Posts Tagged ‘Pedestrianisation’

VIDEO: Transport for NSW COVID-19 Response: Essential Service (23 March 2020)

Social distancing has seen the movement of people in Sydney drop by about 90% in recent weeks. The Citymapper Mobility Index shows mobility beggining to slow on the weekend of Saturday 14 March, shortly after the government announced its first set of restrictions, but before those restrictions came into effect on the following Monday. Transport agencies have since responded in order to enable the safe movement of people around the city, whether that be by car, by foot, or by public transport.

In terms of road traffic, a comprehensive ABC article uses Google Maps traffic data to show that “peak-hour gridlock has virtually vanished”, with the same article using TomTom Traffic Index data to show a trip that typically takes 30 minutes would now take 26 minutes. The same TomTom Traffic Index shows the biggest drop occurring during peak-hour, with only a minor drop in off-peak road travel. Transurban, which owns most of Sydney’s toll roads, has reported a 36% drop in traffic volumes on its toll roads in the final week of March.

Push buttons in CBD pedestrian crossings have been automated since Monday 23 March, to prevent these normally high touch surfaces from becoming transmission zones for COVID-19. This is a limited time change and was restricted to the Sydney CBD.

Public transport usage has likewise seen a dramatic drop. Occupancy data published by NextThere for the 4 weeks to Sunday 22 March show demand for real time planning journeys began falling on Tuesday 10 March and was down to about half their regular volumes by the end of that 4 week period. Meanwhile, during that time peak-hour trains on the T1 Western Line went from over three quarters being standing room only to none being standing room only (see image below, Source: NextThere). Bus occupancy levels appear to have also fallen in the same time period, with the proportion of peak-hour buses passing through Neutral Bay Junction on the North Shore’s Military Road corridor with a majority of their seats available rising from about one in three buses to almost all buses.

Other than minor changes to the L1 light rail line, the government has yet to cut back on service levels; which combined with the fall in patronage has enabled members of the public who must travel on public transport to better observe social distancing when they do so. Additional changes include regular deep cleaning of public transport vehicles, a suspension on the sale of single use Opal tickets from buses, and closure of Opal readers and seats near bus drivers.

Despite this, there are actions that have been taken elsewhere which have not happened in Sydney. The most extreme of these responses occurred in the Chinese city of Wuhan, believed to be the epicentre of COVID-19, which suspended its public transport network in late January. Brisbane has moved to rear door boarding on its buses, with the front door only available for passengers requiring assistance and to maintain disability access. Advocacy group Walk Sydney is calling for the automation of push buttons to be extended to all of Greater Sydney. So far the automation is being extended out to crossings near many of Sydney’s hospitals, but not the entire city.

Pedestrianising the suburbs

Posted: September 18, 2016 in Urban planning
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VIDEO: Perth Busport (TransperthOnline)

The Committee for Sydney recently tweeted about the importance of dense intersections in creating better quality urban areas. Small blocks with frequent intersections improve pedestrian movement and lead to better experiences, whereas larger blocks with fewer intersections do the opposite.

In suburban areas, cul-de-sacs often have the effect of calming traffic on the streets, but with the negative side effect of hindering mobility by foot. It effectively forces individuals into their cars in order to get around.

But that is not always the case. Below is a map of Baulkham Hills, the neighbouring suburb to Winston Hills (second from the right in the Committee for Sydney tweet above). The two suburbs are separated by the M2, seen on the right half of the bottom edge of the image below. There are 2 main roads running North-South on either side of the image, with the connecting streets often ending in quiet cul-de-sacs. The 2 main roads, together with the M2, are also where bus routes provide public transport for this area.

The focal point is the small park in the centre of the image. It has 3 cul-de-sacs surrounding it, two to the North (above) and one to the East (right). This park has pathways connecting the park to each of these sul-de-sacs, as well as to the other street just to the West (left), which are all accessible by pedestrians but not to cars.

Satellite image of Baulkham Hills. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps.)

Satellite image of Baulkham Hills. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps.)

Someone in the cul-de-sac to the East would ordinarily be quite isolated. The map below shows the same area, with a red spot showing that particular cul-de-sac and the blue areas shows everywhere accessible within 400m using only streets. This is equivalent to a 5 minute walk and reaches neither of the 2 roads where the buses operate.

As can be seen, it does not provide much coverage and it is this sort of urban design that leads many suburban residents to abandon walking or even public transport in favour of their private car to get around.

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Green areas are accessible only by pedestrians. All areas accessible within 400m of the red spot if only streets are used is shown in blue; if pedestrian only areas are included then all areas accessible within 400m is shown in blue/green/yellow. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map.)

This is where the park comes in to play. By linking up the 4 surrounding streets, it massively enhances the areas accessible within 400m. An additional 3 pedestrian walkways, also shown in green, provide further access. So the actual areas accessible on foot can be seen in green and yellow as well as the initial blue on accessible by streets only. This has the added benefit of extending the areas within 400m to both the roads where buses operate.

By providing these pedestrian links, the urban design achieves the dual goals of quiet suburban street with limited traffic as well as easy and convenient pedestrian access to a large catchment.

VIDEO: Ancient river system discovered under Sydney Harbour, 23 September 2015 (Transport for NSW)

This week sees a large number of changes to the Sydney CBD. Though it ended the week with the most significant: the closure of George Street to buses, it began the week with some changes too: the opening and closing of bike paths through the CBD. New bus lanes have been added on Elizabeth Street while another bus lane is soon coming to College Street.

