Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bicycling the Sydney Light Rail Extension

View Leichhardt to the Cooks River by Cycle in a larger mapIt has been proposed to extend the existing inner Sydney light rail line 5.6 km to Dulwich Hill along the old Rozelle Freight Line. Some Greenway proposals envisage the space being used for a cycle and walkway, rather than a tram line. On Sunday I folding bicycle along the route from Marion Street, Leichardt to Dulwich Hill, using the directions in "Cycling Around Sydney - 30 of the Best Rides in Sydney" (Bruce Ashley, 2007).

The first half kilometre is a pleasant ride between the Hawthorne Canal and the embankment of the rail line, in some places through a tunnel of green. There are pedestrian underpasses allowing access to the cycle track at several points, including adjacent to the Artest. Art School. At Parramatta Road it is necessary to leave the green path and cross the very busy road and corss the bridge to the western bank of the canal. The path then continues south to Grosvenor Crescent. AT this point you can see the remaining span of the Whipple truss bridge over Long Cove Creek (1886). There is an Institution of Engineers Australia historic engineering marker on the nearby railway viaduct (unfortunately the marker is slightly crooked, not in keeping with the IE Aust standards). At this point there is no bicycle or pedestrian access along the river or rail line.

In my view the best option would be to use the route for trams and, where possible, accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. The goods line can be converted to a tram line at little cost, compared to the proposed Sydney Metro.

See also "Leichhardt to Cooks River by folding Bicycle", in Travel Journal

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Sydney Light Rail Extension

According to several media reports the NSW Government are considering a relatively low cost ($100M) plan to extend the existing light rail line in Sydney's inner west.

The Sydney Morning Hearld goes further, reporting that "Light rail extension could run within a year" (Andrew West, SMH, May 25, 2009), and this would go to cabinet today.

The plan is low cost and low risk, as it would extend an existing tram service along an existing disused goods rail line. This appears cheap and easy when compared with the proposed Sydney CBD to Rozelle metro which requires tunnels and the resumption of private businesses for stations and would cost $5.3B if it was built.

It was not clear why the NSW government previously opposed the low cost, low risk scheme, in favour of high cost high risk metros (which it keeps cancelling). One suggestion in the SMH is that the director-general of the Ministry of Transport, Jim Glasson, was opposed to light rail. It is also suggested that the government needed to do something to support the Education Minister, Verity Firth in her electorate for the 2011 election.

According to the SMH, the Transport Minister, David Campbell, had an epiphany when travelling by tram on holiday in holiday in Paris and Nice.

One problem which remains for hr tram is the lack of an integrated ticketing system in Sydney. Like Melbourne, Sydney has had problems with a smart card based system. Like Melbourne the problems are due to an overly complex ticket system and the failure by the government to adopt a simplified system, as used in Istanbul.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Two Sides of Japan Model Railway

City section of the Two Sides of Japan Model RailwayThe Canberra Model Railway Club held its Expo 2009 last weekend. Highlight of the event was the "Two Sides of Japan" display in N Gauge, showing not only bullet trains speeding across the countryside, but a Japanese city with electronic display signs and light rail. Unfortunately while there is a web site detailing how this was built, there are no photos doing the finished layout justice.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sydney CBD Metro

The New South Wales Government has announced that work will commence on the $4.8B Sydney CBD metro. Unfortunately, as with previous metro proposals , this seems to be an ad-hoc one off proposal not part of a plan for Sydney.

The NSW Government released "City of Cities: A Plan for Sydney's Future" in December 2005. It aimed to plan for a population increase of 1.1 million by 2030, balancing economic growth with social and environmental issues. Whatever the plan's flaws, it is better than no plan.

The City of Cities plan included a $8B North West-CBD-South West Rail Link. There3 was no CBD Metro in the plan. However the Strategy for Transport included criteria to assess transport proposals: enhanced liveability, economic competitiveness, fairness, environmental protection and governance. These could be applied to the CBD Meto to see if it would be of value to Sydney. The metro announcement makes no mention of a long term large scale plan, only short term details:

The 7km CBD Metro is the first step towards a metro rail network for Sydney. It will run underground from Central to Rozelle via Town Hall, Martin Place, Barangaroo/Wynyard and Pyrmont. A station will also be safeguarded for future development at White Bay.

The route alignment is subject to further development and some modifications may occur as new information is obtained (particularly information related to major services and building basements).

The platform depth at the stations will range from approximately 20 to 35 metres below street level. The tunnel depths will be further determined as the design progresses.

Objectives of the route

The proposed route has been selected based on the objectives listed below and in consideration of a number of significant constraints, particularly in the CBD.

