Posts Tagged ‘Parking’

The 2011 census data on journey’s to work (JTW) is set to be released this coming Wednesday, and it will be interesting to see if there have been any changes since the 2006 data. To prepare for this, here are some links to a few recent blog posts by Chris Loader at Charting Transport and Alan Davies at The Urbanist on the topic of mode share and urban density.

Is Los Angeles really the densest city in the US? – The Urbanist (17 Oct 2012)

This post points out that if you look at average densities alone, then Los Angeles is actually more dense than New York. However, this is due to New York having an incredibly dense core surrounded by urban sprawl at very low densities. A better measure is the population weighted density, which measures density based on the population density for people, rather than for parcels of land.

Population density for New York and Los Angeles based on distance from City Hall. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: The Urbanist)

Comparing the residential densities of Australian cities (2011) – Charting Transport (19 Oct 2012)

Taking a more Australian centric look at population density shows that Sydney has the highest density of all Australian cities. In fact, Sydney’s median density of 33 people per hectare is closely followed only by Melbourne at 28, with no other city being above 22. It argues that if suburbs are defined are areas with a population density of 30 people per hectare, then Sydney’s average density doesn’t drop below 30 until you are 39km from the CBD, compared to 9km for Melbourne.

Population density for Australian cities. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Charting Transport)

Does public transport use correlate with density in Australian cities? – The Urbanist (21 Oct 2012)

The question then arises about whether there is a link between population density and public transport use. Alan Davies finds that weighted population density and public transport use have an R squared of 0.943 when a logarithmic curve is fitted along the graph below, which indicates a very strong correlation. However, he points out that high public transport use is more likely to be caused by dense employment centres (which is covered more in the subsequent Charting Transport blog post).

Public transport mode share vs population density for various Australian cities. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Charting Transport via The Urbanist.)

How did Sydney get to work in 2006? – Charting Transport (26 Oct 2012)

Something that sets Sydney apart from other cities is a large number of dense employment centres, whereas other Australian cities tend to just have their CBD. And public transport usage is higher for Sydney both in CBD travel and travel to non-CBD employment centres in other cities (e.g. the proportion of workers in Bondi Junction, North Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, and St Leonards who travel by public transport ranged from 34% to 53%, whereas no centre in any other Australian city was above 15%). However, this is also due to state and local governments in Sydney restricting the amount of parking available for workers, meaning many of them have no choice but to take public transport.

Employment density in Sydney. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Charting Transport.)

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CORRECTION: In the post Transport Master Plan (part 2): What’s missing? published on Friday 7 September, it was claimed that planning for reservations for future transport projects in the Transport Master Plan had only been done for road projects, and not for public transport projects. This was incorrect, and information on public transport corridor reservations was included further into the report. The error was due to the large size of the report (370 pages) and limited time available to read through it in detail and has now been corrected.

Context

Before looking into what the Transport Master Plan has to say on roads, it’s worth giving some perspective on private cars vs public transport.

Roads, and the private motor vehicles that run on them, provide two major benefits over public transport. First, they are significantly more flexible in terms of timing and journey start and end points. Second, the majority of the cost is borne by the user (some costs, such as noise and air pollution, or the free use of roads, are communal costs, but these are actually quite small), whereas public transport is heavily subsidised (in Sydney the user pays 20% to 50% of the total operational costs, and none of the capital costs, of public transport).

The biggest benefit of public transport over private road transport is in capacity. Assuming cars travel spaced 2 seconds apart, you can fit 1,800 vehicles per hour per lane. Ignoring effects of delays from red lights and cars with multiple passengers, that’s 1,800 passengers per hour. A Waratah train has a seated capacity of 896 passengers, and the current maximum capacity on the Cityrail network is 20 trains per hour (which the Harbour Bridge and Eastern Suburbs Lines both get very close to during peak hour), giving you just under 18,000 passengers per hour. In other words, rail has a capacity 10 times the size of cars. To put this into context, the Sydney Harbour Bridge has 10 lanes: 2 for rail, 7 for cars and one bus lane. If you were to convert all of these 10 lanes to private vehicle traffic, then it would have the same capacity as a single track for rail.

This is not to say that there is no place for new roads in Sydney, in fact when a new road is financed and built privately, then funded via tolls in a user pays manner over an agreed period of years then the government should be building as many new roads as it can. But if the government has to fund the new road, then the question needs to be asked “will this cost one tenth of the cost of a rail line”? There was a great post about this at A State Of Mind, which talks more about this sort of concept.

