Saturday, April 17, 2010

High Technology Tourist Attractions in Adelaide

Any suggestions for what the Net Traveller should see in Adelaide? I will be there Sunday 18th to Tuesday 20 April 2010. I have a meeting most of Sunday and Monday and will be giving a talk Monday 19 April on "Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source". But I have Tuesday free.

On my last visit to Adelaide, as well as being trained in the Moodle and Mahara e-learning tools, I rode the Glenelg Tram from the beach to the city, then onto theAdelaide O-Bahn. The O-Bahn is the world's longest guided bus-way (until Cambridge England get theirs to work). The tram has been extended to the Entertainment Centre, which tourism boss, Ian Darbyshire seems very proud of, so I will take a ride on that.

Unfortunately I will be leaving just before Dr Bruce Northcote's talk on Defence Communications & Information Networking Tuesday 20th April 2010 at 6pm (RSVP). DSIC is a venture between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia for defence systems integration research with industry.

ps: This is the one time of the year that the people who teach the ACS Computer Professional Education Program get to see each other. The courses are run online, the tutors and mentors are scattered all around Australia (some in other countries). We have weekly online text based real time "staff meetings", but it is also good to get together in person occasionally. The operation is in transition from a small tutoring group which can be run mostly on personal contact to a virtual higher education institution which requires more formal procedures. It is interesting, if at at times a little frustrating, to be part of the transition.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Public and Private Housing Mix

A National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) commences in 2009, with $6.1B for social housing, private rental assistance, accommodation for homeless and home purchasing assistance. One way would be to combine public and private housing in the same developments as was done at City Edge in Canberra. The Australian Government released a White Paper on Homelessness: T he Road Home on 21 December 2008 (Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek).

An example of where this could be done is in Sydney with the $29.5M public housing redevelopment project in Lilyfield. This is the redevelopment of a an old public housing estate at Lilyfield Road, Balmain Road and Edward Streets. As was done at city edge in Canberra, old flats are being replaced with new style ones. In Lilyfield 40 flast are being replaced with 88 (26 one bedroom, 53 two bedroom and 9 three bedroom). Like the Canberra units, the Lilyfield ones will be environmentally efficient and the ground floor units will be wheelchair accessible. The difference is that in Canberra, most of these were sold to private buyers, with some retained for public housing (administered by a non-profit non-government cooperative), to give a balance of occupants. One problem with the Lilyfield site is it is at the end of the the Sydney Light Rail. , which the NSW Government has refused to extend.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fast track Sydney transport with web enhanced planning

A Leichardt Council Transport Forum was held at the Leichardt Town Hall, 22 November 2008. This proposed a fast planning process for public transport in Leichardt and Sydney's inner west using experts and the community. I suggest that the Internet could be used to gain wider public and expert input into the process. Also the political realities of NSW suggest that upgrading the bus system should be included as a sub-optimal but politically feasable option.

The Meeting

Speakers were: Dr Gary Glazebrook from UTS, Dr. Michelle Zeibots, Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS and Councillor Jamie Parker, Mayor of Leichardt Council. As well as the listed speakers, there were people from EcoTransit Sydney present.

The forum discussed issues including the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication (also known as the Victoria Road upgrade). However, rather than proposing to deal with transport projects piecemeal, the planning experts proposed that the local councils get together with the community and planners to produce an overall plan. Such a plan could include public transport options which the NSW state Road and Traffic Authority (RTA) is unwilling to consider.

Proceedings were delayed for 20 minutes while we waited for the Mayor to arrive. Given that the expert transport speakers were present, this was an unnecessary waste of the time for the forty or so people present. The Mayor is obviously a busy person and I suggest he issue instructions that events not be held up waiting for him to arrive.

The Mayor opened the event by mentioning what was discussed at the local government summit recently in Canberra. He noted that NSW local government people were concerned about the lack of public transport planning in NSW. He claimed to have raised this with the PM and others at the event. He then expressed concern at the proposed and then cancelled Sydney metro and the new proposal a few weeks later. There was also a proposal for a $250m coordinated bike route in NSW.

