Category Archives: Melbourne and suburbs

Public transport users call for Westgate submarine

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for the introduction of a passenger submarine linking the bayside western suburbs of Melbourne with the CBD instead of the controversial Westgate Tunnel.

“There’s clear demand for improved public transport in Melbourne’s west,” said PTUA’s maritime spokesperson Daniel Morton. “A passenger submarine can deliver this with minimal new infrastructure.”

Previous attempts to run passenger ferries have confronted problems such as rough waters causing cancellations and delays [1], and speed limits making for slow journeys along the Yarra River section of ferry routes [2].

“A submarine would overcome the problems facing surface vessels by travelling below the water’s surface, and leave valuable sea lanes open for freight transport,” said Mr Morton.

“A submarine would also be less affected by low clearances on some of the numerous river crossings [3] already in place from the west of Melbourne that everyone forgets about whenever they say we need a ‘second’ river crossing.”

Mr Morton also pointed out that the future reach of a submarine network would benefit from rising sea levels due to carbon emissions from transport. “To start with the submarines would only serve Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River, but future routes could extend to Elwood, the Westgate Tunnel corridor and other low-lying parts of the city.”

Mr Morton said the PTUA was optimistic the submarine plan would float given the government’s reluctance to invest in proven transport options for the west. “With very low service levels for trains and buses in the west, and virtually no trams, an unproven distraction is just the thing to capture the public’s imagination. Meanwhile the government can continue generating more motor vehicle traffic with massive motorway projects instead of providing genuine alternatives.”

* * *

1. The Age 16/6/2014 – Ferries to Melbourne’s west ‘not a priority, not viable’

2. ABC 12/5/2016 – Commuter ferries for Melbourne’s west to sail next week

3. PTUA: Myth: There’s only one river crossing from Melbourne’s West

Victoria’s transport planning crisis: Put the public first and end partisan brawling over big infrastructure, says PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association has called for a public interest ‘circuit breaker’ to end the crisis in major infrastructure planning.

The call comes amid the scuttling of Transurban’s controversial West Gate Tunnel project by the Legislative Council, which the PTUA says is merely the latest manifestation of a planning crisis in Victoria reaching back more than a decade.

“Historically, large infrastructure projects in Victoria have proceeded with essentially bipartisan support, in accordance with some kind of plan and with all the required statutory approvals,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “Governments could also generally claim to have an electoral mandate for these projects, as Jeff Kennett certainly claimed for CityLink in 1996.”

“The problem governments have faced more recently is that to gain this kind of support, a major project has to both stack up on triple-bottom-line criteria, and reflect the wishes of the community,” Dr Morton said. “Yet of late there’s been a deplorable tendency for governments to announce huge, multi-billion dollar projects with dubious benefit-cost analyses, then scramble to sign contracts and start construction with unforeseen haste, as though they fear not getting an election mandate and want to force it as a fait accompli instead. We saw exactly that with the East West Link, and now we see it with the West Gate Tunnel. It’s little wonder these projects turn into ugly partisan brawls, that alarm Victorians at the betrayal of public trust involved.”

Dr Morton pointed to a December 2017 public letter to the Premier from 28 urban transport and planning experts, documenting their own concerns with Victoria’s planning crisis and with the West Gate Tunnel project in particular. This followed a submission by transport modelling expert William McDougall to a Senate inquiry on tollroads in July 2017, citing serious concerns with the way major road projects are assessed.

The PTUA also points to a ‘striking disconnect’ between the approach taken to the West Gate Tunnel and the Metro rail tunnel. “The Metro tunnel has been studied almost to death over three election cycles,” Dr Morton said. “But while some details can be argued over, there’s really little doubt there’s a public mandate to get on with it and there’s huge benefit for Melbourne’s west in particular. This rail tunnel will move three times as many people as the West Gate Tunnel without breaking a sweat.”

PTUA also believes similar support would exist for the original West Gate Distributor project that Labor took to the 2014 election. “As we have said all along, this project was designed to solve a problem, which was to get trucks out of residential streets. It does it at a cost one-tenth that of the West Gate Tunnel, and without putting more trucks in other residential streets, or overwhelming central Melbourne with more car traffic contrary to 30 years of planning strategy. And the government can even claim a mandate for it!”

