Would you want a spaghetti junction in your neighbourhood?

In a plan that takes the popular level crossing removal program but flips it on its head, the State Coalition have announced they will grade-separate 55 road intersections around Melbourne if elected in 2018. (Reports: ABC / Age / Herald Sun)

Here’s an animation created by the Coalition:

And here’s the list of intersections announced so far:

  • 1 Torquay Road and Settlement Road, Belmont
  • 2 Barwon Heads Road and Settlement Road, Belmont
  • 3 Point Cook Road and Princes Hwy, Point Cook
  • 4 Geelong Road and Somerville Road, West Footscray
  • 5 Ballarat Road and McIntyre Road, Sunshine
  • 6 Ballarat Road and Geelong Road, Footscray
  • 7 Gap Road and Horne Street, Sunbury
  • 8 Mickleham Road and Broadmeadows Road, Gladstone Park
  • 9 Sydney Road and Cooper Street, Somerton
  • 10 Sydney Road and Mahoneys Road, Campbellfield
  • 11 Plenty Road and McDonalds Road, South Morang
  • 12 St Georges Road and Bell Street, Preston
  • 13 Albert Street and Bell St, Preston
  • 14 Banksia Street and Lower Heidelberg Road, Heidelberg
  • 15 Fitzsimons Lane and Main Road, Eltham
  • 16 Fitzsimons Lane and Porter Street, Templestowe
  • 17 Williamsons Road and Foote Street, Templestowe
  • 18 Whitehorse Road and Springvale Road, Nunawading
  • 19 Springvale Road and Burwood Hwy, Vermont South
  • 20 Springvale Road and Ferntree Gully Road, Glen Waverley
  • 21 Princes Hwy, Springvale Road and Police Road, Mulgrave
  • 22 Stud Road and Wellington Road, Rowville
  • 23 Princes Hwy and North Road, Clayton
  • 24 Dandenong Road and Warrigal Road, Oakleigh
  • 25 Nepean Hwy and Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick
  • 26 Nepean Hwy and North Road, Brighton East
  • 27 Nepean Hwy and South Road, Bentleigh
  • 28 Warrigal Road and South Road, Moorabbin
  • 29 Nepean Hwy, Warrigal Road, Lower Dandenong Road, Mentone
  • 30 Boundary Road and Governor Road, Mordialloc
  • 31 Heatherton Road and Hallam Road, Endeavour Hills
  • 32 Racecourse Road and Bald Hill Road, Pakenham
  • 33 Thompsons Road and Western Port Hwy, Lyndhurst
  • 34 Hall Road and Western Port Hwy, Cranbourne West
  • 35 Moorooduc Hwy and Cranbourne Road, Frankston

My initial thinking: grade separating suburban intersections is a terrible idea.

It has the potential to be extremely hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as businesses and other properties immediately adjacent the roads affected.

Melbourne has rightly moved away from grade-separated intersections, eg King St/Flinders St, where the City of Melbourne noted:

One of the principal benefits of the redevelopment of the former Fishmarket site and removal of the Flinders Overpass is that it reconnects the city to the river. The Flinders Street Overpass has provided a physical and symbolic further barrier ensuring that the city ends at Flinders Street. The provision of a variety of activity on the former Fishmarket Site will activate that corner of the city significantly compared to its current role as a public carpark and impound facility.

King Street overpass (October 2003)

The Coalition’s new proposal goes backwards. And it includes signalised right hand turns, as well as signalised pedestrian movements across the road above, negating much of the traffic moving benefit.

It’s unclear how many of the projects would require land acquisition to provide space for the ramps. That’s the problem with grade-separated road intersections – unlike rail/road grade separations (which benefit everybody, not just motorists), they are very space-inefficient.

And all this to achieve continuously flowing traffic that would ultimately have no long-lasting effects thanks to induced traffic.

There might be a short term benefit to people driving through your neighbourhood. But given there are no proposals to remove all the traffic lights along any one particular road, motorists might miss one set of lights, only to get stuck at the next.

For everybody else — those who walk, cycle, or even drive locally — a spaghetti junction in your suburb would be an overwhelming negative.

If you want a taste of grade-separated intersections, check St Kilda Junction. It’s huge, it’s horrible to ride a bike or walk, traffic movements are restricted/convoluted (eg Queensway southbound onto St Kilda Road), and to achieve it they bulldozed numerous buildings including the Junction Hotel.

Designs may have improved, but they can’t solve the basic problems of geometry. Moving lots of cars requires lots and lots of space.

The State Coalition seems to have transport policies varying from the excellent (trains every ten minutes, every day — a policy that was announced in March but is still worryingly absent from their web site) to the dire (roads, roads and more roads, including building so many motorways at once that even the RACV said it was over-the-top).

