Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Now it is ALTRAC

On Wednesday 17 December 2014 I spent more than 5 hours making a detailed submission to the CBD and South East light rail report. I had not realised that the public had  given an opportunity to make submissions until the final day - this had not been allowed for the never-exhibited EIS. The submissions had to be submitted in PDF format by 5:30 pm.
The same day there was another media release from Ms Berejiklian. It said the contract had been signed late that night - within hours of the end of the exhibition period. I don't know if the professional assessors at the Department of Planning and Environment will proceed with their required assessment but they have clearly been compromised in carrying out their duties. Ms Berejiklian's actions have confirmed that the public servants appointed to the Department of Planning and Environment have been corrupted utterly: the EIS was never professionally assessed. I do not know if my submission will ever appear on the Department of Planning and Environment web site - the submissions page was identical to the submissions page for the EIS at the Transport for NSW web site. My submission can be read here.

The press release stated that the renamed ALTRAC consortium has estimated that it will cost $2.1 billion to build the tram tracks and purchase rolling stock from one of the partners but there is no information on what the project will cost the taxpayer in annual payments. It had been previously announced that the project would be an "availability PPP" but there is no precedent on what that might imply. "Availability PPPs" were developed by the NSW Treasury after O'Farrell forced the head of the Department to resign and Baird appointed his own chosen staff. The late and unlamented Napthine government in Victoria developed similar models and signed contracts for the "East West road tunnel" before the election. The facts about the project emerged only after the election and they have been devastating.

With PPPs in the past consortiums had access to all the data and projections and was able to make independent assessments of the financial risks involved. If they got it wrong they had no-one to blame but themselves. "Availability PPP" contracts pay the operators an annual return from taxpayer funds no matter what is received from patronage of the service - the taxpayer takes on all the risk. Yet the taxpayer has been given no access to any of the data about the assumptions made by consultants and has in the case of the CSELR project been given deliberately deceptive descriptions of matters that are crucial for public safety by the overseas-based consultants. Parsons Brinckerhoff were consultants to the Lane Cove road tunnel project.

The press release about a week before Chrismas does not contain any information on what conditions the contract will impose on the taxpayer and every user of public transport in the State. Only a judicial inquiry can uncover what obligations will be imposed on the taxpayer by Ms Berejiklian. This is the matter that opposition Parties must take to the next election. Only after there has been disclosure of the full costs and the physical as well as financial risks that the public will be forced to bear can decisions be made on whether to cancel the contract.

The information that needs to be uncovered includes:

  • Was a taxpayer asset, the Dulwich Hill light railway, privatised without a tender process and without a return to the taxpayer?
  • Will the taxpayer be forced to make annual payments to the consortium regardless of patronage?
  • What will be the cumulative cost to the taxpayer of these payments over the life of the contract?
  • What is the period over which the payments will be made?
  • Was an assessment, based on known present traffic flows, ever made by a competent authority of the "service frequency (the time interval or distance between LRV)" that could be safely achieved in George Street?
  • Why was the increased length of the Rawson Place stop not taken into account and an revised calculation made of maximum service frequencies attainable in George Street in preparing the modification report?
  • Has an attempt been made to indemnify the Altrac consortium from prosecution for culpable negligence if it has not provided internationally-accepted standards of safety?
  • Have penalties been written into the contract requiring ALTRAC to meet service frequencies regardless of whether these service frequencies have been shown to not be safely achievable?
  • Have assumptions been made as to how and where buses "terminated" at the Kingsford terminus will physically turn around?
  • It is physically impossible for buses to make a right turn from High Street into Avoca Avenue or left turns into High Street from Avoca Avenue or left turns into Clara Street from High Street without encroaching onto the light rail alignment. Does the contract give LRV vehicles priority signalling at any intersection on the routes regardless of the problems this would cause?
The clauses and conditions written into the contract must be disclosed in the run up to the election so the taxpayers, who are being forced to carry all the physical and financial rick, are able to make an assessment of whether the project is in their interest. The only way to encourage the government to release the information is for opposition parties and the Nationals to promise to set up a Royal Commission into "availability PPPs" in the run up to the election.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Druitt? Screw it!

Pedestrianised zone George/Druitt Streets, 8:52 am
Pedestrians crossing George Street 5:11 pm

When the project was announced Sydney City Council immediately issued computer-generated artists impressions of trams at the George Street/Druitt Street intersection - they had been forewarned. The simulations showed Druitt Street pedestrianised. These were later withdrawn and we don't know who produced them, TfNSW or SCC.

The 13 December 2012 brochure shrieked: "Most people arrive in the CBD via public transport. This means we can see 370 buses moving along George Street outside Town Hall in the morning's busiest hour - creating congestion". The horror, the horror! In fact we can see any day we look that none of the buses passing through George Street in front of the Town Hall suffer any delays in passing through the intersections. The buses are from a very large number of routes and only buses from Park Street have to wait for a second phase to pass through the intersection at any time of the day.

The phases of the George/Driutt intersection

Phase 1

This is the only phase that fails to clear buses in a single phase. The buses are mainly Metro buses with some from William Street. Congestion in Druitt Street, particularly where buses and other vehicles turn right into Clarence Street, causes traffic to bank up in Park Street - during some phases at the Pitt Street intersection hardly any vehicles make it across Pitt Street during a phase in the morning peak. Vehicles have to give way to merging buses so buses can move along the left-turn lane and merge into the queued vehicles, getting closer to the head of the queue.

TfNSW asserts that the trams will perform the same function as metrobus services from Coogee and Maroubra Junction but this is another lie. The purpose of the metrobus services was to avoid the need for layovers and terminuses in the CBD giving fast access to the centre of the CBD. The trams are the antithesis of the Metro bus services.

Metrobus goes to the head of the queue in Park Street

Phase 2

Phase 2 only takes place if a bus has passed over the metal-sensing loop in either or both bus-only right-turn lanes.  If not, the northbound and southbound traffic movements in George Street begin immediately after the Park Street phases. This phase is timed according to demand and in general lasts as long as there are buses passing over the loops. The buses turning into Druitt Street are mainly headed for Victoria Road after physically turning around at Circular Quay.

Phase 3
Phase 3 feeds buses and general traffic into Clarence Street via Druitt Street as well as carrying buses heading north to physically turn around at Circular Quay. Northbound buses use the second lane from the kerb which is marked left-turn-buses-excepted, or they can use the third general-traffic lane which does not carry many private vehicles apart from taxis.

Private vehicles do not seriously impede the movement of buses at any time of the day except for congestion in Druitt Street where vehicles turn right into Clarence Street. Two of the five phases feed traffic from George Street into Clarence Street.

Phase 4
Pedestrians have learned that this phase does not give enough time to cross between the Woolworths corner and the Queen Victoria Building using the marked crossings so they cross diagonally as you can see in the photos above above - a yellow Hillsbus leads the queue waiting for the phase to end. Buses and other vehicles from the car park under York Street and further north turn from York Street into Druit Street westbound during this phase. The timing does vary slightly during the day but is a bit more than 36 seconds.

Phase 5
Phase 5 is the other phase that carries buses and other traffic from George Street into Clarence Street and southbound from York Street into George Street. The timing would be based on the number of buses queued from York Street but is short and pretty constant through the day - 20 seconds in the morning peak and around 17 seconds for the rest of the day.

Pedestrianisation of George Street

Pedestrianisation of this crucial section of George Street displaces traffic that moves into Clarence Street and northbound past Park Street in parallel with bus movements into Pitt Street. Traffic that currently causes minimal disruption to bus movements now has to cross the dual tram tracks twice. Once at Eddy Avenue, which sets up trams to be run down at the Rawson Place stop, and then after vehicles join the traffic queued in Park Street to cross into Druitt Street. This traffic movement can not be blocked as it crosses Eddy avenue in parallel with every bus from Parramatta Road and City Road and it determines the maximum frequency with which trams can be dispatched from Circular Quay.

The sixth phase 
Buses queue to make a U-turn into Clarence Street, Monday 8:17 am
Currently buses heading north to the bus stop at QVB and then to physically turn round at Circular Quay and the small number of vehicles with expensive parking spaces along George Street move in parallel with traffic turning into Druitt Street in phase 3. Currently every phase of the traffic lights delivers buses and other traffic into Druitt Street westbound. Trams with the exclusive right to travel along George Street shut down every traffic movement apart from pedestrians crossing Park Street in parallel with the trams and buses and other vehicles turning right into Druitt Street from York Street: they require their own additional phase.
York into Druitt Street, Sunday 5:15 pm
Buses making a U-turn muscle into the general vehicle lane in York Street
"Proposed bus network" Dec 2012
The trams block buses sent south past Wynyard park along York Street from reaching the Lee Street layover forcing them to make a U-turn across the single eastbound lane of Druitt Street and back across this lane into Clarence Street. Three buses from Victoria Road held up at the Druitt Street pedestrian crossing would block this U-turn so this phase can not cut in randomly into the signals phasing at George Street to give 67-metre-long trams priority when inching between the Town Hall and QVB tram stops.

The front of the 67-metre trams will be only half a tram length from the Park Street pedestrian crossing in front of Town Hall leaving little time for the lights to change if a driver were to signal he was moving off - I have no idea how priority signalling would be implemented. When the tram is waiting at the crossing for the lights to change the rear carriage of the tram will not have left the Town Hall stop!

Town Hall stop falls just short of actually being in front of Town Hall
There can be no bus stops in the eastbound lane of Druitt Street so Victoria Road buses sent on to terminate God knows where in the Eastern Suburbs (i.e. Edgecliff station) will be crammed when they reach the Park Street intersection. On the other hand, trams will be running on empty to Circular Quay. So we have established that trams will not have priority at the Park/Druitt Streets intersection, right? So the phasing of the lights adds to the cumulative delays that determine whether a tram that gets a clear run at intersections crashes into a tram that misses every light, at the Rawson Place stop or indeed the Chalmers Street stop. This determines the frequency with which the trams can safely be dispatched from the Circular Quay terminus and the maximum capacity that the system can ever achieve.

I have observed the operation of the signalling at the Druitt/George Streets intersection on different days of the week from Monday to Sunday and at times from 7am to after 7pm. Effectively it was the U-turn movement from Druitt Street into Clarence Street that was responsible for congestion that at times banked up to George Street. The Park Street into Druitt Street phase that follows was blocked causing buses on occasions to block northbound movements in George Street and causing vehicles to come to a virtual halt in Park Street in the am peak. The trams make it impossible to ever relieve this congestion - it gets progressively worse for the rest of the life of the City. Baird is not only creating intractable congestion in Elizabeth Street he is creating intractable congestion in Druitt Street.

The mega phase

All the traffic that currently passes through the intersection in five phases will be consolidated into a single phase. This mega phase is basically the same as phase 1 with a couple of exceptions:
  • Victoria Road buses do not turn into George Street but cross the tram tracks on their way to God knows where;
  • Buses and other vehicles do not turn into George Street southbound;
  • Pedestrians are forced to cross the tram tracks in a separate phase to crossing Park Street.
Motorists are not bicyclists. They are not treating the CBD as an adventure park or trying to save the planet by inflicting as much damage as possible on anyone who has qualified for a driver's licence or is productively employed. All the vehicles currently passing through the intersection have a reason to be there and that reason will not go away. Unfortunately the phase 1 was the only phase in the morning peak to become congested to the point where almost no vehicle movement was occurring. This is understandable as vehicles must move into Druitt Street in two lanes only. Every vehicle currently using the intersection will be forced to join the two-lane queue and every vehicle will pass through the Druitt Street/Clarence Street intersection.
Bus stop Druitt between Clarence and Kent

The lights at the George/Park Street intersection are demand based - using data from the metal-sensing loops - so the timing reflects the minimum time needed to clear the traffic passing through the intersection. Pedestrian movements across the tram tracks take place in parallel with vehicle movements so one can subtract 36 seconds from the time required to clear the intersection.

TfNSW has not disclosed how many Harbour Bridge services will be sent south past Wynyard park or how many Victoria Road bus services will be sent north to terminate at Wynyard park so no estimate can be made of how long phase 6 would last. TfNSW can manipulate the figures to satisfy itself that congestion would be manageable in 2021 - effectively transferring congestion to Wynyard, whatever the consequences. All Victoria Road bus services must pass through the Druitt/Clarence Streets intersection inbound and outbound so TfNSW is just manipulating the figures. Since a 36-second phase comprehensively clogs Druitt Street between York and Clarence Streets we can see this as an upper limit.

When there are no buses waiting to transfer from York Street to George Street phase 5 is omitted reducing the overall time of the traffic light cycle and when northbound lanes were blocked by a bus the cycle was extended confirming that the lights are controlled by signals from the loops in the road. Victoria Road buses have privileged entry to Druitt Street from the bus-only right turn. There are five lanes feeding traffic into Druitt Street during four phases. During the morning from 7-9 am and in the evening from 4-7 pm these phases add up to between 1 minute:12.5 seconds and 1 minute:19 seconds. It is inconceivable that it would take less time when all this traffic is forced into two lanes in Park Street.

This does not take into account the extra bus services that TfNSW will be forcing into the Druitt/Clarence intersection. New South Head Road bus services will be prevented from turning into Elizabeth Street and forced to physically turn round, God knows how, somewhere in Walsh Bay. All bus services to Barangaroo and the Hungry Mile will circle Wynyard park or do a U-turn in Druitt Street - there must always be separate services to these destinations. As with Victoria Road bus services TfNSW given itself the ability to manipulate the figures.

Frequency of tram services

We must add the maximum delay for the trams at the Park/Druitt Streets intersection to the delays expected at Bathurst, Liverpool and Goulburn Streets. The placement of the stops ensures that all these delays are cumulative. The cumulative delays at these intersections are a minimum of 4 minutes:49 seconds. This does not take into account any extra delays caused by vehicles failing to clear the tracks because of congestion in Druitt Street.

Then we have to add in delays at the Market Street, King Street and Hunter Street intersections which are more difficult to estimate.
Ms Berejiklian has lied about the frequency that tram services can ever achieve for more than two years now. Her latest claims are announced in her ridiculous media release (23 November 2014). Her public servants are now quoting her: "Gladys Berejiklian announced light rail would have 50% more capacity than the 9,000 passengers per hour previously announced". They do not want to be associated with her.
The latest indicative figure for the Rawson Place stop from Parsons Brinckerhoff appears to have been deliberately designed to conceal the pincer movement of death. The elimination of a crossing of the tram tracks at Ultimo Road transfers more traffic to Bathurst Street and to the single lane of George Street southbound. This will ensure that trams will be approaching the Rawson Place stop at their maximum speed.

Using existing traffic flows through intersections the frequencies with which trams can be dispatched from Circular Quay claimed by TfNSW cannot be achieved from day one. The claims about the frequencies of the trams that could be achieved in 2031 are delusional.

TfNSW has never revealed the assumptions it made in making calculations of Level of Service at intersections and has no intention of allowing an independent assessment to be made. The Business Case Summary confirmed that some of the assumptions are bizarre: "The light rail is also forecast to attract a significant number of car users (17 per cent of passengers)".
"The majority of the economic benefits ($2.2 billion, or 57%) result from public transport benefits related to faster, more comfortable, more reliable journeys".

In my submission to the EIS I pleaded with Planning and Environment to ascertain the maximum number of cars that could conceivably switch from driving from the catchment areas to park in very expensive off-street parking adjacent to George Street by doing a simple origin/destination survey - to no avail. The consequences of not doing such a survey are so catastrophic it was not much to ask.

Slaughter of the innocents

Martin Place tribute
The media reported that one of the officers that stormed the Lindt cafe had suffered shotgun pellets to the face. It turned out that his cheek had been grazed by a bullet - friendly fire. Only his cheek could have been grazed he was wearing Kevlar from head to toe and goggles. The people in the cafe had no protection - it was like shooting goldfish in a barrel.

The event in Martin Place was irrational and could not have been foreseen, although it could have turned out differently. Sydney faces far greater tragedies in Rawson Place. These catastrophes are predictable and would be inevitable if Ms Berejiklian were to force Connecting Sydney into an "availablity PPP" that required the consortium to maintain tram frequencies in George Street based on indisputably erroneous calculations, regardless of the consequences.

If the contract agreed to pay the consortium an assured amount if it did maintain these schedules, regardless of the patronage - which appears to be how these contracts work - then, not only would public transport in the CBD be crippled physically by the trams, public transport throughout the State would be crippled financially for the foreseeable future.

Only a Royal Commission into "availability PPPs" can uncover what is going on in these negotiations. A tragedy in Rawson Place is both predictable and avoidable. If Baird is sent packing on 28 March 2015 it will never occur.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A tram wreck in slow motion

 Only just... (from SMH)
Ms Berejiklian has confirmed that Alstom, one of the partners in the Connecting Sydney consortium, declined to manufacture nine or even seven segment trams and insisted on coupling two of its off-the-shelf five-segment trams to run through Randwick, Kensington, Surry Hills and along George Street to Circular Quay. The trams will be 67 metres long, 10 metres longer than a hypothetical nine-segment tram.

Tram driver's sightlines at Rawson Place stop
This of course has an unfortunate, um, knock on effect for passengers at the critical Rawson Place stop. The rear of a tram waiting to cross Pitt Street is 67 metres from where the driver of a following tram expects to stop and the driver has a negligible distance to react from where he first sights the stationary tram.

Ms Berejiklian refuses to say where the stops will actually be located citing Cabinet in Confidence but there is not much space to play around with. The Google Earth reconstruction above assumes the stationary tram is at the Pitt Street pedestrian crossing. We are told that trams will have priority signalling and will be travelling at the speed limit between stops. Indeed there is not much reason for trams to not have priority signalling between the Chinatown and Rawson Place stops - no major cross roads. This is the only place in the CBD where trams can pick up time. Vehicles waiting in the single general-vehicle lane and buses waiting to pass through the pincher movement of death block the driver's view until he is entering the intersection, with priority signalling. When he first glimpses the stationary tram he is less than 34 metres from impact. Travelling at 50 kph he has less that 2.5 seconds to impact, probably less than his reaction time.

Coupled carriages have a tendency to jack-knife on impact so the trams would cut a swathe through pedestrians waiting dutifully at the aptly-named pincer movement. In fact, the carriages will unavoidably jack-knife on impact. The second 33 metre long carriage is just at the start of the curve in the tracks when the first carriage plows into the stationary tram. The momentum of the second carriage will propel it south overturning the first carriage and taking out a tram headed north into George Street in parallel during the priority signal phase. The momentum of the second carriage of this tram will propel it west overturning the first carriage onto vehicles travelling north along George Street at the speed limit in parallel with the tram movements. Vehicles approaching the intersection at the speed limit will plow into trams and vehicles strewn across George Street or be deflected into pedestrians and buildings on the western side of George Street.