George Street

Construction of the CBD and South East Light Rail will commence on George Street on 23 October, at which point the road will become progressively closed off to all vehicular traffic. It will eventually re-open as a pedestrian only street, with trams on George Street taking passengers from early 2019.

In anticipation of this closure, buses are being removed from George Street as of 4 October. Some will terminate outside of the CBD or on its fringe (including some buses that do not use George Street), while others will be moved to Elizabeth street or are merged with other buses so that they will now through-route in the CBD and come out the other end.

Elizabeth Street

In order to accommodate the additional buses using Elizabeth Street, the bus lanes on it have been moved from kerbside bus lanes to centre bus lanes. This will prevent buses from getting stuck behind other buses waiting at bus stops or getting stuck behind cars waiting to make a left hand turn. These had previously slowed down buses that would otherwise enjoy an exclusive right of way.

Bus lanes on Elizabeth Street have been extended and moved from kerbside bus lanes to centre bus lanes to increase bus capacity on them. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Bus lanes on Elizabeth Street have been extended and moved from kerbside bus lanes to centre bus lanes to increase bus capacity on them. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

College Street

The College Street bike path is no more. It is to be replaced with a bus lane. This will allow additional Northbound bus capacity now that George Street is no longer available. Additional Southbound bus capacity exists on the Castlereagh Street bus lane, while Elizabeth Street has two way bus lanes.

The bike path on College Street remained open until the Castlereagh Street and Liverpool Street bike paths opened, which now provide North-South access through the CBD. Cyclist groups have protested the removal of the College Street bike path, pointing out that the Castlereagh Street bike path stops at Liverpool Street, which is the same place the College Street bike path starts; also pointing out that the York Street bike path is on opposite side of the CBD to the College Street bike path.

The College Street bike path is now closed and set to be turned into a bus lane. It has been controversially replaced by bike paths on Castlereagh and Liverpool Streets. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

The College Street bike path is now closed and set to be turned into a bus lane. It has been controversially replaced by bike paths on Castlereagh and Liverpool Streets. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Plans are in place to extend the Castlereagh Street bike path further north; but these plans have been put on hold until 2019, after construction on the light rail has been completed.

Castlereagh Street and Liverpool Street

New bike paths opened on Castlereagh and Liverpool Streets, replacing the College Street bike path. Together with Belmore Park near Central Station and the York Street bike path on the Northern half of the CBD, these now allow bike users to ride from Central Station to the Harbour Bridge entirely segregated from road traffic.

The full CBD bike path network will include an extension of the Castlereagh Street bike path to King Street, which would also see its existing bike path extended from where it currently ends at Clarence Street. However, work on this portion of the bike path network, as well as other extensions such as a bike path North along Pitt Street to Circular Quay or a bike path West along Liverpool Street to Darling Harbour, has been put on hold until 2019 to minimise disruptions  while construction on the light rail on George Street occurs.

Sydney's planned bike path network. Some has been completed, the rest is on hold until 2019 when light rail construction is completed. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, p. 45)

Sydney’s planned bike path network. Some has been completed, the rest is on hold until 2019 when light rail construction is completed. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, p. 45)

There have also been concerns raised about potential plans for loading zones on these bike paths, turning them into what has been called “part time” bike paths. The new bike paths have also drawn criticism for ending one block short of two way traffic on Liverpool Street, requiring East bound bike riders on Liverpool Street to dismount or take alternative routes along Bathurst or Campbell Streets.

Open Drum – The Daily Commute

ABC Open is taking contributions on the topic of “the daily commute”. The deadline for contributions is midday Tuesday 9 June.

“Tell us about your daily commute. What are the joys and challenges? How does it impact your life or your family? Would improved public transport, affordable accommodation near workplaces or better roads help? Whatever happened to telecommuting? Do you have a survival tip or utopian vision for policy makers? Share your story and opinions in 350-700 words.”

1 May: Rail line to Badgerys Creek downplayed

Suggestions for a fast rail service between Badgerys Creek and Sydney CBD in time for the opening of a future Western Sydney Airport were dismissed by the Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss. “A rail line connected to the metropolitan area of Sydney is not essential in that [early] phase” said Mr Truss. The NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance was more open to the idea, stating that he was “putting all things on the table”, including a possible extension of Sydney Rapid Transit out to Badgerys Creek via the existing Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot. Proposals exist to extend the recently opened South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek, but there are no current plans or funding to do so.

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

4 May: Opal-only ticket gates

New ticket gates that accept only Opal cards are to be trialed at Olympic Park Station. Existing ticket barriers that accept both Opal and paper tickets will continue to be in use.

7 May: Mousetrap to catch graffiti vandals

A new technology is being trialed which detects either spray paint or permanent marker on trains, so far leading to the arrest of 30 individuals. Known as “Mousetrap”, it uses an electronic chemical sensor which detects the vapour of both spray paint and marker pens.  Live CCTV records and provides images directly to Sydney Trains staff. Removing graffiti from the Sydney Trains network cost $34 million last financial year, up from $30 million the year before.

