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Monday Melbourne: LXXVII, June 2005
Russell Degnan

The Forum Theatre through the Federation Square atrium. Taken April 2005

Melbourne 29th June, 2005 01:29:11   [#] [1 comment] 

Young Planners PIA Congress Review

For those of you who attended the PIA congress in April 2005, here in Melbourne, http://www.planning.org.au/youngplanners/related/ypconnect2005_summary.pdf
contains the review of the Young Planners Day, which occured at the end of the main congress. It was a great day had by all.

Career/Education 26th June, 2005 15:44:48   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LXXVI, June 2005
Russell Degnan

The Royal Arcade and Melbourne Central beyond. Taken May 2005

Melbourne 21st June, 2005 09:59:51   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LXXV, June 2005
Russell Degnan

Boukre St. mall. Taken May 2005

Melbourne 13th June, 2005 18:49:28   [#] [0 comments] 

Because we don`t know what we`re doing
Russell Degnan

I ranted below about doing strategic planning without demonstrating arguments for why, or even a clear statement of goals. The evidence for why its is bad keeps piling up.

Exhibit A: Regional Fast Rail Project

This is a project that was devised with one purpose only: to win votes in the country. Unfortunately it worked a little too well, because suddenly the Bracks government had to find a way to provide faster rail services to regional areas. This would be fine, except they are a) small and uneconomical, and b) cutting through difficult terrain. The original $80 million was a ridiculous pipedream. But it has meant the whole project has been ridiculously poorly planned from start to finish.

Consider the pronounced goal: shorter travel times to Melbourne. Why would country people want that? That might seem ridiculous -- of course they want them -- but it isn't, because they want it for a reason. They want it so they can commute to Melbourne, and live in a regional centre. There is far more to this project than just the reduction of travel times. It offers a potentially substantial number of people a lifestyle choice. Done properly, it would increase demand for housing in regional centres -- at the expense of the outer suburbs with longer, slower commutes. [1]

But this also means it impacts on dozens of other government areas: health, education, local transport, water, and the relative strength of different regional and metropolitan economies. It should be done in the context of planning for those services and others. But of course it wasn't and won't be, because we don't plan like that. Instead we assume that all other factors will remain the same, and then predict the infrastructure needs given those trajectories.

[1] Of course, it wasn't done properly. It is a complete balls-up of a project that won't reduce travel times at all.

Exhibit B: Flinders Street Overpass

I love this article. It is a triumph of circular reasoning and contradictory stupidity. Cauchi starts by stating that the Flinders Street Overpass is being removed because it is ugly. He then adds that after it was built "hotels closed and shops and showrooms were boarded up". Last I checked, destroying the economic vitality of an area was a more serious problem than just "ugly". It is a problem that has remained, because pedestrians don't walk down ugly, windy, littered, dirty and noisy streets noone in their right mind would try and operate there.

Having misrepresented the proposed change he then states that it is necessary for the suburban commuter to speed their way into the city. He completely fails to see that the overpass is a trade-off between the commuter and the amenity of local residents and businesses. An argument for which I will always argue in favour of the locals, if you hadn't noticed.

He then acknowledges that reducing commuter amenity is also a useful way of getting people onto public transport instead -- once again, it is a trade-off. But his argument against it: public transport in outer-suburbia is bad and people have to drive. This is a tiresome, ridiculous argument, public transport is slow and infrequent, so people don't use public transport, people need to get to the city though, so people drive, all those drivers slow down the morning commute, so you need to spend money on freeways to make faster commutes, noone uses public transport because it is faster to drive, so public transport gets less funding, public transport is slow and infrequent, so people don't use public transport...

His last statement refers to the fate of the railway viaduct between Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations. On this, as I have said before, I believe it should be removed, not because it is ugly but because it obstructs two city blocks worth of valuable land. It should be removed underground along with Flinders Street traffic as well, to open up the river to development and pedestrians. No doubt it would provide a pleasant vista for Mr. Cauchi as he speeds along King Street to his suburban residence in the evening.

Planning 13th June, 2005 16:55:37   [#] [0 comments] 

Postcards from Southbank to Brighton
Russell Degnan

Last Sunday, being a day without homework to do, and little else either for practically the first time in nearly 12 months, allowed me to make a little walking excursion. It had long been in my mind to wander down to Brighton for a look-see, and so, camera in hand, with a pleasant sun beating down and a cool breeze floating off the bay I did just that.

It's quite a long way, Brighton.

Coming from the city, Southbank is obviously first, and it must be said, the least pleasant suburb for walking in. As nice as some of the big buildings -- such as the new PricewaterhouseCoopers Building on the right -- are for taking photographs of, the persistent shadows, the heavy traffic, and the lack of interesting frontage make the streets devoid of greenery like concrete tunnels. Worse, the Southbank 'hinterland' as it is called, barely a hundred metres from the river, unlike other urban disasters around Melbourne was actually blessed with substantial investment. If any place demonstrates that developers can afford to be short-sighted, and anti-urban in outlook then Southbank is it. But does the State Government have to persistently help them achieve this through short-sighted lot consolidation and weak planning rules?

Escape the hinterland though, and next to the freeway on Sturt St. you come across a little hill. It is covered in native vegetation, and not actively encouraging people to visit, but it gives a great view of the mess of tower blocks and the city behind. Once again I skipped the Centre for Contemporary Art. Perhaps another day.

And so along Sturt St., following the path of the Number 1 tram for a period. A tram route I have never taken, except by accident, not least because although its winding route is no doubt fascinating, it doesn't really go anywhere particularly.

At the end of Eastern Rd. is Albert Park. It was packed with the normal collection of joggers, walkers, dogs and sailboats; some terrible golfers on the public course; and some terrible umpiring on the football fields at the Southern end.

