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Monday Melbourne: CLXII, March 2008
Russell Degnan

La Trobe Street, west from Russell. Taken February 2006

Melbourne 26th March, 2008 23:02:41   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CLXI, March 2008
Russell Degnan

Princes Bridge. Taken September 2007

Melbourne 12th March, 2008 10:33:15   [#] [0 comments] 

On Being Right but Not Helpful
Russell Degnan

There was an article in the Melbourne Times this week about the East-West link study, the results of which are due soon, though noone seems to care exactly when. It was, as you'd expect for the MT, the usual line: roads are bad, this one is especially bad (or especially local), public transport is better, etc., etc.

It was allied with the usual transport quote-makers, lamenting with that knowing shake of the head, that the study is a done deal, pointless even, the tunnel is coming, the road will be built, the government never wanted it any other way, and, of course, that things would be so much better if only they spent the money on public transport.

I say bollocks to that. It is an attitude that gets you precisely nowhere, even if it is great for reinforcing your local anti-car, pro-environment lobby, and your own preconceptions that road planning is some vast conspiracy of the road lobby, VicRoads and Treasury.

Presuming they are right, and the study finds for a new road, the tunnel will be paid for, over the next 20-30 years, by increasing truck traffic coming from Frankston and Dandenong, round the eastern, and up to either the Hume corridor or the Airport. Traffic that, in the absence of any initiative for improved rail freight or otherwise, would otherwise clog up the Monash freeway and the West-Gate and Bolte bridges coming through the southern link.

Public transport in the Doncaster corridor will almost certainly not pay for itself. It normally doesn't, and so it will be judged against a different financial criteria. Which is not to say it shouldn't be built.

What is odd, is that in no way is a road tunnel/public transport link an either/or proposition. Current problems in US capital markets aside (and if anything, government backed infrastructure projects are better placed when capital markets hit the skids), there is no shortage of funding for both projects, should the government consider them worthwhile.

Rather, the tunnel represents a massive opportunity for not only improving freight transport links, but improving the urban realm, and reducing (some) commuter traffic.

Alexandra Parade is currently a night-mare to cross, and an ugly unpleasant scar for pedestrians in the area. But a road tunnel will bypass that, allowing the footpaths to be expanded. Tack a tram-line down the middle, turning towards Melbourne Uni and Swanston St. at Lygon St., paying for it through a land-improvement tax on nearby residents, and you have reduced car traffic, linked several public transport routes together (currently a major difficulty) and made a massive improvement to the local area. But it is an improvement predicated on removing outer suburban traffic, and that means building the tunnel.

There are numerous opportunities presented whenever a project like this takes place, but they are opportunities being ignored by excessive focus on projects that campaigners want built, and knee-jerk anti-capitalist reactions against potentially positive things like local lane/road closures. Stopping rat-running, improving pedestrian environments and reducing automobile traffic on local roads is a good thing, arguing otherwise is asinine. There is far too much of the latter in Melbourne.

Planning 10th March, 2008 17:25:14   [#] [5 comments] 


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