Categories
transport

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:

Categories
Politics and activism Toxic Custard newsletter

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.

Categories
transport

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.

Categories
transport

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.

Categories
transport

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.

Categories
transport

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.

Categories
transport

Flyer highlights public transport – are Coalition MPs starting to get worried?

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.

Farrah Tomazin in The Sunday Age, 16/12/2012

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?

Flyer from Elizabeth Miller, MP for Bentleigh (front)

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 fully 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.

Flyer from Elizabeth Miller, MP for Bentleigh (back)

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?

Categories
transport

Bad crowding on the trains

The last state election swung on public transport — both sides said so — specifically on the perceived lack of action from Labor on fixing the trains, resulting in delays, cancellations and sometimes horrendous overcrowding.

The Liberals, especially in the seat of Prahran, should be aware that this is still happening on a regular basis between Malvern and South Yarra:

Packed train

Packed train

I hasten to add it’s not every train that’s this packed.

It appears to be a combination of issues: firstly delays to inbound peak trains on the Dandenong line, resulting in crowding — particularly the 7:53 from Cranbourne (8:37 from Malvern). Possibly the train beforehand is on-time or cancelled.

Secondly, poor information at the MATHS stations which results in loads of people waiting on platform 3 as the train pictured arrives — despite the train from Moorabbin arriving simultaneously (on time, 8:41 Malvern) having plenty of space.

Thirdly there’s poor timetabling at work here. The peak timetable which nicely balances passengers between Dandenong expresses, Frankston expresses and Frankston stoppers grinds to a halt shortly before this time, despite it still being peak hour.

Often people are left behind, particularly at Toorak, Hawksburn and South Yarra. I see this happening perhaps once or twice a week — it might well be happening every day but my train isn’t always parallel so I don’t always see it.

Toorak, Hawksburn and South Yarra are in, or adjacent to the seat of Prahran. Prahran swung from Labor to the Coalition in 2010.

Services to many stations seem to have improved since the election. But these people do not look delighted at the state of their train service. If I were current member Clem Newton-Brown, I’d be concerned about this.

Packed train

Categories
Politics and activism PTUA transport

Metro apostrophe crimes! (and will the next state election again swing on PT?)

As if disrupted trains weren’t enough, now we have Metro apostrophe crimes.
Metro apostrophe crime
(from Channel 10 news 25/6/2012: Commute derailed)

Metro was already having a bad Monday morning peak with the inner part of the Sandringham line suspended due to a maintenance train derailing overnight. Things didn’t improve when at about 7:15 the outer section of the Cranbourne line also went down, and it just got worse when at 8:10 a train caused an overhead power fault at Caulfield. By 8:40, they were evacuating that train and others, as these snaps I grabbed from a passing Frankston line train show:

Passengers evacuate a train at Caulfield, 25/6/201227a

Passengers evacuate a train at Caulfield, 25/6/2012

They weren’t the best pictures, but thanks to Twitter, what they did do was alert journalists that there was a major disruption emerging at Caulfield. The second pic got picked up by The Age, though far better was a pic and video shot by Gavin Tan on Twitter:

Now, the maintenance train derailing on the Sandringham line could be just bad luck. Metro are pointing at vandalism for the Caulfield problem. And the Cranbourne issue (which seemed to recur on Monday afternoon)? We don’t know.

But it all underscores just how fragile and troubleprone the rail network continues to be.

The political fallout

While Metro might be the operator, it’s the level of investment, and the level of scrutiny of the operator that must ensure a good outcome. And that’s the government’s job.

The last state election was won and lost on public transport — both sides said so.

Not everybody uses the trains, but everybody knows somebody that uses the trains. In the 2010 election campaign, they were a powerful symbol of a government failing to deliver.

Will history repeat in 2014?

Categories
Politics and activism transport

Anti-Baillieu flyers spotted this morning around Bentleigh

These anonymous flyers appear to have popped up overnight (at least I didn’t spot them yesterday) around Bentleigh station.

Sign at Bentleigh station
(Note another similar pink one in the background on the small pole opposite.)

Sign at Bentleigh station

I might note that since the 2010 timetable was introduced (and the tweaks in 2011), the morning commute is slower, but I for one can almost always get a seat on the train in the mornings, apart from when there are cancellations and other disruptions. However, I consistently travel after 8am on weekdays — it may be a different story before 8.

I wonder if it was the same person who posted this sign in 2010:
Bentleigh timetable rebellion

Whoever posted these new ones, it seems public transport is still a hot button issue — something both major parties would do well to note.

I didn’t spot any signs relating to the sub-par Bentleigh “Smartbus”.