Unfortunately this was all presented very rapidly by the Mayor, like a political campaign speech. There were no details provided to back up the claims made, nor any written text provided. While the Mayor sounded sincere, given the poor history of transport planning in NSW, much more is needed for a credible presentation. Leichardt Council needs to cite evidence when presenting proposals, for those proposals to have credibility.

Inquiry by design

Dr. Zeibots provided an excellent "Big picture" overview of transport planning for Sydney. Dr. Glazebrook went into more detail on light rail proposals for the inner west. Both were able to back up their proposals with credible evidence.

Dr. Zeibots advocated better planning using a process called "Inquiry by design". With this the usual years of planning and public consultations are compressed into about five days. The planners, experts and community representatives meet at the site to be planned, talk to locals and draw up options.

Some notes on the talk:
  • The County of Cumberland scheme 1951 planned radial motorways for Sydney. This has been largely followed with Sydney's tollways. Unfortunately Sydney's 21 century transport is being planned using a 50 year old last century plan. Due to the cancellation of the Johnston creek extension to the motorways, Marrickiville and iron cove motorway tunnels are being considered by the RTA internally without adequate public consultation.
  • Analysis of the traffic of the M4 shows that it did not greatly reduce the traffic on the existing great western highway and the total traffic of the two combined was much higher.
Enhance with the Internet and Political Realism

The meeting was useful and the inquiry by design process appears feasable. However, I suggest that the planners could usefully incorporate the Internet in their process and also inject some political realism.

Use the Internt for public and expert input to planning

The planners propose a process over a few days where the experts and community come together. However, not everyone concerned is able or willing to give up five days of their time. Only about forty of the many thousands of residents gave up a few hours for this meeting.

Therefore I suggested after the meeting to Dr. Zeibots that Internet and web tools could be used to enhance the meeting process. Experts and residents could be provided with the materials which were to be provided at the meetings and invited to provide input. As the process progressed, what the meeting came up with could be put online and the community invited to have input. This would allow wider input with minimal extra effort.

Between 1996 and 1998 I provided some web pages about planning for the Dickson p precinct of Canberra. Normally the Draft Master Plan would be displayed at the local library and perhaps an item about it placed in the local newspaper. By placing a copy online many more people could see it.

As part of the Federal Government's 2020 Summitt process I orgnaised a day long local summitt on open source with Senator Lundy. This made use of the Austrlaian developed Moodle free open source Learning Management System. Moodle was used to prepare the program for the day, solicit input and to report on the day. UTS has the Moodle system installed. This could be used to provide an online forum for a planning process. I have also used Moodle live in a classroom and it could be simiarly used to organise and present materials to people at a live forum as well as online.

Take account of political realities

The planners seemed to be curiously naive of the political process. A transport plan for Sydney may increase the chances of better public transport, it would seem more likely to be adopted if it took into account political realities.

The NSW state government has produced a number of transport proposals, such as the North West Metro, which make little sense in planning terms. These are only understandable in political terms as a way to attract votes. After the cancellation of the North West Metro and the quick creation of another metro proposal, there can be few who believe such proposals are being created through any rational planning process. Clearly these proposals are being up up in order to meet short term political aims, not the long term public interest.

Therefore any proposal put up by others needs to take into account the political issues and meet short term political needs of the government. As an example, projects which can be started quickly at low cost and employ people in NSW are more likely to receive political support, than those taking decades and using imported equipment. An example of such a project would be expanding the MetroBus recently introduced in the Inner West. The buses can be made in NSW, the bus lanes they need to run on can be built by NSW workers. The NSW government can apply for federal funding to create hybrid, large, fuel efficient buses.

Buses are not as good a long term transport option as trams and metros. However, buses which are actually purchased are a better option than trams which may not be approved and metros which are never built.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Leichhardt Transport Forum, 13 November 2008

A Leichhardt Council Transport Forum will be held at the Leichhardt Town Hall, 22 Nov 2008. Issues include the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication (also known as the Victoria Road upgrade).
Start: 22 Nov 2008 - 1:30am
End: 22 Nov 2008 - 3:30pm

Planning and implementing transport in the inner west will be addressed by transport experts, Dr. Garry Glazebrook and Dr. Michelle Zeibots, and local transport groups. Topics for discussion will include the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail extension and the Iron Cove Bridge Duplication.