  • Provide for stations to be built at optimal locations
  • Take account of operational requirements for customer experience and maintenance
  • Minimise impacts on future CBD developments by following road alignments as far as possible
  • Minimise impacts on existing structures and basements
  • Minimise impacts on existing underground infrastructure
  • Utilise the Interim Metropolitan Rail Expansion Pitt corridor through the CBD (as identified in the Infrastructure SEPP) as much as possible
  • Safeguard the Interim Metropolitan Rail Expansion West corridor through the CBD (as identified in the Infrastructure SEPP) and other underground infrastructure
From: The Route, Sydney Metro, NSW Government, 2009

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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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Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Red Metrobus in Sydney

Yesterday I was in a hurry to get from Norton Street (Sydney's Little Italy) to the Sunday concert by The Song Company in the 2008 Spring Festival of Music Concert Series. In answer to my prayer, along came a big red new Metrobus. This is a new service which commenced operation yesterday and is being trialled for 12 months. As the name implies the service operates like a metro: there is no timetable, with buses instead arriving at set frequent intervals (every 10 minutes in peak hours, 15 minutes off peak, 20 minutes on weekends).

As the service had just been introduced there were two extra staff on board to hand out pamphlets and explain the service. The buses are claimed to carry more people that a standard bus, but looked the same to me. They are fitted with an electronic display showing the next stop and an automatic voice announcement. The bus I was on is a single unit, but articulated ones are also being used.

The pamphlet and the bus stop signs are an improvement on previous STA bus information. The metro style maps are easy to understand and to work out where to change to other transport. The roadside signs lack a countdown timer to tell you when the next bus is leaving, but the on-board staff explained that these signs are planned.

The buses do not accept cash and all tickets must be purchased before boarding. This will cause some inconvenience but greatly reduces bus loading time. It is also safer than the arrangement in Melbourne with trams (and buses in Thessaloniki), where patrons have to attempt to buy a ticket from a machine on-board a moving vehicle. There are newsagents and other vendors selling tickets near most bus stops.

The Metrobus is a cost effective and realistic answer to some of Sydney's transport problems, unlike the unworkable "North West Metro". However, there is a danger the Metrobus trial will fail due to a lack of investment. Some areas where it could be improved are:
  1. Usable Web Site: Sydney Buses provide a minimum of information about the service on the web in a difficult to read format. Instead of large, slow to download and hard to read PDF documents, the Brochure, Route Map, Download the TravelTen calculator should be provided in the form of web pages accessible by the disabled and usable on a mobile phone. The Wikipedia entry for the service provides better information than the official government web site.
  2. Next bus electronic sign: Each stop needs an electronic sign counting down to when the next bus leaves. These signs need to provide an accurate estimate. When I tried the Perth "Cat" system, the signs were so inaccurate as to be useless and discouraged patronage, rather than helping it. STA should invest in a reliable system which uses real time displays with wireless links to a GPS reporting bus. The signs could be solar powered in most cases.
  3. Next Bus Cafe: Electronic signs could be installed in cafes near the stops and the the staff encouraged to help patrons with bus information.
  4. Better road access: While the Metrobuses are new and have a good ride, the service suffers from the poor Sydney roads. The NSW government should repair the road surface along the bus lane for the Metrobus route to improve the ride and speed up the service. Bus priority traffic lights would further improve the service. Also the buses could be equipped with with traffic cameras, linked to the RTA Transport Management Centre, with a button for the driver to report a traffic problem. The RTA central controllers could then see and act on problems effecting the buses. An additional option would be to fit the buses out with mobile traffic infringement cameras, so that vehicles parked in bus stops and otherwise impeding the service could be issued with fines immediately.
  5. Electronic tickets: Sydney needs a workable electronic ticketing system, such as the Akbil system used by Istanbul Public Transport. Sydney has abandoned one electronic ticket system (Tcard) and is planning to install another system which will not work. Sydney needs to rationalise its fare structure before an electronic ticketing system will be workable. One option would be to propose the Australian Government fund a national standardised system and have it piloted on the Sydney Metrobus.