The Transport Master Plan

Road projects announced in the Master Plan include the current M2 and M5 widenings, an M4 East, an M5 East duplication, an Inner West Bypass (linking the M4 East with the M5 East), an F3-M2 link, an extension of the F6 through to the CBD, a link between Port Botany and the Airport, widening of the M7 North of the M4, widening of the M4 East of Parramatta, the Castlereagh Freeway (between the M7 and Richmond) and an outer orbital going North-South along outer Western Sydney. By anyone’s reckoning, that is a big wishlist!

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

What we don’t know yet is the priority and the specific order in which they will be built. The M2 and M5 widenings, currently being finished up or having just started, are obviously the first cabs off the rank. And based on the 6 corridors which are expected to face the most congestion, the other projects with high priority appear to be the M4 East, the M5 East duplication, the Inner West Bypass, and the M4 widening. This should all be clarified by Infrastructure NSW when their 20 year report is released to the public next month.

However, merely building more roads is not the solution. New roads cause induced demand – more people get into their cars until eventually roads are saturated and congestion returns. Doing this will not eliminate congestion, it will only move the congestion closer to the ultimate destination (i.e. the Sydney CBD), and cost tens of billions of dollars in the process. To quote the Herald, “$10 billion is an awful lot to pay for a bigger traffic jam”.

To avoid this problem, cities like London, Copenhagen and Singapore have introduced congestion charging in their CBDs to discourage people from driving all the way into the city. And while the current government has refused to introduce congestion charging (having promised last election not to do so), they are considering 3 potential reforms that could have a similar effect:

  1. Distance based tolling – This is currently in place on the M7, where you pay based on the distance travelled, and is capped at $7 per trip.
  2. Time based tolling – This is currently in place on the Harbour Bridge/Tunnel, where you pay a lower toll during off peak hours in order to encourage a more even spread of car travel throughout the day.
  3. An increased parking levy – This is an existing charge on each parking space in the CBD, charged to the owner of the property that owns the space, and may be increased.

In all three cases, commuters would be discouraged from driving into and parking in the CBD during peak hour. Those who do would pay extra but receive a better travel experience with less traffic and more abundant parking, while the funds raised would go towards funding transport infrastructure. The report recommends using tolls to both fund new infrastructure and manage congestion, while reforming the tolling system to give Sydney a city-wide consistency (page 329).

If the government actually does implement these policies in order to fund the new roads that are financed, built and operated by the private sector, then they might actually achieve the goal of alleviating congestion without significant cost to the taxpayer. And if that is the case, then these are definitely roads that the state should build.

There are many things missing from the Draft Transport Master Plan. While defining it by what it doesn’t have, rather than what it does, would result in a never ending list, there are some major omissions that deserve some specific mention. They are, in no particular order:

Integrated fares

While integrated ticketing is being introduced with the rollout of Opal, allowing commuters to use just one ticket to get around Sydney, there is nothing in the transport plan suggesting that they will be charged an equal fare regardless of which (or how many) mode (or modes) of transport they use to reach their destination. In other words, if you are going from point A to point B, then it shouldn’t matter which way you get there, you should be charged the same fare.

At the moment Sydney does not have integrated fares. In fact, if you use 2 vehicles (unless it’s trains or you have a weekly MyZone ticket) then you are charged a premium fare despite the fact that having to make a transfer is a reduction in the quality of your journey. This has led to many anywhere to anywhere bus routes all over Sydney, as commuters refuse to pay extra to change from one bus to another, resulting in the available buses being spread thin and leading to low service frequencies.

Sydney currently has a radial bus network, as seen on the left. Proposed changes to a radial and circumferential network that emphasises transfers, as seen on the right, would improve connectivity but also require integrated fares. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 55.)

The transport plan seeks to change this model, moving to a grid (or cobweb) style network that requires transfers, but provides both frequency and connectivity. However, to work effectively, integrated fares are required to ensure that commuters are no worse off for having to transfer. This currently does not appear to be in the plan.

The Parramatta to Epping Rail Link
The O’Farrell government went to the 2011 election promising to prioritise the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) ahead of the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL). Initially, this meant deferring the PERL until 2036, with a NWRL completed in 2019 and a Second Harbour Crossing completed some time in between. But when the Sydney’s Rail Futures plan was completed in the middle of this year it was missing any mention of the PERL, the first indication that this project had been dropped altogether.

Forward planning (unless it’s roads)

The Master Plan lists 3 new freeways that it would like built (an M4 East, an M5 East duplication, and an F3 to M2 link) plus another 3 new freeways for consideration beyond the 20 year scope of the plan (an F6 linking Waterfall to the airport, an Inner West Bypass between the M4 East and M5 East, and a freeway linking the M4 East to the M2). It then also recommends that the government begin planning reserving land in outer suburban areas so that freeways can be built there many decades into the future. This is fantastic forward planning, and should be commended as it will avoid huge tunneling costs in the future that we are contemplating today.