Venue: Leichhardt Town Hall
Norton St. Leichhardt

From: Leichhardt Council Transport Forum, EcoTransit Sydney, 2008
The RTA propose to build a new three lane bridge to the west of the existing four lane Iron Cove Bridge. My view is that a better option would be to not build a new bridge and instead devote two of the lanes of the existing bridge to buses. The funds saved on the new bridge could be spent on purchasing additional buses. This would have advantages:
  • Provides for far larger capacity at peak times than an additional bridge.
  • Less noise and vibration impacts on the local residents.
  • Does not require relocation of underwater utilities.
  • Does not require acquisition of private property.
  • No impact on Birkenhead Wharf that has heritage characteristics.
  • Safer, simpler alignment with the existing road.
An additional bridge would not be a good long term investment, as individual passenger cars do not have a future for peak hour city transport. An additional bridge will simply clog with additional cars at peak time. Buses can carry many times the number of passengers per unit of road space as cars. The new Sydney MetroBus has shown how a well resourced bus service can be popular.

Rail transport would be preferable, but the NSW government has been unable to prepare a credible rail transport plan, with unworkable schemes such as the North West Metro. The city will therefore have to make do with buses for the foreseeable future.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Battery electric hybrid tram

The Japan New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) has developed a battery/electric "hi-tram". This is described as a contact wire/battery hybrid Light Rapid Transit (LRT) vehicle in Railway Technology Avalanche (19 September 2008). There is no internal combustion engine (as in a hybrid car); instead the battery is recharged from the overhead wires. The tram can then lower the pantograph and run on battery power for a few km. This allows trams to be used in places where overhead wires cannot be installed for cost, safety or aesthetic reasons. There is a video of the tram in operation.

The vehicle is also referred to as a "Contactwire-less Tramcar" and uses Lithium Ion batteries. Obviously it would be feasable to create a hybrid trolleybus, using similar batteries and motors to the tram. This would be able to drive on unmodified roads on battery power and then recharge when on main routes equipped with overhead wires.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Canberra Light Rail Proposals

Just had a call from a company asking if I knew who to talk to in Canberra about light rail proposals. The only people I know of with a serious proposal for trams in Canberra were the Federation Line. But there appears to have been no progress with that for several years.

This was a very modest proposal for a tourist tram in central Canberra, which seemed well thought out and would require the minimum of capital works. It would service some office staff and shoppers as well as tourists.

There is also ACT Light Rail. This seems to be a relatively recent group which has been active in late 2007. They do not appear to have a specific project proposal.

The ACT Government has proposed a light rail system linking Civic to the Airport, Parliamentary Triangle and major town centres, at a cost of "around $1 billion". They also proposed this could like to a future fast train to Sydney.

The ACT Government doesn't appear to have done a serious assessment of light rail, but instead is just putting in an ambit claim. The one billion dollars would be enough to run a line between two of Canberra's town centers, but not between them all.

One option might be to expand the Federation Line's proposal around Civic out to the Airport. This could service defence offices and offices at the airport itself.

Recently I visited Turkey and Greece and saw their impressive public transport facilities. However, those depend on having densely packed apartment blocks. The same infrastructure would be prohibitively expensive in Canberra's suburbs. About the best which could be hoped for is more bus lanes and reserved ways waiting for newer technology.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

The Bridge: A Journey Between Orient and Occident

Cover of The Bridge: A Journey Between Orient and Occident by Geert MakGeert Mak has written the book "The Bridge: A Journey Between Orient and Occident" about the Galata Bridge in Instanbul. I crossed the bridge a few weeks ago. It is not a great bridge, in terms of engineering or architecture. What Mak concentrates on is the culture of the parts of the city connected. One aspect of the bridge is that it is lined with food stores underneath and people catching fish on top. The new Istanbul tram crosses the bridge and ferries to Asia cross underneath.

