Isaac just turned 18. (Yeah, I know.)
Anyway, I was talking to him about getting a photo ID that shows his age, so (if he should choose to) he can exercise his rights as an adult.
Many his age would get a Learner’s permit as part of learning to drive. But he has zero interest in doing that — in fact he has firmly said he doesn’t want it. And I’m not about to argue against that. Not me, who likes to avoid driving, and who didn’t get a driver’s licence until the age of 27.
I wonder if not being interested in driving is becoming a Thing?
Looks like it might be in some circles.
Young people are shying away from getting their driver’s licence because they are keeping in touch with their friends online rather than in person, a new (US) study has found.
– Fairfax Drive: Young people choose computers over cars
What, Facebook is killing cars? Surely not — at least, not on its own — though it does seem that my kids go and visit their friends less than I used to when I was a teenager.
The article continues:
The figures tally with some recent Australian findings, which show that public transport use is booming as car use declines.
Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.
Social analyst David Chalke says that in Australia the increasing number of young people attending university for long periods of time in major metropolitan areas means that cars are more of a hassle than a convenience.
“With kids staying at university for longer, they’re more likely to want an iPad than a car,” Chalke says.
He says mobile devices mean people can also use their travelling time more effectively on public transport.
Good point, that last one. And Mr Chalke also notes that university life doesn’t mix well with cars — at many campuses, parking is expensive or scarce or both.
This trend ties in with some parts of the USA:
The latest generation of young adults has more alternatives to the car, Sheryl Connelly (Futurologist at Ford) suggests. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have successfully encouraged far greater bike use, while public transport is far better in some places than 30 years ago.
“The car doesn’t hold the same imagery that it did in the Sixties or Seventies,” she says.
…and it seems to be borne out in other western countries as well:
The ﬁndings indicate that since the turn of the millennium, access to cars, measured in terms of drivers’ licences and household car ownership, has decreased in most study countries—especially for men. Moreover, average daily car travel distance has decreased in most study countries, again especially for men. In France, Japan, and most signiﬁcantly in the USA, the decrease in car travel has led to a reduction in total everyday travel by young travellers. In Great Britain, the decline in car travel was partly, and in Germany fully, compensated by an increased use of alternative modes of transport.
Obviously there are a lot of factors, and it’s only a specific demographic, but I think this makes some sense.
If you live in a walkable neighbourhood, if your friends and the places you go are either local or easily accessible by bike or public transport, then why would you be interested in cars, especially given the costs of running them?
Opting out of using a parent’s car as well? That’s a step further that I find that really interesting.
In many cities, including Melbourne, of course it’s going to be different in different areas. We in Bentleigh do have a walkable suburb, with no roads more than 4 lanes in total (certainly no freeways), mostly straight and easily navigable streets, few cul-de-sacs and while the buses are nothing special, the trains run every 10 minutes every day of the week.
But some suburbs are really pedestrian-hostile, with very wide fast roads to cross, little within walking distance, and appalling public transport. I really doubt the reluctance to join motordom is a Thing in most outer suburbs.
- A previous blog post on this topic — where one commenter thought that by my documenting of a possible pattern, I was somehow trying to convince him to stop driving. Ummm…
- And the ID card? I’ll post about that next.
One look at the planned EW route shows why it would have made yesterday’s #Citylink mess worse, not better
The claims that the East-West link would somehow help the road network cope with yesterday’s horrible Citylink accident are truly mystifying. It really does appear as if the motorway boosters have tried to make use of this high-profile event to promote their cause in the hope that nobody thought too much about what they were saying.
RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus said the crash amplified the need for an east-west tunnel connecting the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill and the Western Ring Road.
“You see it all the time if we have a major collision on the West Gate Freeway, the Bolte Bridge, the Tullamarine or the Monash and the whole city grinds to a halt. This crash has really amplified the need for the East West Link and a complete network of freeways. We need an alternative route,” he said.
One look at the map shows why this isn’t the case.
Proposed East-West link map, highlighting shared section with Citylink, where Friday’s accident happened. (Source)
Apart from the fact that “alternative routes” have their own traffic to deal with, in this case the East-West link would have been no help whatsoever. Why? Because the planned East-West route includes the section of Citylink where the crash was.