The transport plan has recommended reserving corridors for future roads, but does not include a similar recommendation for reserving corridors for future rail lines. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 140.)

And yet when it comes to public transport, no such recommendations are made. Where is the action on reserving land for future rail lines, light rail corridors, bus rapid transit, etc? This included in the 20 year rail plan, so why is it missing from the transport plan? Why has it been removed?

It’s hard to imagine a transport plan since the height of the automobiles golden age back in the 1950s that has felt so biased towards roads and away from public transport. Previous plans have ended up seeing more roads built than public transport, but at least they made an effort at planning for public transport before abandoning those plans. This one just skips that step entirely!

UPDATE (9 September 2012): Some further reading reveals that planning has been included for reserving corridors for both roads and public transport. The following diagram illustrates the locations of the corridors. The report, at 370 pages, was quite long and limited time meant I was unable to go through it in as much detail in the days following its release and I unfortunately missed this.

Transport corridors, both road and public transport, that are being investigated or reserved for future transport infrastructure projects. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport Master Plan, page 197.)

Funding and costings

There are some details on this, but it tends to be broad statements with some token details around the edges. For example, costings for individual projects are not included, although a figure of $100 billion over the next 20 years has been mentioned in the media. If this is accurate, then it is actually within the scope of the existing transport capital expenditure budget, which is equal to $25 billion over the next 4 years (Transport Master Plan, page 323), or roughly $125 billion over the next 20 years with some simple estimation.

The report has some interesting ideas. These include: increasing parking levies inside activity centres to discourage car use while funding public transport, reforming car registration to take into account road use (code for km based fees, rather than a flat fee regardless of how much you use the road), reforming public transport agencies (e.g. the creation of Transport for NSW, franchising Sydney Ferries, and splitting Railcorp into Sydney Trains and NSW Trains), allowing more commercial sites into existing transport interchanges, and capturing value created from transport investment. The last one is probably the one with the greatest scope to raise additional revenues, and one that I have written about previously.

However, other than these few points (not many for a plan this big), details on funding and costing remain general in nature and are lacking in specific details, examples or case studies much beyond saying “we will investigate this further”.

Light rail to Sydney University or to Barangaroo

Although the government has not decided what it will do with the results of the Light Rail Feasibility Study yet, the study has been completed, and this is evident by inclusion of details of light rail in the Master Plan. It suggests light rail for George Street in the CBD and a line on or under Devonshire St that then goes along Anzac Parade to UNSW. But gone is any mention of light rail to the University of Sydney or, more importantly, to Barangaroo. It is true that Barangaroo will have a new walkway to connect it quickly with Wynyard Station, and that it will sport a new ferry wharf. But it will be intriguing to see why the decision has been made to not extend the light rail line through to Barangaroo via The Rocks.

Bus priority

This has been talked about ever since the Unsworth Review into buses back in 2004. With most buses now equiped with GPS tracking teachnology, it is possible to work out when a aprticular bus is running late. In order to get that bus back on time, priority can be given to it at traffic lights, giving that bus a green light earlier than would normally happen. To ensure buses don’t run earlier than the timetable, this would only happen when a bus is late. This would be a huge improvement in reliability for Sydney’s bus network, and it’s unfortunate to see that little progress has been made in the last decade on implementing this.

Congestion charging

This has been ruled out by the government, despite such measures having worked well in places like London or Singapore. The idea behind it is that by charging road users a premium to use CBD roads during peak hours it will encourage some car users to travel at other times or to take public transport, thus giving those who do pay a faster trip with less traffic. It would also help to fund public transport. Instead, we have a situation where it is free to use surface streets which causes noise and pollution as well as danger for pedestrians (remember that 93% of CBD trips are on foot). Meanwhile, if you want to use the Eastern Distributor or Cross City Tunnel, you are charged. It really should be the other way around.

However, the government is looking at raising the parking levy, a tax on parking spaces in the city (I think it only applies to off-street parking). This would be a bit like a congestion charge, but would only discourage trips by people travelling into the CBD, while doing nothing to discourage trips through the CBD. And it is the latter that should be discouraged the most, as it congestion caused by people who aren’t even going into the CBD.