Transdev Sydney, a minor bus operator in south-west and outer western Sydney and lead partner in the Connecting Sydney consortium, will file for bankruptcy. The NSW taxpayer will pick up the pieces.

The Capacity Improvement Plan

The Sydney City Centre Capacity Improvement Plan, on exhibition until 9 January 2015, allows us to make an assessment of the spacing between trams that would be necessary to avoid a catastrophe that would lead news bulletins across the globe. It turns out that the improvements that are mooted achieve laughable increases in traffic flows to offset the very large degradations in road capacity brought about by the George Street trams.

The main efforts have been to increase east-west traffic flows. All parking is removed from King Street, dumping more vehicles into the mother of all pinch points, and pavements are reduced in width in Market Street. It should be pointed out that most of the vehicles that traverse the full length of King Street could use the Cross City Tunnel but choose to not pay the toll.

Goulburn/George Street intersection
Goulburn Street changes from a six-lane road to four lanes west of George Street. Goulburn Street west grid-locks every evening. Sydney City Council has tried to slow traffic by forcing left-turns to be made from the through-traffic lane. The don't-walk sign comes on after 25 seconds between 20 and 30 seconds before the orange light comes on during the evening peak. The State Government is demanding that a left-turn lane be re-established. That's the only change. The pedestrianisation of George Street will increase the volumes of traffic needing to make this turn.

Wentworth Avenue - Capacity Improvement Plan
Wentworth Avenue is coloured pink signifying vast changes but the only changes are from the elimination of some parking an the establishment of clearways.

Market Street changes
The brochure concludes: "only a limited amount of traffic capacity needs introducing along Market Street as there are other capacity restraints preventing its use". Vast changes to the pavements adjacent to the QVB are proposed but the number of lanes crossing George Street remains at three. A left-turn lane into York Street would stretch the whole block but delivers vehicles only to the carpark under York Street as at present. Vehicles exit from the car park into Druitt Street, creating no end of problems for bus services from the Harbour Bridge that will foolishly be terminated at Druitt Street and for bus services from Victoria Road sent on through to terminate God knows where in the Eastern Suburbs, i.e. Edgecliff station.

The destruction of capacity

The destruction of capacity in the CBD south of Bathurst Street has been documented in the exhibited and the never-exhibited EIS for CSELR and the Sydney City Centre Bus Infrastructure brochure:
  • George Street capacity halved to one lane south of Bathurst Street;
  • Bus lanes removed from Elizabeth Street south of Foveaux Street;
  • Through traffic in Foveaux Street halved to one lane;
  • Southbound traffic capacity in Elizabeth Street halved to one lane at Park Street.

Returning to George Street with a vengeance

Every vehicle in George Street north of Park Street is there for a purpose - George Street is not a thoroughfare. Vehicles displaced by the pedestrianisation of George Street must return from whence they came. The likely routes are from Castlereagh Street returning to George Street via Liverpool Street and Goulburn Street. But the capacity of George Street has been halved.

The intersections of George Street with Bathurst, Liverpool and Goulburn Streets are operating at above capacity every evening and are under the control of SCATS. The closure of Rawson Place will divert additional loads on the east-west roads but the south-bound traffic will only increase in accordance with the addition of off-street parking in the northern CBD. This is under the control of the Sydney City Council and can be predicted. The most significant changes to the traffic flows through the intersections is from the halving of capacity in George Street. Once an intersection is operating above capacity the only thing that will change over time is the period of time during the day when traffic is being delayed.

One cannot surmise on how SCATS will respond to the reduced capacity in George Street. It could lengthen the phase for George Street flows or cycle the combined phases more frequently. Buses queued in the bus lane clear the intersection well before the phase is finished and even 67 metre trams would not be the determinant factor in the phasing. The pedestrian crossings are the major factor in the phasing of traffic lights in Eddy Avenue.

One can safely predict that the phases for east-west traffic movements across George Street will increase in duration with the introduction of trams. The location of the tram stops insures that the delays at the intersections are cumulative. Trams stop at every stop and cannot take advantage of the looping by SCATS of the lights at Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street intersections.

Not all vehicles would return to George Street, some would turn south into Pitt Street, inexorably crossing Eddy Avenue. This is the intersection that sets up the stationary tram for catastrophe. The southbound phase for this intersection is the minimum time needed for pedestrians to cross in the mornings but increases during the pm peak periods leading eventually to SCATS taking over the timing.

I tallied up the cumulative delays for trams at the intersections at Pitt Street, Goulburn Street, Liverpool Street and Bathurst Street in a previous post SCATS assault from the North Shore rump. This was assuming that trams would get priority at signals between the Chinatown and Rawson Place stops. One can make no assumptions as the whether the trams would have priority at the few intersections across the pedestrianised zone: Druitt Street, Market Street, King Street and one-lane-each-way Hunter Street. Since these crossings have limited capacity and are congested for most of the day it would seem foolish to give priority to 67 metre trams travelling at little more than pedestrian speed - taking into account the experience of the trams in Sydney's world-class pedestrian concourse outside Paddy's Market and the trams in Melbourne's CBD. Trams in the Melbourne CBD travel slowly (10 kph) with a clear view of the tram ahead and they are never coupled together.

The current delays at the SCATS controlled intersections on average were 1 minute 20 seconds at Pitt Street, 40 seconds at Bathurst and Liverpool Streets and 50 seconds at Goulburn Street, a cumulative 3 and a half minutes. To this you must add the time spent at the Rawson Place stop picking up passengers to get the minimum period between the dispatching of trams needed to avoid a tram being run down. To be on the safe side you would be looking at a frequency of no more than one tram every 5 minutes and greater if there is not priority for trams at crossings in the pedestrianised zone.

