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.
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.
Want roadside assistance but don’t want to fund RACV’s lobbying? Plenty of alternatives – cheaper too
This has come up again since RACV are resisting the removal of a lane of traffic on Princes Bridge to give cyclists more than the part of a busy footpath and the mere sliver of roadspace they have now:
What alternatives are there to RACV road service? Because if you disagree with the RACV’s stance on transport issues, why help fund their lobbying?
With thanks to Brad McCluskey, combined with a previous list of mine, here are some contenders (quoting their basic plans, which I suspect is what many would want as a basic safety-net), and the annual fee:
For comparison, RACV roadside care costs from $92.
- Ultratune $69.50
- Budget Direct $69.95 — appears to resell Ultratune’s service
$79— see comments; it looks like this is $99 if you don’t hold an Allianz insurance policy
- 24/7 Road Services $55
- Australian Automobile Club $59 — note they do lobbying on some issues which you may not agree with
Also some companies offer breakdown assistance on a per-job basis, with no joining fee. It could be cheaper if you very rarely need to call, but it could be expensive if you use them regularly:
- Melbourne Roadside Assistance — no prices quoted
- Mobile Car Care — note “throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area 6 days a week” — at least $99 per call out
- Express Mobile Mechanics — at least $110 per call
- Ace Mobile Mechanics
Are there any others?
I’ve been signed up to 24/7 Road Services now for some years, but have never had to actually call them.
RACV being the biggest, probably have the most assistance vans, but also might be busier and slower at peak times to respond. I have seen a lot of Allianz vans around recently. Perhaps they just have a more eye-catching design than most. Have people tried some of these alternatives?
Always check the fine print of course. Some companies won’t sign you up to an annual plan if your car is too old. Some plans limit the number of callouts you can make and/or have different tiers of service plan. And some have limited or no coverage outside metropolitan Melbourne.
The gigantic transport mural was perhaps one of the best features of the old Spencer Street station. By Harold Freedman, it depicts the first century of Victoria’s transport — from 1835 to 1935. It was commissioned by the state government in 1973, and unveiled in 1978.
Following the rebuilding and (pointless) renaming, it’s been hidden away in the shopping centre where it’s virtually invisible to most people. (But hey, at least it has been retained on public display.)
Here’s how to find it.
Ignore the shops (both open and vacant) and go all the way to the end. Yeah it’s a long way — more than a full city block. (If you’re coming from Lonsdale Street or further north, you can enter part the way along at an entrance at the Spencer/Lonsdale Street intersection.)
Note the top section is private transport, in the middle public transport, and at the bottom is commercial. This, and the history of the mural, is detailed in the helpful explanatory panel.
Update: The mural is included in this Melbourne history app for iTunes and Android.
YEARS ago, it might have been strange to think the fortunes of a government could rest on a suburban railway line.
That was before the last Victorian election, when the Frankston train line became a potent symbol of the Brumby government’s transport woes: overcrowded carriages, ageing infrastructure, myki cost blowouts.
Labor hardheads call it the Frankston Train Wreck – that fateful polling day in 2010 when voters in the sandbelt seats of Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc, and Bentleigh helped install the Baillieu government with a cautionary tale: a bad transport system loses votes; the pledge of a good one is a game-changer.
If you were an MP in one of these seats… the most marginal seat in the state in fact (and the one that ultimately decided the election), halfway through your term, and it was widely recognised that what swung voters was dissatisfaction with public transport, yet those at the top of the parliamentary tree were prioritising roads instead (contrary to their election promises), and there was continuing speculation that public transport having been your ticket to victory last time might be your downfall next time, what would you do?
Maybe you’d issue a seasonal card emphasising some good things about public transport, like free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport, extra Nightrider services, as well as a new taxi sharing scheme?
Before Bentleigh electorate residents get too excited about the wonderful PT upgrades the government has provided, there is a catch of course.
Free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport is a nice gesture. All-night services on NYE have been provided since 2004-5 (after the then Labor government was thoroughly embarrassed by the lack of it the year before). It’s probably free on NYE for practical considerations. Free rides on Christmas day probably result in little revenue lost, though many pack onto V/Line trains for free rides to the regions — to full accommodate demand may cost a bit of money. Perhaps instead it should be a token amount for charity, to discourage too many free-loaders?
The extra Nightrider services do indeed boost capacity and cut waiting times, with Frankston-bound buses up to every 15 minutes on Friday and Saturday nights before Christmas. But these run down the Nepean Highway, only within reasonable walking distance of a fraction of the electorate. In extreme cases it might take you well over an hour to walk from a Nightrider stop to a home in the eastern part of the electorate. Arguably what Nightrider really needs is a recasting of the route structure, to better follow the busiest daytime routes (eg rail and tram lines, preferably while not adding too much to travel time) and provide a network that people actually understand.
Taxi sharing is an interesting idea, with a flat rate to share a maxi taxi on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s so new it’s unclear if it’ll really solve the problem — which is a lack of after-midnight mass transit in a busy city, especially on Sunday to Thursday nights.
The flip side of Ms Miller’s card is asking for feedback.
I’ll send mine in. To my mind, the two priorities in transport would have to be bringing the 703 up to proper Smartbus standards, and building Southland station.
I’m very transport-focussed, of course. What non-transport issues need state-level attention in Bentleigh?
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?