A second Sydney airport

The Premier Barry O’Farrell has made a strong stand on this. He doesn’t want a second airport in Sydney, and is not planning for one. This is a bit like when the Wran Government sold off land intended for the M4 East in an attempt to prevent the construction of that freeway. And while this seems to have delayed its construction, now we find ourselves with a government looking to pay $10-$15 billion to build that freeway in an underground tunnel instead, which has the effect of sucking funds away from public transport projects. Similarly, not planning for a second airport will not remove the need for one, it will only increase the problems and costs of one when it is eventually built.

Project priority and a timetable for completion

Some idea of priority is given in terms of whether a project is short term (0-5 years), medium term (5-10 years) or long term (10-20 years) in nature. But this is quite vague, and only applies to some projects. Road projects in particular, have no sense of priority at all, and await Infrastructure NSW’s report before some idea of which order they will be built in will happen.

Some of the smaller transport stories from the last 2 months. In chronological order:

Moorebank intermodal freight terminal (23 April)

The Federal government is to build a $1.6bn freight terminal in Moorbank in Sydney’s Southwest. The site will connect to a freight rail line with a direct link to the Port Botany, Chullora and Enfield industrial areas as well as the Southern Sydney Freight and Northern Sydney Freight Lines currently being constructed. The end result will be an estimated 3,300 truck trips taken off roads and onto rail each day.

Moorebank Intermodal

The proposed Moorebank Intermodal freight terminal will be located in Southwest Sydney, with rail access to take trucks off the road. (Source: Department of Infrastructure and Transport)

The decision to go ahead with this project has been criticised by Qube Logistics, a group headed up by Chris Corrigan, which wanted to build and operate such a site itself. The advantage of Qube’s proposed terminal would be that it could be built at no cost to the taxpayer. However, the government site is both larger and closer to the freight rail line and it would also avoid the problem of a player in the logistics industry (Qube Logistics) owning a key piece of infrastructure and thereby being able to deny access to its competitors.

Crowding on trains is increasing (3 May)

Morning peak hour trains have an average of 1.23 passengers per available seat, an increase on 1.19 in the last year. According to the Cityrail report, the most crowded trains are on the Bankstown Line and the Western Line carries the most passengers, with only trains from the Eastern Suburbs and Blue Mountains having spare seats on average.

Train patronage March 2012

Train patronage March 2012. (Source: Cityrail)

Sydney Ferries will be privately operated starting July (3 May)

Veolia Transdev and Transfield Services will take over operation of Sydney Ferries as soon as next month. Ownership and planning of ferries, as well as the setting and collection of fares, will remain with the government and the Sydney Ferries brand will remain unchanged. Making ferries operate under a franchising model will bring them into line with the system used for the private bus network aswell as the light rail line, both of which are (mostly) publicly owned but privately operated. If this change results in a reduction in the cost to the government of operating the ferry network then expect speculation on whether the government will look to expand franchising to Sydney Buses and the rail network (particularly CountryLink).

Railcorp to be split into 2 entities (15 May)

Railcorp will be split into Sydney Trains (which will run the suburban part of the Cityrail network) and NSW trains (which will run the intercity part of the Cityrail network and the entirety of the CountryLink network). As part of this, 750 back office staff will be offered voluntary redundancies in order to cut costs and responsibility for cleaning will be put into a new subsidiary unit in order to improve cleanliness on trains and at stations. Nationals backbencher Andrew Gee denies that this is a step towards privatising CountryLink/NSW Trains. However, this would not appear to extend to a franchising of NSW Trains, as is being done with Sydney Ferries, particularly if the ferries plan is a success financially.

Quiet carriages made permanent (23 May)

After a trial of so called quiet carriages, they are to be made a permanent feature of Newcastle and Central Coast trains. A trial will now be done on the Blue Mountains and South Coast Lines.

1,200 new park and ride spots (29 May)

An additional 1,200 car parking spaces will be built at stations in order to encourage train use, as well as improvements to transport interchanges such as lifts, kiss and rise zones, and bus interchanges. Big winners are Sutherland (300 spaces), Oak Flats (230 spaces), Lindfield (240 spaces), and Gordon (160 spaces).

I sometimes wonder if park and ride is the most cost effective way of improving train patronage. For example, each new parking spot in Oak Flats costs $25,000, and is quite reasonable. But the cost for the other 3 stations ranges from $123,000 to $275,000 per parking space. (These amounts are inflated as they include the cost of other improvements, but are a good rough guide.) Above a certain price it surely must make sense to re-direct that money towards funding feeder buses rather than parking spaces.

A series called Moving Beyond the Automobile has done a piece on car parking in New York called parking reform. It outlines how cheap (often free) and plentiful on street parking in effect provides a subsidy to car drivers and questions whether there is a better use for the public space currently given away to cars for free. (Props to Reinventing Parking for posting it.)