“Changing direction is never easy. We know the road lobby really wants to be in charge of transport planning again like they were last century. But the public has different ideas now: most Aussies don’t accept that the only way to get cities to work is by turning them into Los Angeles. So the road lobby, and those who make money whenever traffic gets worse, has fallen back on the ‘market-led initiative’ process, which is basically a licence to subvert proper planning.”

To get Victoria out of the present crisis, the PTUA has renewed its call for a planning ‘reset’ on explicit public-interest criteria. “We could start by tasking Transport for Victoria with the creation of the Transport Plan actually required by Victorian legislation,” Dr Morton said. “It ought to be publicly tested in accordance with the Act, on triple-bottom-line criteria, informed by a well-supported view on what kind of city we want to be. And it needs planning experts, community groups and local councils to be actively involved in its construction, and not subject to veto by faceless men in Collins Street who answer only to the road lobby.”

“In the meantime, Premier Andrews and Minister Donellan can get those good people back to work in Yarraville building the original West Gate Distributor project,” said Dr Morton. “It’s still there in the West Gate Tunnel plans, does the job the public needs and already has community support.”

No Night Buses on NYE “ridiculous”

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has criticised the state government’s decision to not run Night Bus services on New Year’s Eve this year.

While trains and trams will run all night[1], the Night Bus routes, which fill gaps in the network, will not.

Areas that will miss out include Point Cook, Mernda, Mornington (and the rest of the Peninsula) and Rowville, with no public transport at all between about 9pm on New Year’s Eve, and 6am the next day.

Doncaster will have Smartbus services until about 2am, but no services after that until around 6am.

“New Year’s Eve is huge in Melbourne”, said PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen. “The 9pm fireworks in the City and at Footscray, and the midnight fireworks attract big crowds.

“Public transport is the best, safest way to get large numbers of people home, but for many suburbs, it simply won’t be an option – not even for the early fireworks.”

The PTUA has also criticised the provision of service information over the festive season. The PTV web site and Journey Planner incorrectly said that Night Bus services ran on Christmas morning, and there remains confusion over whether Night Bus 970 will run.[2]

Brochures for rail upgrade works in January were also found to include numerous errors.[3]

Mr Bowen said the move to run trains every half-hour all night, rather than the hourly services of last year, was a welcome upgrade, but would only help those who didn’t need a connecting bus to complete their journey.

“It will actually be easier to get home on Friday or Saturday night to Mernda, Rowville or Mornington than it will be on New Year’s Eve.

“Night Bus was designed to connect to trains and provide good overnight route coverage to areas that don’t have trains and trams… Night Buses run every weekend – it’s ridiculous that they’re not running on New Year’s Eve”, Mr Bowen concluded.

* * *

[1] All metropolitan trains and trams will run all night, except for the Stony Point line, and trams 82 and 78.

[2] The PTV web site says:

Night Bus services (routes 941, 942, 943, 944, 945, 951, 952, 953, 955, 961, 963, 964, 965, 966, 967, 969, 970, 978, 979, 981 and 982) will not operate during this event.

…however route 970 from Carrum to Rosebud is shown in the online timetables and Journey Planner as running on New Year’s Eve.

[3] One brochure for passengers impacted by rail works included multiple errors, including listing bus routes as going to incorrect stations, and one bus route (“620”) that does not exist at all.

* * *

See also:

Coverage of this story:

NE Link: Waste of money

When Infrastructure Victoria called the North East Link a “priority road project”, it was because its consultants gave the road a highly favourable initial assessment. The report last year by KPMG, Arup and Jacobs estimated the project (including the Eastern Freeway and M80 widening) would cost between $4.8 and $7.1 billion. The benefits were stated as $10.1 billion, or $15.3 billion including so-called “wider economic benefits”.

Experts familiar with the modelling that supports these estimated benefits have called it into question. Benefits are based largely on time savings, which real world road projects don’t provide because of the new traffic they generate. “Agglomeration benefits” are also largely illusory because on Earth, dense urban centres and private car travel don’t mix well.