Name of stationStop numberLocations servedConnections

Market Place Leichhardt22WLeichhardt Market Place
Elswick Street21WLeichhardt
Cromwell Street
(Eastbound only)
Leichhardt Town Hall20WLeichhardt, Norton Street Palace Cinema
Norton Plaza19WNorton Street Plaza
Norton Street18WNorton Street Italian Forum
Catherine Street17WSydney Institute of TAFE - Petersham College
Percival Road16WAnnandale, Stanmore
Johnston Street15WAnnandale
Bridge Road14WAnnandale
Denison Street
(Westbound only)
13/14WCamperdown, Annandale
Mallett Street13WCamperdown
Missenden Road12WRoyal Prince Alfred Hospital
Larkin Street11WUniversity of Sydney
Ross Street10WUniversity of Sydney
Sydney Uni (Footbridge)9WUniversity of Sydney
Sydney Uni (Main Gate)
(Westbound only)
8/9WUniversity of Sydney
Victoria Park8WUniversity of Sydney, Victoria Park, Broadway Shopping Centre
Broadway7WBroadway, Broadway Shopping CentreBus: Newtown, Glebe Point Road
Abercrombie Street6WBroadway, Ultimo
Unversity of Technology (UTS)5WUTS, Broadway, Ultimo, Haymarket
Railway Square4WRailway Square, Sydney Institute of TAFE, Ultimo, HaymarketTrain: Central Station
Bus: Northern Beaches
Rawson Place3WChinatown, Paddy's Markets, Haymarket
(Westbound only)
2/3WChinatown, Paddy's Markets, Haymarket
World Square2WChinatown, World Square, Town Hall
Sydney Town Hall1WTown Hall, Queen Victoria Building, St. Andrew's Cathedral, George St CinemasTrain: Town Hall Station
Park Street City1ETown Hall, The Galeries Victoria, Pitt Street MallMonorail: Galeries Victoria
Hyde Park2EHyde Park
Museum3EHyde Park, Downing CentreTrain: Museum Station
Bus: Bondi Beach, Paddington, Bondi Junction, Bronte
Brisbane Street4EWhitlam Square
Riley Street5EOxford Square
Taylor Square6ETaylor Square, St Vincent's Hospital, University of Notre Dame Australia
Albion Street7ESurry Hills, UNSW College of Fine Arts
South Dowling Street
(Eastbound only)
7/8ESurry Hills
Moore Park8EMoore Park, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney Football Stadium
Cleveland Street9EMoore Park, Fox Studios, Entertainment QuarterBus: Randwick, Coogee
Robertson Street10EMoore Park, Centennial Park
Alison Road
(Eastbound only)
10/11EMoore Park Supa Centa
Carlton Street11ERandwick Racecourse
Ascot Street12ERandwick Racecourse
Todman Ave13EKensington
Addison Street14EKensington
Doncaster Avenue15EKensington
UNSW16EUniversity of New South Wales
Barker Street17EUniversity of New South Wales
Middle Street18EKingsford
Kingsford Nine Ways19EKingsfordBus: Maroubra, La Perouse

From: Metrobus, Wikipedia, 2008

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Metro in Sydney Transport Plan

The formation of a new NSW Government provides the opportunity to rethink Sydney's transport planning. The "North West Metro" proposed as a "European" style metro was not viablee. Sydney is not a European style city and needs a different transport system. The government should look to cities such as Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane to see how to use heavy and light rail and express bus ways for public transport.

European style metros service densely populated cities using closely spaced stations and short lines. The Sydney metro was to be a single 38km rail line with 17 stations (one for every 2 km) to cost $12B. A few months ago I visited the Greek city of Thessaloniki and saw a real European metro under construction This will have 13 stations, almost as many as the Sydney plan, but is only 9.6 km long, one third the spacing of the Sydney system. This smaller system will cost only 800 million euros, but even so has taken thirty years to build.

Instead of one long rail line, Sydney could consider some shorter genuine metro lines to service densely populated parts of the city in the next few decades. However, this should be a supplement to improved heavy rail, as Perth has done. There are also measures which can be introduced relatively quickly and cheaply, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and taking years, rather than billions taking decades. These include extending the existing light rail in the inner west of Sydney and providing priority bus lanes.

Another relatively easy problem to solve is the ticketing system for Sydney transport. The previous smart card project failed due to a complex pricing system for Sydney's diverse transport system. Istanbul has an integrated electronic ticketing system (Akbil) for the city's trams, trains, buses, ferries and even two Funicular railways. This works because the fare structure of the transport system has been simplified.

Given that transport systems take decades to implement, Sydney could look at some emerging technologies, such as hybrid buses,
Guided buses (used in Adelaide), and rubber-tyred trams. The have the potential of providing the low cost and flexibility of conventional buses with the capacities of metro and light rail, using some of Sydney's existing road infrastructure. As an example some of the lanes of existing toll roads and toll tunnels could be converted to guided bus-ways. The buses would collect passengers on ordinary roads and the enter the guided way for a high speed trip to the city center.

The buses could be electrically powered from renewable sources while on the bus way. Computer control of the buses would provide a similar level of safety, ride comfort and speed to an advanced light rail system. Buses which primarily use the guided ways could be powered by rechargable batteries when away from the guide way and would not require internal combustion engines. Express buses which only used the guide way could be driver-less.

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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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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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