16 May 2013

Do not let this plan run off the rails (or road): The Age editorial

THE AGE: Five years ago, when Sir Rod Eddington delivered his report on Melbourne's sclerotic traffic and public transport problems, he said: ''Doing nothing is not an option.'' Stressing the need for urgency, Sir Rod said that were the situation allowed to drift, particularly with Melbourne's rail network, the system would ''hit the wall'' within 10 years.
Five years later, his remarks are all the more telling - especially regarding his two major proposals: the estimated $10 billion east-west road link that will eventually join the Eastern Freeway and the Western Ring Road, via CityLink; and the estimated $9 billion Metro rail tunnel between South Yarra and South Kensington. At the time, The Age, describing these proposals as ''visionary'', said it was the role of the state government to step back a bit and look at everything as a whole. ''Its vision should not be measured by election cycles, but in terms of generations,'' we said.
What happened has been exactly the opposite. Road link and rail tunnel have become bywords for political expediency, by the former state Labor government and the Coalition government. Too often, the potential impact of the two schemes on marginal electorates was deemed more important than vision. Moreover, the proposals are now being used by the federal government and opposition as bartering points (ransom money might be the better term) as the nation heads to the September election.
A few weeks ago, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promised $1.5 billion in federal funding for the east-west link, if the Coalition wins, but said it was not the role of Commonwealth governments to fund urban rail. Then, in Tuesday's budget, the Gillard government trumped this outlay with a promise of $3 billion - for the Metro rail tunnel. But conditions apply: the Napthine government would have to match the $3 billion, and the remaining $3 billion would be raised through a public-private partnership that has been secretly sketched out by federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese and state Transport Minister Terry Mulder.
Regrettably, the state government seems determined to pursue road over rail. Last week's state budget committed almost $300 million to the east-west link, and on Wednesday Treasurer Michael O'Brien said the government would proceed with the link despite not having received funding for it in the federal budget. On the same day, Mr Mulder was dismissive of the Metro rail tunnel, saying that at the moment it was ''a mirage … fanciful''. This conflicts with Sir Rod Eddington's holistic belief that road and rail networks must be extended and improved.
This political imbroglio resembles not so much a road map or rail diagram as a labyrinth with no easy exit. Just as we feared, a culture of short-term cynical opportunism prevails over the long-term public good. Wedge politics must not be allowed to shunt these plans into oblivion. Governments must rise above this for the good of the public. To paraphrase Sir Rod: doing something is now the only option.

15 May 2013

East-west tunnel plan looms as a road to ruin says academic study

Map of Sydney's Cross City Tunnel - actual usage turned
 out to be  less than half projected 
FROM THE AGE: If inflated traffic figures and tolls are used to justify the project, only vested interests will benefit, say Sophie Sturup and Nicholas Low

This east-west road tunnel, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of 0.5, will not make a return for the community and it cannot make an economic return for private investors.
At a projected construction cost of just under three times the cost of CityLink, the tolls for the tunnel will need to be at least three times the cost of an average trip on CityLink if investors are to make a similar return. If an average trip on CityLink costs $3.50 (half the trip cap cost), then assuming similar traffic volumes for the new tunnel, tolls will need to start at $10.50 for a car trip of a couple of kilometres.
But the project will make lots of money - $294 million in the next two years - for the private consultants who are working to put together reasons why the tunnel should be built.
In this there is ''moral hazard'', because those who will make money from the road are not those who will invest in it or use it. Knowing that their employer and cash cow has committed itself to the construction, there is a strong incentive for consultants to invent reasons for the project from which they can walk away when the financial architecture they have created collapses like a house of cards.
Private investors are surprisingly gullible when it comes to investing in road schemes. The Sydney Cross City Tunnel, coincidentally another east-west link, is a case in point.