But none of that matters now that Premier Andrews has announced the budget cost as $16.5 billion. Even taking the estimated benefits at face value, the conventional benefit-cost ratio is now 0.6. Not even the mooted “wider benefits” get the ratio up to 1, meaning we’re looking at another colossal waste of Victorians’ money.

I’m sure Infrastructure Victoria would readily acknowledge that when assumptions change, so do the conclusions.

Tony Morton, president, Public Transport Users Association

published in The Age, 27/11/2017

Call for govt to fund official PTV “every 10 minutes” train plan

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the State Government to fund the official PTV rail network service plan, which included trains every 10 minutes on most Metro lines by 2016 [1].

PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said the upgrade would revolutionise train travel around Melbourne, by cutting waiting times and crowding outside peak hours, and making more trips viable by public transport, including those requiring a change of service.

“Studies show that waiting time for public transport is often perceived negatively [2], with passengers believing waiting time is longer than it actually is”, said Mr Bowen. “This actively discourages people from using using infrequent public transport, especially for journeys requiring connections between services.

“Running trains every 10 minutes every day, just as we see already on a few lines, and just as we see in other cities of Melbourne’s size around the world, will get people off the roads.”

The PTV plan, written in 2012, proposed that by 2016 there would be the following service levels off-peak and on weekends:

  • 6 trains per hour to Sunshine, Craigieburn, South Morang, Macleod, Ringwood, Glen Waverley, Sandringham, Newport (in addition to existing services to Frankston and Dandenong)
  • 3 trains per hour off-peak to outer-suburban stations at Sunbury, Belgrave, Lilydale

Number of stations outside inner area[3] served by 10-minute frequencies

Lines

Total stations

Current weekday off-peak

Current weekends

Proposed PTV plan 2016, 7-days

via North Melbourne

56

7

1

26

via Clifton Hill

38

6

6

31

via Burnley

48

1

17

30

via South Yarra

57

36

36

46

Total

199

50

60

134

The number of stations on the network with all-week frequent services would rise from about a quarter to about two-thirds.

At many stations, this would mean the time between trains was halved.

Mr Bowen said that while some off-peak services were crowded and would be relieved by extra trains, the primary aim was to cut waiting times to get more people out of their cars.

“Weekend traffic is now as bad as weekdays. We know from Vicroads figures that there is almost as much travel demand in the middle of the day, and on weekends as there is at traditional peak commuting times”, said Mr Bowen. [4]

“PTV’s train plan isn’t perfect, but implementing the 2012 recommendations would be a great step towards a frequent metro service around Melbourne.

“The current half-baked metro service we have now just don’t cut it. Our city is growing fast, and we can’t have is inaction until 2026 when the metro tunnel opens.”

The PTUA also called for trams to be upgraded to run at least every 10 minutes until midnight, 7-days-a-week, for Smartbus services to run every 10-15 minutes on weekends, matching weekday frequencies (and in line PTV plans) and to expand the Smartbus system.

“Melbourne has a vast fleet of trains, trams and buses, much of which sits idle on weekends”, said Mr Bowen. “We know that people want to travel. It’s time the government funded extra services to cut waiting times, and make public transport a more viable option – not just in peak hour, but right through the week.”

* * *

[1] PTV Network Development Plan, Metropolitan Rail. Full document, pages 32-33. www.ptv.vic.gov.au/about-ptv/ptv-data-and-reports/network-development-plan-metropolitan-rail

This PTV chart from page 33 of the document shows 6 trains-per-hour (eg every 10 minutes) by 2016 to most of the network.

PTV Network Development Plan 2012: Planned train services

[2] Research paper: Perception of Waiting Time at Transit Stops and Stations

https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/1_Fan-et-al-Perception-of-Waiting-Time-at-Transit-Stops-and-Stations_2015.pdf

[3] Stations outside the CBD, Richmond, North Melbourne, South Yarra, which already have frequent services (6 or more trains per hour). Assumes weekday Werribee operating pattern would run 7-days

[4] Vicroads Online Traffic Monitor – shows that weekday inter-peak traffic and weekend traffic are almost as heavy as on weekdays during peak times.

Vicroads: Traffic volumes by time of day

Vicroads traffic figures by day of week

Media coverage of this story: