Category Archives: Letters to the editor

Gridlock is to be our lot

It may have escaped our road-obsessed Premier’s attention but Friday’s horrific B-double crash occurred on exactly that part of CityLink that his east-west link road would connect to. With the link in place, that incident would have jammed east-west link traffic as well, just as Monash Freeway troubles jam up CityLink traffic today. The idea of roads “backing up” other roads is fantasy. With politicians and bureaucrats alike ganging up to boost roads and shut down talk of rail extensions, another half-century of gridlock is our lot unless something changes.

Tony Morton, Public Transport Users Association

— Letter published in The Age, 21/5/2013

Motorways: Salami tactics

Traffic from the Eastern Freeway queues to turn into Hoddle Street and head towards the CityIt almost defies reason that, with our train system virtually falling apart and car use per capita in decline, this government is hell-bent on committing public money to a road project with 50ยข of benefit for every $1 of costs (The Age: “Western end of project could win priority“, 3/5)

When the Bolte Bridge was built just over a decade ago it too was supposed to be an ”alternative” to the West Gate Bridge. It hasn’t worked, because as every transport planner knows, every new road attracts its own traffic that cancels out any benefit in easing traffic flow. Why should we expect another new road to work any differently?

Prioritising the western end is just what Yes Minister called ”salami tactics” – do the least contentious bit first, then let pressure build up to ram through the rest. Nothing will help tackle traffic congestion and freight movement until we get serious about boosting public transport in our suburbs.

Tony Morton, president, Public Transport Users Association, Melbourne

— published in The Age, 4/5/2013

Cars remain problem

The West Gate bridge carries 160,000 vehicles a day (”Trucks test structure of West Gate”, 18/3), but that is only a modest 15 per cent increase on 10 years ago, when it carried 140,000. Then, as now, traffic was forecast to increase by some staggering amount over the next decade.

In fact, traffic finds its own level depending on available road space. In 2003 the ”second Yarra crossing” had just opened in the form of the Bolte Bridge. Traffic has simply increased through the West Gate-Monash corridor to match the additional road space. The bridge did not ease congestion at all.
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Fares not too low

INFRASTRUCTURE Minister Anthony Albanese’s Major Cities Unit is completely wrong if it thinks Australia’s public transport fares are too low (Urban sprawl hits productivity, 4/12/2012). In fact, relative to cost of living, they are among the highest in the world.

The real reason fares only cover one-quarter to one-third of the cost of the system is that planners and operators are focused almost solely on peak-hour commuters.

Outside peak hours, our trains, buses and trams are desperately underutilised, when they could be earning more revenue to cover infrastructure and operating costs.

What it does require, though, is that systems are designed with a level of service that competes with car travel.

But that’s where bureaucrats and private operators in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra throw up their hands in apathy, rather than learn from their successful colleagues elsewhere.

Tony Morton, President, Public Transport Users Association (Vic), Melbourne, Vic

Published in The Australian, 5/12/2012

A legacy of poor decisions

A legacy of poor decisions
November 22, 2012

JOHN Legge (“Transport planning off rails”, Comment, 21/11) hits the nail on the head when it comes to Melbourne’s transport planning failures. Our creaking train system and barely usable bus services are the legacy of decades of secretive pseudo-planning at all levels of government and in the private sector, all failing to take public transport seriously. Public Transport Victoria was supposed to change the culture, but the government has fallen into the mistake of putting in new signs and legal entities but not putting in new people to match. We have plenty of reassuring “wait and see” messages from Minister Terry Mulder, yet we have heard the same from transport ministers of all political stripes for 30 years.
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Broken promises

THE disappointing result for the Baillieu government in the latest Newspoll survey comes as little surprise if we recall the reason it was elected. Its promises included a clear commitment to fix public transport. The Coalition picked up a swag of seats along train lines that had hitherto been treated with indifference. There were promises to overhaul network planning, discipline private operators and build long-overdue rail extensions to public transport ”black holes” in Doncaster and Rowville.

Two years on, we fear the same defensive bureaucrats are running the show. Meanwhile, the government has run off on a wild goose chase after an east-west road link. However, no government has the money to build it and no private ”partner” will support it except on terms that magnify the destruction of parkland and funnelling of traffic into congested streets. The government can regain enough public trust to win the election, but it will need to stare down the road lobby and deliver on the public transport transformation it promised.

Tony Morton, president, Public Transport Users Association, Melbourne

Letter published in The Age, 26/10/2012

‘Balance’ is missing

THE secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Cesar Melhem, suggests Victoria can have the $10 billion east-west road link and still invest in public transport improvements (“AWU pushes for east-west tunnel“, The Age, 30/7). As Darryl Kerrigan would say, “he’s dreamin”‘.

Such a massive road project would suck up all our transport funding for a generation. Just as the Eastern Freeway killed off 40 years’ worth of level-crossing grade separations, and EastLink rode over the community’s first opportunity to get funding for the Rowville train line, so the east-west link will spell doom for any serious expansion of the metropolitan public transport network until after 2030.

For decades, the road lobby has hidden its voracious appetite behind rhetoric and spin about the need for “balance” in transport planning. The reality is we have not built one suburban train line in 80 years. We have a real choice to make about transport in Melbourne, and it seems the one being made for us is not the one Victorians voted for at the last election.

Tony Morton, secretary, Public Transport Users Association, Melbourne — letter published in The Age 31/7/2012

State quiet on train lines

THE Kennett government didn’t survive long enough to face the consequences of privatising the roads that became CityLink. It opened in 2000, a year after Kennett was voted out. Moreover, most of the losers from the decision to toll existing roads were in ALP-held seats. CityLink’s main effect was an explosion in private car travel in the north-west and south-east corridors, far beyond the increase in economic activity it should have created. Within five years, Monash Freeway congestion was as bad as, or worse than, the old days of the ”South-Eastern car park”.

The Baillieu government is pushing an East/West road link while remaining quiet on the train lines it was elected to build. Victorians should consider whether they really want to pay road tolls, just so they can drive more and suffer the same congestion for more hours every day.

Tony Morton, secretary, Public Transport Users Association — letter published in The Age 18/7/2012

Badly advised

THE idea that the Rowville line can’t be built without a $5 billion metro tunnel is nonsense (”Monash Uni train line plan derailed”, The Age, 9/3). The line was included in the 1969 transport plan, which gave us the City Loop, but did not say an extra tunnel from South Yarra was required: only some lesser upgrades at a fraction of the cost. It also suggested the Dandenong line would have 24 peak-hour services in 1985. Today it has 16, including two V/Line trains.
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Eddington’s tunnel vision

Some things never change.

Rod Eddington is still spruiking the east-west road tunnel, even though his own report in 2008 said it would return just 45c in benefits for every dollar spent on it.

We can now see that the assumptions underlying the East West report were flawed.

Metlink reports that public transport use grew to 1.4 million trips a day in 2010, a level Eddington said would not be reached until 2031.

Meanwhile, federal government figures show that overall car travel in Melbourne has not increased since 2004.
Continue reading Eddington’s tunnel vision