10 May: Epping to Chatswood Line will be disconnected for almost a year

The Epping to Chatswood Line, set to be shut down for 7 months during which it will be converted and connected to the North West Rail Link in order to create the first stage of Sydney Rapid Transit, will be disconnected from the T1 Northern and North Shore Lines prior to its shut down. A recently approved government proposal will see the line operate as a shuttle service between Epping and Chatswood for 4 months prior to this conversion, most likely in 2018.

21 May: Light rail predicted to kill someone each year

A report prepared for the government predicts that 1.14 people will be killed by the new CBD and South East Light Rail line every year on average. Between 2010 and 2014, there have been 3 fatalities involving pedestrians and buses in the Sydney CBD. The report also predicts 1 fatality every 5 years for the existing light rail line to Dulwich Hill, although no deaths have occurred on this line since it opened in 1997.

22 May: Opal card user information handed over to government agencies

57 requests for Opal card data, which include the card user’s address and travel patterns, have been granted by Transport for NSW to government agencies since December 2014. A total of 181 requests were made, with no court approval required in order for information to be handed over. By comparison, information from Queensland’s Go Card had been accessed almost 11,000 times between 2006 and 2014.

26 May: NWRL tunneling 40% complete

Tunnel boring machines on the North West Rail Link have reached Showground Station. 12km of the 30km of tunneling, representing over a third of the total length, is now complete.

26 May: Long Bay Prison sale under consideration

The Government is considering the possibility of selling off Long Bay Prison, possibly raising a estimated $400m. The sale, which would see the site redeveloped, has been linked to a possible extension of the light rail line currently under construction. The CBD and South East Light Rail is set to open in 2019, initially reaching Kingsford. However, an extension as far as La Perouse has been raised as a possibility.

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

26 May: Congestion will be worse after WestConnex

Internal government reports show that traffic levels on inner city roads around the planned WestConnex tunnels are predicted to be higher in 2026 than in 2011, despite the planned completion of WestConnex by 2023. A spokeswoman for the WestConnex Delivery Authority commented that “[traffic on] the inner south will improve with WestConnex as opposed to a do nothing scenario”.

28 May: Light rail construction schedule announced

VIDEO: Ten Eyewitness News Sydney – Government admits public transport system “broken” (27/5/2015)

A construction schedule for the CBD and South East Light Rail was released to the public. George St is set to see three and a half years of construction, with the new CBD and South East Light Rail set to be built between September 2015 and April 2018. The line is currently scheduled to open in early 2019, following testing of the line.

The Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who recently declared his opposition to light rail on George St, compared the project to the Berlin Wall and declared that it would lead to chaos and confusion.

The Government released video (above) of a bus and pedestrian walking down George Street during the evening peak hour showing the pedestrian being faster than the bus. Pedestrianising George St, resulting in the replacement of cars and buses with trams, has been put forward as a way to reduce congestion for public transport users which currently exists in many parts of the city.

The announcement also included plans to defer construction on the Northern portion of the Castlereagh St bike path until construction on the light rail line is completed. The Roads Minister Duncan Gay had previously proposed including loading zones along portions of Castlereagh St, which would have the effect of making it a “part-time” bike path. Deferring its construction pushes back the need to make a decision on this issue. However, the existing bike path on College St is set to be converted into a bus lane. This will help to handle bus movements once George St becomes closed off to vehicles, but removes a North-South bike path in the CBD for a number of years.

28 May: mX axed

Newscorp is set to discontinue mX, its free commuter newspaper. mX is currently distributed each weekday afternoon in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane; it began in each of these cities in 2001, 2005, and 2007 respectively.

29 May: Electricity privatisation passes lower house

Legislation to allow the 99 year lease of 49% of the NSW electricity distribution network has passed the NSW Legislative Assembly. It now goes to the Legislative Council, where a combination of the Liberal, National, and Christian Democratic Parties that have committed to supporting the legislation have enough votes to ensure its passage through the upper house of Parliament.

Monday: Opal expands to Forest Coach Lines routes in Northern Sydney

Around 100 buses operated by Forest Coach Lines in Northern Sydney have been Opal enabled. Opal is now available on 47 bus routes around Sydney, with 300,000 Opal cards currently in circulation.

Tuesday: Second Harbour Crossing and WestConnex extensions announced

An under the Harbour rail crossing and Northern plus Southern extension to WestConnex would be the major infrastructure projects funded by selling a 49% stake in the NSW electricity distribution network, often referred to as the “poles and wires”. The new rail crossing would form the spine of a future Sydney Rapid Transit network, featuring single deck trains running from Rouse Hill in Sydney’s North West to Bankstown in Sydney’s South West via the Sydney CBD. Funding would also be included for improvements to the T1 Western Line; including improved signalling, track amplifications, and additional stabling.

Proposed Sydney Rapid Transit network. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney Rapid Transit, p. 1)

Proposed Sydney Rapid Transit network. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney Rapid Transit, p. 1)

Friday: Almost 500 pedestrians fined for jaywalking

495 fines were handed out by police in Sydney and Parramatta for jaywalking during as 12 hour period. The blitz was an attempt to reduce risky pedestrian behaviour. 29 pedestrians have been killed so far this year.

Over a year ago this blog discussed the proposal to turn the old monorail tracks into an elevated walkway, in the context of comparing it to New York’s famous High Line. The argument was made that the former metropolitan goods line, or at least the remaining portion of it between Central Station and the light rail line, was a better comparison. This is being converted into a pedestrian space, providing both a means of travelling around the city on foot as well as being a destination in its own right.

