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
Tony Abbott apparently doesn’t just think more roads can solve traffic, he actually thinks tarmac and cars smothering our cities makes them more liveable.
Melbourne suffered traffic gridlock yesterday. It’s very important that the national government fund nationally important infrastructure. I have committed an incoming Coalition government to spending $1.5 billion to kickstart the East West Link project. I have committed an incoming Coalition government to $1.5 billion towards the WestConnex projects in Sydney. These are vital pieces of national infrastructure. They are very important if we are to have liveable cities in the 21st century and I say to the Prime Minister: stop sitting on your hands; be part of the solution, not part of the problem and commit to the transport infrastructure that the great cities of Australia need.
It wasn’t just on Wednesday that we had traffic problems, of course. Even on the least worst days, you hear people talking about the South Eastern Carpark just like the old days before it was fully grade-separated.
Back then, it was Citylink that was going to fix everything. People might have forgotten these ads:
If you can’t quite make it out (sorry, it’s not the best copy), the heart is meant to be central Melbourne, and the “triple bypass” is the joining of the Tullamarine, Westgate and Southeastern freeways.
I’ve transcribed the text to make it easier to read:
A TRIPLE BY-PASS.
A recent international survey has identified Melbourne as the world’s most liveable city.
But without an operation to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion, it’s not a status we’ll continue to enjoy.
The major arteries leading to the very heart of our city are becoming increasingly clogged. The traffic delays increasingly unproductive. And the exhaust fumes, noise and fuel wastage increasingly difficult to swallow – for businesses and commuters alike.
It’s a situation that poses a threat not only to our traditionally high living standards but also to our personal and financial health. And it won’t be improved by the estimated 250,000 additional vehicles that will be on our road by the year 2000.
The remedy will come from having a $1.5 billion by-pass operation that will link and upgrade Melbourne’s three major arteries – the Tullamarine Freeway, the Westgate Freeway and (via the Domain tunnel) the South Eastern Arterial.
Scheduled to commence in late 1995, the ‘Melbourne City Link’ will be funded and built by the private sector and greatly improve the way we all live and work.
Traffic will again flow freely in and around the Central Activities District because there will be far less through traffic using our inner city streets.
Travel times will be substantially reduced. A trip from the city to the Tullamarine Airport for example will be up to 15 minutes quicker. And trips from Dandenong to the city shortened by up to 20 minutes.
Visits to and from our city’s sports, arts and entertainment precinct will no longer be bumper to bumper.
Business and industry will enjoy faster, more efficient freight movement, and better quality access to port, rail and airport facilities. Indeed, the haul from Dandenong to Tullamarine should save around 30 valuable minutes in travel time.
The absence of traffic lights on each of the freeways will mean less stopping and starting. And result in less noise pollution, lower fuel costs, more efficient vehicle operation and reduced exhaust emissions.
With heavy traffic diverted away from suburban streets, we can also expect fewer accidents and around 190 less injuries and road deaths each year. And this won’t just result in reduced pain and suffering, but also in an annual financial saving of $135 million.
The $1.5 billion injection of new private investment into Victoria will even create 4,000 jobs that didn’t exist before.
In every respect, the triple by-pass is about looking after our future health. And ensuring that Melbourne remains the world’s most liveable city.
At the Melbourne City Link Authority we’ve been charged by Government with the responsibility of overseeing the entire operation. You can rest assured we will be working in the best interests of all Victorians to ensure its complete success.
If you have any questions, please call the MCLA Information Line toll free on 1 800 649 964.
Sounds great doesn’t it. In fact, maybe they should use the same blurb for the East West road tunnel.
It hasn’t, of course, turned out that way — even with a later $1.4 billion spent on adding lanes to the Southeastern and the Westgate. Every motorway is built on the promise of faster trips and all the benefits that go with it, but it’s only faster if traffic levels don’t grow — and the availability of all that road space inevitably induces more vehicles.