27 March 2013

Metropolitan rail plan released by PTV

The State Government has released its $30 billion plan to improve the train network.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder and Public Transport Victoria CEO Ian Dobbs released the Network Development Plan - Metropolitan Rail detailing what needs to be done in four stages to cope with rail patronage that is expected to double by 2031.
Stage one (up to 2016) includes:
> Regional Rail Link (RRL), including Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations, Southern Cross platforms 15/16
> Seven new trains and associated stabling and power upgrades
> Hurstbridge line upgrade and Eltham stabling
> An initial order for up to 33 new high capacity trains, each capable of initially carrying up to 1100 passengers and capable of being extended up to 220 metres in length
> 40 new V/Locity carriages
> Williams Landing Station
> Grovedale Station
> Southland Station
> High capacity signalling trial on Sandringham line.
Stage two (within 10 years)
> The Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project, a nine-kilometre rail tunnel between South Kensington and South Yarra via the CBD and five new inner-city stations
> Duplication of the rail line to Melton
> Dandenong Rail Corridor Upgrade
> Deliver initial order of up to 33 high capacity trains, order and deliver a further 70 trains
> Installation of high capacity signalling on the Sandringham, South Morang and Hurstbridge lines and between Sunbury and South Yarra.
Stage three (with in 15 years)
> A new line to Melbourne Airport
> A new line to Rowville
> South Morang services diverted into a new tunnel between Clifton Hill and Southern Cross, allowing construction of a new line to Doncaster
> Electrification to Melton
> Order and deliver extra high capacity trains
> High capacity signalling (Northern and Cross-City groups)
> Continuation of Dandenong Rail Corridor Upgrade.

What do you think?

25 March 2013

The Age: "Coalition fails on rail plans"

For the second time in a week The Age has commented on the State Governments delivery on transport issues - and the scorecard is not good...

Jason Dowling, The Age City editor
From Jason Dowling,The Age City editor

A key election promise to ''ensure that the provision of rail services keeps pace with the development of new housing estates'' has been broken by the state government.
Other Coalition promises to ''push for high-speed rail'' on the east coast and to report publicly on the cost of bringing all public transport assets up to 21st-century standards have also not been met.
In November 2010, then Coalition leader Ted Baillieu promised to ensure new housing estates had access to a train service.
''Under John Brumby, rail services have lagged behind the development of new estates by up to 30 years, leaving residents in areas like Rowville and Doncaster stranded and forced to rely on bus services,'' he said.
While the Coalition government is releasing more than 50,000 new housing blocks in Melbourne's growth areas a year, there have been no new rail extensions and none are planned.
A recent letter by Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder to Salman Shami, a resident of the Doreen housing estate in Melbourne's north, indicated rail services would not be keeping pace with new housing in the area.
In the letter, Mr Mulder said the Mernda rail extension was on a long-term project list.
He said ''current priority is being given to planning for rail links to Rowville, Doncaster and Melbourne and Avalon airports''.
No work will begin on the Rowville, Doncaster or Melbourne airport rail links for at least a decade - in the same period there will be an additional half a million homes in Melbourne's growth areas.
Mr Shami said the letter from Mr Mulder ''really made me angry''.
Darren Peters from the South Morang and Mernda Rail Alliance said a rail extension to Mernda was desperately needed.
He said the South Morang extension had been very popular.
Tony Morton, president of the Public Transport Users Association, said the public should feel let down by broken Coalition transport promises.
He said recently released studies into future train lines to Doncaster and Rowville effectively ''torpedoed'' the projects, and Southland station was a clear broken election promise.
''I think the public had an expectation that we would at least see that there would be a strategy and a timeline for moving forward,'' he said.
The government has also not fulfilled a promise to push for a high-speed east-coast rail link or released figures on the cost of bringing all public transport assets up to 21st-century standards.
A spokeswoman for Public Transport Victoria said it was ''actively participating in the Commonwealth's study into an east-coast high-speed rail service'' and it continually audited public transport assets.
Mr Mulder said the Coalition government had ''placed a lot of emphasis on increasing the number of train trips to areas with new housing developments''.
''The Werribee line has 181 extra train trips a week, the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines 211, the Sunbury line an extra 81 plus the extension of electric trains from Watergardens to Sunbury, the Craigieburn line 29 and the South Morang line 58, along with the extension of electrification from Epping to South Morang,'' he said.
Opposition transport spokeswoman, Fiona Richardson said ''it is becoming clear that the Liberal government has no intention of delivering on many of the promises that they made prior to the last election''.

Do you feel let down?