High Line 2/2

The New York High Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

But there is one place in the Sydney CBD that is similar to the High Line: an uncompleted portion of the Western Distributor at the Southern edge of Barangaroo. Much how the High Line in New York was a disused freight line that was later converted into public space, this never completed section of the Western Distributor lays dormant and unused.

The story behind it goes back to the 1960s, when the Western Distributor was first being built (documented in great detail at the highly recommended Ozroads website). The Harbour Bridge, whose construction was concluded in the early 1930s and not extended further due to Depression and war, had been extended further East via the Cahill Expressway as part of a post-War expansion of the roads network with plans for a continuous freeway all the way through to the current Syd Enfield Drive at Bondi Junction. The Western Distributor was to be the first part of a freeway linking the Southern end of the Harbour Bridge West to the M4 at Concord and South to St Peters. To this end, it was designed as a two level viaduct. The then Department of Main Roads provided this description: “The top level will consist of a divided six-lane expressway…between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Ultimo Interchange…The lower level will be mainly a collector-distributor road with a number of connections to the city streets” (Source: Ozroads).

The first stage, from the Harbour Bridge to the Pyrmont Bridge (now fully pedestrianised, but back then still open to vehicle traffic) was completed in 1972. However, by 1977 the government dumped plans for a freeway all the way to Concord and St Peters, making the two level viaduct plan unnecessary. The Western Distributor was therefore only built as, and today remains, a single level viaduct.

But there is one section of the lower level that was built, at the Southern end of Barangaroo, around where the currently under construction Wynyard Walk (designed to allow pedestrians to travel between Barangaroo and Wynyard Station) comes out from underground at the Barangaroo end. With a bit of work, there is no reason why this cannot be linked up to the Wynyard Walk and converted into public space. It won’t be the size of the New York High Line, not by any means. But given its location, it certainly has the potential to be an iconic piece of the public domain in its own right.

Images below are from the author of this blog. Click to enlarge.

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The Environmental Impact Study for the CBD and South East Light Rail is due to be completed by the end of this year, finalising the project before construction begins. Enough details have been released about the project that a fairly complete picture can be drawn of what it will look like and how it will operate.

The CBD

Trams will operate along an overhead wire free zone starting from where the pedestrianised zone beings at Bathurst St and continues all the way to Circular Quay. Along this portion of the alignment trams will be powered by onboard batteries which are recharged with overhead wires at each stop. Overseas experience suggests batteries could allow for up to 2km of travel at a time before recharging (Source: George Street Concept Design, 2013, City of Sydney, p. 27). This will also allow limited operation should there be a short term power outage, but will also prevent trams on the Inner West Line from operating on George St (though these trams would still be able to travel to Kingsford and Randwick). This move is supported by the City of Sydney on the basis that “it will ensure that…space is preserved for pedestrians [and respect]…the streetscape of George Street and its heritage buildings”; but opposed by advocacy group Action for Public Transport, commenting that “this system would add unacceptably to initial and running costs, would detract from reliability, and would probably not supply enough power for the air-conditioning”.

Artists impression of Circular Quay with trams. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Artists impression of Circular Quay with trams. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

 

The trams on the CSELR will also be longer than the Inner West ones, being 45m long compared to the current 30m long trams, which have a capacity of 300 passengers and 200 passengers respectively. These longer trams mean that the 45m CSELR trams will not be able to operate on the Inner West line at all.

The net effect is an effective segregation of the two lines, forcing them to operate independently.

Tram stops at Central Station (Chalmers St) and Moore Park will be double the regular length, allowing 2 trams to load an unload simultaneously, with turnback sidings allowing shuttle services from Central to the Moore Park sports stadiums to provide a high capacity transport connection for special events like double headers. The Central Station and Circular Quay stops will also have a third platform.  Meanwhile, the UNSW stop (probably the busiest stop outside of the CBD and special events) will be on UNSW property itself, preventing the need for students and university staff to cross the road unless they need to reach the smaller Western campus end of UNSW.

Rawson Place will be closed off to cars and turned into a bus and tram interchange. Buses leaving the CBD will pass through Rawson Place itself, allowing a cross platform transfer, while inbound buses will stop on the Western side of Pitt Street, from which the tram stop will be a short walk away. This avoids the need to cross the road in order to transfer from bus to tram or vice versa.

The Rawson Place tram stop will serve as a bus-tram interchange. Transfers can be made here without having to cross any street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The Rawson Place tram stop will serve as a bus-tram interchange. Transfers can be made here without having to cross any street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Outside of the CBD

The route across South Dowling Street, Moore Park, and Anzac Parade has yet to be determined, with a cut and cover tunnel or viaduct being the two options. The advantages of a tunnel are the lower visual impact and maintaining full use of Moore Park. The advantages of a viaduct are a shorter construction time and grade separation over South Dowling Street. The government has a preference for the tunnel option, but has also taken feedback from the public on the two options before making a final decision.

