You can’t keep a good transport expert down

It’s good to see that Melbourne academic Paul Mees continues to fight the good fight for rational public transport policy, unbowed by the disgraceful actions of his employer the University of Melbourne in recently demoting him at the behest of the Victorian government.

In an article in some obscure corner of the Fairfax press yesterday, Mees called “bullshit” on Brumby government transport consultant Sir Rod Eddington’s “blueprint” for future Melbourne transport infrastructure, based as it is on yet more expensive public/private freeway and road tunnels and a token (and totally unnecessary in Mees’ view) partial duplication of the CBD railway loop:

How could supporters of public transport question the wisdom of spending $8.5 billion on rail? Isn’t it time Melbourne put serious money into an underground line to enable more trains to run to the city centre?

The simple answer is that Melbourne has already done just this. That’s what the City Loop, which cost $5 billion in today’s money, was all about. It’s set out in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan, which shows the system was intended to handle much higher volumes of trains and passengers than it carries today.

Mees argues that the billions should be spent on extending the existing rail network to areas it currently doesn’t service at all, and electrifying the lines to huge growing dormitory regions like Caroline Springs and Melton.  I’m not a Melbourne local, but Mees’ argument strikes me as almost unarguably correct.  The projects Eddington is spruiking might be more manna from government heaven for MacBank or the beleagured Babcock and Brown, but they appear to have little or no connection with developing a rational plan for  Melbourne’s future transport infrastructure for an era of global warming and peak oil. 

Paul Mees you’re a hero.   Maybe it’s time that voters in the overwhelmingly Labor electorates of all those huge and growing suburban regions not serviced by the current rail network started asking some aggressively skeptical questions of Mr Brumby: such as why are you victimising experts like Mees while employing massively conflicted and completely unqualified corporate  tycoons like Eddington to advise on future urban transport needs?

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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133 Responses to You can’t keep a good transport expert down

  1. JC says:

    Mees argues:

    The priority now should be to start work on those long-overdue new lines, plus electrifying existing routes to places such as Caroline Springs and Melton.

    But rail lines work best in straight-line commutes. Most people who live in those far out areas actually would have little need to commute into the city, as they are very unlikely to work there.

    Only 15% of commutes these days are straight line into CBD . The rest are across suburbs and public transport is very inefficient in helping people get to these destinations.

    Cars are the only functional transport mode for these far out burbs simply because the residents work in all directions.

    based as it is on yet more expensive public/private freeway and road tunnels and a token (and totally unnecessary in Mees view) partial duplication of the CBD railway loop:

    I really don’t know what Mees is talking about here. For example the privately funded Connect East toll way (opening June 29th) from Frankston to outer eastern burbs and also connecting with the Monash Freeway will be very successful particularly for commercial transport needs. In fact it will open up the Mornington Peninsula by cutting up to 30 minutes to a CBD trip. Neither Babcocks nor Macquarie are funding ConnectEast as it is a separately listed entity on the stock exchange. I think its a fantastic buy at 95 cents yielding 12% with potentially large upside.

    The Monash Freeway has so much traffic (which is partly tolled) is now adding another lane in some areas to help solve congestion problems mainly associated with cross city commercial transport.

    Brumby hss so far been a very sensible decent premier and Mees has yet to demonstrate what Brumby has done wrong in following what seems to be perfectly reasonable advice. If Mees wants to see more public transport use he should support the elimination of height restrictions across the city.

  2. conrad says:

    “its time that voters in the overwhelmingly Labor electorates”

    Doesn’t that explain why no-one does anything? They’re not in marginal electorates (c.f., the slightly faster than slow train/bribe to Ballarat which got Kennett kicked out). Even if they were, it’s not like the Liberals are particularly viable in Victoria. Sometimes you wonder if a monkey would be able to be a better opposition (although they’re better than their counterparts in NSW). Also, sticking massively loss-making public transport in way-out places encourages people to live there and hence contributes to urban spraw, which the essentially defunct Melbourne 2030 plan was supposed to stop.

    JC: If you look at the employment statistics and demographics what you will find is that these little no-where land suburbs have very low employment prospects, so whether people are working in Melbourne or somewhere else is an empirical issue (I know the data exists somewhere…). However, it’s clear most can’t work in Melton etc. because there are few jobs there, so it’s not clear to me that the 15% figure would be applicable to those regions. Also, they don’t need to work in the city, but rather on a train line.

  3. NPOV says:

    Ken – your phrase “overwhelmingly Labor electorates of all those huge and growing suburban regions” almost certainly describes the problem, though the key word is “overwhelmingly”. In the Doncaster area, it’s an overwhelmingly Liberal electorate, and that’s almost certainly a huge part of the reason that governments have seen no advantage in providing improved public transport.

    JC – I agree that EastLink largely makes sense – that particular corridor was poorly serviced (though primarily only at the northern end), and it should allow commercial operators to save significantly on fuel. Indeed you could argue that approaching oil supply restraints and consequent price rises almost guarantee that new freeways are not likely to generate much more traffic, as opposed to taking the pressure of existing roads. However, I doubt that much consideration was given to whether it made sense, for instance, to plan for development of a light-rail line along the freeway route.

    As for building height restrictions, while “elimination…across the city” is surely overkill, I don’t know how any serious advocate of helping cities reduce their reliance on automobile traffic could not support relaxing restrictions on residential development that are preventing the natural tendency of cities towards higher density. Another regulation that is working heavily against public transport is the one that requires major shopping developments to provide free off-street parking, which forces everyone to subsidise car users.
    There’s also regulations that unreasonably restrict the use of bicycles – taking them onto trains and buses, using more than 200W of power to motorise them etc. etc. – that don’t help either. In fact, government policy and spending in general still overwhelming favours motorists, and I suspect it will be a some time before that changes.

  4. rog says:

    JC has a point, its OK to go to the CBD as all networks radiate out from a central point but its near impossible to travel along the chord efficiently. This is where rail falls down into a heap, for a variety of reasons most rail heads or stations are nowhere near major shopping centres and service centres

  5. NPOV says:

    And if you look at cities with good public transport networks, they aren’t based entirely around radiating from a central point.
    E.g…http://www.paris-tourist-information.co.uk/images/maps/paris-metro-map.pdf

  6. Ken Parish says:

    A viable long term transport infrastructure plan certainly has to deal with the dispersed nature of people’s transport needs, both for shopping and employment. Many people don’t just need to commute between CBD and the suburb where they live, but the heavy rail network, as others have noted, radiates out from the CBD and doesn’t esaily allow that flexibility. However that doesn’t deny the need to link outlying suburbs to the rail network, it just means that ways need to be developed to create/improve lateral public transport connections linking the radial arms of the heavy rail network. A combination of light rail/tram and dedicated busways is the obvious solution, both for Melbourne and Sydney. However, I wouldn’t deny that some improved lateral road links are needed where exidting roads are already inadequate and badly choked.

    And you also need to accommodate cyclists on trains, trams and buses, because cycling can also contribute to a flexible overall solution that allows people easily and quickly (much more quickly than travelling by car on increasongly choked roads) to commute to dispersed locations around a large, spread out city.

    Issues of urban sprawl mentioned by Conrad become much less economically and environmentally problematic if we create viable, convenient ways for people to commute without using their cars.

    Making 50 year plans for a largely car-based transport infrastructure makes very little sense. Even leaving aside global warming issues, quite optimistic projections of “peak oil” indicate that it will have well and truly passed before then, so that petrol prices will be at stratospheric levels. We should be planning now to avoid that fate, and it really isn’t all that difficult. It just requires ignoring conflicted tycoons like Eddington and listening to experts on how to make public transport work better.

  7. JC says:

    Conrad:
    According to Allan Moran of the IPA rail and other mass transit programs work fine when there is population density of about 40,000 per square mile. Melbourne runs at about 1,500 per sq mile and 5,500 at its most dense. In other words public transport can only be made to work at great cost in terms of subsidies.

    If you look at the employment statistics and demographics what you will find is that these little no-where land suburbs have very low employment prospects, so whether people are working in Melbourne or somewhere else is an empirical issue (I know the data exists somewhere).

    so if that’s the case ( and I dispute it) why would you want to be spending a huge amount of money on rail lines for potentially blue collared workers heading into the city which is mostly an area for white collar work.

    However, its clear most cant work in Melton etc. because there are few jobs there, so its not clear to me that the 15% figure would be applicable to those regions.

    Why? Jobs are actually quite diffuse.

    Also, they dont need to work in the city, but rather on a train line.

    What?

  8. JC says:

    A viable long term transport infrastructure plan certainly has to deal with the dispersed nature of peoples transport needs, both for shopping and employment

    Yes, which for outer burbs means basically a car as travel is quite diffuse.

