Angling for Public Transport
For what must be the third time in a month, The Age has gone all out with stories on public transport. Today's batch focus on two things: a report (not online yet) from the Metropolitan Transport Forum on public transport in Melbourne, headed up by Perth planning superstar Peter Newman that basically lays the boot into government for under-investment, poor planning, and for lagging behind other (mostly European) cities; and further articles on rail and tram network "congestion".
The cynic in me might suggest that they are only complaining about congestion because take-up in the outer suburbs has impacted on Age readers, writers and editors ability to get seats (and sometimes standing-room); but it is a welcome change from printing press releases from the business lobby about the need to subsidise their freight transport. While I don't share the sentiment from Peter Newman that it could cause Labor to lose the election -- this would entail, amongst other things, a competent opposition -- there is a groundswell of public support for three propositions:
- That having public transport is a good thing (three cheers for middle class welfare)
- That the outer suburbs don't have public transport adequate enough to be usable.
- That investment in infrastructure for public transport over freeways might be worthwhile.
It is the last that the Age is currently pushing, and indeed, that public transport advocates have been pushing for as long as anyone can remember.
It would be nice at this point to think that the best option will be chosen based on intelligent assessments of the economic, environmental and social advantages of each. If it does occur, it will be a first for transport planning in this state. This is a political bumfight, with the inner-suburban, trendy, and environmentally friendly Age, and to some extent the outer-suburban, woe-is-me, where is my handout Herald Sun on one side, and the entrenched engineering culture of the Dept. of Infrastructure and fiscal conservatism of Treasury on the other.
I fully expect some sort of policy change by Labor before the next election, but that raises two other, more interesting, problems. Firstly, this is a government with a penchant for the half-arsed, cheap solution, completely lacking in vision, and unlikely to find any within their bureaucracy or their party . You can hope, but it would be a remarkable change if the end result was anything but a tightly spun ball of marginal, and largely ineffective, improvements. Secondly, unlike some people, I am not so enamored of public transport to believe it will provide a solution to all our ills. Pissing money away for political expediency is hardly the best way to achieve a decent transportation network. Transport of all types -- walking, cycling, car, tram, train, bus -- shapes the city, and people's choices. Drawing lines on a map showing a bunch of new railway lines does not count as a plan.
Update: Well that was fast. I'd have been more impressed if any of the proposals listed had been either visionary or not already announced.
 To quote Principal Skinner, "prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong".
5th November, 2005 11:31:20
Angling for Public Transport
I have an interview for a new job this week in a location that will necessitate switching from PT to a car. It will be impossible to make the journey in less than 90 minutes as opposed to the 20 in the car at peak times.
"A tram can hold 140 people" - as long as those 140 people squich in tight together and are OK with close contact with strangers for 40 minutes at a time.
Isn't Flinders St station near capacity anyway? That is evident to anyone who has sat in Jollimont yards or beside the aquarium for 5,10 or 15 minutes waiting for a platform to become available. How will they integrate more lines or more services?
Bruce 5th November, 2005 22:24:53
I am not sure about Flinder St. Because it is so politicised and prone to conspiracy theories, It is wise to be wary when various agencies claim any sort of capacity constraint. Flinders St. station used to have substantially more passengers, but that was before the loop was built, and the rationalisation of the lines in the late 90s. Apparently the loop is at capacity or near to it, so some of the throughput issues might just be scheduling problems from the convergence of multiple lines and the inconsistency of running times.
A large part of the problem is we are still essentially running a suburban spoke and wheel system in a city that outgrew that model of growth about 30 years ago.
Russ 6th November, 2005 13:17:25
Yeah. One reasonable-sized project, and two minor pieces of tinkering, all of which have previously been announced.
Does Peter Batchlor think we can't remember last month's press releases?
Rob Merkel 7th November, 2005 12:42:58
Most people don't pay much attention (which means announcing something is pretty pointless anyway). But he did fool the Age for at least one day. Plus, when the PTUA and others arc up most people just think they are whining.
Russ 7th November, 2005 13:45:36
The MTF report *is* online (on the VLGA website) download Lhere. (PDF - 5MB).
Aaron Hewett 9th November, 2005 09:42:15