18 March 2013

The Age: "Attention passengers, your expanded rail network has been delayed"

Adam Carey, The Age
Here is The Age's transport reporters analysis of the three recent rail reports (as seen on-line 15 March 2013)

It has taken just two years for the state government's grand plans to expand Melbourne's suburban rail network to vanish down a hole. Or rather, a tunnel.
After ambitiously launching studies on long-proposed railway lines to Doncaster, Rowville and Melbourne Airport in its early days, the Coalition government has in the past week dropped three separate independent reports that all reach the same conclusion: nothing will be built before Melbourne Metro.
Melbourne Metro – a proposed nine-kilometre rail tunnel beneath the city centre – is at least a decade away from happening but heads the government's wishlist of public transport projects and, perhaps more significantly, of the bureaucracy that advises them.
The Transport Department and its successor, Public Transport Victoria, were never interested in the Coalition's vision of new suburban rail extensions because they had already looked at these projects years ago and found reasons not to go ahead with them. Evidently they won the argument behind closed doors, because the government has rushed to release its reports, as if to purge itself of the embarrassing baggage of its pre-election optimism.
Released on Thursday, the Doncaster rail draft report appears so expensively elaborate it is as if it were designed to fail.
A brand-new tunnel would be required not just for the Doncaster line but also from Northcote into the city along the South Morang line, where it would join Melbourne Metro in Parkville before terminating at Flagstaff. Passengers would hope that station is open on weekends by then.
The Melbourne Airport rail link would also connect to Melbourne Metro and run alongside the Sunbury line before detouring to Tullamarine at Albion East. At 30 minutes, it would be a slower run to the airport than the average ride on Skybus.
A Rowville line has also been judged unfeasible without Melbourne Metro because of congestion in the City Loop. Voices outside government argue a new rail tunnel is not the only answer to Melbourne's rail capacity woes. High-speed signalling, for example, could double capacity at much less cost.
Ted Baillieu stood at Doncaster Hill and said it was a great place for a train station, but now that he's gone and the reports he promised are out, that hope seems more distant than ever.
Read at The Age 

What do you think?

14 March 2013

Doncaster rail study released

Here is the PTV video on the preferred route for Doncaster rail

Here is link to the summary of the Doncaster Rail study released today.

In short the study finds the best option to be:

A Rapid Transit alignment, from the Doncaster Park-and-Ride to the CBD via the Eastern 
Freeway and connecting to Collingwood station, has been found to be the most viable 
of the route options considered.

The alignment would feature stations at Doncaster Park-and-Ride, Thompsons Road (Bulleen) and Kew Chandler Highway, before joining the existing line at Collingwood station and on to Flinders Street.

This would cost between $3 - $5 billion. The estimated travel time is 25 minutes. The study assumes that the rail will be in use in 2021.

It rules out taking the rail to Doncaster hill because:
"The prohibitive cost (estimated to be up to $1 billion) and limited additional
patronage provided by the link between Doncaster Hill and the Doncaster
Park-and-Ride leads the study team to conclude that a connection to
Doncaster Hill is not warranted at this stage. The current DART bus services
should instead be reconfigured to feed the new Doncaster Park-and-Ride
station. DART could provide a connection between these points at a peak
frequency equating to a bus every two minutes"
The study invites community feedback until 26 April.

Here what Terry Mulder said in his media release

What do you think?

13 March 2013

Airport rail: Is this what you had in mind?

The Herald Sun is reporting on outcome of the Airport rail feasibility study.

A TRAIN line to Melbourne Airport would run from the proposed Metro rail tunnel via Albion East, the State Government says.
The 28km route was not necessarily the quickest - it would take an estimated 30 minutes to travel from the airport to the Metro's proposed CBD North station.
But Transport Minister Terry Mulder said it was the best option identified by a $6.5 million feasibility study.
Public Transport Victoria chief executive Ian Dobbs estimated last week the 9km metro tunnel would not be ready until at least 2022, meaning an airport link is more than a decade away.
Is this what you had in mind? 

06 March 2013

Rowville rail study release

Tue 5 Mar 2013: The government had released the stage one Rowville rail study.

Here are some useful links:

The Premiers Media release Rowville moves ahead

PTV page on the study

The Age report

The Herald Sun report

Here is the PTV video with artists impressions and route description:

The next question is .... What about the Doncaster rail study? When will that be released?

24 January 2013

Read what you said about public transport two years after the Baillieu government was elected

Read what you said about public transport two years after the Baillieu government was elected. 

Nearly 1100 people responded to our survey about public transport. Read what they had to say about trains, buses and trams.

Half way through the Baillieu government’s term of office most respondents to our survey believe that public transport has not improved. Across the board, the most common response was that there was no change to overcrowding, frequency, amenity or overall services. While there were respondents that did report improvements, they were significantly outnumbered by those saying the service was somewhat worse or much worse.