    Making 50 year plans for a largely car-based transport infrastructure makes very little sense. Even leaving aside global warming issues, quite optimistic projections of peak oil indicate that it will have well and truly passed before then, so that petrol prices will be at stratospheric levels.

    that’s making several assumptions that i wouldn’t exactly buy into.

    It assumes that technology will remain the same with car engines which is something that looks increasingly remote especially with firms like Telsa making a decent pitch at electric cars. By 2012 the firm will be hitting that market with a SUV shaped family car pitched at the middle class for around US$35,000. this is a very interesting company to watch over the next decade. It was created by a bunch of silicon valley computer geeks who used computer technology to create an electric car that does 0to 60 mph in about 4 seconds. They used computer battery tech as the way forward.
    http://www.teslamotors.com/

    More expensive oil is a problem, however it assumes that energy will remain expensive into the never never. I wouldn’t bet on that quite yet.

  9. Patrick says:

    I certainly wouldn’t bet on peak oil, now or ever, in any way shape or form. In fact I would bet against it if I could figure out how (besides overly low-correlation bets like owning oil stocks, or Saudi real estate).

    As am on-again off-again (now on) Melburnian I can definitely agree that the non-radial transport (or lack thereof) is a big problem.

    But ultimately the future lies in better ‘cars’ (whether petrol or otherwise) and not (just) better public transport. There is just nothing like a car’s independance, versatility and efficiency, and there never will be. I never drive to work, mainly because it would be slower and I wouldn’t achieve anything else whilse en route (in the train I can read and on my bike I am exercising).

    I and my wife often ride/walk to shops etc when I have time (especially with the kids) but replacing our existing car-trips with public transport would add a crippling amount of time to those trips and we would simply not consider it. An oil price at which petrol was more expensive than the extra time of public transport is pretty hard to imagine.

    Note that at present the most environmentally-friendly cars are small modern turbo-diesels.

  10. Alan Davies says:

    Here’s some reliable numbers to underpin the issues raised in this discussion. They show that the ‘weight’ of Melbourne’s jobs is clearly in the suburbs.

    At the 2006 Census, just 14% of all jobs in metropolitan Melbourne were located in the CBD (down from 17% in 1981). This is a broad definition of the CBD. It includes Docklands, Southbank and those parts of Carlton and Fitzroy immediately north of Victoria Pde. Less than one third (28%) of jobs were located in the inner city (within 5 km from the CBD).

    On the other hand, more than half of all jobs (59%) were more than 10 km from the CBD. Anyone who doubts that Melbourne’s job geography is suburban should consider that there were more jobs located >20 km from the centre in 2006 than were in the inner city!

  11. Patrick says:

    Further to my previous comment, I should add that overall, I agree with at least having voices like Mr Mees’ included, and with the scepticism that should attach to the likes of Mr Eddington, whose primary business consists mainly of telling Labour governments what they would like to hear so that they ask him to do so again, thus increasing his ‘influence’ and thus increasing his market rate.

    Alan, I don’t doubt it. The main issue is price. I do however think that that data strongly supports both extending the existing electric links (and presumably also extending capacity) as well as NPOV’s point about housing/height regulation (even if NPOV implicitly defines ‘serious’ in a way that excludes a very large part of his beloved greens).

  12. wilful says:

    I’m rather sceptical of Mr Mees and many of his arguments, he gets quite a lot wrong quite frequently, and was right to lose his job at Melbourne, or at least be disciplined.
    Academic freedom doesnt include the right to slander (or is it libel?). That out of the way, his positive solutions are pretty self-evidently correct, it doesnt take a genius. We need steadfast, trenchant critics in the state, it would just be nice if they werent twats, too often wrong.

    Eddingtons terms of reference were (deliberately?) too narrow, and need to form part of a larger plan for Melbournes transport that is sadly lacking. But Eddington was right in saying that a massive switch to PT is just fanciful, and the tunnel is justifiable. How its financed, as a toll road, is outside the scope of this issue. PPPs are a rort, but not his fault.

    If you were spending $8 billion on rail, however, I really dont think the new tunnel is the best way to go about it. Mees solutions are much closer to the money.

    JC, I wouldnt trust a single word or figure that Alan Moran of the IPA produces on this issue or anything. Hes so driven by ideology hell make any fact fit. It may be inevitable that PT requires subsidies, but I would suspect that with reasonable full cost accounting these would be similar or less than those for private transport (not even including carbon taxes).

  13. NPOV says:

    Patrick, there’s certainly nothing “beloved” about my relationship with the Greens – they cause me to despair almost as frequently as the major parties.
    But in the case of regulations restricting denser residential development, I’ve never heard any one associated with the Greens party make any comment regarding them, but I doubt it would take much to convince them that the current legislation is too restrictive.

    JC – while there’s no doubt that much of Melbourne is insufficiently densely populated to support truly effective public transport systems, I don’t believe the 40,000 per square mile figure is any sort of necessary minimum. The density of Zurich is somewhere just over 10,000 per square mile, and is known for its good public transport.

  14. wilful says:

    Also, height density regulations mostly exist due to that annoying thing democracy, embedded in culture. If blocks of flats could be built anywhere, well I don’t think that many extra blocks of flats would in the grand scheme of things be built. People don’t want to live in them, it seems.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of Melbourne 2030 and think a denser city is vital to it’s future prosperity. I just don’t think it’s gonna happen, and it wont be the Government’s fault. The Liberal Party and all the petit bourgeoisie are dead-set against it.

    The real solution is more regional town growth. Melbourne shouldn’t be the first and last port of call for new immigrants.

  15. NPOV says:

    Patrick, I do have to ask…what exactly do you mean by “I certainly wouldnt bet on peak oil, now or ever, in any way shape or form”? Are you seriously claiming you don’t believe that oil production will ever reach a geologically-restrained peak? Or simply that you’re confident that alternative sources of energy will smoothly replace the need for oil without any serious economic or lifestyle impact? Either way, I do wonder what sources you have available that make you so confident…you might wish to pass them on to the likes of, e.g. IEA head Fatil Birol, or Total CEO Christophe de Margerie, or Conoco CEO James Mulva, who, among others, have all conceded that oil supply constraints will only get worse in years to come.

  16. NPOV says:

    wilful – I certainly accept that many height restrictions are there because of, essentially, NIMBYism – and I support the democratic right of communities to vote for them: but that doesn’t mean I think governments couldn’t show a bit more leadership and attempt to convince voters that the upsides of denser residential developments are worth the downsides. I would think a smart government could sell the idea that, say, allowing certain areas to move to 3-storey housing (the norm in many European cities) would revitalise the neighbourhood, make it more sustainable, increase property prices etc. etc.

  17. wilful says:

    Well the government is currently revising the planning system to greatly limit the power of councils to set height limits, to howls of outrage. I live in one of the very few areas where the Council is saying ‘let er rip’ and there’s a good chance it will happen, due to transport infrastructure (Footscray BTW). Can’t wait, as long as the design is decent and there aren’t too many shoddy tenements built (man some of that student housing is woeful).

    How could a government try to ‘sell’ denser housing? Isn’t that a step too far with social engineering?

  18. NPOV says:

    I already gave examples of how they could try to sell it. Sure, you could argue it was a form of social engineering, but it’s a case of the government *reducing* restrictions (i.e. you can now choose to build 1, 2 or 3-storey houses, rather than just 1 or 2), and not increasing them, so it’s then up to individuals to decide whether they wish to take advantage of the looser restrictions.
    I also suspect there are restrictions that currently don’t allow people to convert loft-space into living areas, that are unfairly preventing denser living.

    BTW, thank you to whomever it was that edited my previous post!

    Oh and Patrick, one other thing – I too would bet on Saudi Arabian property, precisely because of Peak Oil. The Sauds seem quite determined to get the maximum possible wealth they can for their oil, and they know only too well that they will be the world’s only major exporter within a decade or so.

  19. Ken Parish says:

    I agree that urban consolidation/higher housing densities are also part of a complete solution, but lots of people (especially families) will still want some version of the suburban 1/4 acre block and there’s no reason why that can’t be accommodated if public transport options are radicaly improved, especially by enhancing lateral links between the radial railway arms using bus and light rail/trams. After all, state governments have spent bugger-all on our public transport networks over the last 50 years, while pouring vast sums into roads that inevitably nevertheless get more and more congested as the population grows. Given current and projected high immigration rates, the congestion will continue to get worse.

    Incidentally, road congestion charges (as in London) are also part of a complete solution (we linked to a post by Harr Clarke about this in today’s Missing Link).

    Finally, no-one sensible would suggest that people must throw away their cars and do all their travel by public transport. But if we can make it viable for most to do most of their travel that way, then the existing road network will be adequate to cope with the car traffic generated by people on journeys that remain too inconvenient to tackle by public transport. Congestion charges allied with permanently much higher petrol prices will ensure that people adjust their behaviour and mostly make the right choices. After all, the choices they’re currently making to travel by car themselves result largely from governments running down public transport infrastructure over many decades while investing heavily in roads and designing sprawling suburbs with little public transport. Demand is clearly very elastic.

