New thinking is signalled for Melbourne’s transport woes
Melbourne faces big decisions about what kind of city it wants to be in the 21st century.
Our State Government is now driven by a vision drawn from Los Angeles. The East West Link promises not merely to increase levels of car and truck traffic and pollution. Worse, it will guarantee there are no funds available to improve transport for decades.
Meanwhile, such official backing as has existed for public transport has focussed almost exclusively on the 9km ‘Melbourne Metro’ rail tunnel. While undeniably a more worthwhile project than the East West Link (and with a higher benefit-cost ratio) the Metro tunnel has monopolised public transport planners’ attention to the point where it has all but blinded them to the existence of less costly but more beneficial improvements.
The Metro tunnel is promoted as the ‘magic pill’ solving every problem with the rail network — a claim it cannot possibly live up to in reality. To rationalise the single-minded devotion to tunnels, planners within PTV have got into the habit of claiming it is a prerequisite for virtually any other improvement — even when it bears no logical connection at all!
The rail network would benefit substantially more from measures that bring it up to date with the state of the art in European urban rail systems. A good benchmark is the Paris ‘RER’ suburban network, which shares many features with ours: it operates on double track, with lines that combine in the city but branch into three or four parts in the suburbs. One difference is that the RER operates double-deck trains, which makes it vulnerable to dwell-time issues at key stations at least as severe as ours.
Read the rest of this article »