We asked the respondents to nominate their best and worst decisions of the government regarding public transport, and to nominate the action that would attract their vote in the future.

The most frequently nominated best decisions included:
The shuttle bus between Monash and Huntingdale
Completing the South Morang line, South Morang train station
Increasing the frequency of trains on the Frankston line 
Increasing train frequency on some lines
Establishment of PTV 
The introduction of Protective Service Officers.

The most frequently nominated worst decisions included:
Myki and removal of day tickets
PSOs instead of more station staff
Advocating the East-West road tunnel over public transport
No comprehensive plan or commitment to public transport and cycling
“Failed to articulate any real vision and failed to take any decisive action”
Ignoring the needs of people living in outer suburbs - particularly for evening and weekend access  
Lack of new bus services
No decision on new rail lines, including Doncaster, Rowville and Tullamarine.

Among these responses, there is a strong perception that the government has not delivered on promises regarding public transport. Over 80% disagreed with the statement that the government had delivered on public transport promises.

There was a wide range of promises that respondents said would attract their vote in 2014. The following were the most frequently mentioned (in no particular order):
Rail link to the airport
Implementation of a program to grade separate all existing railway crossings
Improved coordination between services
Improved amenities on stations and surrounds
Much more frequent, cheaper services
More direct bus routes
Better parking facilities in train stations
Make all transport free for seniors as in UK and many places
Greater frequency of all public transport, all night trains and trams
Buses running later in the day and more frequently on weekends
Commitment to build new rail lines, including Doncaster, Monash Rowville and Tullamarine.

Among our respondents there is a strong sentiment that the current government has done little to improve public transport and has failed to live up to pre-election promises.

04 December 2012

Random samples of vote winning ideas from the mid-term PT survey

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to out mid-term PT survey. We've had 775 responses so far. The survey closes on 10 Dec, so there is still time to have your say - click here

Action about trucks is a popular promise
Here are a random selection of public transport promises that could attract your vote in 2014?
Buses co-ordinating with trains
A program to grade separating all existing railway crossings, corridor by corridor.
increasing train frequency
All night trains and trams to give transport access to those who can't afford cabs
Airport rail.
Support for community transport for those who are unable to use or access public transport.
The Truck Action Plan
Much more frequent, cheaper services
More direct bus routes
Extending suburban rail to new suburbs, like Aurora and the Point Cook area.
Making public transport precede development, not the other way around. 
Ensuring all stations are staffed from the first to last train
Improved access and safety for travellers with disabilities
New train stations in new areas eg, Mernda, new suburbs near Werribee.
Ensure good, timely bus transport.
More bus routes and more buses
Improving off-peak and weekend services
A committment to building no more freeways in Melbourne
Increased frequency of trains in peak hours to reduce over crowding
A train service to Airport.
More expresses on the Frankston line.   New trains on the Frankston line.  
Buying more trains and trams.

23 November 2012

Some random responses about the BEST of Baillieu so far

Here are some random responses to the survey question about the BEST thing done by the Baillieu govt so far ....

The shuttle bus between Monash and Huntingdale. 
Completing the South Morang line.
Waiting for an announcement. So no opinion.

Trains appear to be coming more frequently in the mornings.
New train station at Williams Landing - but it defeats the object if it is zone 2 as people will continue to drive to Laverton so roads still jammed
Reliability & punctuality seems to have improved.
The broad increase in the number of services (across the network) and frequency of trains on the Frankston line.
The 601 bus to Monash University
Doncaster rail study, however this is meaningless if the rail line doesn't go ahead
Improving safety on trains and train stations with extra staff

Have your say at https://edunity.wufoo.com/forms/z7x0r3/

21 November 2012

Go online to say if transport is on track

At the midway point in the Baillieu Government, Melbourne councils are asking the public to rate the Government’s progress so far on public transport.

MTF Chair Tom Melican said transport promises played an important role in the 2010 state election.

‘With the continued growth of Melbourne, transport will be a major issue when we vote again in 2014.

‘We want to give people a way to have their say about public transport,’ said Cr Melican.

Click here to have your say. The survey closes on 10 Dec 2012.

09 November 2012

Your suggestions for better buses

You did the survey, now read the results

During September 2012, the pt4me2 website offered you an opportunity to put forward suggestions on how to make Melbourne’s bus service better. The survey was promoted in the media, through social media and via email to our subscribers.

