Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Transport is not an island

So Sydney’s CBD will be in ”complete gridlock” unless there is “radical” action to stem traffic and reduce the number of buses from the northern suburbs, the State Government’s own research has forecast (SMH, Nov 9th 2009). Wow that’s a headline to sell papers!…….. “A line of buses, stretching for more than a kilometre, sitting idle on Sydney Harbour Bridge“….that’s fantastic, the imagery is very tempting.
The Government’s Transport Data Centre says if nothing is done then high levels of bus congestion and delays for all passengers will result (not to mention the buses enjoying views from the bridge). Of course if “nothing is done” this will eventuate. It is unclear from the SMH article what methodology was used to come to this conclusion but the SMH suggests that there are “serious implications” for the Government’s public transport strategy for north-west Sydney, which relies entirely on buses.
I’m not about to support the current NSW Government who are useless at best, but I want to say this; there are four sectors in transport: road, rail, sea and air. Three of the four do not exist in NW Sydney, the one that does is road. At the moment the only viable alternative is to put a plethora of buses in the NW. Like it or not this is the REALITY. Link this thought with my previous writings on Free Public Transport and what do you get? You get a mechanism to get people out of their cars and onto public transport. If public transport was free, congestion would be halved like it has in other parts of the world where such ventures have been undertaken. Having an army of buses using our existing infrastructure is not a pie in the sky idea. It is an immediate and cheap option while we play catch up with the last 20 years of neglect.
The results of the ‘do nothing’ scenario revealed that the network, with current traffic management arrangements, would not be able to cope with a 30 per cent growth in bus demand.” Again, I highlight the fact that this is a “do nothing” result. If public transport was made free then the game can be replayed, the pieces reset and we can start to reap the benefits that will filter through all of society. Free public transport would enable those in outlying or housing commission areas of Sydney to travel without making a dent in their meagre wages. It would facilitate less demand on emergency and health services. It would free up people’s income to help “stimulate” the economy (which is an often talked about must in financial circles).
Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has said that “the city cannot cope with more buses” – but this is assuming nothing changes. What has not been reported in the SMH is what (if any) other modelling was run by the Transport data centre. I suspect that if they ran a scenario under the auspices of Free Public Transport then they would see a result that shows a very different pattern. One that has freight moving around freely, one that reduces congestion to insignificant levels, one that makes the notion of “peak hour” a historical relic in the same class as “clean coal”. So while Clover Moore says the city cannot cope with more buses, the city and the Government had reached an agreement to build a new bus layover areas?
Once again the Road Transport network is seemingly being analysed in isolation from all other sectors of society. It does not operate in a vacuum, getting the system right is a balance of many forces and these should always be assessed. Transport, Health, Finance, Infrastructure, Housing, Planning, Local Government, Tourism and others are all inextricably linked and cannot be entirely separated as they usually are. The sooner this is realised the better.

Adam Butler - Be The Change You Want To Be

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