The presence of the eastern connection in particular would have made it worse, because it would have brought their own traffic into the picture. Traffic coming in from the eastern suburbs and wanting to head south on Citylink (to head towards the Westgate bridge or anywhere else south of Flemington) would have been joining the traffic caught up in the snarl.
Their only alternative motorway route they could have taken would be to head north via the Tullamarine, then the Calder then the Ring Road, then finally onto the Westgate. For a trip from say Flemington to Spotswood, this would blow out from 9km to 34km — hardly a realistic alternative, particularly in the face of that route’s usual traffic plus other displaced vehicles.
As one commenter on the 3AW web site said yesterday: “Thank God we don’t have the East-West Link, otherwise traffic would be backed up on the Eastern as well!!!!!!!”
Even on the best of days, this section of Citylink is congested already at peak times, simply because it is a completely inefficient way of moving people. Add extra traffic — even in the absence of a major disruption — and it would become daily gridlock.
Don’t be surprised if the EW link ever gets built that the road lobby immediately start asking for the next alternative route to link them up — yet another new freeway connection through inner-city Melbourne.
Of course, one should note Negus’s comment was not necessarily about this particular event, but more about wanting a complete network of freeways. Because apparently the best solution to something that doesn’t work is to build more of them.
- Want roadside assistance but don’t want to fund RACV’s lobbying? There are plenty of alternatives – cheaper too
The way the state budget has been framed in terms of transport was almost inevitable: the East-West motorway (stage 1) vs the Metro Rail Tunnel, with the motorway winning this round.
While they are quite different projects, serving (mostly) different markets and (attempting to be) solving different problems, I thought it might be interesting to look at them side-by-side them, based on known facts and some slightly shaky estimates, and using some doubtful metrics to compare.
|Project||Metro rail tunnel||East-west motorway tunnel (stage 1)|
|Where||South Kensington to South Yarra||Clifton Hill to Flemington|
|Estimated cost||$5-9 billion||$6-8 billion [cite]|
|Length||9 km [cite]||8 km [cite]|
|Cost per km||$0.56 – 1 billion per km||$0.75 – 1 billion per km|
|Theoretical capacity per hour||30 trains
x 1000 people per train
x 2 directions
= 60,000 [cite]
x 2000 vehicles per hour
x 1.2 people per vehicle
x 2 directions
(or some capacity for freight)
|Approx cost per person capacity per hour||$83,000 – $150,000 per person||$416,000 – $555,000 per person|
|Stations/interchanges||Arden (North Melbourne)
(Unfortunately it appears the tunnel will not include an interchange station at South Yarra.)
Flemington Road citybound
|Main trips/destinations served
(excluding future extensions)
St Kilda Road
Tram connections to inner suburbs
|Between Eastlink/Eastern freeway corridors and:
CBD and University/hospital precinct via Flemington Road
|Construction funding||Zilch so far, only planning money
|$0.293 billion from the state government
(about 4% of total cost, though it’s suspected some of this is planning money)
As I said, they are different projects serving different markets, and probably shouldn’t be directly compared like this. But there are some points to be made by doing so.
For both, reaching the theoretical capacity depends on removing other bottlenecks, and making sure feeder routes (whether PT or road) are completely optimised. But if you can do it, even the huge cost of underground rail is still many many times cheaper for the capacity brought than underground roads.
The government is talking of the road in terms of “city-shaping”. The problem is it’s city-shaping towards more car dependence, with all its problems and inefficiencies. As some have pointed out, the Eastern Freeway already gets clogged in the Box Hill area — inducing more traffic (motorists heading west from Clifton Hill) is not going to help this; nor is it going to help motorists heading south down Hoddle Street towards the inner-city.
If they were serious about ensuring the efficient movement of the city’s growing population, they’d be investing heavily in the most efficient mode, and helping more people get around more often leaving the car at home (or even ditching one of the cars in their household).
That would be city-shaping, in a good way.
- Marcus Wong recently wrote up an excellent summary of what’s known about the Metro rail tunnel
9am: updated with higher $9b rail tunnel cost estimate.
The Frankston line is to get upgrades worth $100 million — signalling changes to allow X’Trapolis trains to run, more shelter at stations, better CCTV, and better passenger information, including about connecting buses and trams.
The Premier, Public Transport Minister, local (Coalition) MPs, heads of PTV and Metro and even the Mayor of Glen Eira were at Bentleigh station this morning for an announcement.