It’s simply not efficient to move people one-by-one in their cars*, and the last thing we should be doing is throwing good money after bad and building more roads to encourage more cars.
In the case of the East-West road tunnel, it might swallow $10 billion that would be better spent on alternatives, flood the city and inner-northern suburbs with cars, and do nothing to stop car dependence in the outer suburbs.
I’m not saying we should remove Citylink
It would be silly to say we should/could demolish Citylink. And one also wouldn’t say it’s had no effect whatsoever. Of course it has. Expansion of the road network is bound to.
The question is: where to from here? Travel demand continues to outstrip supply. Where we invest in capacity, it will be filled. We should invest in the most efficient modes, and in the modes we want to see grow.
Do we want the next surge in travel growth in Melbourne to be in private vehicles, or sustainable modes such as public transport, walking and cycling?
That’s where the money should go.
* * *
- 17/11/2011: Some reasons why the east-west road Eddingtunnel makes no sense
- 17/9/2009: M1 blocked, sky falls in — includes travel time claims for Citylink from 1999. Oakleigh to the City in 13 minutes in morning peak? Good luck with that.
*Before I get comments from those who apparently carry heavy tools and other work equipment around with them in their vehicles, just remember the majority of people heading to work carry little more than their phone and a sandwich, OK?
On the 29th of December I hired a Mini from Hertz as a Christmas present for Marita.
So that we could drive on the Citylink tollway, I temporarily added it to my Citylink account.
- 29/12/2010 12:01pm. Added XPE308
- 29/12/2010 12:30pm. Travelled on tollway
- 30/12/2010 10:37am. Removed XPE308 from account
I thought no more about it until Monday, when a letter from Hertz arrived, saying that the travel had not been on a Citylink account, and therefore Citylink had billed Hertz (the car’s owner) for $8.60, and Hertz had added a $5.00 administration fee, and just for good measure, $1.36 of GST.
It got worse. Upon looking at my Citylink account for that period, it turned out Citylink had charged me for 9 trips, costing $31.16, by the same vehicle, on the 14th, 19th and 20th of January.
It appears that Citylink’s computers are stuffed. They evidently don’t handle the temporary addition and removal of vehicles to accounts.
I can almost understand there might be a delay of 24 hours for this, but not two weeks — and remember, they would have billed Hertz at some stage later, long after their billing system should have known precisely when the Mini was meant to be on my account.
On Tuesday I rang Citylink about this. The bloke on the phone was very helpful; he refunded the $31.16, and gave me a reference number to quote to Hertz when I ring them.
I haven’t rung Hertz yet. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if they refuse to refund the $5 administration fee.
Some people like to have a go at Myki by way of claiming that Citylink’s billing system is perfect. It wasn’t always the case, and from this experience, it’s clear it still isn’t.
And Myki’s never stung me for as much as $31.
By the way, make sure you dispute incorrect charges with Citylink within 60 days. In the small print on their statements it says:
Please note: If you disagree with your Account Balance, you have 60 days from receipt of your statement, to contact CityLink. After 60 days, the Account Balance recorded on the statement will be considered to be correct.
Oh yeah, and Citylink still haven’t fixed their web site’s security configuration problem.
Update Monday 28/2: I didn’t have the stamina to ring Hertz, so used their web form instead, on Friday. Today they’ve replied. I’m suitably impressed that they have refunded both the Citylink charge and the administration fee.
While I realise the shutdown of the M1 eastbound on Tuesday was probably misery for those caught up in it, the lengthy article on it in yesterday’s Age I think vastly overstates the impact. The article basically has the road lobby saying that the whole thing doesn’t work (and the $1.4 billion of improvements won’t last long) and so therefore we should build another one.
Because apparently the solution to something that doesn’t work is to have two of them.
”I have consistently said we can’t into the medium and longer term continue our reliance on the M1. It is an unsustainable reliance,” he [Roads Minister Tim Pallas] said yesterday.
