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.

A while back (when it wasn’t clear if the road would be a tunnel, or just a surface freeway) this impression was prepared (but never used as far as I know) for the PTUA:
East-west motorway mockup

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.

Here’s a Google image of Alexandra Parade, with Rathdowne Street on the left, Nicholson Street in the middle, and Brunswick Street on the right.
Alexandra Parade

Now here’s the Monash Freeway’s Forster Road interchange, on the same scale.
M1: Forster Road Interchange

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?)
M1 interchange at Church Street, Richmond

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.

Outcomes

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.

While we wait for Southland Station, road funding rolls on. #SpringSt

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.

Southland: No railway station, and an overflowing carpark

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:

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.

#Myki cost over ten years has gone up to $1.5 billion

Last month the total budget for Myki (over ten years) quietly got increased, from $1.35 billion to $1.5 billion. It was revealed in the Budget Papers, and thanks to the torrent of other budget coverage, barely got noticed:

MELBOURNE public transport commuters received little relief in this year’s budget, which revealed the cost of the troubled myki ticketing system has blown out by another $150 million.

– The Age, 2/5/2012, Little relief for Metro commuters

It seems to be a combination of the extension of Metcard (a result of the stalled metropolitan rollout, which was originally meant to be finished by Easter 2011, but is now expected to take until the end of 2012) and extra readers and vending machines.

Myki-only now, but still Metcard signage displayed

myki (new ticketing solution – Technology and installation)

The transition to the myki ticketing system is to be completed following an extensive review undertaken by independent experts in 2011, leading to re-scoping of the project and a number of system improvements.

Budget Paper 3, chapter 1

An increase from $1.35 to $1.5 may not sound like much until you realise that’s a difference of $150,000,000, or to put it in words so it sounds even more impressive: One hundred and fifty million dollars.

And it flies in the face of earlier implied savings found through the 2011 review, the most visible result of which is the removal of short term ticket options (not what I’d call “system improvements”), in particular from trams.

Sigh. Oh well, at least $1.5 billion is a nice round number.

Would you like a jellybaby? (Making of a visual stunt)

The first Tuesday of May is Victorian State Budget day.

On Budget day, journalists and some interest groups (well, those that have the resources) attend the Budget Lockup, where from about midday to the 3pm public release, they get to peruse the budget papers, but can’t communicate what they find with the outside world.

They are let loose at around 3pm, and often gather in the grounds of Parliament House, where representatives from the interest groups will form a (reasonably orderly) queue up to give their comments to the waiting media.

On a rainy day, they might all huddle under the small shelter at the back door to Parliament. Otherwise, they might head for the garden.

Interest groups talk to the media on Victorian State Budget Day

This year there was an added bonus in the garden: Trades Hall had come along with a multitude of jellybabies, representing the 43,000 jobs lost in Victoria in the past 12 months.

They poured them onto the lawn before I got there…
Jellybaby stunt 1

…then they decided to pick them all up again…
Jellybaby stunt 2

…and after some consultation with the TV cameramen…
Jellybaby stunt 3

…poured them all out again for the cameras…
Jellybaby stunt 4

…shot from multiple angles…
Jellybaby stunt 5

Naturally it made for great television.
Jellybabies on TV

And the budget in summary? Well for PT, apart from extra V/Line carriages, confirmation that the very successful 601 Huntingdale to Monash Uni shuttle has got recurrent funding, and three grade separations, not much else. Certainly it was a tight budget, but roads seem to have got more new money yet again.

How much does a train cost?

Sometimes when the media or politicians want to highlight what they see as massive government waste (particularly in the transport arena, but also in other areas), they compare it to how many extra trains could have been bought instead.

While it may seem a little myopic, I think overall it’s a good thing. It’s a sign that public transport is at the forefront of what’s seen as important for the state government to invest in (even if, as we know, there’s a lot to PT beyond trains).

Train, tram, bus

For some time I’ve struggled to find a good reliable solid figure on just how much a train costs, because often the figures for new trains have associated infrastructure such as power upgrades (you need more juice to run more trains) and stabling (you’ve got to store them somewhere) included.

Thanks to the Auditor-General’s report into the state’s finances (page 38) we now have a figure: it’s about $15 million per six-carriage train. (Happily, that’s what I’ve been guessing when asked.)

The same document also has a price on the new trams: $272 million for 50, or about $5 million per tram. … Given these trams will have the capacity of about a quarter of a train, at first glance it appears that the cost is higher per passenger than a train, though the contract in this case includes design, whereas the trains are an existing more-or-less off-the-shelf design.

Of course, this type of thinking entirely about fleet size ignores that a lot more could be done with the fleet we already have, particularly getting more services running more often outside peak hours, when waiting times are generally long, and crowding is sometimes almost as bad as peak hour. (And of course funding is needed to use any extras you add to the fleet.)

Oh, and… how much does a bus cost?

(The pic — yes, I went back to Flinders & Market Sts and got a better shot.)