At the close of the survey on 3 October, 331 responses had been received. Responses were received from 123 different postcodes, but its worth noting that 56 responses were received from postcodes 3030 and 3039 alone (Point Cook and Hoppers Crossing).

The standout suggestions were: 
  • More frequent services (that meet up with trams and trains)
  • Start earlier, stop later and run on Sundays
  • Real time bus information (like tram tracker)
  • Services in growth areas 
  • More direct routes, faster times between locations
  • More comfortable, better driven
The MTF will be using your answers to argue for better buses across Melbourne.

Read the summary report here

04 October 2012

The Age: "Too much transport talk - action required"

The Premier must deliver on his public transport
promise according to The Age.

THE AGE THE mayhem on Melbourne's roads yesterday gives us all cause to pause and ponder the city's transport systems tomorrow and beyond. The community's vulnerability to transport disruptions was underscored when a computer glitch sparked the closure of the Domain and Burnley tunnels near the city centre.
The cost in lost work hours from that one event would be in the millions of dollars. So, in analysing arguments for investment in various transport projects, it is vital to weigh the productivity implications of inadequate infrastructure. Over longer periods, the numbers become enormous; it is estimated Melbourne road congestion costs the economy about $3 billion a year right now, a figure tipped to rise to $6 billion annually by 2020.
The Age has long advocated greater investment in, and reliance on, public transport. It is the optimal option in a metropolis with a rapidly rising population - it is forecast to surge from 4.1 million today to close to 6 million in 25 years.
Public transport is relatively easy to scale up; more trains and trams can be deployed on the existing rails, buses can be added to existing routes and new bus routes can be readily created. In the medium term, new tram and train lines can be created.
Public transport has a smaller environmental impact than private cars, an increasingly important consideration for many commuters.
Further, public transport, as numerous sophisticated cities around the world have demonstrated, is safer, quicker and more convenient for many trips, particularly close to city centres.
Yesterday's tedious difficulties on Melbourne's roads came as former premier Jeff Kennett, not exactly known while in office for his championing of investment in communal transport, floated the notion that Victoria's most pressing infrastructure need is a network of underground railways. At the very same time, one of Mr Kennett's successors as head of the Victorian Liberal Party's parliamentary team, current lord mayor Robert Doyle, pledged that if re-elected to the top of town hall, he would trial a free weekday ferry service on the Yarra.
Mr Kennett might be right, although it would seem more likely that the most cost-effective way to augment public transport is via more overground infrastructure, rather than a metro system. Cr Doyle, too, might be on to something, although it would be good to see a more robust exploration of the potential of ferries, perhaps by trialling a service from Geelong or Mornington to the city.
What is most important is that the debates and analyses lead to action - and soon. One of the pivotal promises that led to Ted Baillieu being elected Premier of Victoria almost two years ago was to improve the public transport system. As far back as 2006, the former Victorian government commissioned Sir Rod Eddington, the chairman of Infrastructure Australia, to develop a transport plan. When he delivered that plan in 2008, he stressed a dualist approach; road and rail networks need to be extended and improved.
Yet six years on, and notwithstanding Mr Baillieu's pledge, there is little progress. The Baillieu government is moving towards central planning and control of transport by creating a Public Transport Development Authority, but little has been heard about what changes citizens might expect.
The Age's primary position remains constant - we believe public transport must be the priority for taxpayer-funded transport investment. But, as Mr Kennett showed to the benefit of the community, private investment and public-private partnerships are critical elements of any transport solution. Mr Baillieu's government has a minimal majority. It gained power partly on transport promises, and risks losing it if it does not get on with curing congestion. If it does not help voters better get from A to B, they could well send it on a historic ride to obscurity.

What do you think of the Baillieu governments progress on public transport and transport overall?