It’ll be interesting to see if this particular proposal gains traction.

PS. With thanks to Arfman for the inspiration, though I’m sure someone else can do a better job:

Down to business: a study in contrasts

I’m not the world’s biggest drinker. So last Thursday night after a chat with a PT industry insider over 2 pints and a pot, I was feeling a bit tipsy as I headed home.

Waiting at Flinders Street for a train home, I encountered one of the Spring Street state press gallery’s Finest and Brightest, and we had a chat on the platform then on the train for a few stops. Hopefully not too many words were slurred on my part.

Daniel Andrews at Bentleigh station during the 2014 Victorian election campaign

The two conversations had some overlap, and something I thought was interesting was this:

The Andrews government has wasted no time in getting on with things. There are plenty of announcements of new initiatives coming through.

In fact in one week in February, they went ballistic in the public transport portfolio, announcing a level crossing removal authority (Sunday), start of metro rail tunnel works (Monday), the Murray Basin Rail Project (Tuesday), and upgrades to Flinders Street Station (Wednesday).

In contrast, the perception was the Baillieu government was treading water for about a year after their election. Lots of existing programmes went for review (in the public transport space, Myki and Regional Rail Link), and parts of government froze up while they sorted out what they were doing.

Trust me when I say Ted Baillieu is a very nice bloke, and eventually they did get going and did things, but it was a slow start.

Could it be that Andrews was more ready; that he’d done his time as a minister previously, and had spent time in opposition preparing more thoroughly for winning? Perhaps Baillieu didn’t quite expect to win? (It was, after all, a very close thing.)

Could it be the length of time each side had been out of office? Labor was only out for 4 years; the Coalition for 11 — perhaps they were a little rusty?

Perhaps it’s that Andrews, having seen what happened to the Baillieu/Napthine government and their removal from office after just one term, is determined to make the most of his time in office?

Nobody wants to be a One Term Wonder. I’m sure it’ll be at the forefront of Coalition thinking the next time they’re in office.

One term governments are a new reality in Australia: Victoria and Queensland have both done it. Who’ll be next? Perhaps the shorter news cycles and the quick dissemination of news via Twitter and other social media means the entire political cycle is compressed into a shorter time now? Do people have less patience?

I don’t know. But it’s an interesting contrast, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one watching progress in the next few years.

Working? Christmas shopping? Fewer trains running today. #MetroTrains #SpringSt

Just a reminder that as noted last week, there are reduced train (and tram) timetables running from this week until Australia Day.

For my fellow Bentleigh people, I’ve marked the weekday cancelled trains for you:

Bentleigh to City summer timetable 2013-14

Basically for us on the Frankston line, train frequencies are halved at most times of day on weekdays for the next five weeks. Despite being politically sensitive, the Frankston line is the only one to have cuts in weekday off-peak hours.

Despite the claims, it doesn’t appear to be operationally necessary to do this for works on the Regional Rail Link project.

It actually makes me wonder how much the government is saving through cutting services like this, and how wise it is to have the deepest cuts (bars those lines actually losing trains due to construction works) affect the line that runs through so many marginal seats.

You’ll be wanting to check the timetable before you head down to the station.

And remember when the next election comes around that the government reduced your train service for over a month, causing long waits (and crowding?) while also raising fares.

By the way: it’s easy to print your own personalised stop timetables (at least for the “standard” timetable), courtesy of the PTV (formerly Metlink) web site.

Frankston line – has train punctuality really improved? Well yes, but…

I noted this tweet from my local state MP, boasting of improved punctuality on the Frankston line since she and the Coalition came to power in November 2010:

But are these two figures really showing an improvement? Tony Smith on Twitter replied, pointing out that two data points aren’t a trend. (And I think he wants me to run for parliament.)

Funny thing is, my records show punctuality was actually lower than Ms Miller quoted in November 2010 — at just 73.5% (arrivals within 5 minutes). I suspect she was looking at the November 2011 figure.

Here’s the period in question on a graph, with a trend line added.

Frankston line punctuality

So yes, the trend is up.

But there’s a problem with the Coalition claiming credit for it. The biggest boost in punctuality in mid-2011 was when a timetable re-write was introduced, separating out most weekday services from the Dandenong line. It also cut the myriad of stopping patterns. But that timetable was largely prepared while Labor was still in power.

The other relevant changes during the Coalition’s term (apart from very welcome boosts in weekend frequency) were timetable tweaks providing a longer running time on the line (in some cases leaving multimillion dollar trains sitting idle waiting for the timetable to catch up), and Metro’s new habit of skipping stations (either bypassing them completely by running direct instead of via the Loop, or running express where scheduled to stop) to catch up time.