PS. See, I said sometimes they’d compare government waste to trains: here’s the Ombudsman’s report into ICT projects (including Myki):

“The overall figures quoted above are significant. They represent many foregone hospital beds, trains, teachers, police and child protection workers.”

The 2011 state budget

One would hope that the budget following an election would fulfil the promises made during that election, although it would not be beyond the bounds of reasonableness to spread them out over the term of government.

Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, the Baillieu government has largely fulfilled all of its promises with its first budget, delivered on Tuesday. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the pledge on teacher wages.

That said, there are some niggles. In transport for instance:

  • There’s funding for all the rail extensions and new stations and grade separations promised, but it’s all planning, not construction. This is perhaps understandable in that the planning has to happen first — obviously it hasn’t happened yet, unlike roads, where Vicroads always seems to have done their homework and has them ready to go. It means to properly meet the pledges, the government will need to follow through in the next couple of years.
  • The funding is only for the first seven trains (of 40 total). The election pledge said seven in the first term of government. I don’t see this as a big issue, because remember that we’re about halfway through an existing order of 38… and it’s not clear yet what those will all be used for. The extra seven will be more X’trapolises, and the 33 remaining (not yet funded) are flagged to be a new high-capacity model.
  • Roads money was 50% higher than PT money, and a bunch of that was continued expansion of the Western Ring Road, which I’m not even sure was an election promise. Maybe they’ve already forgotten that they came to power on the back of PT issues, not roads.
  • There was nothing for buses or trams, apart from $8 million to restore a handful of W-class trams (which at best is a heritage investment, not a transport investment — and at worst could cause major disruptions if speed-hobbled Ws get placed onto busy routes, even outside peak times).

I understand one reason there wasn’t more was due to the cost overruns on the Regional Rail Link project and Myki. Mind you it’s still not clear if Myki is being kept or scrapped — there were conflicting messages on this on Tuesday.

The good news is that the Public Transport Development Authority got funding. If this is done right, with expertise and independence, it should help guide future government spending to the right solutions, as well as overhauling things like service coordination and planning.

State budget

PTUA’s budget response

What was your take on the budget?

The State Budget in summary

Stakeholder and interest group commentary on the State Budget usually happens out the back of Parliament. And when it starts raining, everybody huddles under the shelter near the back door.

The back of State Parliament

Here’s my State Budget summary — well, the PT bits:

Four new stations on existing lines to be built — Caroline Springs (V/Line), Williams Landing, Lynbrook and Pakenham Lakeside. Not before time.

Fifty new trams, and a depot upgrade. Probably mostly replacements for the worst of the Z-class trams, and the 5 borrowed Bumblebees (though the new ones will start showing up well after they’ve gone home). So this will provide more capacity, but not higher frequency — though it’s capacity which is the bigger problem at peak times.

Extra station staff — twenty stations upgraded to Premium (fulltime staff), twenty-two to Host (peak-hour only staff). A good step forward, though still about half of all Melbourne stations still won’t have any staff in the evenings, which is when people are most nervous about using the trains.

  • New Premium stations: Seaford, Parkdale, Hallam, Prahran, Holmesglen, Upwey, Ormond, Westall, Chelsea, Windsor, Newmarket, Moonee Ponds, Hoppers Crossing, Carnegie, North Brighton, Lalor, Ginifer, East Richmond, Northcote, Highett
  • New Host stations: Spotswood, West Footscray, Royal Park, Merlynston, Oak Park, Glenbervie, Strathmore, Pascoe Vale, Kensington, Tottenham, Canterbury, Burwood, Hawthorn, Gardiner, Dennis, Regent, Rosanna, Toorak, Hughesdale, Hawksburn, Sandown Park, McKinnon

Buses? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Apart from a handful of regional inter-town links designed strictly for people who don’t have any other way of getting around, there are no new bus upgrades at all. So if you’re in a bus-only suburb, out of reach of trains and trams, with your local bus that runs every 30-60 minutes, and thus stuck with driving everywhere, expect no change there.

(Some Smartbus projects are still being completed, but the Budget is all about new funding, not existing. Given how well Smartbus upgrades work, somewhat annoying not a single new one got funding.)

Spin? Ho yeah. The government managed to re-announce the Regional Rail Link project, the $4.3 billion diversion of the Geelong line via Tarneit, Deer Park and Sunshine, which was mostly funded by the Federal government in last year’s Federal budget. I guess the state gets to claim it because they’re money-laundering the Feds’ money. Neat.

(When completed, RRL should reduce delays to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo line trains, though a lot of the detail is still missing, for instance how long the trip from Geelong will take, and whether those trains will have to stop at the new stations in the Tarneit area.)

The other snippet that came out was that they don’t expect Myki to be running on trams until September, perilously close to the state election.

More details: Official web site for government media releases and papers / The Australian details; reaction (who is that guy?) / The Age details; reaction / Herald Sun

Update lunchtime: Scan of the pic from The Australian. This was taken during evening rush hour. I felt a right pillock standing there being snapped as the crowds walked by.
Pic in The Australian, 5/5/2010