  20. Patrick says:

    NPOV,

    Are you seriously claiming you dont believe that oil production will ever reach a geologically-restrained peak? Or simply that youre confident that alternative sources of energy will smoothly replace the need for oil without any serious economic or lifestyle impact?

    Essentially, the former. It may get more expensive to extract, but then we’ll find more, and then that will become cheaper to extract, etc. One day, in principle, we’ll run out, but even then we’ll have learnt to synthesise it efficiently, if we still need it.

    The biggest problem with oil appears to be nothing to do with getting out of the ground, at the moment at least. It appears to be that there is a lot of very cheaply available oil but that the holders of that oil have an economic incentive to produce less, and only a political(social) incentive to produce more. See further.

    I also suspect that the latter will render oil largely redundant well before we even exhaust the easily extractable bits.

    As for sources, I will never forget an Economist article (again) from about 2000 listing the numerous distinguished experts who had predicted the imminent exhaustion of everything from oil to copper to food to zinc. I believe textbooks in the early 80s would frequently give the mid-90s as about the end of copper, for example.

  21. conrad says:

    “Also, they dont need to work in the city, but rather on a train line.”

    Sorry for not that being clear — basically, you don’t need to work in the CDB, but you need to be able to go from point to point. So for example, you could go from Melton to, say, Richmond, and that wouldn’t so bad because all you need to do is interchange somewhere in the middle.

  22. NPOV says:

    Patrick, oil is a very different resource to commodities such as copper or zinc – I have no concern we’ll ever run out of raw materials. Anyway, I’m not going to get into a discussion about Peak Oil here – it’s a huge topic and one on which there are far more qualified people to speak. FWIW, while I see some significant strain on the system over the next 10-15 years, I think within my lifetime (I’m planning on making it to 2050!) we’ll have worked out how to adapt to a world with far less oil than we use today, and the average quality of life in Australia will be generally the better for it.

  23. Jeremy says:

    I love the argument of the anti-rail brigade that people don’t really need public transport into the city. It won’t be used!

    Reeeeeaaaaally.

    Then why are the roads from every outer suburb into the city packed beyond measure every morning and every evening?

  24. wilful says:

    Actually jeremy I’m not sure that’s the argument put by anyone here. I think everyone knows we’ve got too little transport connectivity across the board, including into the city, but there is non-existent cross-city PT. If you’re allocating scarce resources, where is the greater immediate need?

  25. Helen says:

    I live in one of the very few areas where the Council is saying let er rip and theres a good chance it will happen, due to transport infrastructure (Footscray BTW). Cant wait, as long as the design is decent and there arent too many shoddy tenements built (man some of that student housing is woeful).

    [And previous comment]: Wilful, if you did use rail transport from Footscray at peak periods, you’d know that the system is at capacity by the time it gets to that station. If there were an extra few thousand commuters living in Footscray they’d have to put on buses, or something, because there really is no further slack in the system. So the transport infrastructure is not a reason for more density.

    But,

    How could a government try to sell denser housing? Isnt that a step too far with social engineering?

    How about some engineering engineering? How about building them decently, for a start? Developers should walk around St kilda and Elwood and learn why people have always enjoyed living in the old Deco and “depression era” flats. Solid construction, courtyards for BBQs and child’s play, leafy planting – people might actually feel like living in something like that rather than the current rash of solar-inefficient, “quirky” “townhouses” which infest the place now.

  26. wilful says:

    hell yeah helen, and the total gap between the 8.25 and the 8.45 is inexplicable to me.

    The big site development along Barkly street in west Footscray is going to add several thousand potential commuters to West Footscray station. This is simply an impossibility.

    But is a tunnel via the University of Melbourne the solution?

    And I am sceptical/hesitant about governments mandating taste. I love the old flats, but they’re not very high density and probably uneconomical for a builder these days. And they’re cold and not a lot of the ones I’ve experienced were so good with passive solar design.

    And you’re perhaps overly harsh about the townhouses. The recent rule changes regarding efficiency are definitely seeing improvements.

    But back to rail – build it and they will come I reckon.

  27. Ken Parish says:

    “Wilful, if you did use rail transport from Footscray at peak periods, youd know that the system is at capacity by the time it gets to that station. If there were an extra few thousand commuters living in Footscray theyd have to put on buses, or something, because there really is no further slack in the system. So the transport infrastructure is not a reason for more density.”

    Helen, if you read Mees’ article, he points out that the existing system including the City Loop was designed to handle twice the number of trains it currently does. It isn’t anywhere near capacity, Connex and/or the Vic government simply choose not to invest in upgraded switching and control systems, better designed carriages and better organisation of rosters/human resources to facilitate many more trains on the existing tracks. You shouldn’t keep accepting glib claims that the system is “at capacity”, it’s just an excuse to allow them to avoid having to make the necessary capital investments, and instead dole out huge lucrative PPP road tunnel and tollway deals to MacBank etc, so the Vic politicians can join Bob Carr in lucrative consultancies after political retirement.

  28. Patrick says:

    You shouldnt keep accepting glib claims that the system is at capacity, its just an excuse to allow them to avoid having to make the necessary capital investments, and instead dole out huge lucrative PPP road tunnel and tollway deals to MacBank etc, so the Vic politicians can join Bob Carr in lucrative consultancies after political retirement.

    Nor should you assume that roads are bad and governments are always wrong just because they are morally corrupt!

    Melbourne would, actually, definitely, benefit enormously from at least a better inner eastern South-North link and a better northern East-West link. Melbourne would also benefit from, much along the same lines as better switching etc to sustain greater rail traffic, better traffic management and more co-ordinated lights, etc, and probably congestion charges (as long as they really were ‘congestion’ charges, and not just taxes like in London). Happily, nearly everyone in Melbourne already has an ‘e-pass’ for the freeway so congestion charging could be very easily implemented.

    That said, those links would pretty much have to be tunnels and would cost several billions. They are also so large and complex projects that they probably have to be PPPs if they are to get done. But they would have to be pretty carefully designed PPPs to ‘work’ (ie to deliver a reasonable return to the private sector participants at a reasonable cost to the State).

    Better public transport may well be a better short-term bet because it probably a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to implement.

  29. JC says:

    I love the argument of the anti-rail brigade that people dont really need public transport into the city. It wont be used!

    Lefty, we’ve had countless discussions on your blog over this very issue, yet you persist with the same argument over and over again.

    Here, if you don’t believe me, take a read of Allan Moran’s essays and explain exactly where you think he’s wrong.

    Start from the top and work your way down.

    http://www.ipa.org.au/help/search/search/public+transport

    You’re wanting to spend billions of dollars on a public transport system that will require a ton of subsidies for upkeep relatively few people will use.

    Reeeeeaaaaally.

    Then why are the roads from every outer suburb into the city packed beyond measure every morning and every evening?

    How is this an indicator of public transport needs? The bloody cars could be coming from anywhere… and they are coming from anywhere unless you think people who live in the outer burbs all work in the CBD.

    Unless you can show that commuting needs are not diffuse: that only 15% of the working population works in the CBD then you don’t have an argument.

  30. Ken Parish says:

    “Nor should you assume that roads are bad and governments are always wrong just because they are morally corrupt!”

    I’m not assuming that at all. In fact in an earlier comment I said:

    “However, I wouldnt deny that some improved lateral road links are needed where existing roads are already inadequate and badly choked.”

    Having battled through Punt Road and Chapel Street traffic quite recently, I’m entirely prepared to accept that an inner eastern south-north link road is badly needed.

    However, as you say, enhancing the existing rail network will take at least some pressure off the roads at a lower cost, and building lateral busway and tramway links will reduce the pressure even more. Melbourne is actually quite well designed to allow lateral busway/tramway links to be built at reasonable cost (except in the inner east where either lots of property resumptions or very expensive tunnel or both will be needed). Unlike Sydney, Melbourne’s roads are built on a fairly well conceived grid layout, and lateral roads like Stud, Springvale, Blackburn, Glenferrie etc are mostly wide enough (or nearly so) to allow dedicated busways/tramways to be built adjacent to them with only minimal if any loss of existing car lanes (and some resumption of parts of some people’s front yards). With trams whizzing across town laterally to connect with twice as many trains running in and out of the city on the existing lines, lots of car drivers would very quickly discover that public transport was a much better bet than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic watching the fuel gauge fall.

  31. NPOV says:

    Ken, Punt Road goes through one of the densest parts of Melbourne outside the CBD. If there’s anywhere where better PT (esp. heavy rail) should be economically justifiable, it’s surely there. OTOH, it’s hard to see how road capacity could be improved much in that area.