03 October 2012

Kennett calls for Melbourne subway system

Time has come for bold reform, says Jeff

FROM THE AGE: A NEW network of underground railway lines is the most important infrastructure needed for Victoria's future, former premier Jeff Kennett reportedly told an audience yesterday at the Australian Property Institute Pan Pacific Congress.
"If I was able to wave a magic wand even now, I would start the planning for an underground rail system," Mr Kennett said.
"It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but I can assure you when you look back in 50 years, or 100 years, whatever you pay today would seem cheap. We can hardly accommodate the traffic on the surface of our community in an efficient way and it is only going to get worse."
Mr Kennett's comments were celebrated by the author of a study into building a railway line to Doncaster, much of which would run underground.
Peter Newman, Distinguished Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, agreed that Melbourne would need a network of train tunnels to avoid future gridlock.
"That is the priority that should be influencing politicians on both sides at the moment and it's the kind of far-sighted thinking we desperately need in Melbourne's politics," Professor Newman said.
The Baillieu government allocated almost $50 million in the 2012/13 budget to advance a proposed nine-kilometre Melbourne Metro tunnel joining the Dandenong railway line south-east of South Yarra station, and the Sunbury line west of South Kensington station.
Professor Newman said the proposed Melbourne metro project was "just the start" of meeting Melbourne's transport needs.
"Melbourne Metro is the start of it, it is about making a full network and that's not a concept that anyone has put together yet. But at some stage it was bound to happen once you could see how you could tie the whole city together underground," he said.
Mr Kennett said smaller-scale projects, such as Melbourne Metro, were necessary but the time had come for bold reform.
"I'm actually thinking about a generational change of how we move around the city and that can in my opinion only be done through an underground rail system," he said.
"We have the City Loop, right, which is all we have, but it's very much constrained by its size and the fact that it fundamentally goes nowhere."
Mr Kennett also said the government should work with the private sector to develop space above existing railway stations into housing, offices and other accommodation.
"We have enormous potential to do a lot of work in this area and do it with the private sector," he said.

What do you think?

26 September 2012

Not so sqeeezy - survey highlights overcrowding

FROM THE AGE: ALMOST two-thirds of Australians believe investment in public transport is more important than investment in roads, a survey has found.
In Victoria 63 per cent of people surveyed said investing in public transport was the highest priority, compared with 20 per cent who believed it was most important to invest in roads.
One thousand Australians in all states and territories were quizzed in the University of Sydney quarterly survey, which has monitored shifts in national attitudes to transport issues since 2010.
Transport is not held to be as important an issue as health, the economy or education, the survey found. Just 8 per cent of people said transport was the most important issue for Australia, although 51 per cent said improving public transport was the most important transport issue, compared with 27 per cent who nominated roads.
The survey also found that Victorians are the most dissatisfied with overcrowding on trains. Fifty-three per cent of Victorians surveyed said that train overcrowding in the peak was ''intolerable'', compared with 43 per cent nationwide. This compared with just 32 per cent in Queensland and 38 per cent in New South Wales.
Professor David Hensher, director of The University of Sydney's Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, which conducts the surveys, said train overcrowding was now a bigger issue for many than travel times or fares, which politicians would do well to recognise.
''This sends a signal about the need to include level of crowding when considering new investment,'' Professor Hensher said.
Victorians are also the most pessimistic about whether transport will improve, with 35 per cent predicting it will worsen in the next year and 37 per cent predicting it will worsen in the next five years.
Nationally, 29 per cent believe it will deteriorate in the next five years and 43 per cent believe it will improve. In Victoria, 15 per cent believe transport will improve in the next year, and 39 per cent in the next five years.
Read more

25 September 2012

Money better spent on modernising and expanding the rail

City:Link from the air
THE AGE: The Baillieu government has given top priority to building the east-west road tunnel across inner Melbourne. Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has rushed to support it, joined recently by Infrastructure Australia, headed by Sir Rod Eddington, whose report first proposed the link.
It seems likely the Gillard government will find itself compelled to come on board before the next federal election. Daniel Andrews, the ALP leader in Victoria, can be expected to follow suit.

So, I ask, what is this road tunnel supposed to do? To relieve traffic congestion, stupid! Well, no actually.

The underlying purpose of the tunnel is to return a positive economic and social benefit to the state of Victoria and, more specifically, to metropolitan Melbourne.

The main economic justification for building the tunnel is that it will reduce time spent travelling and speed up traffic in Melbourne's entire inner and middle suburban road network. But plainly, it is not justified to spend the billions of dollars required to build the road tunnel just to speed up by a few minutes the journeys of drivers travelling all the way across the city. Nor is it justified if building the tunnel merely attracts more people to use their cars and shifts the congestion to local roads and the exit ramps.

Eddington's own consultants could only come up with a return of 46¢ in economic value over its 30-year life for every dollar spent on it. In other words, it's a loss-making project for Victoria.

