment is shown on this map. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 153.)

Victoria Road Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail

Further investigation will be made into whether BRT or light rail can be used on the Victoria Road corridor between Parramatta and the CBD. (See: Transport Master Plan, pages 151 and 185.)

Light Rail in the CBD and out to UNSW/Randwick

The government’s light rail feasibility study, which is completed, has not yet been released to the public, but details of it were included in the Transport Master Plan. It suggests a new line will be a North-South line linking Circular Quay in the North to the University of NSW/Prince of Wales Hospital in the South. Options for an alignment via Oxford Street have been rejected, probably in part because this would prevent the line from connecting Central Station to Circular Quay. Light rail to Barangaroo via The Rocks and out to the University of Sydney are of lower priority. Once it is operational, bus lines that previously went into the city would be re-routed to operate as feeder services for light rail.

What has not yet been determined is whether the line will run along the surface along Devonshire Street, or if it will be built in a tunnel underneath it. The tunnel option has been rumoured to cost $100m. A tunnel would allow a faster and more reliable trip. The speed is a key factor, as it also reduced the need for additional rolling stock and staff required, thus reducing operating costs, while the increased patronage will boost fares received. The lower costs and higher revenues would, in theory, repay the additional cost of the tunnel option over time.

The option is also left open to link the Anzac Parade and Alison Road alignments via High Street along UNSW. However, given the steep gradient of High Street, I’m not sure trams would be able to operate along that alignment.

A new light rail line is expected to run between Circular Quay, down George Street to Central, along Devonshire St to the SGC and Randwick Racecourse before going South on Anzac Parade to UNSW or East along Alison Road to the Prince of Wales Hospital. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 155.)

Longer term Bus Rapid Transit corridors: M2 and Windsor Road

Over the longer term, BRT will also be considered for the M2 between Seven Hills and Macquarie Park, as well as Windsor Road between Parramatta and Castle Hill. (See: Transport Master Plan, page 185.)

Parramatta Light Rail

The Parramatta City Council has been pushing for a light rail network centred around Parramatta, in part to compensate for the lack of a Parramatta to Epping Rail Link. The Transport Master Plan acknowledges this proposal, suggesting that it will consider the recommendations of any feasibility study that the Council is able to commission. (See: Transport Master Plan, page 189.)