I think it would be more accurate to say that we can’t continue to have thousands upon thousands of individuals each driving alone in a car for long distances around Melbourne. It’s in no way an efficient method of doing things. And they’ll continue to do so until they’re given a time-competitive alternative.
While the government quietly starts building the new road tunnel (claimed to be for freight to the port, but their own artwork gives away that it’s really for city access) and tentatively starts early work on the rail tunnel, they’re neglecting basic public transport service frequency improvements (such as linking two rail lines through the CBD to provide a cross-city route, and boosting frequencies across Melbourne) that would get cars off the road more quickly and cheaper.
Up to 160,000 vehicles a day use the road
“…when that corridor is closed it doesn’t just impact people travelling on that road, it shuts down Melbourne.” [Peter Daly, RACV]
Both of these can’t be true at the same time.
160,000 vehicles is a tiny proportion of the vehicles in Melbourne.
And how many were actually affected by this incident? Well, if the road is 3-4 lanes in that section, and freeway capacity is 2000 vehicles per hour, and freeway AM peak vehicle occupancy is 1.13, and it was three hours, that’s a maximum of 21,000 vehicles, or 23,730 people. (Someone will point out of my maths is flawed, I hope.)
Which is a lot, but it’s also less then a medium-sized football crowd, and it is plainly not true that it impacts the whole city.
While I’m sure the talkback lines at 3AW were overheating, myself and many others were completely oblivious to it. Central Melbourne was unaffected. It didn’t affect the trains (which bring the majority of people into the city centre). It didn’t affect road traffic on most other routes around Melbourne.
The State Government is spending $1.4 billion upgrading the vital transport link with extra lanes and ramps, but even Pallas admits there is only so much ”sweating the asset” can achieve.
Ah yes, the M1 upgrade which was going to cost a mere billion, and then blew-out by 40%. So now they’re saying that even that huge expense to taxpayers will provide limited benefits.
Even the RACV admitted this last year:
… the RACV dismissed the upgrade as a quick-fix.
“Its life of providing relief is probably only going to last five to 10 years,” public policy general manager Brian Negus said.
– “Traffic on Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge slows under heavy load”, Herald Sun, 18/2/2008
In the context they said that, they were asking for yet another freeway to be built, but it appears to be admission that it’s pointless to add road capacity — it attracts more vehicles and fills up again. It’s not like building that capacity on a separate road will magically prevent it filling.
Unless of course they build it, but keep it closed until there’s a blockage elsewhere.
Thankfully in yesterday’s article, Graham Currie of Monash University was there to counter the rev heads:
Ironically, according to Currie, the Government’s massive upgrade of the M1 will not help travel times in the long run because the improved road will be an incentive for more vehicles.
Spot on. Just like, in fact, the previous improvement (known as Citylink) was meant to speed things up, but didn’t.
Trip 1: Oakleigh to the City
Route Travel time
Current  38 minutes
Future 13 minutes
Save 25 minutes
Trip 2: Gladstone Park to MCG
Route Travel time
Current 46 minutes
Future 26 minutes
Save 20 minutes
Trip 3: Dandenong to Melbourne Airport
Route Travel time
Current 87 minutes
Future 39 minutes
Save 48 minutes
– RACV morning peak predictions for Citylink, then under construction, published in The Age 27/5/1999
Ask a regular motorist if they can drive from Dandenong to the Airport in 39 minutes in peak hour today and they’ll laugh their heads off.
As I post this, about 8am, the VicRoads web site is estimating around 58 minutes for the trip. (Monash inbound 40 + Citylink Western Link outbound 9 + Tullamarine outbound 9). Admittedly there are roadworks going on, but still! And it’s not even the very peak of the peak yet.
It might have been 39 minutes on day one of opening, or perhaps if only those motorists using the road pre-upgrade had been allowed to use it afterwards. But that’s not how things work. New trips are attracted, and it clogs up again.
And I come back to my point: the best way to get the M1 running smoothly is to give as many car drivers as possible a fast, frequent public transport alternative.
(Pic: Herald Sun)