Surprise surprise, expanding the Dingley Bypass caused more traffic

Remember the Dingley Bypass?

The western end was built as the “South Road Extension” as two lanes (one each way) just last decade. It mostly wasn’t dual carriageway, but it was otherwise suspiciously freeway-like. Having appeared in the 1969 freeway plan, it wasn’t difficult to see that it would be expanded.

Dingley Bypass in 2015 (Google Streetview)
(Dingley Arterial 2015 – Google StreetView)

Sure enough in 2010, it was announced it would be expanded to four lanes (two each way).

Fast forward to March 2016 when it opened… and somehow it’s become six lanes (three each way). Classic salami tactics!

Sow roads, grow traffic

So wouldn’t making a road three times as big be likely to lead to problems on the roads it connects to? Why yes.

What a surprise — it seems South Road now has congestion problems:

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Having fed lots more traffic into South Road, what can they do? Currently through Moorabbin it’s six lanes (three each way, but with one taken by parking). They could try and fix this bottleneck by imposing clear ways — effectively expanding traffic capacity by 50% and leaving a long mostly residential stretch of the road as a huge six lane traffic sewer. Eugh.

Making the environment even more hostile to pedestrians, bus/train and bike users sounds like a great way to produce even more traffic. (The intersection of South Road and Warrigal Road is horrible.) And it would probably just move the bottleneck elsewhere. Nepean Highway next for widening, perhaps?

The proposed freeway to remove the bottleneck created by the previous proposed freeway...

Even with no more road expansion, more traffic lights might be needed to help pedestrians and cross traffic now that the road is more congested — especially at the eastern end around the Sandbelt Hotel. (Somewhere I saw an online petition for a pedestrian overpass; I can’t find it just at the moment.)

Meanwhile, the main bus route along there is only every 20 minutes on weekdays (including peak hours, when it no doubt gets stuck in traffic), and every hour at night and on weekends. Most other suburban routes run even less frequently — generally only every 30 minutes on weekdays. No wonder so many people are driving.

I don’t know quite what the solution is. But I do know that free-flowing urban traffic is a myth. At least if there’s a bottleneck now, it’s preventing traffic levels growing even more.

Ways have to be found to move more people around the suburbs them each bringing a two tonne chunk of metal. Expanding road capacity further is the last thing we should be doing.

After years of inaction, great to see progress on Southland station

Last week on Facebook the Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan published this great photo (along with a couple of others) from Southland Station under construction:

Southland station under construction

Over the weekend of 5-6 November when the Frankston line was closed, they put the pedestrian subway into place.

On Facebook the doubters continue to… well, doubt the usefulness of the station, to which I will say (at the risk of repeating myself):

  • Walking from Cheltenham station is too far for most people to want to do. If they’ve already had to get to their origin station, they don’t want another 15 minute walk to Southland.
  • Almost all the buses from Cheltenham (and other connecting stations) are either hopelessly infrequent (especially on weekends), or depart from a myriad of stops, or both. It’s even worse coming back, as only a severe bus nerd would be able to memorise which bus routes go to the station.
  • The government is right not to spend up big trying to provide commuter parking. Just like somewhere such as South Yarra, it’s a destination, with walk-up access in there as a bonus.
  • Many (most?) trips to shopping centres don’t result in people buying more shopping than they can carry (though some enterprising people do take home furniture, televisions and other big items on public transport). In fact a lot of journeys are for service-based spending, such as going to the cinema, banks, appointments.

Anyway, I took a look on Sunday. After so many years of inaction, it’s great to see solid progress on this project.

Southland station under construction November 2016

They seem to be making good use of the property in neighbouring Tulip Grove that was snapped up when it came up for sale, using it for construction access. It probably makes sense for it to provide another station entrance (as well as better access into the shopping centre) for locals, with parking restrictions to prevent park and ride commuters using it — but I guess it’s fair enough to get community views on this.

Southland station under construction November 2016

Some have observed that the station will be pretty bare bones. This impression posted on Facebook by Member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos shows the design. What even is the point of that thing above the entrance?

Plan for Southland Station

It certainly appears the pedestrian access into the centre itself will be less then ideal. (Source: PTV)

Southland station - overarching design (PTV)

But, hey, salami tactics. Just getting the station is the big step forward. Improved access is something to lobby for next.

If Westfield are smart, they’ll move to remodel parts of the car park to provide a more direct pedestrian path. And in the long term I wouldn’t be surprised if they extend the centre building out to meet the station.

Station construction work is likely to continue until December, then take a break over the busy Christmas shopping period, then resume next year, with PTV saying the station due to open in 2017.

Metro bingo

My comment piece in The Age this morning:

Metro Trains, it’s time you got your act together

This is a result of last Thursday night’s complete train network shutdown — thankfully not during peak hour — when a control room alarm caused an evacuation.