I heard it was happening, so decided to ambush the press conference and listen in. (Just like old times.)
The press release details what’s included:
“Frankston line passengers will also benefit from improvements to station lighting, the installation of extra CCTV cameras, the extension of station platform canopies to provide more weather protection, additional myki readers and disability access improvements.
“Frankston line stations will also have new passenger information screens installed which display real time updates for trains, trams and buses, providing improved information for commuters as they arrive at stations.
“The Coalition Government’s doubling in train frequencies to every 10 minutes during the day on weekends on the Dandenong, Frankston and Ringwood lines has been successful, and now it is time to roll out further improvements,” Mr Mulder said.
This all sounds pretty good.
In fact, it sounds like precisely the sort of upgrade which should be carried out on lines across the network.
Along with the ten minute trains now seen on the line every day, a good amount of shelter, good lighting and CCTV and real time connection information is not unreasonable to expect on all our rail lines.
I had a quick chat to Andrew Lezala from Metro — it seems the acceleration of the X’trapolis and Siemens trains are similar, so they’d like to predominantly run those on the Frankston line, and tweak the timetable to match.
Presumably this means Comeng trains will go elsewhere — and it would also mean the Williamstown and Werribee lines will also get X’trapolises, since most Frankston trains through-route to there.
What wasn’t announced?
More services — we’ve already seen ten minute services every day on the line during off-peak (though few people know about them) — better than any other line in Melbourne, so I think it’s fair enough to let that be for now. But peak could do with a boost to cope with crowding and a clean-up of peak shoulder would help too.
Grade separation — North Road grade separation is coming along (though is not quite “delivered” yet, as a flyer from the local member recently claimed), but no others on this line are proposed at present. The Premier and Minister had caught the train to Bentleigh, and when I had a chat with him, the Premier noted the extremely slow speed over the Glenhuntly train/tram crossing. I think he may have made noises about improving it, but I’m assuming this does not amount to a promise to grade separate!
Southland station — One of the journos asked about Southland. Terry Mulder said that because it involves building on land owned by the shopping centre, they are in negotiations over that. He seemed to also say that it would happen soon, without giving a firm time line, but it did say it would definitely happen.
Station staff — Nup. They’re still pushing the PSOs policy, even though much crime happens before 6pm, and many stations see little or nothing happen.
Connections — The upgrade will include real time information about connections, but of course one of the things lacking is the frequency of those connecting services. Passengers in Glenhuntly are lucky enough to have trams every 10-15 minutes every day, but those relying on buses see mostly hourly weekend services, and some (such as the Bentleigh to Brighton end of the 703) don’t run on Sundays.
The gunzel version
X’Traps to replace Comengs on the Franga line! Get photos!!
When will things start to happen
It’s hard not to see that this package of upgrade works is aimed squarely at the row of marginal seats along the Frankston line. As such I’d be surprised if some of the more visible changes don’t start to happen in the next 12 months, well in time for the election in November 2014.
With trains every ten minutes, better realtime information and station shelters, enhanced CCTV, more reliable services… sounds like just the sort of thing that should be rolled-out across the rail network.
But $100 million is also a lot of money. For instance, yesterday it was announced that a new high school in the Mernda/Doreen area would be built… costing $11.5 million. Some are pointing out that $100 million would pay for duplication on some of the single-line sections of other lines, which would make a huge difference to reliability.
East-west motorway: how much of inner-northern Melbourne will need to be flattened for interchanges?
The flaws of the proposed east-west road are well-known, but let’s briefly re-cap.
- Most traffic from the Eastern Freeway is headed for the city, not cross-town.
- It wouldn’t be a backup for the M1 (Westgate/Citylink), because it would have its own traffic, and for most road users, it’s too far north.
- It wouldn’t prevent traffic congestion because just like every other motorway before it, it would generate more traffic.
- It wouldn’t be a “second river crossing” — there are already four road crossings to the west in the proposed area, and railways that together have more capacity than all the roads.
- It’s so ridiculously expensive that it couldn’t be built without some private money. Private investors would want city exits, ensuring it would help clog inner-city streets.
- It was barely mentioned before the last election. In fact, while Terry Mulder said they supported the motorway “in principle”, he also specifically that: “we are not going to this election with a plan” (to build it). And yet now, somehow, it’s the government’s top infrastructure priority.