The book was featured on the ABC Radio:

A bridge between orient and occident - Geert Mak

Dutch writer, journalist and historian Geert Mak has written several books exploring particular places, including Amsterdam and Jorwerd: The death of The Village in Late Twentieth Century Europe. His latest book is called The Bridge and in it he focuses on one bridge in the city of Istanbul and the people who cross it, who work on it and who are drawn to it.

From: The Books Show, Radio National ABC, 26 June 2008

See also: Travel books about Istanbul.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Istanbul by Ferry, Funicular and Antique Tram

Istanbul is a treat for the light rail enthusiast. As well as the modern metro and light rail transit system, there are two antique tourist trams and two funicular railways (cable drawn train up a steep hill). You can take the metro from the airport into the city and then change to the LRT to go over the Gatata Bridge to Kabatas. You then change to the funicular up to Taksim Square. One disappointment is that the funicular is entirely underground.

European Shore Funiculars

You then walk across the square to the antique tram stop for a ride part way down the hill to Tunel. In contrast to the very modern and spacious funicular, the tram is a little rattler, with the driver having to continuously ring the bell to get pedestrians, cars and scooters out of the way as it runs down the street.

At Tunel there is what looks like a bank with the glass missing from the windows, which is the entrance to the second funicular back down the hill to Karakoy. This also is underground and was recently refurbished. You can then get back on the LRT, or walk back across the Gatata Bridge, looking at the hundreds of keen anglers catching what look like sardines.

Asian Shore Tram

There is another antique tram of the Asian side of Istanbul. Take a ferry to Karakoy, then walk up the main street to the bus interchange in Karakoy Square. The tram does a loop up the hill to the trendy suburb of Moda and then back in a loop down and along the waterfront.

The metro, LRT, funiculaie,trams and ferries all use the same ticketing system, with tokens or the electronic Akbil. It is curious to get on an antique tram and press the smart chip Akbil device into the electronic reader, squeze past the driver on the tiny wooden platform and then see him turn a large worn brass handle to put the tram in motion.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Melbourne St Kilda Tram one of World's Greatest Trips

Tram on Melbourne East Brunswick St Kilda Beach run using old St Kilda railway lineNational Geographic's book "Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips" features the Melbourne 96 Tram (). If you have the time this is well worth the ride. It goes from the center of the city to the beach, incluidng a section along what was the St Kilda Railway.

Unfortunately the book did not include the Adelaide to Glenelg Tram, which must rate as one of the great light rail trips of the world (12 km from the center of Adelaide to the beach).

Ps: Other trips in the book include Toronto's 501 Queen streetcar.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Urban Freight Role for Sydney Light Rail Extension

Freight being transferred from a cargo tram to the electrically-powered trucksPerhaps Sydney's light rail (tram) line could be used for delivering freight into the center of the city, as is being done in Amsterdam. This would reduce the number of large trucks in the city. The proposed extension of the current like from Sydney Central Station to Lilyfield out to Summer Hill would make this more viable, as would extensions from Central Station further in the CBD.
While some European cities have adopted cargo tram as a means of transporting specific commodities, the idea of setting up logistics networks using light rail remains relatively unexplored. But as Keith Barrow discovers, Amsterdam is embarking on a bold plan that could offer a very attractive and sustainable alternative to city centre road deliveries. ...

City Cargo Amsterdam, the company set up to operate the cargo trams, subsequently drew plans to bring the concept to Amsterdam and in November 2006, the city council approved a four-week pilot project. This small-scale trial ran in March this year using two LRVs loaned by Amsterdam Municipal Transport (GVB). During the trial, trams were loaded from lorries at Lutkemeerpolde, near the terminus of Line 1 in Osdorp, before running to two transfer points between Plantage Parklaan and Frederiksplein, where the freight was offloaded onto electrically-powered road vehicles for the remainder of its journey to the customers’ premises.

For the first two weeks the trams ran empty to assess the impact on traffic patterns. During the final two weeks of the trial, the trams operated with customers’ freight that normally would have been delivered by road. The trial was deemed successful enough for the city council to grant City Cargo Amsterdam a 10-year concession to operate cargo trams on the GVB network on a commercial basis from next year. Under this concession, City Cargo Amsterdam must operate without any subsidy from the municipality or central government, and has to guarantee that GVB’s passenger operations will not be disrupted by its activities. ...

