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Blind Visionaries
Russell Degnan

"But when it [Federation Square] opened and people saw it, they quickly changed their minds"
Peter Batchelor comparing it to Regional Fast Rail.

If only that were true.

The article linked to that quote details the many problems that have plagued the rail project, and resulted in huge cost blow outs. And yet the management of the project - while bad - is the not the reason this project is and will remain a failure in the eyes of people in regional areas.

They are annoyed because they wanted, and expected, better. People don't mind if projects go over time and budget. It is so common as to be expected. But they expect a result in the end. Federation Square was an attempt at something new and different. You may not like it, but they tried, and people appreciate that vision.

The Regional Fast Rail project is not viewed as visionary and advanced. The travel speeds are low, the time savings are minimal, but most of all, they miss the point of what regional people want. These trains need to serve as alternatives to driving to the city. The semi-retired, university students, and regional businessmen who come to the city a few times a week want commuter trains - fast, convenient, regular and affordable. They want, for example, a train that will get them to the cricket on Boxing Day before the start of play (which there wasn't).

They could have achieved this with extra services that all ran express, but they made the mistake of promising fast trains - implying very fast, when they meant slightly quicker - and of implementing a large project without a strategic vision for the long term.

It is vision that is lacking. Is this the last rail upgrade to the regions for ten, fifty, a hundred years? What if their population doubles? How do these places relate to the urban fringe and metropolitan activity centres? What sort of public transport exists within these regions themselves?

There has been a false dichotomy built up the between regional areas and Melbourne itself. This project shows how limited the thinking on regional matters is in State Parliament.

Planning 27th January, 2005 08:35:01   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LV, January 2005
Russell Degnan

Continuing the Yarra theme. A hot summer day. Taken January 2003.

Melbourne 25th January, 2005 23:57:24   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LIV, January 2005
Russell Degnan

The Yarra River on a typical summer sunset. Taken December 2003.

Melbourne 19th January, 2005 23:52:32   [#] [0 comments] 

Melbourne, Population Growth and the High Rise
Russell Degnan

"The reality is that the population of the world is increasing every 50 years by double. The concept that people will not live in a high-rise is an uneducated dream. Vertical villages will happen because humanity has no choice."
Soheil Abedian

This statement, from the Saturday Age is utter bilge, yet once again The Age reporter has failed to show even the smallest portion of critical evaluation, printing it exactly as said.

There are two issues here. The first is the lamentable rubbish printed above. Based on the falling birthrates in almost every country in the world, the UN's world population projection estimates that the world's population will peak at 9 billion then slowly decline. There is no chance of it being remotely accurate, but I will tip it against the ludicrous doubling prediction of Mr. Abedian.

For Australia, the population is expected to stabilise at around 30 million - a not unreasonable prediction - with almost all of the growth from immigration. This means Melbourne, with a current population of 3.5 million will not grow beyond 5.25 million. This is beyond the limit of the water supply, but not too bad.

Melbourne has no need for high-rise living, not now, not ever. Nor for that matter do most other cities of the world - though Asia might be an exception. Those that have it already are largely the product of geographical and political circumstance - ie. Singapore and Hong Kong.

The second issue relates to Melbourne 2030, and its apparent density requirement that has drawn over-eager developers to the suburbs' activity centres like moths to a flame. Once again, a small amount of mathematics can go a long way. In reaching a peak population of about 5.5 million Melbourne will have 1.5 times the current population.

Melbourne does not need high rise towers to meet this population growth, even in the absence of any more land. The 50% increase in density that entails can be achieved by doubling the density - from detached to row-house for instance - on merely half the stock. Or, if that is too onerous, tripling - ie. a 3 storey block of flats - a quarter of it. Over 50 years! At no point will it involve building 20 storey or more towers. Ten storeys would be more than sufficient to not only provide adequate housing but to leave the current character of most suburbs untouched.

In short, the current interpretation of Melbourne 2030 is nothing short of a con-job by developers on a misinformed public and weak-willed politicians. It is about time someone called them on it.

Planning 18th January, 2005 01:36:42   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LIII, January 2005
Russell Degnan

Swan St. Bridge, on the way home from the moonlight cinema. Taken January 2005.

Melbourne 10th January, 2005 23:17:29   [#] [0 comments] 


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