- The Benefit/Cost Ratio is well under 1.0 — the Eddington study measured it as 0.45.
- It makes little sense in a 21st century city, with people driving less, and when most people want to see public transport prioritised ahead of roads — this new study says 53% of Australians want priority on public transport, 26% on roads.
The impact on the inner-north
Less thought about is the impact such a road would have on the inner-north of Melbourne.
Yeah it’s not perfect. The traffic’s too light, and the bridge is too high relative to the cross-street. And the interchange is too small.
In real life, if the road was put underground, the exits in particular would probably need to be bigger, to prevent traffic banking up back into the tunnel. This would result in mass demolition, as freeway interchanges have a huge footprint.
You’d hope an east-west interchange might be more compact, and perhaps the entrances could be shorter, since if in a tunnel it’d have a top speed of 80, not 100, so less ramp length needed to allow traffic to get up to speed. But the exits would still be a problem.
It’s unclear if the same effect would be seen in the inner-west, but the most likely exits are in the ports area, so perhaps they’d have less of an impact. (The Footscray Road interchange with Citylink, with entrances and exits only to/from the south, is a similar magnitude in size to what you see above.)
The most “compact” of motorway interchanges I could find in Melbourne is off the M1 eastbound onto Church Street in Richmond/Cremorne. It still takes a fair bit of land, and only caters for one direction. And as noted above, the off-ramp would need to be longer to avoid queues in the tunnel. (It looks like it used to have a loop exit to Church Street southbound, but I’m guessing this is no longer used?)
Lots of space for motorway interchanges is inevitable… it’s just a part of motor vehicles being such a space-inefficient way of moving people around.
And that in turn will have impacts whenever a motorway (even a tunnel) is ploughed through a built-up area.
What will Tuesday’s state budget hold? And what will be the result?
The past pattern is clear:
If we want more traffic, providing more roads is the way to do it.
If we want people to travel more sustainably, by walking, bicycle or PT, provide more of those options.
Next Tuesday’s state budget is probably the last chance the government has to fund Southland station as promised and have work well underway by the time the next election comes around.
Given a string of seats along the Frankston line swung on public transport issues, if it doesn’t get funding, I reckon there’ll be some nervous local Coalition MPs.
I won’t recount the recent history again, but let’s assume for a moment that the Coalition’s $13 million costing for the station was too low. And let’s assume that Labor’s $45 million was too high (as it included moving the existing bus interchange, which I still think is not a priority). What if for argument’s sake, the real cost was going to be, say, $30 million?
And how would that $30 million, which would benefit people right along the Frankston line corridor, compare to the various road projects that have been funded recently?
A quick skim of the Vicroads web site, excluding public transport projects such as grade separations and tram and bus lanes, shows the following, mostly relatively minor, projects:
- Stud Road widening — $12.7m
- Yarra Glen truck bypass — $15m
- Tullamarine Freeway safety barriers — $4.8m
- Cooper Street, Epping widening — $7.5m
- Plenty Road, South Morang widening — $21.8m
- Clyde Road, Berwick upgrade — $55.6m
- Dingley Arterial, Keysborough — $74.6m
- Dingley Arterial, Moorabbin — $155.7m
- Hallam Road, Hampton Park widening — $38m
- Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road widening — $49m
- Pound Road, Dandenong widening — $36.8m
I’ve also excluded another $170 million of various road upgrade projects announced yesterday — apparently mostly repairs to deteriorating country road surfaces, rather than road expansion.
Now, I’m not saying that specific projects on the above list should not have been funded — I don’t know enough about them — for all I know, some might be bringing genuinely needed safety improvements, for example. (The Dingley Arterial, however, in my view is just a continuation of past rampant freeway building in the misguided belief that it’ll fix traffic congestion.)
Nor am I saying that PT has received no funding since the election.
But the projects above, which have been funded and commenced with relatively little fuss, and many of which I suspect weren’t even in the Coalition’s election manifesto, add up to $471 million — or more than fifteen times the cost of Southland station.
You have to hand it to the roads guys. While the marginal seats that gave the Coalition the last election keep waiting for Southland station, road funding keeps rolling on.
A regular suggestion that pops up is that Melbourne’s zone 2 should be merged with zone 1, making the whole metropolitan area a single zone.