  32. Ken Parish says:

    I know where Punt Road is, NPOV. Eddington’s report calls for a tunnel approximately under Punt Road/Hoddle Street, linking the Tullamarine and Eastern Freeways. I’m prepared to accept that some such project is needed, albeit that I think upgrading the existing rail network and creating lateral busway/tramway links should have a higher priority. Moreover, I wonder whether an above ground tollway over Punt Road/Hoddle Street might be cheaper than a tunnel and easier to provide multiple exits and entrances (providing easier access to and from the CBD and Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, Richmond etc)? I gather that Eddington’s tunnel proposal doesn’t allow for any exits or entrances, It’s just conceived as a straight link between the Eastern and Tullamarine Freeways, and as such would be a wasted opportunity to ameliorate a range of traffic issues in the inner east.

  33. JC says:

    N

    people are transiting through this area (Punt road). That’s the mistake lefty makes. He sees a lot of traffic on a road and immediately thinks it’d because of a lack of public transport but it’s not. That Punt road area is heavily serviced by public transport around it. In fact it would be easier for moat people to catch a tram train or bus to go into the city from the Punt road area. The traffic is a consequence of a longer north south commute.

  34. FXH says:

    Ken – Mees may or may not been given a rough time by Melb Uni – I’m far from convinced its uniMelb wrong Mees right. I suppose on the basis that a guard dog that annoys the neighbours and barks all night at shadows and kills cats and possums and mauls the occassional little kid and keep visitors away might be said to have deterred a possible burglar Mees is a success. But adding extra length of lines onto an already at capacity system with no increase in lines in/out from existing stations is just stupid.

    Everything I know about queueing and supply systems and rail and transport theory (which may well be two fifths of sweet fuck all) leads me to accept the argument that the system is at or near capacity rather than Mees dismissal.

    There is this weird assumption around that everyone on the outskirts of Melb needs to travel into the CBD. When I last worked in an outer ish suburb for Local Gov this myth was busted by an actual survey and figures – the majority of people worked and played within a 15 ks radius of where they lived. Thats radius, not direct line into CBD. A surprisingly large % of people had not even visited the CBD in the last 6 months. Even though they had a railway station and a direct line in.

    The big supply / distribution centres for food etc are in Cranbourne, with others in the North around the Western ring Road and in the West. Not in the CBD.

    We need more trams, light rail and good roads to ease “crosstown traffic”.

    Ken – battling through Punt Road and Chapel St traffic is worth about 10 years remission off purgatory.

  35. NPOV says:

    JC, I’m not so sure – some of the worst times for traffic there seems to be when there’s major events on at or around the MCG. That certainly happened to us last time we went to the MCG – if there’d been train access from where we live (Doncaster East), we certainly would’ve left the car at home (or at least, at the train station). Instead, the options that metlink.melbourne.com.au gives us are:

    a) 2 buses + 1 train: 1hr 08m

    or

    b) 1 bus + 1 train + 1 tram: 1hr 08m

    vs 30 minutes driving even *with* significant traffic (indeed, with no traffic at all, we could drive to the MCG in just over 15 minutes).

    Mind you, that’s not nearly as bad as trying to get PT to North and North Western suburbs, or to due-Eastern suburbs.

  36. Ken Parish says:

    “We need more trams, light rail and good roads to ease crosstown traffic.”

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, but I’m also prepared to take Mees’ word that there’s lots of additional potential capacity on the City Loop, which therefore makes extensions of the heavy rail network to newer outer suburbs a sensible option too. If you read Mees’ article, you’ll see he says it’s not just his own assertion but the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan and the Transport Supply and Demand report attached to Eddington’s report but not discussed in it. It should be fairly easy to ascertain whether these documents say what Mees claims (i.e. that the City Loop could take twice as many trains as now).

  37. Patrick says:

    Ken

    With trams whizzing across town laterally to connect with twice as many trains running in and out of the city on the existing lines, lots of car drivers would very quickly discover that public transport was a much better bet than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic watching the fuel gauge fall.

    I’m not convinced (of this last point), but I think that separating tramways and roads wherever possible would be an extremely good idea. However, some of the key bottlenecks I can think of where this would not be possible would include Punt Rd (agree, FXH, truly horrible) Glenferrie Rd, Bourke Rd and Sydney Rd – doing so would effectively reduce these to single-lane roads each way, unless you took a reasonable chunk out of some very-highly-congested footpaths.

    I’d love to see it, and it makes excellent conceptual sense, but it strikes me as extremely difficult.

    A Punt Rd raised freeway might well work ok – although you would have a very hard time from residents! I think the tunnel is politically necessary for that reason. Maybe residents should have to either pay up or put up? (And I absolutely agree that the rest of us should pay up too, in the form of tolls).

    Significant chunks of land around Punt Rd are actually already either owned or caveated by Vicroads for this purpose, btw.

    NPOV, what better PT would you suggest? As JC points out, that is already surely about as good as it gets in Melbourne now!

  38. wilful says:

    Ken, Eddington’s tunnel goes under Alex parade and towards (eventually) Footscray and Geelong and Ballarat roads, with a stop off for the Tulla and somewhere in the inner north. The contentious point is whether there’s a southern entrance to service the city. He says no, I think macBank would say yes, and we wont know about Brumby’s view until the end of the year at least.

    He does put paid to the idea that it’s all going into the city and a couple of whopping great arterials will fix it. Less than half the Eastern Fwy traffic ends up in the city.

  39. NPOV says:

    Patrick, I’m hardly qualified to make realistic estimates about what PT options would help reduce congestion along Punt Rd, but rail access to the North Eastern Suburbs would be a start. It’s also quite difficult to get from say, Abbotsford to St Kilda by public transport, requiring significant walking and two trains (~40 minutes, vs 10 minutes by car).

  40. Ken Parish says:

    Yes, I see you’re right. I previously googled a document that suggested the route was below Hoddle St/Punt Rd, but I just looked at the report itself and it clearly indicates the route you say. It seems quite sensible albeit very very expensive, and I’d rank it in priority well below lateral busway/tramway links, and for that matter below Eddington’s proposed Melbourne Metro rail tunnel.

  41. JC says:

    man transport infrastructure is expensive.

    Connect East cost about $1.5 billion to construct which is for around 39 km of road.

    that works out to a staggering $38.5 mill per Km.

  42. Ken Parish says:

    You could fairly easily build a Chicago-style elevated light rail line above the centre of Punt Road/Hoddle Street, going right through from the top of St Kilda to Clifton Hill, and thereby laterally linking most of the heavy rail lines going south east, east and north east from the city. It would no doubt generate complaints from residents living along that road, but they already have a very noisy environment and I doubt that an elevated light rail line would actually make it any worse. I reckon that should be a much higher priority than either Eddington’s road or rail tunnel. Indeed, quite possibly his rail tunnel should be reconceived as an elevated light or even heavy railway as well.

  43. JC says:

    My understanding is the government has rights to the eastern end of Punt road for widening

  44. NPOV says:

    Ken, if the housing along Punt Rd was mostly 2 or 3 storey, then I doubt there’d be much complaint about an elevated light rail line. But I’m pretty sure it’s actually mostly single storey – and much of it is in slightly shabby condition. Actually what’s more surprising is that Punt Rd has never attracted much commerical/retail development. To what degree this is due to government regulations I’m not sure, but they must be having an effect.

  45. NPOV says:

    “Eastern end”? The most eastern point of Punt Rd is where it becomes Hoddle St, no? Though I was thinking as much of Hoddle St as Punt Rd in previous posts.

  46. Ken Parish says:

    Unless my sense of direction is much worse than I’ve always imagined, Hoddle Street/Punt Road runs more or less north-south, doesn’t it? So does it actually have an eastern end?

  47. JC says:

    umm Sorry Meant the eastern side of the road…. not the eastern end.

  48. NPOV says:

    Well, the grid in Melbourne (east of the CBD) is on about a 10deg(?) angle relative to due North, so technically it does run from South-West to North-East.

  49. NPOV says:

    Hah…10 deg was a complete guess, but screen-grabbing a map from whereis and using paintbrush to measure the gradient, I was pretty much spot on.

    I obviously have far too much time on my hands.

  50. Ken Parish says:

    Well, if the Vic government already has widening rights to properties on the entire eastern side of Punt/Hoddle, it’s even easier. You don’t need an elevated dedicated light rail line all the way, you could build parts of it on the ground, although you’d still want it elevated most of the way to avoid delays at cross streets.

    The thing is, they’d be planning those resumptions for road-widening at present, when you could actually kill two birds with one stone and build the elevated rail line at the same time as gaining a couple of extra road traffic lanes.

  51. JC says:

    I wasn’t being that technical, N. It’s north/south direction as far as i’m concerned. When I looked into it, I understood the government is taking about 60 feet on the eastern SIDE from of Alexandra Ave to St. Kilda junction.

  52. wilful says:

    having an easement makes not a whit of difference to the difficulty it would face – compensation on just terms is in the Victorian constitution, and that’s some pricey real estate.

    But yeah, I can see the merits. Since it’s not my inner city electorate.

  53. NPOV says:

    Hmm…that’s the one stretch where there’s actually some very nice (and expensive) houses along Punt Rd, if I remember correctly…

  54. Ken Parish says:

    wilful

    I don’t think a just terms requirement is in fact found in the Victorian Constitution. It is however found in ordinary legislation (Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986) and is in any event a matter of basic fairness. The fact (if it is a fact) that notices of intention to acquire are current for all properties east of Punt Rd/Hoddle Street would presumably mean that actual acquisition is imminent, because notices generally lapse after 6 months (although they can be extended). It rather suggests that Melbournians should be lobbying hard right now for a light rail line there while the opportunity exists.

  55. Ken Parish says:

    There’s certainly some expensive real estate from Alexandra Ave up the hill to Toorak Road from what I remember. However, if they’ve already given notice to acquire the government presumably has already assessed the likely compensation costs. Then again, I wonder how certain JC is about those facts.

  56. Like wilful said, I wouldn’t take everything Paul Mees says as gospel.

    On things I know something about, I know he gets it substantially wrong, which makes me rather suspicious about other things.

    As far as his scheduling claims, if you read the Eddington Report it seems that he’s assuming that express trains from the outer suburbs can be optimized out of the problem. Wonderful if you’re in the inner city, not so great from Lilydale or Pakenham.

  57. JC says:

    Then again, I wonder how certain JC is about those facts.

    I had to do some checking a few years back and that’s what i was told.

    The fact (if it is a fact) that notices of intention to acquire are current for all properties east of Punt Rd/Hoddle Street would presumably mean that actual acquisition is imminent, because notices generally lapse after 6 months (although they can be extended).

    I’m not sure exactly how it works, ken. But i am personally aware of a rural highway extension that has been going on for about 15 years. I don’t think Vic roads has been extending the notice every six months or even needed to. Everyone has known since that time that highway was going to be widened.

  58. NPOV says:

    Just looking at Google Earth (needless to say, if you haven’t tried it recently – do – the images for Melbourne are far better than they used to be), it’s pretty hard to see how they could widen Punt Rd much, or that it would benefit anybody significantly. I’ve never noticed that particular stretch to be a particular bottleneck anyway. It’s between Victoria Pde and the freeway that it really chokes up.

    I do think it’s a bit close to the Sandringham line to justify light rail though. But honestly…probably not something one can usefully idly speculate about in here!

  59. JC says:

    Everyone has known since that time that highway was going to be widened.

    i think there is quite a bit of bureaucratese that’s involved in stuff like that.

    I believe they have various stages. The intention or plan to alter a road is lodged in the public domain which would act as a public notice of intention to acquire sometime in the future without a preset date. People are then able to see the plan. At that stage it is only set as a plan and there is no formal notification to make an acquisition which is when the law comes into play. I think that’s how it works.

  60. JC says:

    It’s a very choked area, N. It’s very choked up from the river to St. Kilda. Funnily enough its worse in regular hours when there isn’t a clearway as legally parked parked block out one lane.

    This happens in the stretch just past Toorak road all the way to St. Kilda junction.

  61. wilful says:

    In the planning system, VicRoads can put an overlay in that signals intent. This is then required to be known to vendees. Vicroads doesn’t have to do anything, it can sit there for years, and the council I think has to limit new construction within the overlay, but even that’s not clear.

    A mate of mine has one over his front lawn, for Ballarat road. It’ll never happen, I told him not to worry, it’s been there since the 60s.

  62. Bill Cushing says:

    Clearly none of you have read Mees’ book.

    As he explains, Melbourne already has a dense network of cross-town bus routes. And heaps of inner & outer suburban bus routes that connect with suburban rail stations. We already have the makings of a ‘Zurich’ or ‘Toronto’.

    But.

    No-one can find the cross-town routes – try the MET web-site – hopeless. Even if you have your lap-top with you at the shops. And the services are hopelessly infrequent. No wonder the (few) buses run around empty all day.

    And, of course, those buses that connect to train stations always arrive just as the train you want is leaving. Mees wants better cor=ordination of schedules to fix that. I don’t think that works – the best fix is simply more frequent buses. People hate waiting.

    Getting the bus system to work properly only requires modest equipment $$ and the political will to crack the whip on bus-owners who think they own ‘their’ routes.

    That should be a #1 priority.

    As for Eddington, his proposals are basically right (please read the whole thing, folks!), but we can’t fully judge until the Government tables its ‘overall’ 20-year Metro Melbourne transport improvement plan. The plan that should have been the key chapter of ‘Melbourne 2030’ but somehow got omitted along with its implementation process (ie its ‘teeth’).

    As for Mees, he should have copped a libel suit from the Govt officials he accused of malfeasance. Opening his mouth too wide has shredded his credibility. Which is a pity.

  63. JC says:

    That’s it, Wiful. It’s called a planning scheme which can last for eternity.

  64. conrad says:

    I think all this talking about Punt Road/inner East is missing the long term point a bit. No doubt its quite clogged in places, but I believe the big population growth in Melbourne is expected to occur in the Western suburbs.

  65. Ken Parish says:

    Thanks for that Bill. I certanly haven’t read Mees’ book, I didn’t know he’d written one. I’ve read all the fact sheets on the Eddington report though.

    If Mees is claiming that it’s simply a matter of better scheduling of existing cross-town/lateral bus services, I think HE is missing the point. Most of the cross city roads (Stud, Springvale, Blackburn etc) are themselves often choked with traffic during peak hours, so there’s no reliable way of ensuring timely running (to meet the trains) in the absence of dedicated busways. Of course, they also need more frequent services.

  66. david tiley says:

    We badly need a north-south tunnel. I fear the existing east-west Burnley burrow would make that more difficult, along with the ground under the river.

    In fact the Punt Road problem is an illusion – I travel it regularly by car and bike, and I can attest to the fact that it runs fairly well when the interminable building around the Alfred is not going on. Why on earth we don’t have a permanent clearway on the road is a mystery too.

    I believe Mees when he says the loop can take more traffic; the problem is the feeder lines through the suburbs which are supposed to be at capacity. But then, the quality of engineering thinking in the Melbourne rail system has never been crash hot, and there is a huge issue with creating co-ordination between the elements.

    Example: the last time I caught a tram from the city, the stop had a sign which told me how long I had to wait. But only on those new-fangled stops. For the rest, you have to rely on timetables stuck on poles which are fantasies. Why is this important? Because the system moves people around,not vertical bipedal work units, and the entire system changes if we feel good about it.

    I still can’t put a debit card into a ticket machine. Or a banknote.

    Apropos of nothing: it is now possible to build really accurate, dynamic models of movement round a city based on the mobile phone signals. As GPS moves onto mobile phones, we ought to be able to map the movement of traffic and trams onto it so the punter can always find out exactly what is happening, and what is expected to happen…

    In the past, to complete this random spray, Melbourne developed around the railway network. Relax height limits at the stations, and we end up with a bunch of Corbusierian clusters built over the railway, which is perfect.

  67. Bill Cushing says:

    Read the Mees book, Ken. His stuff about buses is pretty good.

    Mees, Paul (2000) A Very Public Solution: public transport in the dispersed city, Carlton South, Vic: Melbourne University Press (ISBN 0522848672)

  68. Helen says:

    Nor should you assume that roads are bad and governments are always wrong just because they are morally corrupt!

    Please address what people say, Patrick. I know that the right like to fantasise that the concerns of the left with global warming, urban congestion and pollution are somehow linked to moral righteousness, but for the vast majority of us we simply prefer to try to think of a better way to do things so that people can get to their destinations more efficiently without ending up in an uninhabitable or hostile landscape. If you disagree, you should be able to find some way to do so without making shit up.

    JC-
    take a read of Allan Morans essays and explain exactly where you think hes wrong.

    Start from the top and work your way down.

    ROFL. you don’t have to go very far down – to be precise no further than the address bar and “ipa.org.au”. ‘Nuff said!

  69. rog says:

    #62 Bill Cushing explains why most people just cant be bothered with public transport – the Sydney Newcastle line is full of the permanently depressed who spend their lives trudging from train to bus to train (track work – again!)

  70. Laura says:

    My whole journey is in zone 2 – five stops on outer-outer rail, then ten minutes on a bus. In February the bus company tightened up their connecting service: this shaved an average half an hour off my travelling time. It is fantastic. The most interesting part is how simple it appears to have been to organise. The bus arrives between inbound and outbound train times, and waits until the later one has actually turned up before driving off. It’s obvious, and it’s awesome.

    I think that instead of hurrying on ahead to tunnels, elevated railways and other sci-fi appliances for widening already existing arterials (once the tunnel is choked, what then?) it would be easier and cleaner, and omigod it would be so much faster, to fix the freaking buses.

