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
“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.
“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
– The Age
Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.
Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:
Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.
Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.
Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.
Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.
In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.
Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.
Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.
These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.
Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.
The Commonwealth can fund what they like
It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.
I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.
Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.
It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.
In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.
Say what you like about VicRoads, they know how to do forward planning.
For example, there’s a stretch of Ballarat Road in Footscray, just west of where the dual carriageway ends, where this is a common sight:
Lovely, isn’t it. Derelict wasteland, left to rot.
A look at Google’s aerial view reveals quite a few empty properies along the street.
In a classic case of salami tactics, VicRoads has been slowly buying up the properties, perhaps over decades, with a view to eventual widening and duplication of the road.
Looking at some Planning Property Reports for one of the properties, there is indeed a Public Acquisition Overlay for the sections of those properties that face the road.
So, when and if road widening ever happens, then between Gordon and Droop Streets, the old Kinnears rope factory won’t be touched, but a bunch of houses and shops will lose part of their land (and thus face demolition or modification). Further towards Victoria University, it won’t touch the newish apartment block on the southern side, but will take part of the bowling club on the northern side.
West of Gordon Street, it’d be the northern side of the road that gets wiped-out — though it appears that (for now) a heritage overlay protects the rather glorious avenue of trees between Summerhill Road and the next section of dual carriageway.
All this is not to say VicRoads has any immediate plans to widen the road. It could still be decades off. But they have the overlay, and they have some of the land in their possession already. It’s a similar situation in various spots around Melbourne — one well-known one is Punt Road in South Yarra/Prahran, where overlays have been in place for more than half a century. (It’s a reminder to always check for overlays when thinking about buying a property.)
VicRoads owns about 2500 homes across the state. They have been bought over the past five decades for the sole purpose of future road use.
Such road expension projects have taken place before; the widening of the Nepean Highway in Brighton took out scores of houses. St Kilda Road between the junction and Carlisle Street was once High Street, and the old shopfronts still seen on the eastern side once were on the western side as well — that widening removed the historic Junction Hotel. And close to where the above example, Geelong Road was widened in the 1960s, all but obliterating an Avenue of Honour that had been there.
Meanwhile, on RRL
The VicRoads way is symptomatic of the forward planning that goes on — the so-called “bottom drawer” they can whip road plans out of whenever funding is available for something. And while this road expansion never seems to solve traffic congestion (thanks to induced traffic), they seem very efficient at getting it built.
It’s arguable that having a clear plan via an overlay, and slowly buying up the properties — even if empty land is a waste and looks horrible — is better than turning up out of the blue and announcing to people that their homes are going to be bought and demolished.
That’s what’s happened with the Regional Rail Link project.
In contrast to quiet buying up of land for road widening in the distant future, down the other end of Footscray, the RRL project had to acquire and demolish a number of houses and industrial property — and managed to botch the notification to affected people.
Apparently nobody envisaged that the main western railway corridor would ever need to be widened, so the land wasn’t reserved. One can only hope that over time, future planning will improve.
I was trying to get some photos and/or video for a blog post I’m writing. I’m having trouble finding a source for part of the post, so in the meantime here’s a snippet of video from the pedestrian overpass above the Nepean Highway at Moorabbin.
I might be wrong, but it does appear to me that there’s more than one rev head in amongst this lot. But I’d be reluctant to estimate how fast they were going. Any guesses?
I wonder if they realised they were passing Moorabbin Police station?
It’s long been a bugbear of mine that a vehicle that has correctly stopped in a legal parking/stopping position should not use its hazard lights.
Some buses do this, despite being stopped in proper bus zones. Melbourne Bus Link appears to be one company whose buses mostly do this. Most buses from other operators seem to just use their left indicator.
I reckon this is not only pointless, it actually causes problems when the bus driver wants to pull out.
Motorists are obliged by law to give way as a bus pulls out from the kerb, but the change from “hazard lights on” to “indicating right” is pretty much indistinguishable, because the motorist would have to be checking the bus’s left indicator and notice it stop flashing.