Enough gets written about St. Kilda without me making much mention of my brief sojourn there, taking in Fitzroy Street; the pier, devoid of the kiosk but still not short of visitors; the beach, whose most charming element was a little girl throwing sand in her sister's eyes; Luna Park; and the marina, of which the less said the better. Even now, a hundred years after it was subsumed into endless Melbourne suburbs, it still retains the day-tripper element of times past. It is hard to see on the tram map, but no less than five trams have their endpoint there. Notably, the 69 and 79 that turn down Church St. and Glenferrie Rd. into inner suburbs. Once upon a time at least, transport planners considered weekend travel a worthwhile exercise.

South of St. Kilda lies the Elwood Canal. The walk along it is very pleasant, shady, and wide enough for bikes and the ubiquitous Elwood stroller. A series of little tile strips depicting elements of the local history keep you entertained with stories of boats and fishing in some parts; and detestable quagmires spreading polio, typhoid and any number of other diseases at others. I left i when it stopped being a canal and became a drain, making my way back to the beach.

From here the trip was a seemingly endless beach path with a seemingly endless stream of the same walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters and dogs that I'd been seeing since Albert Park. Persistent too, was the view out over the bay, where the sun slowly made its way over the West Gate Bridge, the Yarra Power Station with its noticeable chimney stack, and the cranes of Williamstown. Noticeable too, was the CBD. The Eureka Tower is very tall, but you need to stand back about 15km before you realise just how big.

But Brighton is a different demographic to what was now behind me. The packed restaurants and cafes dried up. The housing became a little lower, a little bigger, and a little more exclusive -- this changes once you get away from the beach though, I might add. Teenagers start to appear, and the elderly. In short, I'd entered the middle suburbs. But other things were a bit disturbing, like the manicured sand dunes. Having grown up in Warnambool I am used to real sand dunes, with scrub and lots of sand. These patches of trees surrounded by crisp grass are somehow wrong.

They are especially wrong at my eventual destination. Not the Brighton Pier at left, picturesque though it is, but the sand dunes over a short promontory at the end of Park Street where the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon shot himself on the morning of the 24th June 1870. I'd expected a memorial of some kind, there being no shortage in other places -- Gordon Place, Flemington, Ballarat, Mt. Gambier, and Westminster Abbey being the most prominent -- but no sign of either the dunes or the tea-tree scrub remains.

The walk to the station was problematic. Not because it was far, but because inadequate signage meant my approximate direction pushed me to North rather than Middle Brighton, though Brighton Beach would have been better still. On the other hand, while I didn't see any of the ever invisible Melbourne buses -- it was Sunday after all -- I did photograph a good bus sign to go with my large collection of horrifically bad bus signs. One of those routes -- the 61 -- doesn't actually exist at all so perhaps it was an antique sign of sorts.

All in all, a good walk.

Tales of the City 7th June, 2005 18:55:24   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LXXIV, June 2005
Russell Degnan

Flinders St. station. Taken May 2005

Melbourne 7th June, 2005 14:01:03   [#] [0 comments] 

Lobby group planning
Russell Degnan

Could transport planning in Victoria be in a more parlous state?

Consider some of the news items from the past week. First, the Committee for Melbourne put out a list of recommendations for subsiding their businesses and something about a couple of extra buses to stop cars slowing down their trucks. No proble, they're allowed.

The call for a few more freeways garnered the sort of response you'd expect. Public transport advocates put forward their own list of improvements. Notably, a much more conservative list in terms of funding.

The DOI, who put out the Metropolitan Transport Plan, said nothing - because they aren't allowed - and the government said they would like to have a meeting.

Some of these projects have merit. I think extending the Eastern freeway to the Tullamarine is perfectly sensible because at the moment it is a freeway to nowhere, dumping cars onto local streets. Some are inadequate for what they want to achieve, and it won't surprise anyone to know that extending a few buses comes under that category. And some are politically infeasible and unnecessary, such as the Northern Ring Road.

But that is not the point of this article. The point is that we have a strategy [1]. Or at least, we have something purporting to be a plan. These sort of articles demonstrate clearly that the plan is completely inadequate.

In the past, plans had substance, statistics and arguments. Things were assessed on their merits and infrastructure was mapped out 30 years hence. When funding was better than expected, the plan moved a bit quicker, when it wasn't, it went slower.

In the present, the plans don't exist, or are not published. Every lobby group pushes their own plans and their own funding priorities. There is no backbone of planned infrastructure, and no long-term assessments being made for what should have priority. It is in effect, no plan at all. Arguments that it is a 'strategy', not a 'plan' are bullshit. You can't build anything with a strategy.

The other interesting article during the week was the plan to close off the Princes Bridge during the Commonwealth Games. Again, it is a measure I fully support, and have said as much before. But again, how is this part of a plan for the centre of Melbourne? Do we want a pedestrian retail core? The number of people in and around Swanston Street during the day is now extremely high, to the point where many streets are a nightmare for cars. Surely the council, knowing that the Commonwealth Games were coming six years ago, should have thought their way through a program of progressive road closures, instead of the haphazard way this new idea is being put forward.

The problem with it, is that people want to go to the east side of the city to park. Most traffic from the bridge turns right into Flinders St. A bridge connecting Linlithgow Avenue and Batman Avenue would be an elegant solution to this, providing a useful pedestrian crossing as well. But it is too late to do that for the Games.

Opportunities lost, again.

[1] And as an aside. why does the DOI feel it is necessary to download a crap Microsoft product on their frontpage?

Planning 7th June, 2005 03:01:54   [#] [2 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LXXIII, May 2005
Russell Degnan

RMIT. Taken April 2005

Melbourne 1st June, 2005 01:49:04   [#] [0 comments] 


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