  71. Nabakov says:

    “…when the interminable building around the Alfred is not going on”

    That’s AMREP taking shape – the $500 million plus Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct – who are gonna bioengineer your new ear drums, whether you like it or not.

    “I still cant put a debit card into a ticket machine. Or a banknote.”

    Zang! Exactly the problem. Everyone from users to system managers wants the payment thang made as easy, transparent and resource-free as possible.

    Look, there’s nothing wrong with Melbourne public transport that a $10 billion or so shakeup delivered with serious input from regular users wouldn’t cure.

    Easy.

  72. JC says:

    Helen says:

    JC-
    take a read of Allan Morans essays and explain exactly where you think hes wrong.

    Start from the top and work your way down

    well maybe you ought to try reading them Helen and see if your preconceived notion about a very unpopular form of transport still holds.

  73. Helen says:

    It’s my preconceived (and well founded) notion about a think tank which has way too much influence already, and whose conclusions are utterly predictable!

  74. Helen says:

    ..BTW, that quotation is what you said, not what I said.

  75. Patrick says:

    David, great post, especially about the cards and machines – I was shocked to discover that not only can you not use a debit card on a tram but you can’t use a credit card on any machine!

    We may just disagree about Punt Rd however :)

    Helen, what do you mean?

    As far as I can tell all you have said is that:
    – you care;
    – I don’t;
    – the IPA don’t;
    – people who don’t agree with you don’t; and
    – people who don’t care aren’t interested in better ways to do things.

    In fairness, this last point is kinda true – the belief system of people like me (who don’t care, IIRC) is partly predicated on the belief that other people out there invariably know more and better better ways than I do, so really, I should concentrate on enabling them to deliver those better ways for my and everyone else’s benefit. I also happen to belief, as a consequence of that belief, that the market is generally a better ‘chooser’ of better ways than any given individual or group.

    But, if it helps, the moral corruption I was referring to was that referred to by KP, of senior politicians like Bob Carr and Steve Bracks who seek what is effectively post-employment compensation via employment from private sector beneficiaries of government spending.

  76. JC says:

    Helen says

    Its my preconceived (and well founded) notion about a think tank which has way too much influence already, and whose conclusions are utterly predictable!

    firstly, yes I know it’s my quote.

    The IPA has too much influence on whom exactly: the labor governments? Their conclusions are predictable because they’re right. Public transport in Oz can never work well because it is a white elephant that can only operate with high levels of subsidies. If you’re concerned about the environment as you suggest you are it would be far better to find more efficient mitigation solutions that trying to dump everyone in a transit system that is basically dysfunctional. Have another go and point to anything Alan Moran has said that is wrong because offering ad homs isn’t going to cut it.

  77. NPOV says:

    JC, cars in Oz could never have worked well without high levels of subsidisation and support by the government either.

  78. JC says:

    JC, cars in Oz could never have worked well without high levels of subsidisation and support by the government either.
    Posted on 26-Jun-08 at 12:04 pm |

    It’s actually the opposite. if our domestic car industry was allowed to sink and have no protection we would be driving around in less expensive cars.

  79. NPOV says:

    Well that might be true, but it wouldn’t change the fact that governments at every step have spent far more on enabling easy motoring than on easy public transport.

    I would also question the degree to which Mr Moran’s analysis calculates the cost of not having public transport. The cost of so much extra congestion, pollution, risk to lives and health (through encouragement of sedentary modes of travel) would be enormous. Having only recently been involved in a serious motoring accident helps bring home the reality of just how dangerous a form of travel it is. But where we live, we really have very little choice.

  80. Mark Hill says:

    The use of public transport is very limited to those who live very close to the lines, and then this is limited to around 25% of the locals, who are probably self selecting.

    Since public trasnport is cross subsidised around 90%, we’ve been pushed into expensive public trasnport and expensive domestic cars.

  81. Helen says:

    Mark, trains are not the only form of public transport.

  82. Mark Hill says:

    I’m not just talking about trains. As for taxis, the protectionism is exceptionally high.

  83. NPOV says:

    You’re wrong anyway Mark – the Doncaster park’n’ride is overflowing every day. Driving to a station or bus stop and using PT for the remainder of the journey is very popular.

    And of course in more densely populated parts of the city, there’s no reason that everyone can’t live within a very short walk of a PT route, as is the case in virtually all European cities.

  84. Mark Hill says:

    No I’m not wrong, at least according to a very old report by the Keating era department on regional & transport policy.

    Take it uo with them!

    “And of course in more densely populated parts of the city, theres no reason that everyone cant live within a very short walk of a PT route, as is the case in virtually all European cities.”

    Rents in the Sydney CBD start at about $850 per week. I thought you said you were concerned with income inequality?

  85. NPOV says:

    Key words “very old report”. Petrol used to cost 40c a litre back then, and there were far fewer of us trying to use pretty much the same roads that exist today.

    I’m inclined to believe that extremely high rental rates and property prices in denser parts of our cities are very much due to poor government policy.

  86. JC says:

    Im inclined to believe that extremely high rental rates and property prices in denser parts of our cities are very much due to poor government policy.

    Whats’ government policy got to do with why they are densely populated? They are densely populated because lots of people wish to live there. Government policy is problematic but its not because those areas are highly populated. They would more likely be even more so if the government removed restrictions and got of the way

  87. Mark Hill says:

    1.Petro might be 4x as expensive, but public trasnport is cross subsidised 10x – though admittedly this has not changed much.

    2. 10 is a bigger number than 4.

    3.Public trasnport needs to buy fuel as well.

    4. Please don’t try to debate 2.

  88. NPOV says:

    JC – the issue is that densely populated areas are popular, but often government policy restricts the possibility for accommodating even more people. Densely populated areas in many other cities around the world are generally not as relatively expensive (AIUI, some of the least expensive parts of, say, Paris, are the most densely populated. Of course I would hardly want to see Parisian slums in our cities).

    Mark, I don’t know what you mean by “cross-subsidised 10x”, and I would wonder how they could possibly be. I know of at least a few cases where cities have made public transport free, and then determined that this actually saved money, when various externalities were taken into account.

    Public transport uses nowhere near as much fuel per passenger, especially once it becomes so popular that most buses/train/tram carriages are close to capacity.

  89. Mark Hill says:

    If you don’t know what it means, then how can you question the degree to which it operates? This is a figure only about 2-3 years old. I assume it is the same or more as public entities may have been paying less in tax but are therefore more sensitive to the changes in crude.

  90. NPOV says:

    I don’t question the degree to which it operates, but I do wonder the degree to which it internalises various external costs associated with individual motor transport. It does strike me highly unlikely that purely private car-based transport can be significantly more economic than public transport.
    If governments in Australia had spent just half of what they’ve spent on supporting private motoring over the last century on public transport, I’m willing to bet far less would have been spent overall on supporting transportation, and far more of us would have a realistic choice between automobile dependence and other travel opions.

  91. Mark Hill says:

    The current fuel excise tax prices carbon over 1 tonne = $100. This is probably too much at present (if we need to tax carbon). Road users all pay registration tax, yearly. New car owners pay stamp duty. Questions about externalities are mostly sewn up.

    Then we have the ten times figure, which is probably more now, in excess of the total costs of owning private transport which appears to have externalities too heavily taxed.

    If this was a bet, you would be giving 10:1 to your bookie and giving yourself 4:1.

  92. NPOV says:

    “Questions about externalities are mostly sewn up”. Does that include the cost of human capital in lives lost, including pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists? The long-term health costs of sedentary vs relatively active form of travel (using PT almost always entails more walking)? The cost of providing parking? The costs of congestion (delayed travel times)?

    According to http://www.ptua.org.au/myths/petroltax.shtml the annual cost of road usage (and this doesn’t include all externalities I just mentioned) is about 46 billion a year. The taxes and fees collected is juust over 30 billion. They further estimate a cost of something close to 12 billion for congestion. Obviously the PTUA have a barrow to push and their figures may be a little skewed, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if non-car-users have been subsidising car-users substantially for many decades now.

  93. Mark Hill says:

    This is ridiculous. Public transport never killed anyone? Public trasnport stops obesity? Public transport clears up congestion, does it? Where is the proof of that?

    These figures are ridiculous. Do you want to start subtracting away the benefits you receive from other road users using public roads paid for generations ago? Do you even want to start trying to calculate that?

    Property prices do not determine the cost of a road unless it is built new through existing houses. The use of amenities is what drives property prices. You cannot argue backwards that roads cost socirty $120 bln when if the roads were not built, the surrounding land would not have been as valuable.

    Don’t be taken in by PTUA’s sloppy economics.

  94. NPOV says:

    That’s not what is being argued. It’s simply that the cost of supporting private motoring is probably exceeded by what’s extracted in fees and taxes. It did occur to me that their estimates for land-use requirements were probably excessive, but even if you scrap that entirely the equation is still in the red.