No surprise that everybody wants cheaper fares… but is it a good idea?
Price cut: The biggest beneficiaries would be weekday travellers who cover both zones, particularly those coming from the middle and outer suburbs into the CBD, saving $4.84 per day if on Myki Money, or about $760 over a year if using a Commuter Club yearly.
Car park pressure: It would remove the problem of zone boundary stations having the heaviest demand for car parking, as some people drive to zone 1 to avoid the higher fare.
(This is a very visible problem. But is it a widespread one? Not sure. By my quick count there are about 6500 parking spaces at the stations on the zone 1 boundary or a little further along — even if you add people parking in nearby streets, it’s a tiny proportion of the roughly half-a-million people using the train system each day.)
Myki: It would remove touch-off from trains and buses. This would have particular benefits at suburban railway stations in evening peak. (It’s already not needed on trams for almost all trips, as zone 1 applies.)
Price rises: The biggest issue is that it benefits some passengers but badly disadvantages others. Making all fares the zone 1 fare would mean that local zone 2-only trips would jump in price by about 45 per cent — for instance a daily fare would go from $4.84 to $7.00.
Lost revenue: Assuming there are more two-zone passengers than zone 2-only, there would be a big hit on fare revenue. How much? I don’t know; but I did work out using old railway station boarding figures that there are around 211,000 boardings in zone 2 each weekday. If for the sake of a rough estimate that we assume 60% of those travel to zone 1, that half are concessions, and that many are on Myki Money (none of these assumptions are necessarily true) then you’re looking at lost revenue of over $100 million a year. That’s a lot of money.
Equity: Is it equitable that someone travelling two stops on St Kilda Road should pay the same as someone travelling from the city to Pakenham?
Fare rise pressure: If experience from elsewhere is anything to go by, a single zone might well result in upward pressure for the flat fare to increase. Which big Australian city has the highest fares for trips up to 15 km? When a comparison was last done, it was Adelaide — which is also the only big Australian city with a single zone/flat fare system. (I had a quick look at latest fares — Adelaide is still highest for cash fares: $4.90, though for smartcard fares, Brisbane beats it by a small margin).
It wouldn’t make Myki a one-zone system: People forget: Myki isn’t just Melbourne. You might get rid of touch-off in Melbourne (which would in turn lead to confusion because of the way default fares are processed, unless more was spent on revising the software)… but Myki is about to cover the V/Line commuter belt as well, out to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour, and the Latrobe Valley, as well as the local town bus services along the way. There will always need to be zones.
My view is it’s not worth it.
It does sting badly to have to pay for two zones when you’re only 1-2 stations out from the boundary — I know this pain — when at uni, I used to pay a two-zone fare to travel between Moorabbin and Caulfield.
But it hasn’t stopped, for instance, the new Williams Landing station (2 stops/2km into zone 2) from being used. Apparently yesterday, the first weekday of operation, the big 500-space car park was already half full.
There are definitely problems with the high price jump as you cross the zone boundary, but making one Melbourne zone is not the way to fix it.
In fact, having more (but cheaper) zones, not less, might be a solution. That could mean a more gradual step-up. In this respect it’s a shame zone 3 was removed in 2007… a better idea might have been an across-the-board fare cut (which is what happened on V/Line that same year). The issues with this are that more zones is probably politically unpalatable (because it sounds retrograde, and might be difficult to explain the benefits) and it might mean the current issue of driving to zone boundaries actually spreads to more locations.
Considering a parking fee at zone 1 stations (particularly those near the boundary) is worth considering to help reduce the instances of people driving further to get cheaper fares — but is also somewhat politically unpalatable.
There is an argument for making buses zone-free, similar to trams. I’ll explore that in a later blog post.
As ever, I’d be interested to hear what others think about this issue.
- Remember, on weekends, zones aren’t much of an issue, because of the $3.50 weekend daily cap
- And Seniors have a $3.80 cap every day
Some pics from around the place in the past week or two…
Yesterday at the open day for the new Williams Landing station, PTV revealed what is apparently the new colour scheme for buses — expected to bring a uniformity to the fleet (presumably with Smartbus, shuttle and other services still retaining their special designs). The operator logo is still there, but less prominent than before, bringing us into line with other cities such as Perth and Adelaide:
(Picture reproduced with permission of @trainlined on Twitter.)