The two options for crossing South Dowling Street are a cut and cover tunnel (top) or a viaduct (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The two options for crossing South Dowling Street are a cut and cover tunnel (top) or a viaduct (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

 

Upgrading the Anzac Parade corridor will increase the passenger capacity in each direction from the current 10,000 passengers/hour to 15,000 passengers/hour. It does this by replacing some buses (the equivalent of 4,000 passengers/hour with trams that carry 9,000 passengers/hour), which will now not continue past Kingsford and Randwick. They will instead be rerouted as orbital routes that do not reach the city, and instead continue towards destination like Bondi Junction or Green Square. Anyone continuing into the CBD will get off their bus and onto a tram, either by crossing the platform at Kingsford or walking across High Cross Park at Randwick.

The Kingsford interchange (left) includes a bus stop in-between the outer tram stops, allowing a cross platform transfer from bus to tram or vice versa. The Randwick interchange (right) includes a tram stop on an existing park, with bus stops on either side of the park, allowing for bus-tram transfers without having to cross the street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The Kingsford interchange (left) includes a bus stop in-between the outer tram stops, allowing a cross platform transfer from bus to tram or vice versa. The Randwick interchange (right) includes a tram stop on an existing park, with bus stops on either side of the park, allowing for bus-tram transfers without having to cross the street. Click to enlarge. (Sources: Left – Transport for NSW, Right – Transport for NSW)

Buses and fares

Some buses will be kept on. In particular, preliminary details of the bus redesign suggest that all peak hour express buses that travel via the Eastern Distributor will be maintained, largely as they service the Northern end of the CBD rather than the Southern end. In addition, at least one bus lane will be retained on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Some buses that travel via Cleveland and Oxford Streets will also be retained as these corridors are not served by light rail.

One lane will be retained for use by buses on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

One lane will be retained for use by buses on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Transport Sydney understands that fares for light rail will be calculated as though they are buses, meaning that there should not be a fare penalty for passengers changing from bus to tram or vice versa. This would prevent current bus users from having to pay more once light rail begins operating and many passengers are forced to make a transfer from bus to tram.

Development and the construction period

The improvement in transport infrastructure will be followed by higher housing densities, with the NSW Government designating Randwick (and Anzac Parade South, to which the light rail line could easily be extended into) for increased dwelling construction, including 30,000 new dwellings for Kingsford. This issue was prominent enough for the newly elected local MP to campaign about it at the recent September federal election.

The years of construction are also likely to see significant strain on the existing transport network, with George Street closed down and bus lanes removed long before trams begin operating. With construction set to take 4 to 5 years, it could prove to be a protracted period of pain. The government is set to announce a revised bus network for this construction period by the end of the year, around the same time it released the Environmental Impact Study. It then has until the end of the decade to come up with a second bus network redesign for when the light rail finally comes online.

Public transport works best in moving large volumes of people to or from a single destination in a short period of time, while private motor vehicles work best in moving people to and from dispersed destinations over a long period of time. Each performs poorly at the other function, which is why public transport has a high mode share for peak hour commutes into dense activity centres and cars have a high mode share for off peak trips that start and end in the outer suburbs.

However, this poses a problem when a major arterial road happens to pass through a major centre, resulting in a high proportion of through traffic. This is the worst of both worlds – lots of cars in a dense centre which have an origin and destination that are not well served by public transport. That is where ring roads come in – they allow these roads to bypass these major centres, while car users still reach their destination. This maintains transport to and within the centre focused on public and active transport (walking and cycling).

The most basic ring road is a bypass. Bondi Junction’s Oxford Street used to be its major thoroughfare, resulting in large amounts of traffic passing through it. The construction of the Sydney Enfield Drive re-routed traffic away from Oxford Street, and even allowed the mall to be pedestrianised and limited to buses in certain parts.

Oxford Street (blue) was once the main street through Bondi Junction. But now it is Sydney Enfield Drive. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map)

Oxford Street (blue) was once the main street through Bondi Junction. But now it is Sydney Enfield Drive (yellow). Click  to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

A true ring road actually circles around a major centre, such as in Castle Hill. Here the 3 major roads approach Castle Hill and originally converged onto Old Northern Road. A ring road was then set up to circle the Castle Hill Town Centre, with Old Northern Road’s speed limit dropped and more street space designated for pedestrians, on street parking and a bus road. This allowed cafes and restaurants to set up on the street and created a more relaxed environment, compared to the noisy car dominated road that it used to be.

Old Northern Road (blue) used to be the main street through Castle Hill. Now a ring road (yellow) around it has been set up with wide lanes to handle high traffic volumes. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map)

Old Northern Road (blue) used to be the main street through Castle Hill. Now a ring road (yellow) around it has been set up with wide lanes to handle high traffic volumes. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

In the case of Parramatta, it’s ring road is now considered too small, and the local council has designated an outer ring road. The inner ring road allowed Church Street (Parramatta’s main North-South high street) to be partly pedestrianised and to become a vibrant cafe, restaurant, and shopping precinct. However, the recent growth in the Parramatta CBD means that this ring road is now too small, and thus resulted in an outer ring road made up of the M4 in the South, the Cumberland Highway in the West, and James Ruse Drive in the North and East. This outer ring road is designed with higher speed limits of around 80km/hour, compared to the 60km/hour in the inner ring road, and thus draws traffic away from even the inner ring road.

The local council is seeking to make improvements to the outer ring road in key pinch points, and its proposal has obtained support from Infrastructure NSW.

