Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The last Strachan stop

Anzac Parade at Meeks Street - Strachan Street is in the top right corner
It is not difficult to see why Transport for NSW would want to have force buses to play "chicken" in tram lanes in the heart of the Kingsford retail and civic centre. For historic reasons cross roads to the east and west of Anzac Parade have different names. Meeks Street is to the east and Strachan Street is to the west further south. There are currently four right-hand turn lanes from Anzac Parade into these streets. The tram lines obliterate three of the right-hand turns leaving only a Hook turn into Borrodale Road, as far as can be discerned - you guessed it, the Figure has been cropped.
Right turn into Borrodale Road
On 13 December 2012 the Minister for Transport launched a vicious attack on Infrastructure NSW. The Chairman, Nick Greiner, mulled things over and in an interview said he had informed O'Farrell in early January that he would be resigning despite being only half way through his three year contract. The chief executive, Paul Broad, a career public servant, also resigned. O'Farrell announced the resignations on May 22nd and they took place in early July.

Infrastructure NSW's suggestion for a bus rapid transport tunnel only existed as press releases but two pages of the 13 Dec 2012 brochure were devoted to attacking INSW: "Previous investigations by Roads and Maritime Services in 2010 showed the former underground tram tunnels could only potentially be used by buses in one direction." Trams can be run closer together because they are on rails - their only advantage over buses.

Figure 5.42 shows a bus sharing the tram lane just north of the Meeks Street intersection with a tram bearing down on it. Do cattle cars stop at every stop and open and close their doors regardless of whether anyone will be getting on or off? The EIS is asking for approval for buses to share lanes with the trams for virtually the whole distance between the Strachan Street stop and the Kingsford terminus. Was this the plan when TfNSW launched it's attack on INSW? Probably not: TfNSW has been making it up as they go along.

The drivers of buses forced to travel along the tram tracks would tend to align the buses with the rails, but buses cannot maintain the separation required. They would be playing "chicken" with buses from the other direction throughout the Kingsford retail centre.

More disturbingly, there is a huge disparity between the emergency stopping distances achieved by rubber tyre buses and trams. True light rail systems maintain sufficient distances between carriages to avoid carriages running into backs of one another, which determines the frequency and the maximum capacity of the system. The infantile modelling published in the brochures has been based on these assumptions, so since the modelling assumes that the cattle cars will split alternately between the Randwick and Kingsford exchanges we can assume there would be no problem with a single bus entering the tram lane midway between two cattle cars.

But at least five buses will need to enter the tram lane between each cattle car and the EIS is asking for approval for them to waft into the tram lanes at unspecified places at any time - buses are not on the same schedules as the trams. This is so incompetent and so irresponsible as to be beyond belief. TfNSW is so incompetent and so devoid of any ethical compass one cannot criticize it without coming across as shrill.

Trams and buses on the shared lane have to pass through the Meeks Street intersection which appears to include a hook turn into Borrodale Road, requiring a separate lights phase, then go on to encounter the Nine Ways (now) intersection. The roundabout has been obliterated by the tramway but what has replaced it? The diagrams in the EIS do not show traffic lights and there is no mention of any traffic modelling done on this radically changed intersection. The traffic engineers at the NSW Road and Traffic Authority were renowned throughout the world for their expertise, but the RTA has "ceased to exist" and the engineers have either resigned in dismay or are shuffling paper clips round desks. O'Farrell will not allow any traffic modelling on arterial roads affected by the tramways.

Despite a complete lack of any modelling TfNSW asserts that trams will on average take one minute to travel between the Kingsford terminus and the Strachan Street stop. This is preposterous.
Table from EIS, Chapter 5 page 79
To put things in perspective, it currently takes a George Street bus one minute to get from the last stop on Broadway (across from Railway Square) to Rawson Place. These are physically measured times, enshrined in the expected arrival times on the stops. The buses travel along a dedicated lane with no cross traffic. The buses are not impeded at any time of the day.

The distance between the Kingsford terminus and Strachan Street is around twice as long and has all the obstructions listed above which have never been professionally analysed. The company hired to write the report has made the disclaimer in note 1. The run times quote in the EIS are provided by TfNSW and are based on maximum speed limits for the trams. If the speed limit for trams in pedestrianized areas was doubled to 40 kph the cumulative run times quoted by TfNSW would be even faster, but the trams would still be travelling at less than 10 kph.

The X factor

The bus stop in the exclusive bus lane at the intersection of Gardeners Road and Anzac Parade is a timing point so the run times of buses can be read from the time tables. Express AM peak buses take 18 minutes to reach Bent Street and an extra minute to reach Martin Place. These are physically measured times currently being achieved by buses not fanciful calculations based on infantile assumptions.

Even accepting the bizarre assertions of TfNSW it will take a tram from the Kingsford terminal an extra 10 minutes to reach "Wynyard" (the closest stop to Martin Place) and an extra 12 minutes to reach Bond Street at the lower end of Bent Street. This does not include the time taken to transfer to a cattle car. Commuters are not getting any added value from spending $1.6 billion.

As with the Randwick bus services commuters needing to go the further stop to Circular Quay can, with the Oyster (aka Opal) Card, catch any bus service in Phillip Street. The Oyster card also opens up these express services to commuters who are not adjacent to a "limited stop" - just take a bus to any limited stop and wait for an Xnn bus. Fortunately these express bus services can be readily boosted, and even more fortunately there is nothing O'Farrell can do to prevent future sane, rational State Governments from reintroducing them.

Where to next?

So what happens to the buses when they have supposedly transfered their passengers to cattle cars. They cannot turn around when playing "chicken" in the Kingsford retail centre. They cannot do a U-turn in Anzac Parade because of the tram lines. Like the Randwick bus services, the plan is to send them via the Distributor to Circular Quay - the only place where they can physically turn around. O'Farrell will not allow the buses to set down passengers in Elizabeth Street: the only destination is Manly and their only purpose is to crush the Eastern Suburbs public transport.

Despite the deliberate deceptions of the EIS and the relentless croppings designed to conceal every hook turn and the displacements of bus stops, we can draw definitive conclusions from the EIS and the associated documents:
How many buses will the trams "remove" from Anzac Parade? - Zero.
How many buses will the trams "remove" from the northern CBD? - Zero

The Kingsford Retail Centre
Strachan Street looking south
Currently there is the bus stop at Gardeners Road and a bus stop south of Strachan Street delivering shoppers from Bunnerong Road and Anzac Parade south of Nine Ways into the Kingsford retail centre. Shoppers tend to travel "towards town" to do their shopping. There is off-peak curbside parking.

O'Farrell will obliterate the Gardeners Road stop and the most southerly bus stop in Anzac Parade will be so far north of Strachan Street it has been, you guessed it, cropped. O'Farrell wants to force shoppers to transfer to trams to go one stop. The last bus stop in Anzac Parade south will be so far to the north of Strachan there is no inkling as to where it might be.

Nick Greiner told interviewers for an infrastructure article: "Fortunately O'Farrell sees himself as an 'Infrastructure' Premier". Business owners in Randwick, Kingsford and Surry Hills who have invested superannuation and years of effort into their businesses will be paying a terrible price for O'Farrell's mindless affectations.

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