This is the maximum possible frequency for the trams from day one and the frequency gets progressively less over the remaining life of the City of Sydney.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Double-crossing the red lane

Elizabeth Street bus lanes
If Ridley Scott's account has any historical basis Moses crossed the Red Sea only once. Baird is much more demanding. He is forcing buses and all other vehicles to riffle shuffle as they proceed north past David Jones in Elizabeth Street, then to riffle shuffle back once again as they pass across the King Street intersection. It turns out that this vaste eternal plan was the basis of his claim that he could unlock congestion in the CBD by handing over George Street to privately-owned trams from the south eastern suburbs.

For more than a century it had been recognised that congestion in the pinch point between the Old Supreme Court Building and now the St James Centre was the major problem that a public transport system had to be built around. It led to bus services to the CBD from the Eastern and South Eastern Suburbs being directed to two destinations - Circular Quay and Railway Square - and to the Metro through bus services.

City Centre Capacity Improvement Plan
Baird rejected these fundamental truths, insisting he could improve the flow of buses by changes to the lanes that are paved red. He has now disclosed his plan: to force buses and other vehicles to riffle shuffle at either end of the mother of all pinch points. This would be laughable if Baird was not wrecking public transport south of the Harbour and crippling the City of Sydney for the rest of its existence. This was disclosed in two more glossy brochures: Sydney City Centre bus infrastructure and Sydney City Centre Capacity Improvement Plan.

Baird is consistent in his modus operandi for crippling public transport services south of the Harbour: identify the weakest point then hit it with everything possible. The "capacity improvement plan" proposes that the proscription of parking on both sides of King Street between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets be extended for the whole length of King Street - he is throwing as much traffic as physically possible at the mother of all pinch points.

 Currently there is a bus-only extension of the left turn lane into St James Road allowing buses to go to the head of the queue at the Market Street intersection. This has been obliterated and replaced with a bus lane along St James Road. Only buses from the Cahill Expressway could reach this lane entering Macquarie Street at Bridge Street. So not only are buses from the North Shore taking over Castlereagh Street (the Brown Peril schematic reappears yet again in this brochure) they are taking over Elizabeth Street southbound. Whichever route they take southbound the only return route is through the double riffle shuffle.
The Phillip/Young Streets terminus, only remaining place in the CBD where buses from the Eastern Suburbs the southern suburbs and the Inner West can physically turn around is being crippled. The three lanes of traffic being fed into Elizabeth Street southbound from the expanded flows in King Street has to riffle shuffle into two lanes across the Market Street intersection with buses expected to stop in the kerb-side lane, blocking general traffic in this lane, which then has to riffle shuffle back into a single lane between Park and Bathurst Streets. Baird is not content to exacerbate congestion in Elizabeth Street northbound he is applying the same double riffle shuffle to southbound traffic whether it enters Elizabeth Street from Phillip Street or Macquarie Street.

The EIS identified Elizabeth Street north of Park Street as the most congested access route to the northern CBD. Every bus service from the Eastern Suburbs, the South Eastern Suburbs, the southern suburbs and now the Inner West as well will be crippled.

Booz & Company asserted in the EIS that about 50% of bus services from Parramatta Road and City Road would be redirected to the Phillip Street terminus. All attempts to find out which services would continue to Circular Quay have been met with stoney silence. Now that the unbelievably-incompetent plans for Sydney Centre bus infrastructure have been exhibited it is apparent that there is little chance for any bus services from the inner west making it through to Circular Quay.

The EIS for CSELR was completely fraudulent.

According to his transcript of his conversations during 40 days and 40 nights Moses was able to present arguments to his God: "Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people".
And the LORD repented of the evil which he though to do unto his people.

Son of Bruce Almighty will not listen to any arguments.

Monday, 1 December 2014

WestConnex turns into NorthShoreConnex

Vague alignment diagram from SMH
It seems like only yesterday that Abbott and Baird were posing in front of a billboard of the WestConnex southern extension. Now both are facing the prospect of becoming one-term wonders like the Victorian government and Baird is trying to counter this by becoming even more obscure about his intentions. What the people don't know can't hurt him.

When he announced the "northern extension" of the WestConnex project as part of the justification for the sale of the urban electricity distribution networks throughout NSW computer-graphic generated videos were released with little arrows indicating vaguely where traffic would be dumped. Now the latest changes are announced by emails with no attempt to justify the new route with traffic analysis or to clarify where the exits will be. The object of the exercise is simply to obliterate the pesky little arrows that were shown in the video, before the election. Traffic must eventually come to the surface from the three-lane tunnels each way, we just won't know where before the election. The final Question Time of the Parliament before the election has been held so Baird is home free.

Gay confirmed that the little arrows at Petersham aimed at the oval would be eliminated so the new alignment does nothing to reduce congestion in Parramatta Road. He said that Stage 3 would still dump traffic into Parramatta Road in Camperdown west of the University of Sydney but Son of Bruce Almighty only knows if this will be west of Pyrmont Bridge Road, so the traffic heading inexorably to Pitt Street will be greater.

Who pays for all this?

Baird has refused twice to refute that he would privatise the whole of the state's electricity distribution network if he is elected Premier for the first time. His claims of being able to raise $20 billion from the sale of the "poles and wires" require the sale to occur immediately and for the money to remain in bank accounts for many years to accumulate interest. He has promised a spending spree on hospitals and other projects in western Sydney which could begin immediately. His figures do not add up.

Traffic from the North Shore will still clog the Glebe Island Bridge U-bend unless a mind-numbingly expensive road tunnel is built under Balmain and Sydney Harbour, leading inexorably to the Jewel in the Crown for the North Shore rump politicians: the even more mind-numbingly expensive road tunnel under Middle Harbour and the Spit.

Drivers from the North Shore currently can travel for free south along the Eastern Distributor so they will not be paying for any of this.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

SCATS assault from the North Shore Rump

World Square stop
The length of the trams would have little impact on traffic flow at the Eddy Avenue/Pitt Street intersection - even a 57 metre tram should just be able to cross the intersection in the minimum time allowed for pedestrians to cross - 26 seconds. However we have to consider impact on the routes that vehicles displaced from Rawson Place have no alternative but to take: Liverpool Street and Bathurst Street. The closure of Rawson Place turns these into arterial routes.