It also can cause problems if the bus driver forgets to turn off the hazard lights, and the bus continues down the road with them flashing.
Yes, the bus in the video above isn’t entirely within its lane — it looks like the lane simply isn’t wide enough. But the use of hazards happens everywhere with some bus companies. I don’t think it makes much sense in most cases.
The Greens are traditionally strong on sustainable transport issues, but one of the local candidates for council raised my hackles with this comment:
Do we really need footpaths on both sides of the street, in every street in Tucker Ward? There are plenty of places without footpaths or footpaths just on one side. This would save a whole lot of concrete / resources and it looks much better.
Yes, we quite definitely need footpaths on both sides of the street.
There are few things that make pedestrians (and by definition, this includes all public transport users) feel like second class citizens more than a lack of footpaths.
In many cases it forces people to cross roads where they wouldn’t otherwise be compelled to — in some cases twice, to avoid walking on the grass.
It’s doubly worse for those of limited mobility, including those with wheelchairs and other walking aids, and for parents with prams.
A side effect of no footpaths is blurred property boundaries, resulting in some overzealous home owners encroaching, resulting in public space effectively lost.
I spoke to Brett’s running mate Rose Read at Bentleigh station on Thursday morning. I think she has an understanding of why I disagree with Brett.
Brett has emphasised in an update overnight that his comment shouldn’t be taken out of context, and that’s fair enough. It’s not like he was stating a big policy position — he was just kicking an idea around. This is worth emphasising: I must give Brett credit for engaging with the community, throwing his thoughts out there and being willing to debate and discuss them, which is a lot more than some other candidates have done.
But I’d be frankly horrified if it was actually proposed to start removing any footpaths, or routinely build streets with only one.
Unlikely? One would hope so. But there is a live example, in Glen Eira, in this ward, right now:
In East Bentleigh, the area behind Valkstone Primary School is being re-developed. While most of the streets have footpaths on both sides, the access road (pictured above) east through to GESAC and East Boundary Road only has a path on the southern side, so if you’re from the north side of the access road, headed north on foot, you have to cross it twice… and this being the only road out in that direction, is likely to get reasonably busy at peak times when the estate is finished.
Sure, open space is a concern. But changes such as only providing one footpath will actively discourage walking and public transport, and encourage car use — that’s no solution at all in urban environments.
One possible way forward (not in the example above, but in quiet streets that don’t get through-traffic) might be what the Dutch call woonerfs — shared spaces, where the road is de-emphasised, allowing other users into the space, slowing down cars and making more effective use of space.
In Australian terms it’s (more or less) a Shared Zone, and there are examples such as this one on the Williamstown Rifle Range estate, developed about 15 years ago.
But whatever the solution, the last thing we’d want around here is more streets missing footpaths.
A lot of the talk around the need for a new east-west motorway claims we need a second river crossing.
One issue with this claim is that we already have a second river crossing.
The first river crossing is, of course, the Westgate bridge — recently-upgraded (25% boost in capacity as part of a $1.4 billion project) but still full (thank you induced traffic) — 5 lanes each way.
The second river crossing is Footscray Road. This is three lanes each way for most of its length, but where it crosses the Maribyrnong River, 2 lanes each way.
The third river crossing is Dynon Road, with 2 lanes each way.
The fourth river crossing is Smithfield Road/Ballarat Road, also with 2 lanes each way.
So while the call is for a second river crossing, in fact the existing second, third and fourth river crossings already together provide more lanes than the Westgate Bridge.
It’s true that none of these are motorways, and therefore they have traffic lights, but this hardly matters at peak times, when traffic clogs up and crawls whether or not a road has traffic lights.
Vehicle lanes have a theoretical capacity of between 1300 and 1800 vehicles per hour, and the latest Vicroads network performance monitoring report says that the average car occupancy during peak hour in Melbourne is 1.21 (PM peak; AM is lower).