Church Street (blue) was originally the main road through Parramatta, until a ring road was set up around it (yellow). More recently, a regional ring road has been set up even further out (orange) allowing most traffic to avoid not just the Parramatta CBD but the entire suburb of Parramatta entirely. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map)

Church Street (blue) was originally the main road through Parramatta, until a ring road was set up around it (yellow). More recently, a regional ring road has been set up even further out (orange) allowing most traffic to avoid not just the Parramatta CBD but the entire suburb of Parramatta entirely. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

A ring road does not even have to go around a centre, and in the case of the Sydney CBD the Cross City Tunnel and Eastern Distributor, which go underneath the city, are also a type of ring road. Together with the Western Distributor, Cahill Expressway, Harbour Bridge, and Harbour Tunnel, these effectively form a ring road, allowing car drivers to go to or from North Sydney, Pyrmont, Kings Cross, or Moore Park without entering a surface street in the CBD.

However, what sets this ring road apart from the other example above is that this is the only case where drivers pay a financial cost for using the ring road, but nothing for going through the CBD. In an ideal world, this situation would be reversed, with access to all parts of these ring roads being free (perhaps with the exception of the Harbour crossings, which cannot be avoided by driving through the CBD) while charging drivers who go through the CBD surface a congestion charge. The new charge could even be used to compensate the private operators of the Cross City Tunnel and Eastern Distributor.

Various freeways, either in tunnels underground or viaducts above ground, effectively form a ring road "around" the CBD. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Open Street Map)

Various freeways, either in tunnels underground or viaducts above ground, effectively form a ring road “around” the CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

There is actually one more road even better than a ring road – a public and active transport only road. An example of this is the proposed Wentworth Point Bridge that will link Sydney Olympic Park to Rhodes Business Park, but which will only be accessible to buses, bicycles, and pedestrians. Cars will continue to have to make their way the long way around, which has a similar result to a ring road, as it prevents cars from passing through both Sydney Olympic Park and Rhodes Business Park.

George Street could be free of overhead wires when trams run down the CBD’s civic spine at the end of this decade, according to an industry briefing on the CBD and South East Light Rail Line provided by the government earlier this week. The slides that accompanied the briefing, posted on the Transport for NSW website, list catenary free operation as “potential in the CBD area” (page 11). The City of Sydney council has been pushing for no overhead wires in the portion of George Street which is to be pedestrianised as part of the new line. While this does not commit the government, it is the first evidence that it is at least seriously considering this as an option.

City of Sydney Council wants trams on George Street to run without overhead wires. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: City of Sydney)

City of Sydney Council wants trams on George Street to run without overhead wires. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: City of Sydney)

These changes will not come pain free, and the Herald reports that George Street in particular will see 2 years of work starting in mid 2014 in order to relocate major services such as electricity and water. This follows a similar timetable to the light rail line currently under construction on the Gold Coast, and if it is anything to go by then these 2 years will provide the most significant disruption during the construction process.

The new line will operate 45m long trams with a capacity of 300 passengers per vehicle. This compares to 30m long trams that have a smaller capacity of 200 passengers per vehicle, or to existing buses, the longest of which are the bendy buses and have a capacity of 110 passengers per vehicle.

Map of the Randwick and Kingsford portions of the new light rail line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Industry Briefing Session, Transport for NSW, page 10)

Map of the Randwick and Kingsford portions of the new light rail line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Industry Briefing Session, Transport for NSW, page 10)

The briefing also includes a map showing that the University of NSW stop will be on UNSW property itself, whereas the current bus stop layout requires passengers to cross the road either when they arrive or depart the university. It also shows the light rail line running along an extended version of the bus road that currently parallels Anzac Parade and Alison Road. This bus road currently ends at Doncaster Avenue on Alison Road, but according to the map light rail will continue in a separate right of way until it reaches Clovelly Road.

Put in place at Taylor Square in time for the 2013 Mardi Gras parade, Oxford Street’s rainbow crossing looks set to be removed soon. The City of Sydney council obtained permission from Roads Minister Duncan Gay to create the crossing on the condition that it be a month long trial only, and that a decision on whether or not to keep it would be made at the end of that month. The City of Sydney wants the trial extended to 12 months due to the popularity of the crossing and the $30,000 cost to remove it.

“I have concerns that we would have to approve every sporting club colours, charity colours, or business colours, which could pose a road safety issue” – Duncan Gay, Roads Minister (1 March 2013)

When asked about it more recently, Mr Gay repeated his concerns about safety, citing cases of people who had laid down on the road to pose for photographs. City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore dismissed the safety concerns, pointing to a council commissioned safety audit that found no accidents or injuries had occurred on the crossing.

Source: Author.

Source: Author.

The position of the Premier Barry O’Farrell is uncertain, though he earlier appeared to present the rainbow crossing as an either/or proposition alongside the renaming of Taylor Square to Kirby Square. His Twitter poll saw a slight majority (51%) in favour of the crossing.

Independent MP for the area Alex Grenwich, who was previously convenor of Australian’s for Marriage Equality, also supports keeping the crossing, and obtained 15,000 signatures in an online petition to Mr Gay to keep it.

It appears that Mr Gay wants the crossing removed in order to avoid setting a precedent, and it is his prerogative as the Roads Minister to make that call. Unless, that is, he gets rolled by the Premier, the cabinet, or the party room. This is what happened with the proposed helipad on Sydney Harbour, which was put forward by Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner but opposed by both the Sydney Morning Herald and federal MP for the area Malcolm Turnbull (whose Liberal Party is a coalition partner of Mr Stoner’s Nationals). It was later abandoned.