Metro would claim that this is to keep trains in position by ensuring one service delay doesn’t cascade into the next, but on occasions they have been found to be doing this where it didn’t make operational sense — such as this example, where an evening shoulder-peak train was altered to stop at just a handful of stations, despite plenty of trains being available for its return run.

Train altered to skip 9 of its 15 stops

Network-wide the punctuality trend is also up, though it’s less pronounced:

metro-punc

So overall, there’s no denying the punctuality stats have improved since November 2010.

But what about…

But what about a graph of that other big election promise for the Frankston line?

Frankston line - Southland station

Not so impressive. Today’s Age reports some progress, but with no station now expected until 2016/17, and a question mark over the facilities it will provide, clearly there’s a way to go.

What do people want prioritised? PT or roads? Every survey says PT. #SpringSt

The state government continues to push the East-West motorway (a plan they barely mentioned in the 2010 election campaign) over major public transport projects.

But what do the people want? As it happens there’s a pretty clear message from surveys going back at least five years. (Skip to the end for the latest one.)

October 2008

And 94% believe the Government should be spending more on public transport. Extra spending on roads was supported by 55% of those surveyed.

The survey, taken last month by Sweeney Research, involved 601 respondents in Melbourne and 2000 nationally.

— The Age 20/10/2008: Melburnians want better system

Crowded 903 bus, Sunday

April 2011

A survey of attitudes to transport found that 94 per cent of respondents believed more money should be spent on public transport, while just 68 per cent said the government did not spend enough on roads.

This trend was reflected nationally, with an average of 88 per cent of those surveyed calling for more public transport funding, and 73 per cent wanting more spending on road infrastructure.

— The Age 10/4/2011: Fix trains, then roads: commuters

September 2012

ALMOST two-thirds of Australians believe investment in public transport is more important than investment in roads, a survey has found.

In Victoria 63 per cent of people surveyed said investing in public transport was the highest priority, compared with 20 per cent who believed it was most important to invest in roads.

— The Age 26/9/2012: Make room: transport survey, quoting the University of Sydney

March 2013

Over half (53%) of Australians said that the highest priority issue for transport in Australia is public transport improvements, followed by road improvements (26%).

— University of Sydney, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS): Transport Opinion Survey (TOPS), Quarter 1, March 2013 (an update of the survey quoted for September 2012)

Highest priority transport issue, by state - March 2013

May 2013

Would you prefer the Napthine Government to spend more on public transport or road infrastructure projects, like the East West Link tunnel?

Public transport 58.8%
Road infrastructure projects 32.3%
Undecided 8.9%

ReachTel poll for Channel 7

Updates since this blog post was written

23/7/2013: It’s emerged via a Melbourne Times Weekly article that more RACV members believe enhanced public transport is a better fix for traffic congestion than more roads. In responding to the article, the RACV has revealed that only 38% of their members support the East-West tollway tunnel.

24/8/2013: Voters prefer Metro rail link to be built before east-west tunnel: VOTERS in Victoria’s vital marginal seats overwhelmingly want the Metro rail link to be built before the east-west road tunnel. An exclusive Galaxy Poll for the Herald Sun reveals the $9 billion public transport project is rated as the top transport priority by 63 per cent of voters in Chisholm and La Trobe. Only a quarter of those surveyed backed the east-west road, intended to ease traffic congestion for those driving to the CBD from eastern and southeastern suburbs.

28/11/2013: A poll published by The Age today shows 23% support the East West tunnel, compared to 74% supporting improved public transport.

2/3/2014: Another Age poll: Despite countless hours and millions of dollars spent marketing the $8 billion road project, the latest Age/Nielsen poll has found that only one in four Victorians believe the tunnel should be the highest infrastructure priority to ease congestion and improve liveability. Instead, most people want the government to build the Metro Rail Capacity Project – a nine-kilometre underground train line through the city that would allow another 20,000 passengers to use the network during peak hour.

3/3/2014: Herald Sun/Galaxy Poll reveals airport rail link our top priority: VICTORIANS want a rail line to the airport ahead of a new rail tunnel through inner ยญMelbourne or the East West Link, a Herald Sun/Galaxy Poll has found.

18/8/2014: Herald Sun/Galaxy Poll: Today’s poll also delivers a major blow to Dr Napthine’s hopes of a come-from-behind victory with a finding that 62 per cent of voters rate Labor’s signature policy of removing Melbourne’s 50 worst level crossings as more important than the Government’s East West Link project, which is favoured by only 28 per cent.