At Bathurst Street a tram movement shuts down all traffic movements other than pedestrian crossings in parallel with the trams and once again pedestrian densities are among the heaviest in the state. The cumulative run times in the EIS asserted that it would take 1 minute for a tram to set down/pick up passengers and pass from the "World Square" stop to Town Hall stop. The stops are literally a stones throw apart - it takes less than 2 minutes to walk the distance as pointed out in a post on 21 Dec 2013 By George, I think she's got it, but since it takes a five-segment trams 87 seconds to pick up a couple of passengers this is hardly credible. It is physically impossible for the trams to accelerate to the 60 kpm speed limit, hit the pedestrianised zone at this speed then abruptly slow down to a stop - drivers would travel the distance at little more than walking speed. The question that needs to be asked is: would trams travelling at little more than walking speed be given priority by the traffic lights? That is to say, would trams from both directions trigger a change in the signal phasing? That is the 2.2 billion dollar question.
The "mesoscopic modelling" undertaken by TfNSW in 2013 which forecast peak hour intersection performance over the broad CBD clearly assumed that SCATS would continue to control traffic light phasing at Liverpool Street, Bathurst Street and Goulburn Street intersections with George Street - improvements in level of service (LOS) at these intersections in the 2021 light rail scenario compared to 2021 Do Minimum scenario were +2 (off the scale).

The modelling was infantile and based on preposterous assumptions and the conclusions drawn by Booz & Company published in the EIS are risible but we can conclude that there was no intention to give trams priority at intersections in the CBD.

In fact the intersections of George Street with Liverpool and Bathurst Streets would operate much the same with trams as they do now. There is now a bus (and left-turn) lane and two general-vehicle lanes south-bound from Bathurst Street and a bus lane and two north-bound general-traffic lanes to Liverpool Street. The significant difference is that the trams obliterate the second general-traffic lanes. This second general-vehicle lane allows buses to leapfrog buses at stops and pass through intersections two at a time (as you can see in the Google Earth snapshot) and to achieve capacities far in excess that which the tram service can achieve.

At present most of the vehicles travelling north of Bathurst Street are buses heading for the Harbour Bridge or running on empty to Circular Quay in order to physically turn round. If Baird wins the election on 28th March there will be only trams from Kingsford and Randwick, running on empty to Circular Quay, north of Bathurst Street. There are very few private vehicles travelling in parallel with the buses south from in front of Town Hall during the pm peak - mainly there are just taxis from the Hilton and the hotels at the Rocks - as you can observe any evening. With good reason: there is very little parking along George Street north of Bathurst Street and the parking is very expensive. Only buses can turn into George Street southbound south of Grosvenor Street and no driver in his right mind would use George Street to access the southern half of the CBD rather than use the Western Distributor.

The expensive off-street parking along George Street will continue to exist if George Street is pedestrianised. Drivers displaced from George Street will be forced to take tortuous routes crossing the dual tram tracks at least two times each way and more likely three times. This traffic will return to George Street southbound with a vengeance at Liverpool Street and will have been forced into one lane. This is effectively the only change to the traffic flows at the intersections, along with the additional traffic displaced from Rawson Place.

Bathurst Street, pm peak
Traffic flows along Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street become gridlocked at the George Street intersections during the pm peak and SCATS takes over, co-ordinating the traffic-light phases to give  continuous streams of traffic along George Street during its phase. Between 4:20 and 4:50 pm on Friday 28 November 2014 SCATS was allocating about 40 seconds to east-west flows and 1 minute and 9 seconds to George Street flows.

The traffic lights at Goulburn Street/George Street intersection are not co-ordinated with the lights further north and take between 50 and 56 seconds in each direction tallying up to 1:47 during the evening peak.

Bear in mind that the buses are carrying much higher loads of passengers than trams running largely empty from Circular Quay will ever carry - they must have capacity to pick up the bulk of their passengers at Central. There are very high volumes of pedestrians crossing Bathurst Street to and from the Town Hall station concourse.

Crunch time at the pincer movement of death

Trams at the Pitt Street/Eddy Avenue intersection can not be given priority signal phasing without creating intractable congestion in traffic flows to Parramatta Road and City Road and crippling every bus service to the Inner West and the southern suburbs. So trams after spending one and a half minutes setting down and picking up passengers could be held up an average of (1:47 - :27) minutes = 1 minute and 20 seconds. In the worst-case scenario the tram could have been held up an additional 40 seconds at each of the intersections at Bathurst Street, Liverpool Street and 50 seconds at Goulburn Street and it could have taken longer for passengers with mobility problems to embark or disembark from the tram. It is the worst-case scenario that determines the safe spacing of trams.

Spacing of trams is the only mechanism for stopping a following tram from crashing into the tram ahead. Railways run on tracks that have sensors and signalling but this not possible on trams travelling on public roads and through pedestrianised zones. If a tram that has had a clear run (no delays at intersections) arrives at a stop before the tram ahead has moved out from the stop it will smash into the back of the stationary tram. This would occur in an area with large numbers of pedestrians and with passengers on both trams standing without bracing themselves.

Here the length of the trams has great significance. Nine-segment trams will be 12 metres longer. The rear of the tram will be an extra 12 metres from where the driver of the following tram was expecting to stop so it will be moving faster. The trams are heavier so the following tram has more kinetic energy and the stationary tram more inertia.

At the Rawson Place stop the driver would not see the stationary tram until he is passing through the pincer movement of death - buses queued to pass through the pincer movement block his view. TfNSW insist that the trams will be travelling at the speed limit (60 kpm) between stops.

Finally making up time
The consequences are so horrendous we must assume that the trams will have sufficient spacing when they are dispatched from the three platforms at Circular Quay, carrying negligible numbers of passengers. You can do the maths. The timing between trams when dispatched will have to be a minimum of 5 minutes. This does not take into account any delays that may occur in the George Street pedestrianised zone. This is the timing between trams from day one of the tram services and it never gets any better. It gets progressively worse throughout the future life of the City of Sydney.

The frequency of at least 5 minutes between the nine-segment trams is significantly different from the frequency of 1 minute and 44 seconds that would be required to achieve the capacity of 13,500 passengers per hour claimed by Ms Berejiklian.

Trams would be arriving at the Randwick and Kingsford terminuses more than 10 minutes apart.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Hills hoist with their own petard

The end of Hillsbus services
When I was going to Sydney University I would walk from the Engineering Department through Chippendale to Pitt Street to catch a 378 bus to my flat in Paddington. When the Lee Street bus layover was built Railway Square buses no longer circled the Square in order to terminate and the Pitt Street stop fell into disuse - it was difficult for drivers to reach the right turn lanes into Eddy Avenue.