Ideally, parking would happen off street in parking garages that charge a market rate, with some limited short term on-street parking for car drivers who need to make quick trips. Otherwise, it is normally ridiculious to use such a limited resource (street space) for the indefinite storage of automobiles.

It is looking more and more likely that Sydney’s troubled monorail will be removed from CBD. Sydney City Council has wanted the monorail removed to make way for light rail, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore having opposed the monorail ever since it was first built back in the late 80s when she was the local state MP (see video below). Now it appears that the state government is also shifting to a position to tear down the monorail, having told the redevelopers of the Entertainment Centre (through which the monorail passes through) “don’t let the monorail constrain your thinking”.

The history of the monorail dates back to the 80s, when redevelopment of Darling Harbour (along with neighbouring Pyrmont and Ultimo) was a major urban renewal project designed to co-incide with bicentenary celebrations planned for 1988. Part of this urban renewal included plans for a new transport link into the area. The choice came down to light rail or a monorail. The decision to ultimately go with the monorail appears to have been a political one, motivated by the minister responsible Laurie Brereton, who took responsibility for the project out of the committee and into his own hands. A detailed SMH article explaining the behind the scenes events that led up to this was published in 1988 notes that the light rail option was described as the “best long-term solution” but that the monorail was chosen because Mr Brereton personally supported it, as did Premier Neville Wran.

Pitt Street

Pitt Street is currently a one way street with 2 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes (one on each side). The monorail pylons prevent the lane on the left from being turned back into a traffic lane. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Google Maps)

A light rail line would eventually be built in 1997 between Central and Lilyfield which is now being extended through to Dulwich Hill. The current O’Farrell state government has also pledged to extend this further through the CBD (most likely down George Street), to Sydney University and to UNSW. However, putting the light rail on George Street would mean re-diverting some traffic down other streets (potentially removing all private vehicle traffic altogether from portions of George Street) and one option is to make Pitt Street a two way street again by removing the monorail’s pylons from the ground and thus allowing a constant flow of traffic along what is now a parking lane only (see image).

I had previously supported the idea of keeping the monorail, it’s already been built and runs at no expense to tax payers. But if removing it in order to replace it with a more effective and more efficient light rail system would improve transport options, then I think it’s a good move.

The NSW government yesterday announced the final route for the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL). This follows many months of community consultation, feedback and design changes. (For part one, go here.)

NWRL

Alignment of the Northwest Rail Link and location of stations. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Key changes include:

An additional two stations. This was hinted at earlier this year. The two stations will be at Cudgegong Road and Kellyville. The Kellyville Station is actually the previously proposed Samantha Riley Drive Station, with the previously touted Kellyville Station moved further South and renamed Bella Vista. The Bella Vista Station is on the Western end of Norwest Business Park, doubling the number of stations at Norwest. Two stations at Norwest was also hinted at earlier this year, and I spoke in its favour. Despite some calls for it, the line will not be extended through Schofields and into Marsden Park, at least not yet.

A “skytrain” (viaduct). The line between Bella Vista and Rouse Hill will be on a 4km long elevated viaduct, which has been dubbed a skytrain by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian. This was previously to be party in an open air cutting underground and partly in a viaduct above ground. Either opens would allow roads to cross the rail line without the need for level crossings. The viaduct option was cheaper, but has seen some criticism for being more of an eyesore than a cutting.

1,000 extra parking spaces, bringing the total number of park and ride spaces to 4,000.

To give you some context, there are 47,000 residents within a 1km catchment area of the 8 new stations and the government expects this to take 160 city bound M2 buses off the road, a 67% reduction or 2.5km if they were lined up on the road. 29 million people are predicted to use the NWRL per year within 5 years of its opening. The Northwest Growth Centre, which the NWRL partly travels through, is expected to see 200,000 additional residents in the next 30 years.

The cost has increased from $7 billion up to between $7.5 billion and $8.5 billion. This appears to be due to the addition of 2 stations, one of which will require the demolition of a shopping centre, and 1,000 parking spaces. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and take 5 to 6 years, suggesting a completion date of 2019 or 2020.

Interestingly, the NSW government’s submission to Infrastructure Australia for the NWRL included only the original 6 stations and not Cudgegong or Bella Vista, nor the revised Kellyville Station. Don’t be surprised if the federal government rejects the submission on a technicality as it differs from the final version, just as they ruled out providing funding for the NWRL earlier because no submission had been lodged.

The government has not ruled out a privately built and run line, so long as there are no additional ticket costs like at the airport stations, that the line be integrated with the Cityrail network and be run with double deck trains.