Despite the Age piece’s headline, Metro runs the system day to day, but investment in infrastructure is the responsibility of the state government. In this case, it seems obvious that moving the control room to a sensible location, in its own building, not at the mercy of every building tenant’s minor fault or evacuation alarm (real or actual), would be beneficial.

Interestingly, I understand V/Line was able to keep running their trains on the sections of their network that don’t share track with Metro, as they have a separate control room.

This indicates that decentralised local control rooms, perhaps as part of the ongoing sectorisation plans to run the various Metro lines more independently, would have had prevented such widespread disruption.

Traffic lights, bus stops, car parks – finishing touches on the new stations

Some 2-3 months after they all re-opened, Ormond, McKinnon and Bentleigh stations are still being worked on. There’s been a flurry of activity this week ahead of the “Family Fun Day” tomorrow – featuring music, food stalls and a double-ended steam train with old “red rattler” Tait carriages to run between Caulfield and Moorabbin (stopping at the three new stations).

At McKinnon they’ve installed metal plates to wrap around the bare concrete, which makes it a bit more presentable.
McKinnon station

Along Nicholson Street, the palm trees seem to be doing well. The numerous other trees are gone for good, however.
Looking south from near McKinnon station

At Bentleigh station, a vast car park, stretching all the way down to the electrical substation at Blair Street, is under construction. Google Maps says it would take you a full five minutes to walk to the station entrance from the northernmost end of the car park. On the bright side, the shared (eg bike) path now runs parallel, rather than sending cyclists through the car park as before.
Bentleigh station - new car park

The progress on the car park has been pretty fast. The bike cage? Disappointingly, still not finished, with little visible progress in the past few months.
Bentleigh station - new car park and bike cage under construction

The traffic lights adjacent McKinnon and Bentleigh stations have been commissioned.
Bentleigh station - new traffic lights

A red bulb (well, a cluster of LEDs) that was not working on the first day had been fixed by Thursday night.

I’ve timed the lights at Bentleigh station. At night with no traffic they changed about 5 seconds after a button press — good! With some traffic around, it took 15 seconds (straight after another green man) which seems reasonable.

But another time with heavy (barely moving) eastbound traffic, there was a long wait, seemingly close to a minute. That’s just silly. Providing a green man wouldn’t affect traffic because it’s barely moving anyway – held up no doubt by the intersection at Jasper Road further east. Unfortunately I won’t be surprised to see people jaywalking in frustration if this isn’t improved.

The new westbound bus stop has its Bus Zone signs, but no other infrastructure yet. The change to the stop is very logical, but I wonder if the owners of the restaurants here have been warned about possibly having to make changes to outdoor dining to cater for bus passengers. I’m sure there’s space for everybody to coexist.
Bentleigh - new site of westbound 703 bus stop

There’s no sign of the old westbound 703 bus stop. I mean literally no sign. It will be visible from here when the new one opens, but in the mean time, it’s not obvious at all where you should catch the bus. (Back up the street a few hundred metres.)
Bentleigh station - no sign of the old 703 westbound bus stop

Good to see the finishing touches being applied to this project.

And as someone who always walks to the station, I’m loving never being held up at the gates coming to and from the train.

Plain concrete to be replaced by art

This coming Saturday the new Bentleigh, McKinnon and Ormond stations are hosting a “family fun day” featuring a steam train. Should be… well, fun.

Edit: Here’s the steam train timetable:
LXRA notice: steam train timetable for 12/11/2016

(Hopefully they’ve checked if steam trains are okay climbing the higher-than-usual 2.5% (ish) gradient heading north out of Ormond station! I’d assume so, given the 2% standard is a relatively new requirement.)

Ormond station: North side entrance

At Ormond the entrance on the northern side of the road has recently opened. This is really helpful given North Road is a big arterial road, with some six lanes of traffic at 60 kmh.

That’s not so important at Bentleigh and McKinnon; only two lanes of traffic (at 40 or 50 kmh), and we’re getting pedestrian lights instead… which hopefully will be programmed to be very responsive to pedestrians.

Bentleigh station/Centre Road

But one of the things you notice is the non-station side of the bridge is a plain concrete wall, with a metal barrier on the top. You can see through the metal, but only just, and the whole thing is not beautiful — and I suspect could be a magnet for taggers. (See at right of photo, above.)

The Level Crossing Removal Authority is calling for artists to decorate the concrete walls.

This is a good idea. Turns out they’ve done much the same thing in Footscray on the Hopkins Street bridge, and as a strategy for keeping away tagging, it’s worked very well:

Footscray: Hopkins Street bridge

As with nearby Patterson station mural, hopefully this will help beautify the grey concrete, and prevent it being covered in graffiti. Or advertising, for that matter.