The cargo trams will operate from distribution centres, called cross docks, situated on the outskirts of the city close to the highways that radiate from Amsterdam. These cross docks will be supplied outside peak traffic hours ...

From: Light ideas for urban freight, by Keith Barrow, International Railway Journal, IRJ, November 2007
Much of the route of the Sydney Light Rail was previously a goods line, so there are several existing warehouses and sites for new facilities along the route. These have good road and rail access. These could be used to interchange cargo to specially build goods trams, or to a cargo compartment built into some of the existing trams. As with the Amsterdam system the cargo would be transferred using standard size pallets, making for quick loading and unloading.

Using an existing warehouse adjacent to the tram line, such a system could be implemented for less than a hundred thousand dollars. The trams could be loaded and unloaded in a few minutes, allowing this to be done on the main line, without the need for a siding and without the need to interrupt passenger operations.

The trams could also be used for transport of mail and small packages. One way to make a flexible system would be to transfer items using the existing passenger stations and trams. The platforms would have small courier offices, accepting items and arranging for their dispatch.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sydney Light Rail Extension

When in Sydney some Saturdays I walk to the Orange Grove Farmer's Market. This is near the terminus of the Sydney Light Rail (Metro Light Rail) at Lilyfield (the other end is at Central Station in the middle of the city). The light rail is on an old goods line. A flour mill which used the line for goods further on has closed down and so more could be converted to light rail:

Kevin Warrell, the head of Metro Transport Sydney, which runs the existing service between the city and Lilyfield, said it would cost $10million to $15million to extend it to Summer Hill. "It is actually a very nice bit of railway … it would be a simple and cheap extension." ...

The new owner of the site, EG Property, wants to convert the flour mills to residential and commercial use. Additional public transport would offer any development a premium on the value of the project. "There is no other user of this line," said EG's chairman, the former union leader Michael Easson. "Given it is a transport corridor, it should be adapted for transport users' use."

But the State Government, which owns the line, would not commit to converting it. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport would only say "the Government will consider any proposal put to it"...

From: Light rail opportunity left idling on the track, Catharine Munro, Sydney Morning Herald, October 15, 2007

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Victorian Public Transport contactless Smart Card

Miki ticket gate machineThe Victorian state government Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA), is introducing a contactless Smart Card for public transport later in 2007. It will operate on trains, trams and bus in Melbourne city and some transport outside the city. The system is (unfortunately) called "myki". There is a "discovery centre" demonstration set up in the Southern Cross Station where I tried out the cards and readers.

Miki ticket machineTo put credit on the card, the traveler can use a ticket machine in a station. This looks much like other ticket machines, except you wave your card in front of the machine to add the credit, rather than inserting it in a slot. The machine has a large touch sensitive LCD screen for entering payment details. I had difficulty using the machine as the screen has a coating which make it hard to read at an angle (perhaps this is needed for the touch screen or is a privacy measure). The screen is placed at a suitable height for a person in a wheel chair, so I could not read the screen or type comfortably when standing upright. I had to bend over uncomfortably to use it. But then this will not need to be done often for regular commuters.

Miki ticket readerTo check the balance on your card you can use a much smaller pole mounted reader. A similar size unit, with fewer buttons, is used to swipe your card when getting on and off buses and trams, to record the fare. For railway stations the same reader is attached to an automatic gate.

Curiously, while the large ticket machine was placed at wheelchair height, the pole mounted readers were placed very high, or of reach of people in wheelchairs. The gate mounted unit was at a suitable compromise height for both wheelchairs and pedestrians.

While I have not looked at the detail of the project, this system looks far more workable than the problematic Metcard system previously brought in for Melbourne trams. This required a large, complex ticket machine to be installed on the trams. As well as taking up valuable space, these were difficult to operate on a lurching tram.

Smartcard ticketing systems for transport have proved to be difficult ICT projects to implement. It will be interesting to see if the new Melbourne system does better than Sydney's Tcard, or Perth's SmartRider.

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