“People should be able to choose their mode of travel”

“RACV has a very clear view that people should be able to choose their mode of travel and not be confronted by artificial policy directions that constrain particular modes of travel…

— RACV spokesman Dave Jones, Herald Sun 9/12/2013

Yes, it’d be awful if artificial policy directions prevented people choosing their travel mode.

Policy directions such as transport provision skewed almost entirely in favour of cars, resulting in a failure to provide most suburbs with fast frequent public transport services.

Decades of building roads at almost any cost, but in many areas a lack of safe convenient walking and cycling routes.

Sixty years of policies which give many Melburnians little choice but to drive their cars.

Yes, that’d be no good.

(RACV was actually railing against efforts by Yarra Council to reduce the number of cars on inner-city roads.)

Traffic heading into Southland on a Saturday morning

It’s not hard to see the effect of the transport policies of the last half-century. At Southland on the weekend, motorists circled the car park looking for spaces. The alternative – mostly hourly buses – is no alternative whatsoever.

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.

Herald Sun: Truck crash on CityLink confirms the need for East West Link, say experts

One look at the map shows why this isn’t the case.

Melbourne East-West proposed route map
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? 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?

Cyclists on Princes Bridge

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.

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:

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.

Westgate bridge: induced traffic coming soon

Westgate bridge fifth lane openingThere you go; the RACV said again yesterday (as they have done in the past) that the $1.4 billion M1/Westgate Bridge upgrade (including the new lanes opened yesterday) will be swamped within a decade.

Brian Negus, of the RACV, welcomed the opening of the fifth lane. It was the final link in the freeway corridor so it would relieve the frustrating congestion, he said.

Within eight to 10 years, the West Gate would once again be struggling to handle the number of cars using it daily, Mr Negus said.

The Age

So, it’s another example of induced traffic: when you expand a road, traffic grows to fill it.

(And ironically this 25% expansion in bridge capacity came a couple of months after Williamstown and Altona Loop trains reduced peak hour frequencies from every 20 minutes to every 22 minutes, in an attempt to boost punctuality. Meanwhile buses in the fast-growing Werribee area remain at mostly every 40 minutes, with station car parks packed, so accessing public transport is difficult for many residents.)

Transport Minister Terry Mulder recently said “we can’t build our way out of congestion”. Department of Transport Secretary Jim Betts said the same thing yesterday.

Apparently RACV still believes you can… even though it’s never actually worked.

The RACV continues to argue for the north-east freeway (through Banyule Flats, or further east) and the east-west tunnel (under Carlton). If you are an RACV member and you disagree with more motorway expansion, you should let them know. And if you’re only a member for the roadside assistance, you should know there are other organisations offering that service which don’t lobby (at least overtly) for more motorways. (And it’s often cheaper than RACV.)

(Pic: from the ABC’s Ryan Sheales on Twitter)


Spotted around the RACV centre in Bourke Street…

I’m not sure what these things are called. They’re from the days before traffic lights — before my time. The only problem with these ones is that two directions are getting a green signal at once, which would result in a crash.
Traffic, RACV centre

This street sign looks a little different. Ah, you see the footnote on it? “Private lane”. Presumably this is because it leads only to the RACV’s carpark, and is on RACV property. But it may have legal implications as well — at a conventional street corner, traffic coming into the side street needs to give way to pedestrians crossing it, but coming out doesn’t. I reckon if it’s a private lane, then like at a car park entrance, traffic needs to give way in both directions.
Private lane, RACV centre