Sunday, 13 September 2015

Victor is not Victoria

Rozelle Metro station
The CBD Metro was designed to give residents along Victoria Road a rail line to the CBD. There was no rail line to this area of the city. Originally it was conceived to link up with the Northern Line and take pressure of Stratsfield Station and the Western Line. It was then redirected to link directly to Epping station. The project was abandoned when the cost of the first stage escalated out of control but not before the state government had spent almost half a billion dollars on property acquisitions.

When North Shore rump politicians came to power the CBD metro project was revived and the disgraced public servant Rod Staples was brought back from the dead and put back in charge. Ms Berejiklian redirected the line away from Victoria Road to, you guessed it, Chatswood in her electorate. The tunnels would have to pass under the deepest part of Sydney Harbour. Instead of taking a rail line to a part of the city that had never had a rail service, the metro line would replicate almost exactly the existing Chatswood to Central rail line, with subway stations so deep beneath North Sydney and Wynyard Station that there was lift-only access to the surface, a subway station under Pitt Street, directly adjacent to Town Hall station and a subway station deep under the western end of the Central Country Terminal.

Needless to say, no attempt has been made to cost the project. Baird claims he can fund the project by appealing against an independent assessment of power pricing and selling urban electricity distribution assets.

But where does this leave the commuters using Victoria Road to access jobs in the CBD? Baird's ultimate insult to them is to call his proposed station under North Sydney "Victoria Cross". The residents along Victoria Road have been double-crossed.

One-Stop loop

Schematic from Dec 2012 brochure
The original plans announced in Sydney's Light Rail Future showed buses from the Harbour Bridge being given exclusive access to the Druitt Street U-turn. North Shore buses would stop in York Street at Wynyard park and outside the Queen Victoria Building. Passengers wanting to tranfer to a South Eastern Suburbs tram would not have as far to walk to a stop in George Street at Town Hall.

Bus services from Victoria Road would just pass through to William Street. I mentioned in previous posts that this was not credible (Just passing through 11 September 2013).

Currently, bus routes from Victoria Road travel along George Street to Circular Quay ot to the west, after entering the CBD via the exclusive bus lane to Druitt Street from the Western Distributor. The 501 route makes a bee-line to Railway Square along Harris Street and travels north along George Street to a set-down only stop in front of the Town Hall, physically turning round with an east-bound lane in Market Street between Clarence and York Street. This lane is also used by buses that enter from the Western Distributor at King Street, terminating with a stop outside the Queen Victoria Building.
Market Street bus lane eastbound against the flow.
The Metro buses have supplimented the routes to destinations south of Park Street, travelling south along Elizabeth Street. Between these four routes commuters have had it made, despite not having a rail option.

The very expensive alterations to the kerbs in Market Street being undertaken by the Baird government do not in any way change the two-way operation of Market Street west of York Street - there is nothing to show for the expense.

The north-bound routes along George Street will be obliterated from 4 October but the routes (yellow line) entering the CBD at King Street continue as at present, looping to a stop outside the QVB:

Victoria Road bus routes through the CBD
The fate of commuters that use bus services along Victoria Road that currently travel along George Street to physically turn around at Circular Quay is largely determined by how they voted at the state election and whether the bus route passes a Rail Station. Bus routes (red line) from Parramatta that allow passengers to transfer to a train at West Ryde Station and bus routes from Macquarie University continue to Circular Quay, passing through the mother-of-all pinch points at the Old Supreme Court Building and turning around at the hopelessly-overcrowded Phillip/Young Streets loop - the most congested bus route in New South Wales. Any attempt to force them to use a privately-operated tram service that stops only at train stations would just propel them onto the train system.

Priority access lane to Hyde Park bus stops
The return route to Vicoria Road currently requires a right-hand turn into Druitt Street from George Street but Elizabeth Street carries much heavier north-bound traffic so buses will be diverted east to College Street to make the turn into Park Street, along with buses terminated at the Domain car park forecourt. Buses will have to join the queue of private vehicles from King Street headed to the Eastern Suburbs - no going to the head of the queue after passing through the pinch point.

The bus routes that make it from West Ryde to Circular Quay in competition with the railway are relatively well off, inflicting collateral damage on Eastern Suburbs bus transport. Baird's wrath falls mainly on the inner suburbs.

The Bathurst 500s

Kent Street at Town Hall
Baird defines the "core" CBD as being to the east of Kent Street so buses forcibly terminated on the western side of Kent Street are "removed from the CBD". The green route is for bus services forcibly terminated "outside the CBD". Whenever TfNSW sees a triangle of roads they assert this can be a bus terminus. The green route is deliberately deceptive - TfNSW cannot help itself even at the death knock. Victoria Road bus services are to be terminated by entering the real CBD at Bathurst Street and looping to a bus stop in Kent Street adjacent to the Town Hall office block then exiting via Druitt Street, or is that Market Street? At the going down of the sun, buses will loop round the building in Elizabeth Street, approved when the Manly boys were last in power, that casts shadows over the War Memorial.

Kent Street has been reduced to one lane with one lane for parking and left-hand turns by Sydney City Council, so inner-city dole bludgers can hold naked bike runs through the CBD. The pedestrian crossing to the arcades leading to the concourse under George Street has been obliterated. The one lane in Kent Street must not only handle traffic to the cavenous car parks under the Town Hall office block it will also be the preferred route to the western side of the "Berlin Wall" and Harbour Bridge for vehicular traffic from Broadway. TfNSW has opined that vehicles from City Road would turn into Wattle Street and access the CBD west of George Street by linking onto the Western Distributor at the congested Fig Street entry, but why would drivers do this when they have a path along George Street uninterrupted by bus movements and cross traffic at Rawson Place and Ultimo Road.

Hills districts buses, that currently use the Lee Street layover, will be also be forcibly terminated by looping from the from the Western Distributor south-bound into Bathurst Street and Kent Street, when they are not are turned around at a U-turn from York to Clarence Streets across Druitt Street. It is not surprising that the systemically deceptive public servants placed in control of TfNSW should seek to conceal the plans for these routes until the last moment before 4 October.

TfNSW believe that commuters dumped in Kent Street will be forced onto cattle cars to make connections with bus services terminated at Wynyard park and Pitt Street but this is extremely unlikely when they are dumped directly adjacent to the entry to Town Hall Station. Until the trams are running, transferring to a City Circle train will be their only option for reaching destinations to the north or south of Park Street or transferring to bus services terminated at Wynyard park or Pitt Street, other than to trapse across town to hopelessly congested Elizabeth Street bus services. If the rail system south of the Harbour has not collapsed by the time the George Street trams start operating they are unlikely to alter their habits. Bus services in George Street, however slow, have prevented overloading of the Wynyard/Central rail link from the earliest days of the rail system.

The redundant tram stop

Town Hall/Queen Victoria Building stop
The tram stop outside the Queen Victoria Building is now barely a tram's length away from the Town Hall stop. I discussed this in a post on 28 January 2015, We are not amused. Now TfNSW has confirmed that the stop is redundant. The only buses not from the Harbour Bridge to stop in York Street outside the QVB will be the buses from Balmain:
Balmain bus routes
These are infrequent services. Understandably, since the route requires a right-hand turn across Market Street. The only passengers who would conceivably catch a tram north would come from these buses. The trams only take passengers back to Wynyard park.

Passengers dumped in York Street outside the QVB would walk from York Street to the Town Hall tram stop to reach destinations south of Park Street or to transfer to bus services forcibly terminated in Pitt Street.

So the George Street trams will have a redundant tram stop at QVB and no stop anywhere near Martin Place. This ludicrous flaw has been self evident from the earliest manifestations of the project.

The incompetence of the public servants placed in control of TfNSW is beyond belief.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ve vill tell you where to go

For 40 years following the demise of the Askin government Public Transport in Sydney has been based on demand. The frequency of services increased according to the patronage of the buses at that time of day.

The system was flexible. On a hot day for instance more buses would be scheduled for the North Bondi service. This was done manually. A transport officer would be stationed at a stop and more drivers would be rostered on if the queues of passengers were too great. It would not have been very efficient but it kept people happy.

If the frequency of a service is not sufficient to cope with the demand bus drivers, after exhorting passengers to move to the back of the bus, resort to skipping stops. Commuters are late for work and can loose their jobs.

The advent of smartcard ticketing makes data on the ultimate destination of passengers available virtually in real time. Never before has it been as possible to plan services to take Public Transport passengers efficiently to where they are heading. But Transport for NSW has no intention doing this. Commuters are being sent to destinations they have no desire to go to solely to increase the likelyhood that they will transfer to a privately-operated tram service. TfNSW will not announce service schedules or ticketing until in September just before the new routes come into operation. TfNSW are using the frequency of services to satisfy themselves, in their own minds, that they are fulfilling infantile boasts about "removing buses from the CBD". Boasts made when the plans were indeterminate and very different to what has eventuated.

No estimates of the congestion being generated in the bus routes to and through the CBD can be made until the frequencies, arbitarily based on previous loadings, are revealed. But it can be said with certainty that passenger demand will be very different with the new services.

Eeny, meany, miny, moe

Bus routes between Parramatta Road and River
Bus routes north of Parramatta Road leave Parramatta Road at Norton Street in Leichhart and travel to Marion Street roughly parallel to Parramatta Road before plunging north to terminate just south of the Parramatta river at four different places Rozelle, Chiswich, Abbotsford and Mortlake. They currently travel along George Street to physically turn round at Circular Quay. From 4 October the Rozelle route will be terminated at Bronte beach, the Chiswick service (orange line) will be forcibly terminated in Pitt Street west of Belmore Park and the other two will be forcibly terminated at Hunter Street.

Needless to say, commuters will avoid buses with "Belmore Park" up in LED lights on the front like the plague. Buses with Martin Place in LED lights on the front will be in such demand they will be skipping stops before they reach Parramatta Road. Current figures for demand on these services are based on the number of passengers along the exclusive lengths of the routes - once they start sharing bus stops it does not matter where the bus route originated. You catch the first bus with Circular Quay on the front.

It will not take long for commuters to work out which bus services to catch, and only then will it be possible to calculate the congestion in Elizabeth Street northbound.

Odd man out

The question remains: Will the poor buggers in Rodd Point and Chiswich be condemned to be dumped in Pitt Street simply because they had no choice but to catch a bus with Belmore Park on the front?

It looks ominous. Since the introduction of the Opal card passengers have not been able to switch from the 378 service to a  380 Circular Quay service without paying for an additional trip despite the services sharing stops for almost the entire length of Oxford Street. Little did Bronte commuters know that their route was secretly being lined up to be diverted from the efficient Lee Street layover to Rozelle. Their elected parliamentary representative Notley-Smith presumably knew - he was a member of the Round Table - but his tongue was embedded too far up the North Shore rump for him to raise a squeak of protest.

Will the residents of Dykehart roll over and meekly accept what is being thrust upon them? Will they accept the loss of an express morning peak service to the "core CBD". Roll on 4 October 2015.

If they are allowed to switch destinations without incurring an additional trip there will be a mass exodus at the first available stop in Haberfield. The longer they delay making the switch the more likely it will be that Martin Place buses are skipping stops.

Whatever is going through the mind of  Baird is largly irrelevent. Voters will have an opportunity to decide what is fair at an election before or shortly after the trams start running.

The outer inner west

Not all buses turn north at Norton Street. The bus routes that continue west along Parramatta Road either turn south along the Hume Highway before heading north to a terminus at Strathfield Station (480, 483) or they continue along Parramatta Road before turning south to a terminus at Burwood Station (461).

However these routes have the same route through the CBD. The buses currently use a bus-only right-hand turn in front of the Town Hall to access a terminus at the Domain car park forecourt from William Street. The traffic signals at the George/Park Streets intersection use loops in the road - if there are no buses waiting to turn the phase is omitted. The intersection works impeccably at all times of the day.

These bus routes do not contribute to congestion in the CBD north of Market Street. The routes are collateral damage. The 461 route will be forced to join the cue of vehicles dog legging from Bathurst Street to William Street; the 480/483 routes will be forcibly terminated in Pitt Street.

So, why are the Hume Highway bus routes being singled out for the full brunt of Baird's wrath? The only apparent reason seems to be that the Hume Highway passes through the electorates of Grayndler and Watson and Parramatta Road passes through Reid, which returned a Liberal member to the House of Representatives.

The Member for Grayndler the Honourable Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Shadow Minister for Cities. He is unlikely to remain docile in the face of these insults to his electors.

The same question arises: will the lower-class commuters from along the Hume Highway be able transfer to an upper-class bus at any of the many stops they share along Parramatta Road without incurring an extra trip?

Will this be an issue at the next Federal election?