If one assumed the top of the range, that’d be a theoretical 2,178 people per lane per hour.
So for the 5 lanes each way on the Westgate plus 6 lanes each way on the other roads we’ll say they’re taking a load of up to about 23,950 people per hour.
(A little further north, but arguably outside the area of where the new motorway is wanted, are Farnsworth Avenue and Maribyrnong Road — adding a further 3 lanes each way).
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
There are more river crossings than just the roads.
The fifth river crossing is the four track railway line from Footscray, serving suburban and regional trains from Williamstown, Werribee (including Altona Loop), Sydenham, Geelong, Melton/Ballarat and Bendigo — 2 tracks each way.
The sixth river crossing is the two track dual gauge railway line from Sunshine via the Bunbury Street tunnel, taking predominantly freight as well as passenger trains from Sydney, Adelaide and Albury — 1 track each way.
The seventh river crossing is about to be constructed: it’s the Regional Rail Link bridge that will take V/Line trains from Geelong, Melton/Ballarat and Bendigo off the existing four track bridge — 1 track each way.
What’s the peak capacity of these rail lines?
Once the Regional Rail Link is opened, that will take up to 20 V/Line trains per hour, with about a capacity around 300 people each = 6000.
(V/Line train capacity varies with the length of the train. Precise passenger numbers are here for Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo. In all cases, capacity can be increased for the shorter trains by adding more carriages, such as those about to be freed up when the Sunbury line goes electric, and more to be added with the new order of V/Line carriages.)
The slots on the suburban lines can then all be taken by suburban trains. These tracks are signalled for trains every 2 minutes, but the general rule of thumb is to use 80% of the theoretical capacity, so 2 tracks x 24 trains = 48 trains per hour. Even that At an average “desirable” figure of 800 per train = 38,400 people per hour.
(In practice in peak hour some trains have more than 800, some less. No exact figures are public, but a summary is in the load surveys.)
A theoretical total then on the three tracks of 44,400 people per hour, or about double all of the road capacity (and not counting the trains using the Bunbury Street tunnel, which bring in more people on a small number of additional trains).
But it’s needed for freight!
Freight? If freight is such a priority, why are there no truck-only lanes on the existing motorways, to ensure individuals in cars don’t delay freight? On the contrary, some of the freeways have lanes where trucks are specifically banned.
If freight is such a priority, why is there no proposal to build this new tunnel as a freight-only route?
And as I’ve noted before, if freight is a priority, and we’re not just building another road to bring more cars into the CBD, why did the original artist impressions clearly show cars heading to the CBD?
The general consensus seems to be that this tunnel won’t be fully funded by government due to the huge cost. Private enterprise would have to be involved, and they would inevitably push for it to be built with city exits — to encourage car commuters onto it to generate more toll revenue — which would result in more cars clogging up the inner-north and CBD. Marvellous.
So, where to from here?
Road capacity can be increased by widening existing roads and bridges, and/or by building the $10 billion road tunnel. Like every motorway before it, it will inevitably fill with cars, increasing overall road traffic.
Rail capacity can be increased by improving rail operations, upgrading signalling (to improve track capacity), extending train lengths (particularly V/Line, but also in the longer term, metropolitan trains), new more efficient designs of trains (without intermediate cabs, for instance), and adding tracks (anything up to and including the proposed $5 billion metro rail tunnel).
But as the figures above indicate, it’s a lot more efficient to move large numbers of people by rail. Importantly, existing rail capacity can be harnessed by giving outer-suburban residents better access to stations at the start (and end, if necessary) of their trips: in particular, better more frequent connecting buses, better walking and bike facilities at stations, and of course more frequent trains all day (minimising wait times no matter when you want to travel).
Like other recent public transport upgrades, the more you improve the service, the more passengers you get, moving more people more efficiently and sustainably than in cars.
As I said last week: 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?
Which should we be aiming for?
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?