Popular opinion would seem to want to keep the crossing, but this will only happen if its profile is raised sufficiently and quickly. The clock is ticking.

It didn’t take long after the closure of the monorail was announced for someone to suggest that it be converted into an elevated walkway, using New York’s High Line as an example. While this initially sounds like a good idea on paper, it soon becomes clear that it would not be workable, and the 1m wide beam should definitely not be compared to the 6m wide High Line in New York. (Alan Davies explains why in more detail over at The Urbanist.)

A more recent proposal which received government approval last month, but seemingly less media coverage or public interest, was the conversion of a portion of the former Goods Line at Ultimo into a public space. It too has been dubbed as Sydney’s version of the High Line. Importantly, this proposal represents both a destination as well as a means of getting from one place to another (New York’s High Line is mainly the former, while the monorail proposal was entirely the latter). It is this combination of factors that Jesse Adams Stein, blogging as Penultimo, argues will make The Goods Line superior to the High Line, and I think that hits the nail on the head.

The Goods Line artists impression

Artists impression of The Goods Line. (Source: ASPECT Studios.)

I was in New York earlier this year and visited the High Line on two occasions. It’s a great piece of public space, a former elevated rail line converted into a public park and walkway. But it doesn’t take you anywhere you want to go, it’s just a destination. So by the time you finish walking to one end, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. The Goods Line, on the other hand, will connect up to the Devonshire St Tunnel, allowing a pedestrian to walk North from Central Station at Chalmers St all the way to the Powerhouse Museum unimpeded.

High Line 1/2

The New York High Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author.)

High Line 2/2

The New York High Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author.)

Sydney’s CBD actually has a fairly good collection of pedestrian links at the moment, and is adding to them. A collection of major ones that currently exist or are planned are shown in the map below (blue are underground tunnels, green are pedestrianised surface spaces).

CBD pedestrian spaces

Pedestrian spaces in the Sydney CBD. Blue are underground tunnels, green are surface spaces. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author created on Google Earth.)

Right now, a pedestrian across the road from the George St Cinemas can take an underground passage to Town Hall Station, through the QVB, across to Myer and come out the other end at Pitt St Mall. All of this without having to worry about vehicle traffic or the elements up on the surface. Continuing North for two blocks past the pedestrianised Martin Place is the Eastern entrance to Hunter Connection, which will take you to Wynyard Station, where another underground tunnel (soon to be the upgraded Wynyard Walk) takes you through to Barangaroo. By the end of this decade, a large chunk of George St will also be pedestrianised, and one of the features of the redeveloped Darling Harbour will be a pedestrian boulevard running North to South.

When it comes to transport, we are all pedestrians at the most basic level. So it’s good to see a bigger emphasis being placed on creating good quality public spaces that prioritise people above vehicles.

The ABS has released the journey to work data from the 2011 Census (it calls it “travel to work”), and it shows that public and active transport have increased their share of total trips since the previous census in 2006.

There were 1,644,247 daily trips to work in Greater Sydney made in 2006, which increased by 9.7% to 1,803,298 in 2011. This means that if a transport mode holds on to its share of trips, then the absolute number of trips has risen.

The private car remain the most common mode of trip, with 62.6% of trips made by car drivers and 5.2% made by car passengers, down from 63.5% and 6.1% respectively in 2006 (trips made by truck drivers have been counted as car drivers). However, measured in absolute terms, the total number of trips made by car has risen from 1,144,950 to 1,222,479, and increase of 77,529 or 6.8%.

Public transport (including trips where a car is used for a portion of the journey – these trips were not counted in the car trips figure above) have seen an increase in their share of trips, from 20.7% in 2006 to 22.8% in 2011. This is an increase of 20.5% or 70,089 in absolute terms, which is quite similar to the increase in car trips of 77,529. Virtually all the increase in trips from 2006 to 2011 is attributed to either car or public transport trips, and they share this increase almost 50/50. This is in contrast to Infrastructure NSW, which has argued that cars will continue to do the heavy moving when it comes to transport and that roads should therefore receive priority funding over public transport – an argument which requires you to close one eye, tilt your head and stand on one foot to be convincing.

The next biggest share is in active transport. In 2006, 4.8% of trips were on foot, which has fallen slightly to 4.7% in 2011. The largest increase has been for bicycles, rising by 44% albeit from a low base of 0.7% in 2006 to 0.9% in 2011.

Sydney remains the major Australian city with the highest proportion of public transport trips to work, but also the lowest proportion of bicycle trips to work.

Finally there is the other (including taxis and motorbikes) and not stated categories, which taken together were 4.2% in 2006 and 3.9% in 2011.

Of interest are the gender differences in mode usage. Some modes of transport see a significant difference in use when looking at its share of use by men or by women. Car drivers tend to be men (65.6%) more than women (58.8%), while car passengers tend to be women (6.9%) rather than men (3.8%). When it comes to public transport, it is used more by women (25.5%) than by men (20.6%), particularly for buses. The biggest disparity between the genders is for bicycles, with men (1.3%) being more likely to ride a bike than women (0.4%).

The journey to work data is measured based on trips, and does not take distance into account. (Passenger km are provided separately by the NSW Bureau for Transport Statistics as part of the Household Travel Survey.) Given that the vehicle km per capita for cars has been dropping in recent years, it would not be surprising to see that, when trip distance is taken into account, car’s share of travel is actually declining even faster than the figures above indicate.