    And nobody is arguing that no deaths occur due to public transport, but it’s a tiny figure compared to that caused by motor vehicles, even allowing that PT is only responsible for less than 10% of all trips.

    As for PT stopping obesity – that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Cities with good PT inevitably result in people walking a great deal more. Interestingly, I’ve noticed in our neighbourhood recently that petrol prices have obviously had an impact, and a lot more people are walking to and from the local shops. Oddly, they all look like they’re enjoying it, which is more than can be said when you observe most people driving to and from the shops.

    One more cost associated with private motoring that is a little more difficult to pin down but the PTUA doesn’t even mention is that of the billions of dollars that we send to despotic and often corrupt governments who happen to rule countries where most of the world’s oil is produced. We might not feel the impacts here, but the cost is inevitably borne by somebody.

  95. conrad says:

    “You cannot argue backwards that roads cost socirty $120 bln when if the roads were not built”

    You probably can actually, or at least you could put a figure on it. How much money do you think would be made if all roads were sold and privatized excluding a few that the government happens to keep for public transport?

  96. Mark Hill says:

    Land values are determined by amenities. If the roads didn’t exist, the land would be less valuable. Tell me how you create a new subdision without building roads first. I’m not saying they don’t have value or can’t be built unless the Government does it. You can put a figure on it but it is a perverse idea.

    The solution is simple. Privatise roads and deregulate taxis.

    NPOV, your arguments are getting sillier. Private transport is the cause for wars? Can you name a motoring body that lobbied Bush to invade Iraq like PNAC did?

  97. NPOV says:

    You ask me if I can name a motoring body that lobbied Bush to invade Iraq, and tell me that I’m the one being silly?

    Please point out where I said anything about wars.

  98. Mark Hill says:

    “One more cost associated with private motoring that is a little more difficult to pin down but the PTUA doesnt even mention is that of the billions of dollars that we send to despotic and often corrupt governments who happen to rule countries where most of the worlds oil is produced.”

    I misread what you wrote but the idea is just as silly as the ads which air in the US which claim marijuana smokers support terrorism.

    Did you buy fuel before 2003? Do you realise you supported Saddam Hussein? Will public transport magically not use foreign oil produced by Venezuela or Iran?

    Anyway your claim is still weak. Australia imports a maximum of 15% of the oil we refine, and sometimes exports up to 10% of what we produce.

  99. melaleuca says:

    “How could a government try to sell denser housing? Isnt that a step too far with social engineering?”

    Plenty of developers want to build denser housing but are thwarted by local objections by nimby groups like this: http://www.sos.asn.au

    The IPA is a joke on public transport.

  100. JC says:

    Mel:

    Lets you do that last sentence again.

    The IPA is a joke on public transport because

    e……………

  101. Patrick says:

    On housing, I was discussing this with my father the other day. His interest (in this context) is homelessness, whereas I have some professional exposure to a couple of large builders.

    The starting point was that the problem of homelessness was partly one of capacity – evidently if housing stock is less than the demanders of housing stock there will be homelessness.

    His thoughts were that a combination of market failure and planning rules were at fault.

    I found it hard to believe that there could be a demand for housing which was not being met, at first (anyone doubt my

  102. NPOV says:

    Mark, that’s like saying the argument on costs wrt to climate change is “weak” because Australia only contributes 1% of the total global CO2 output. Apart from 3 or 4 super-size countries, the argument is “weak” from any single player’s perspective. But if Western countries had collectively made a move towards less oil-dependent forms of transport over the last few decades then there’s no doubt in my mind that many of the current Middle Eastern totalitarian regimes would have nowhere near the influence and power they currently do, and far less people would have suffered as a result.
    And public transport uses so little oil that yes, we could in principle avoid needing to import it at all, if far more people were given the option of being able to swap their cars for a tram, train or bus ride more often.

  103. Mark Hill says:

    “And public transport uses so little oil that yes, we could in principle avoid needing to import it at all, if far more people were given the option of being able to swap their cars for a tram, train or bus ride more often.”

    Sometimes we don’t import any. If we didn’t tax oil companies like they were whores, we could have had Esso as another refiner and explorer. They left after the 1980s because they thought capital gains and resource rent taxes were too high.

    How does public transport use “so little oil”? A seven litre, 30 year old diesel bus at 11 pm on a Tuesday night with no passengers? You’re presupposing that everywhere can have critical population densities and peak demand all of the time. If you can’t service people at convenient times they will still own cars and will use them when any time it is convenient, not just at non-peak times. It will work for some places and not others. But take Sydney or Melbourne for example. How many people who are in the CBD are locals? How many from 20, 50, 100 km away or country folks or interstate travellers? if you’re not local, public transport can be inconvenient and unpleasant.

    Which totalitarian regimes have influence and retain their influence through oil? Saudi Arabia and Iran have influence, but not necessarily due to oil.

    More correctly, arguments about international cooperation are weak. The costs of GW don’t change. It is the abatement which is a difficult subject. Yes there is an argument we both produce coal and ag, and there is a benefit in trading CO2 to maximise the value of both. Can you relate the same argument to dependence on foreign oil given that solar etc are catching up, but won’t deliver enough energy yet and that alternaitves are eschewed (ANWAR, nuclear) but also the proportion of oil consumed by us or America but produced by Iran is small?

    You’ll also have to argue that sanctions are effective against foreign dictators. Impoverishing the poor is not a way to punish a dictator or the ruling elites.

    Oil was 18 USD/barrel in 1998. I don’t know how you create alternatives against that.

  104. JC says:

    And public transport uses so little oil that yes, we could in principle avoid needing to import it at all, if far more people were given the option of being able to swap their cars for a tram, train or bus ride more often.

    There is very little driving these days without a specific purpose such as going shopping, to work or driving the kids around. People drive their cars because they are comfortable reliable and gets us there with little time wasting. Public transport finds it almost impossible to compete with those advantages. Fuel prices are going through a temporary spike at the moment and as Marks says it will be hard to beat private transport with 18 dollar oil.

  105. NPOV says:

    “People drive their cars because they are comfortable reliable and gets us there with little time wasting”

    Exactly. And once PT is comfortable, reliable, and gets us places with little time wasting – as it the case in many cities around the world – people will happily use it as a substitute to driving.

    I will happily bet you my house that we will never see $18 dollar oil again.

  106. JC says:

    We had 40 buck oil in the late 70’s and early 80’s People at the time swore we would see 100 buck oil.

    We ended up seeing a low of $8.5 in the 90’s. I bet we see 30 buck oil again at some stage.

  107. Mark Hill says:

    “I will happily bet you my house that we will never see $18 dollar oil again.”

    How long do you want to make this bet for?

    “And once PT is comfortable, reliable, and gets us places with little time wasting – as it the case in many cities around the world – people will happily use it as a substitute to driving.”

    When is that actually going to be feasible in Australia?

    No they won’t. Take your kids to their weekend sport with all of their equipment on the tube?

  108. NPOV says:

    JC, sure – if the global economy collapses completely. Even then, growth in China and India is quickly using up any production increases or cutbacks in consumption in developed nations. But seriously, how much will you bet?

    Mark, it’s easy to think up dozens of cases where PT is not a sensible mode of transport. That doesn’t change the fact that for many people, for a substantial number of journeys, it does the job just fine.

    It’s going to be feasible in Australia when governments decide that roads and private motor cars aren’t 10 times more important than the alternatives.

  109. Mark Hill says:

    “Mark, its easy to think up dozens of cases where PT is not a sensible mode of transport. That doesnt change the fact that for many people, for a substantial number of journeys, it does the job just fine.”

    So how are you going to change fuel taxes and user charges? Why not just privatise the road systems, if it is user pays then people will feel the costs.

    Despite rising fuel costs and perhaps a 33% shortfall in the costs of user charges, pulic transport is still cross subsidised by a considerably higher amount than the total costs of private transport. Picking winners is bad but why do you insist we pick a loser?

  110. NPOV says:

    “Why not just privatise the road systems?” Sure, simple. Should take a few days at most – just a few pieces of paper to be signed, which is why there are governments all over the world keen on that idea.

    I’m not asking anyone to pick anything. We already have a PT system. It just needs to be better, especially for the millions of Australians that realistically don’t have the choice to make use of it currently.

  111. Mark Hill says:

    But you are. I’ve noted the cross subsidisation which is higher than any estimation of the true costs of private transport, what justifies this?

  112. NPOV says:

    It would take more than an IPA paper to convince me that the costs of providing better PT in Australian cities would be higher than the costs of not doing so.

  113. Mark Hill says:

    I never referenced an IPA paper – but an IPART paper for the level of costs of public transport. Otherwise, what the hell are you talking about?

  114. NPOV says:

    Which paper was that?

  115. Mark Hill says:

    The one I referred to @ 80. I’ve already told you I read it a few years ago. I am sure you can find your own figures yourself.