A recent study of the promises made for CityLink and the subsequent outcome shows what is likely to happen with the road tunnel. Before CityLink was built it was calculated that motorists would save between 31,800 and 37,900 vehicle hours a year by 2001. Average travel speed over the whole day would increase by about 1km/h.

In fact by 2001 - after CityLink was completed - traffic across the urban network was moving slower than had been predicted for the road network without CityLink (42km/h compared with 43.3km/h on average). Further, motorists were spending more, not less, time on the road per day.

The problem is that motorways, just because they are magnificent roads, attract traffic to them. Moreover, motorists must use local roads to reach the motorway, and then to leave it again to reach their many, widely dispersed destinations.

Time that may be gained on the motorway is lost again on the local road system and the exit ramps. And the extra congestion created becomes a justification for the next round of motorway building - as in fact happened with CityLink.

However, the projected economic cost of congestion, which is always used in justifying motorway construction, is vastly inflated. About 60 per cent or more of the ''cost'' used in benefit-cost calculations comes from putting a money value on each motorist's allegedly ''saved'' travel time. Mostly, the saved time per journey per motorist per day is only a few minutes, but when expressed in terms of money over the life of the motorway, all these little amounts of time ''saved'' add up to a very large sum for the billions of journeys made every year.

There is no evidence that, even if these few minutes per journey were saved, the time would be spent productively - for instance, buckling down to a few minutes' extra work every day. It is just as logical for a motorist to sleep in for a few more minutes, which may or may not be economically productive. However, there is evidence that what motorists actually do if the speed of travel increases is not spend less time travelling every day, but instead travel more and further.

So what can we expect the outcome to be if the road tunnel is built? At first the tunnel will attract people to use their cars, thus congesting local roads and impeding essential freight traffic flows. As a consequence, the speed of traffic in inner and middle Melbourne will slow further. Second, if journey speeds do increase, there will be more car travel and carbon emissions, which is not a good result for the changing climate or for Melbourne's urban sprawl.

The long-term answer to congestion is to build the public transport system into a highly efficient, fully integrated network.

The money projected to be spent on motorways in the next 50 years should be spent modernising and expanding the rail, tram and bus system and managing it under unified command, like the seamless networks seen in the finest European cities.

This is based on the article ''Rethinking the cost of traffic congestion, lessons from Melbourne's CityLink toll roads'' in Urban Policy and Research by Nicholas Low, professor in urban and environmental planning at Melbourne University, and John Odgers, senior lecturer at the RMIT school of business.

11 September 2012

Will late night pt help reduce city violence?

Going home in a divvy van or by tram?
RUNNING trains and trams later on weekends could help stem the tide of drunken bashings in the centre of Melbourne, according to one of the state's top policemen.

Superintendent Rod Wilson, the man in charge of policing in the city centre, urged the state government and public transport operators to consider a trial whereby trains and trams would run until 3am or 4am to cope with some of the 380,000 people who flood the city each night on weekends.

''My main beef is that we've got to get fair dinkum about a public transport option to get people home,'' Superintendent Wilson said. (Read more at The Age)

But Transport Minister Terry Mulder is not on board with the Superintendent. Mr Mulder is concerned that late night pt will shift the 'problem' from the CBD to the suburbs. 

What do you think?

10 September 2012

More tolls says Transurban CEO - fancy that!

From: The Australian September 07, 2012 

Transurban CEO pushes variable prices on roads and public transport

THE chief executive of the nation's largest toll-road operator has called for the introduction of variable pricing on Australian roads and public transport to help fund future infrastructure spending, manage demand and promote public transport alternatives in Australia's cities.

Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton told The Australian this morning that the current amounts road users paid to access the nation's road network did not accurately reflect when, where and how frequently they accessed the road network.

His comments, coming only weeks after he took over as CEO, are the most the most outspoken ever by Transurban on what is a highly controversial and politicised issue.

“The time is quickly coming when the one-size-fits-all approach in this country simply will not work,'' he said ahead of an address to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia's (IPA) annual conference in Melbourne.

“It is common sense; every other utility has some sort of demand pricing component,” he said. “As we start to manage these road networks as a whole rather than as individual pieces, this has to be looked at.''

However Mr Charlton stressed that public transport had to be included in any network pricing scheme to ensure fairness and real choices for the travelling public.

What do you think?