Pedestrianisation of George Street would involve the replacement of buses from George Street between Bathurst and Hunter Street with light rail. The pedestrianisation of George Street, such as happened in Martin Place and Pitt Street Mall, has been a long term goal of City of Sydney Lord mayor Clover Moore, as part of her 25 year Connecting Our City plan for Sydney. Despite the City of Sydney Council’s continued push for pedestrianisation, the state government has yet to state a position either in favour or opposition to the idea, choosing instead to wait on the release of its light rail feasibility study first.

Pedestrianised George Street

Artists impression of what a pedestranised George Street with light rail could look like. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: City of Sydney)

The concept of pedestrianisation is opposed by some, such as former Parramatta Lord Mayor David Borger, whose council returned cars to the formerly pedestrianised Church Street Mall in Parramatta in 2007. However, it does have the support of businesses, with the Australian National Retailers Association and Committee for Sydney coming out in support.

If it does end up happening, this is what it might look like:

The reason is simple – if you increase the supply of road space then you also increase the demand for its usage (what’s known as induced demand). It encourages people off public transport and into their cars until eventually the increase in car usage saturates the road space and congestion returns. These were the findings of a University of Toronto study into widening of roads – “In particular, if you had 1 percent more roads, you had 1 percent more driving in those cities”.

In fact, the converse is often also true. If you remove road space, then much of the time the number of cars using the road space also drops. Hence, congestion does not actually get worse either. Jane Jacobs explains it in this way:

“in a dense and active city that is rich with mobility options, there will be as much car traffic as the city chooses to make room for…[When a road is closed] the traffic that used the formerly busy road disappears, through countless private readjustments, so long as there is an abundant grid of alternate paths into which traffic can disperse, and other modes, such as public transit, to which it can convert, and other times of day to which it can shift its travel” – Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (Chapter 18)

This is why the proposed pedestrianisation of major city streets in Australia, such as Swanston Street in Melbourne or George Street in Sydney, is not the horror idea that you might first imagine it to be.

Swanston St Tram Superstop

A few decades ago, Swanston St was a 6 lane road right through the centre of Melbourne’s CBD. Today it is being converted into a pedestrian, tram and bicycle corridor with no cars allowed on it. This is what it will end up looking like once the transformation is complete. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

The city of Seoul in South Korea went one step further, and removed a major highway from the city (see video below), replacing it with a stream that was originally there. But rather than a massive increase in traffic and congestion, people moved to public transport or changed their travel times to work around the new road space availability. This phenomenon was described (at around 11:45 in the video) by comparing traffic to a gas – it expands or compresses to fit into the space provided, rather than a liquid – which spills over and floods other areas when not enough capacity is provided.

If you want to reduce congestion, the way to do it is to invest in public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure, all things that encourage people out of their cars, rather than merely building new roads or widening existing roads.

There is one big exception to this, and that’s new roads that take traffic off local roads. The Lane Cove Tunnel, which took cars off Epping Road, and the Cross City Tunnel, which took cars out of the CBD, are both recent examples that meet this description. All new freeways do this to some extent, so the question is whether this is the primary function of the road or merely a by-product.

The state government recently officially declared that George Street is now the favoured route for a CBD light rail extension, with trams likely to soon travel from Central to Circular Quay via George Street, before continuing along Hickson Road to Barangaroo. Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has been pushing for such a route for a few years now, and hopes that light rail will transform George Street. Part of this transformation will be to pedestrianise a large part of George Street, banishing cars (and probably buses too), leaving only light rail, bicycles and pedestrians.

Melbourne has recently decided to take such an approach with Swanston Street, its main tram route through the city. Swanston Street has been car free during certain times of the day for many years now, but will soon be entirely free of vehicle traffic – currently one block has been completed, with a tram super stop installed.

Daniel Bowen wrote a piece about the new tram super stop shortly after it opened last month. If Clover gets her way, Swanston Street would give us a good idea of what a future George Street might look like.

One of the spill-over effects of the cost blow-out and delay to the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill has been the indefinite deferral of the Greenway that was to run parallel to the new line, allowing people to travel on bike and foot along Sydney’s Inner West. Initially believed to be because of the cost blowout, it now turns out that the deferral (in effect a cancellation) was in order to prevent the construction schedule from blowing out any further, rather than a purely financial decision. While it would have been cheaper to build both at the same time, it’s clear the new Liberal government wants to avoid any further embarrassment from a delay to this project, given they criticised the previous Labor government so much for all the delays to transport projects under their watch.

Greenway map

A map of the Greenway. Click on image for high resolution. (Source: http://www.greenway.org.au)

A community lobby group, the Friends of the Greenway, has been pushing for the government to reverse this decision. The group, which had previously been pushing for changes to the design, has taken on a whole new direction in light of the cancellation of this project.

All this could be solved if construction could be completed to the original schedule. Why a 5.5km extension on a pre-existing right of way, where the tracks have already been laid, and all that is required is to put up some overhead wiring and build a few new stations is going to take over 2 years still astounds me. There is no logical reason in my mind why this new line shouldn’t be up and running in 2012. Solve that, and all this should we/shouldn’t we argument over building the Greenway becomes completely irrelevant.