    Read these. City based ventures (rail and bus) may only be subsidised by 62-74%, suburban fringe dwellers by up to 90%-100% (bus).

    http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/publications/IPART_CityRail-fares-06.pdf

    http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/publications//private_buses_report.pdf

    But this is perhaps not fair on my part. Fares are set by a central authority. If companies could freely set fares, they could still compete with private transport and be entirely self funding.

  116. NPOV says:

    Hmm, well those papers are 60-80 pages long – you’ll excuse me if I don’t feel inclined to read them in entirity. Do you believe they demonstrate that the costs of public transport are unwarranted? (i.e. it would be more economical to simply disband all PT options, and allow private companies to provide ad-hoc services, potentially buying lengths of train-track to run individual lines etc.?)
    Do they provide an estimate for the costs associated with the likely consequences of doing so?

    Do you have an example of a single city in the world that functions smoothly with no government-supported mass transit?

  117. Mark Hill says:

    You don’t have to. I quoted the figures for you.

    Privatised roads tackle the externality and cross subsidisation problems cited by PTUA.

    Public transport/a mass transit system isn’t the problem. The problem is the firms cannot charge market prices.

    Deregulating taxis, privatising roads, allowing buses and trains, ferries to charge market prices and giving back to people with lower taxes and Government user charges or upped welfare (cash) payments would be better.

    “Do you have an example of a single city in the world that functions smoothly with no government-supported mass transit?”

    Support the users, not the firms operating. Note that prices are more important than ownership. I would prefer private ownership for general reasons, but cutyrail and bus companies should be free to charge as they please but with no subsidies. Hey, they could be Government owned – the subsidies are bad and only need to exist due to price setting. Like I said, cut other taxes and up welfare payments to compensate. The better routes will get more support this way.

  118. NPOV says:

    Ok, give me an example of a city in the world where all train services are run by private companies who are free to charge what they like. Because I’m having a hard time imagining it working in practice.

  119. Helen says:

    A seven litre, 30 year old diesel bus at 11 pm on a Tuesday night with no passengers?

    Running a service stupidly is no evidence that that service would be poor if run properly. THe suburban bus services should switch to smaller buses, the kind used for disabled schools and similar, with a couple of the larger ones for peak hours.

  120. Mark Hill says:

    “Ok, give me an example of a city in the world where all train services are run by private companies who are free to charge what they like.”

    I don’t know and I don’t really care. What we do know is that public transport needs subsidies because of price setting. The subsidies keep some very poor practices going and the efficiency of mass transit less convincing. Just let them charge whatever they want. Again, I never said they need to be private. Just that they priced rationally. But there is a general argument for private ownership of businesses.

    I agree Helen. Remove the price setting, get rid of the subsidies and give back to the people with tax cuts and welfare compensation.

    “Because Im having a hard time imagining it working in practice.”

    So what? If something cannot survive without subsidies it is uneconomic. Mass transit isn’t intrinsically uneconomic, the stupid fare restrictions make it so, and the subsidies keep a lot of non-going concern firms alive. Note that a quarter of the firms in the fringe don’t take any subsidies. The subsidies keep their inefficient competitors going. The more efficient firms should control the rolling stock.

    If private transport is inefficient too, remove the subsidies and let it change for the better. The degree of inefficiency PTUA claims is questionable and their proposed benefits from further subsidising public trasnport are very unreliable.

  121. NPOV says:

    I don’t particularly care too greatly about subsidies – it’s the nature of mass-transit systems that there’s serious limits on how much competition can be reasonably introduced. And if there’s not a lot of room for competition, there’s not a lot of room for the market being able to set a fair price. Markets are great where they work, but I’m highly skeptical they would help greatly wrt better pricing for urban mass transit.

  122. Mark Hill says:

    If you want fair prices, then why did you prattle on about efficiency before? Everything you said about cars and urban sprawl is questionable.

    I bought some milk last week. It was cheap and the Government didn’t subsidise it. The thought of fairness didn’t enter my head.

    There is plenty of room for competition in transport, the mix of profitable and unprofitable firms shows this is true.

  123. Mark Hill says:

    PS Why did you have a greviance with the “subsidies” private cars get then?

  124. JC says:

    THe suburban bus services should switch to smaller buses, the kind used for disabled schools and similar, with a couple of the larger ones for peak hours

    .

    How do you know this would offer efficient use/cost of resources? You don’t know if for instance the firm is receiving large upfront discounts for owning a one model fleet. You don’t know if the cost of maintenance etc. is less than it is for running several models. You can’t reach your conclusion without more information.

  125. FDB says:

    Yeah JC.

    Reconsidering that commment, I’d say a firm should set up a complementary service to the large buses, such that smaller routes across suburbs are covered by the minibuses, and major commutes are by tram, train and large bus on arterial roads.

  126. NPOV says:

    Mark, I didn’t say I had a grievance with the subsidies that private cars get, just pointing out that any discussion of the level of subsidisation that PT gets has to be compared to the level that existings wrt to alternatives.

    Can you give an example of how you could set-up a workable system where by private competitors compete to offer heavy rail services through a city?

  127. NPOV says:

    Oh and FWIW, the government surely does subsidise milk indirectly through assistance given to farmers. It is also GST-exempt, which acts pretty much as a subsidy relative to non-food items.

  128. JC says:

    It is also GST-exempt, which acts pretty much as a subsidy relative to non-food items.

    So are duty free goods subsidized?

    Economic terms such subsidy has definitional parameters. I don’t think GST exemption would qualify as a subsidy.

  129. JC says:

    Subsidy

    MONEY paid, usually by GOVERNMENT, to keep PRICES below what they would be in a free market, or to keep alive businesses that would otherwise go bust, or to make activities happen that otherwise would not take place. Subsidies can be a form of PROTECTIONISM by making domestic goods and SERVICES artificially competitive against IMPORTS. By distorting markets, they can impose large economic costs.

  130. NPOV says:

    I said it “acts pretty much as a subsidy”, not that it was one.

    The GST-exemption distorts the price of food relative to non-food items.

  131. Mark Hill says:

    “Can you give an example of how you could set-up a workable system where by private competitors compete to offer heavy rail services through a city?”

    1. Being able to set market prices is better than fixed prices.

    2. This is not reliant on privatisation.

    3. Privatisation is better, generally.

    4. You seem to have fallen for a common fallacy – no competition equals market failure. A private monopoly is still generally better than a Government monopoly. Transport services compete with substitutes, even if there is no competition in one form of service.

    If you want to discuss the limits of private transport, you have to accept the limitations set by planning and development regulations. The companies do not impose these on themselves.

    Yes NPOV, you are correct about the GST, which is unfair as incomes rise, households spend more on food. It was basically a tax cut for the rich with no promised income tax cuts or compensation in welfare payments. The only fair way and the most efficient way was to tax everything.

  132. NPOV says:

    Why is a private monopoly better than a government monopoly, exactly?

    Part of the purpose of public transport is to provide transport options to those who can’t afford a car. A private monopoly running a heavy-rail service with complete freedom to set prices has no incentive to ensure that its services remain affordable to everyone – just to ensure that it is as profitable as possible. It may well determine that it can do this by concentrating on the higher end of the market as a form of luxury commuting, that charges $50 for ticket that currently costs $5. Suddenly you have a whole class of people who now have virtually no transport option at all, and certainly a large class of people who would go back to private vehicles, further clogging up the roads, causing accidents and generating pollution etc. etc.

    It’s hard to see much benefit at all in having private monopolies provide such services.

  133. Mark Hill says:

    1. Management incentives. It’s glib but it is the reason. Look it up yourself for further elaboration.

    2. I don’t know anyone in Australia who cannot afford a car of some kind. No doubt tariffs and income taxes make these more expensive than they need be.

    3. The price of rail will not be determined by how much they can fleece off non car owners, but time saved in commuting. People already do this now and it is how new toll road pricing is estimated, by surveys and modelling these responses. That said, it works fairly well and the Lane Cove and Cross City Tunnel mishaps ignored such advice. It is the precise reason why some car owners use public transport now. This implies firms can raise prices only when they have built competing efficient networks, which would see downward price pressures.

    4. Read the articles I gave you. Some of the outer suburbs bus companies were profit making ventures that received no subsidies at all. The intent is for them or newer, similarly efficient competitors to take over the old routes, inefficient companies and have mangement of the rolling stock. Pricing fares correctly would make people act more rationally with land use, which in turn impacts pollution and congestion.

    5. If people have to spend $50 a day on transport, they may as well buy a second hand car – but I’ve seen refugees driving around in 10 year old cars. But there is no proof the prices will rise this much, but rather better routes would be maintained and the subsisised firms would be taken over by the unsubsidised firms.

    Funnily enough, you’ve also said the same people who would use cars cannot afford them. At least one of your arguments is wrong. Or maybe both.

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