It appears that the stop was handed over to the privately-operated Hillsbus for their express services to the CBD. These services travel along the busway in the M2 motorway then the Lane Cove Tunnel, the North Sydney expressway and the Harbour Bridge to York Street.
Hillsbus express routes to Lee Street
These services as well as bus services to the Northern Beaches use the exclusive bus right turn from York Street into George Street at Druitt street to access the layover at Lee Street. The northbound route from Railway Square uses Market Street to make a right turn into Clarence Street to return back over the Harbour Bridge, avoiding the congestion in making right turns from Druitt Street.

All the bus services from northern Sydney north of the North Shore to Railway Square will be obliterated by trams from Kingsford and Randwick running on empty along George Street after dumping passengers in Chalmers Street.

The Brown Peril
Hillsbus provides services to Parramatta and the CBD from the suburbs to the north of Parramatta - West Pennant Hills, Baulkham Hills to Rouse Hill up the Old Windsor Road - hence the name. Voters in these suburbs and the Northern Beaches put the North Shore bozos into office.

The alternative routes mooted by TfNSW terminate the bus services to the CBD from the whole of Sydney north of the North Shore at the hopelessly congested Wynyard Park, at Druitt Street (requiring a right turn into Clarence Street) or dump buses into Castlereagh Street forcing them to return through the mother of all pinch points in Elizabeth Street northbound. I discussed this in the post The Brown Peril (8 May 2014). The Baird government has now divulged inadvertently the extent of the congestion they will be causing in bus routes in the CBD.

The Pitt Street maul

Every bus from the Inner West and every bus that lays over at the capacious Lee Street terminus must inexorably pass through the intersection of Pitt Street and Eddy Avenue coming and going. Every one of these bus services will be crippled by the trams running on empty to George Street.

We can put some figures to this from the brochures issued by TfNSW. The Dec 2012 brochure stated that 175 buses travelled along Broadway into the City in the am peak hour and claimed preposterously that light rail would reduce the number of these buses entering the City by 33. This is of course physically impossible. It is physically impossible for a bus once it has entered Broadway to turn around before it passes through the Pitt Street/Eddy Avenue intersection. The incompetence and contempt for the intelligence of the public shown by public servants put in control of TfNSW is beyond belief. They do know that they will never be required to defend their figures. The only way to reduce the number of buses in Broadway is to reduce the frequency of the services, which are packed during the am peak. Assuming that there is a public servant at TfNSW that can count to 175 then 3 buses from Broadway alone and three returning buses must pass through the Pitt Street/Eddy Avenue intersection every minute during the am peak.

The number of buses accessing the Lee Street terminus from north of the Harbour is obviously constrained by the number of buses that can pass through the mother of all pinch points. This is unknown since the number of Broadway bus services to be sent on to Circular Quay has not been disclosed.
When a tram is passing across Pitt Street no other traffic movement at the intersection can take place other than pedestrians crossing Pitt Street in parallel with the trams. The right-turn lane from Eddy Avenue into Pitt Street northbound is strictly only a rat run for extremely dumb rats as pointed out in previous posts.
Eddy Av/Pitt St intersection, phase two
Westbound traffic in Eddy Avenue has four lanes at the intersection with Pitt Street - two turn into Pitt Street southbound and two cross into Rawson Place. There is an additional lane for regional buses and taxis from the third arches. These vehicles have priority access to the intersection - pedestrian crossings and westbound general traffic movements are delayed. Right turns into Pitt Street northbound are forbidden except for buses and taxis.

Traffic into Rawson Place would be heading for Darling Harbour, Barangaroo and Piermont via Hay Street. The only other route for traffic from the eastern suburbs south of Old South Head Road (Oxford Street) is via Liverpool Street. The Rawson Place route is far less disruptive to George Street bus services than the Liverpool Street would be to Oxford Street bus services. It takes less than a minute for a bus to get from the Broadway stop to the stop south of Rawson Place at any time of the day. They then move into the bus-only second lane avoiding traffic turning left into Hay Street.

Traffic in the reverse direction would be from Bathurst Street turning into George Street. The right turn into George Street could be banned but, once again, the traffic is less disruptive in the three southbound lanes of George Street than it would be to Elizabeth Street bus services. To access the Cross City Tunnel traffic to the eastern, southeastern suburbs must drive past Bathurst Street and loop into, you guessed it, Liverpool Street, as discussed in a previous post Last Exit from Barangaroo (17 October 2013). The traffic to and from Barangaroo will be boosted massively when the car parks in Crown Casino come on stream.

The traffic light phases are controlled by SCATS mainly using the loops in the road to sense when queues of vehicles have emptied. Phase 2 does not vary throughout the day however. Vehicles queue and pass through the intersection five at a time. The queues are exhausted well before pedestrians have crossed the intersection. I do not have access to SCATS data but have measured the phases with a stop watch app. The walk sign remains on for close to 6 seconds then the don't walk sign flashes for around 20 seconds. This would be the absolute minimum time required - pedestrians become frantic if don't-walk signs flash immediately after the walk sign comes on.

Eddy Av/Pitt St intersection, phase 1
The other two traffic light phases vary throughout the day according to demand. The main phase 1, the arterial vehicle flows between the Eastern Suburbs and the rest of Sydney south of the Harbour, generally takes between 40 and 55 seconds including the orange phase. The effects on these vehicle flows from the dumping of traffic from the WestConnex tunnels into Parramatta Road and Enmore Road have never been factored in. The east bound lanes of Eddy Avenue become gridlocked around 5:20 pm. Vehicles queued in the right-turn lanes in Pitt Street do not clear the intersection and SCATS takes over and co-ordinates the traffic lights at both ends of Eddy Avenue.

The third phase for north-south traffic movements in Pitt Street generally take around than half a minute. The traffic for this phase will be increased by the vehicles displaced from George Street by the trams.

The frequency of trams

Five-segment tram
The five-segment Bombardier trams being assembled in a factory in the Dandenongs for the Melbourne tram system are 33 metres long and will carry 210 passengers. They are the longest trams in Victoria. There are no trams longer than this in Britain.

The seven-segment Bombardier trams being imported from Germany for the Gold Coast are claimed to carry 229 standing passengers as well as the 80 seated, which tallies with the claims of TfNSW of 220 standing passengers and 80 seated for the George Street trams which would be 45 metres long.

Segments must be added two at a time as you can see from the diagram above so a nine-segment tram would be 57 metres long, 3.5 metres longer than the longest road trains permitted on the Stuart Highway - the longest in the world. A Google search for nine-segment trams or light rail carriages mainly throws up references to this blog - they don't exist anywhere in the world. It is Connecting Sydney consortium that will choose from where to import the trams but we can deduce that each segment pair carries about 90 passengers so a nine segment tram would be assumed to carry 390 passengers.

Ms Berejiklian announced that the light rail would have capacity of more than 13,500 passengers per hour in each direction in response to demands by the preferred bidder for nine-segment trams, that is 225 passengers per minute. Nine-segment trams carrying 390 passengers packed like sardines would have to pass through every intersection in the route every 1 minute and 44 seconds in either direction. If the trams have priority signalling, necessary to achieve this capacity, a tram from either direction would be passing through the Pitt Street/Eddy Avenue intersection on average every 52 seconds. The pedestrian crossing requires a minimum of 26 seconds so that leaves 26 seconds for every other traffic movement at the intersection. In the words of Joe Biden: "Not physically possible". Bear in mind that an additional phase will be necessary for at least 3 buses per minute to turn right into Rawson Place so they can pass through the pincer movement of death at George Street, and an additional phase for right turns into Pitt Street northbound.

Ms Berejiklian went on to say: "The proposal offers services that from day one carry up to 15% more light rail passengers in peak hours, and 33% more seats (sic) across the day. The 33% figure would appears to mean that TfNSW is asserting that 100 extra passengers can be crammed onto a nine-segment tram. The 15% figure, 45 passengers, indicates that the frequency of peak hour tram services would be reduced by more than 18%. That means that the frequency of trams arriving at the Kingsford and High Cross park terminals will be reduced by twice this amount.

The patronage guarantee

Passengers per hour inbound
Ms Berejiklian claimed all along that the seven-segment trams would carry 9,000 passengers per hour, that is 150 passengers each minute, to and from Circular Quay at peak periods. Elementary maths showed that this was impossible but Berejiklian has refused to respond to any questions. That would require trams carrying 300 passengers packed like sardines to pass through every intersection in each direction every 2 minutes - a 45 metre tram passing through the Pitt Street/Eddy Avenue intersection every minute. This leaves 34 seconds for every other phase at each intersection. Not quite as ludicrous as her present claims but still so utterly ludicrous it brings the sanity of the public servants she put in control of TfNSW into question.

TfNSW published one diagram of the passenger loadings they expected at different stages of the journey in the EIS. These figures assume that bus services along Anzac Parade would be terminated at Todman Avenue although they refused to respond to objections asking how the buses would physically turn around without traumatising students at Kensington Primary for life. The figures for percentage of capacity used at day one of operation of the trams assumed that the maximum capacity was indeed 9,000 passengers per hour.

The social devastation of the need for speed

So did the EIS assume that trams would have priority at the signals at the pedestrian crossings in Chalmers Street, Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street? Obviously the public servants at TfNSW did assume this.
Run times?
The table of run times in the EIS asserted that it would take 2 minutes for a tram to discharge and load passengers in Chalmers Street and travel to the next stop at Rawson Place, and the same time for the reverse direction.

We can get a some idea of the time it takes for a tram to load and unload passengers from the five-segment trams to Dulwich Hill at the Central station stop.

Dulwich Hill line Central stop
The 8:40 am tram from Dulwich Hill cruised into the Central stop after turning from Hay Street at about walking speed despite complete segregation from pedestrians. There is a solar-powered sign that tells drivers how fast they are leaving the stop and to slow down, but it is about walking speed. At the stop it took 24.8 seconds for passengers to disembark and a further 57.4 seconds for the last passenger to board the tram. It took a further 6.9 seconds for the doors to close and the tram to set off at about walking speed a total of 1 minute 29 seconds. Trams currently have conductors on board to collect the fares. With the Opal card it will take longer for people to tap on and tap off.
Transport for NSW refuse to reveal the distances between stops saying it is Cabinet in Confidence. We don't know exactly where the lengthened stops will be in Chalmers Street and Rawson Place but we can get a good idea of the distance between the stops with Google Earth - a tad less than half a kilometre. So the public servants employed at TfNSW are calculating that the trams will travel half a kilometre in half a minute - an average speed of 60 kph, the speed limit.

The Dulwich Hill trams do not have priority at traffic signals - it took only 87 seconds for a few passengers to board behind the Capitol theatre but the tram was held up at the lights for more than half a minute - no-one complained. The public servants at TfNSW and Planning and Environment are requiring priority signalling for trams at intersections at Elizabeth Street, Chalmers Street, Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street.

So the EIS was completely fraudulent:
  • The capacity of the system was far less than the 9,000 passengers per hour in each direction claimed in the EIS and the Assessment Report by the public servants at Planning and Infrastructure;
  • The frequency of services will be less than that claimed, from day one;
  • The accumulated run times are a ludicrous fabrication;
  • The trams will be more murderous with pedestrian crossings of Eddy Avenue and Chalmers Street not being co-ordinated with and overridden by tram movements.

Huge failure
The Deputy Director General of TfNSW Projects Division told the Randwick business breakfast in April last year: "Here it is fast" - no doubt pointing at Moore Park. Trams run on rails and cannot leapfrog trams. If they are fast "here" and really slow "there and there" they will run into the back of the tram ahead. Spacing of the trams is the only mechanism for avoiding such a catastrophe - they cannot stop. Eddy Avenue is not the only place in the system that reduces the frequency that trams can reach. There are the shared bus/tram lanes at the Nineways intersection and the branch in the tracks where trams can arrive simultaneously - one has to be delayed to establish sufficient spacing.
Connecting Sydney consortium has determined that the only way it can reach the capacity demanded for the patronage predicted by TfNSW is to introduce nine-segment trams to narrow streets that have never carried trams. Nine-segment trams are not seen anywhere in the World. They are demanding that the taxpayer take all the risk for patronage not reaching the outrageous projections of TfNSW.

The project is a dud.