Thursday, 12 November 2015

The closure of George Street north of Market Street

Park Street at Pitt Street intersection
Right-hand turns into George Street from Park Street have been proscribed from the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Turns into Pitt Street from Park Street were discouraged with a concrete separator. The congestion in George Street north of Market Street was always caused by traffic that resided north of the Harbour. Yet the closure of sections of George Street between Market and King Street was accompanied by TV news reports that the state government was planning to reduce the Cross City Tunnel toll. Someone wants to blame Eastern Suburbs motorists for congestion in bus routes in the CBD and they do not care how much taxpayer's money is spend to propagate this myth.

The Cross City Tunnel did not cost the taxpayer a cent. The builders lost their entire investment when the consortium went insolvent and the company that acquired the assets also fell on hard times and sold out to Transurban for a fire-sale price of $475 million. Transurban has an effective monopoly on toll roads in Sydney now and would like to renegotiate its lucrative contracts. It has made unsolicited and secret proposals to the state government.
Park and Pitt Streets intersection, Capasity Improvement Plan
Now the Baird Government will be introducing a right-turn lane from Park Street into Pitt Street and will build kerb blisters to narrow traffic flows in Park Street and Pitt Street. This turn leads only to Market Street which forces traffic to cross into West CBD. The outlets for this traffic is into Clarence Street and Kent Street that takes traffic to the North Shore. The traffic could reach these streets by continuing to Druitt Street, but the Chosen People of the North Shore are to be given multiple choices.

To reach the underground car parks accessible from Pitt Street vehicles from the North Shore have had to travel on the Western Distributor to Bathurst Street and double back along Pitt Street. In the future North Shore motorists will have the choice of using the Eastern Distributor instead, adding to the woes of bus passengers from the Eastern Suburbs.

Sydney Hilton,  SCC archives
The Sydney Hilton building was approved by City Commissioners in 1967 when the Council had been sacked. There had been controversy because Sydney's grandest hotel was demolished. The developers were forced to reproduce the marble-clad main bar in the basement. The underground car parking was vast. When Bond Corporation demolished the Waltons department store, the hole that was dug was too deep for the limited parking that was then allowed, but with the commissioners there were few restrictions on parking spaces.

The ramps to the first floor reception and the car parks were designed with the assumption that Pitt Street here would remain south-bound as it had been for the whole of the 20th century. When Sydney Council reversed the direction, without explanation, the owners took legal advice on whether they could sue for damages. In the end the Brutalist podium was demolished and replaced with a ground floor reception area.
Entrances to Sydney Hilton car parks
Taxis and set-down vehicles exit to George Street.
ANZ Building car park entrances
When Pitt Street was south-bound between Market and Park Streets entering and leaving car parks and reception areas for vehicles from the Eastern Suburbs and the airport was efficient and straight forward. Traffic exited into Park Street. The pedestianisation of George Street from Bathurst to Market Street turns exiting from Pitt Street into a nightmare. Vehicles will have to cross into West CBD, travel south along the hopelessly congested Sussex Street to Bathurst Street, then cross back into East CBD.

In the central CBD there is a levy for each off-street car park space provided in a building. This is of course passed on to the cost of parking in the CBD and is an equitable way of reducing congestion. The number of  off-street car park spaces in the CBD is a known entity and with mobile phones drivers can confirm if there are spaces near where he needs to go and if they are prepared to pay the price. The number of car park spaces will inevitably be increasing as developers of new buildings have to compete with the existing pool of office rent space.

Every vehicle in the north-south road system in the CBD, apart from North Shore motorists who choose to not use the free Western Distributor, has a reason to be there and is paying a high price. Modelling that assumes that to number of vehicles in the CBD will decrease when public transport passengers are dumped in the middle of nowhere and forced to transfer between services is imbecilic. This was the modelling revealed in the Business Case Summary for the CSELR.

The obliteration of BUS ONLY lanes in the CBD

BUS ONLY lanes in the CBD
Drivers from the Eastern Suburbs and Southern Sydney have been avoiding passing along the bus-carrying north-south roads in the northern CBD since the opening of the Cahill Expressway and the establishment of BUS ONLY lanes between York and Park Streets. Why would anyone travel along Elizabeth Street and make a right turn from Phillip Street into Bridge Street when thay can travel along College Street and Macquarie Street to the Bridge Street ramp onto the Cahill Expressway?

Before 4 October 2015, buses from Victoria Road entered the CBD from a BUS ONLY lane on the Druitt Street on ramp, turned into George Street from a BUS ONLY lane at York Street and returned to Druitt Street from a BUS ONLY right turn lane and had a Bus Lane in Druitt Street. These bus services were largely unaffected by traffic from the Eastern Suburbs.

Now buses from Victoria Road that are forcibly terminated in Bathurst Street have to enter the CBD from the general traffic off-ramp and buses that make it to Circular Quay join the queue of general traffic to turn from and into Park Street. Buses are being forced into the very roads used by motorists to avoid the bus routes, in order to turn back into Park Street. Productively-employed motorists did not create this problem.
Sydney City Centre Bus Infrastructure Report October 2014
The infamous Sydney City Centre Bus Infrastructure Report, October 2014, not only eliminated the Bus Lanes in Druitt Street; the BUS ONLY lanes that have forced general traffic from the North Shore to use the Cahill Expressway to reach the Eastern Suburbs were obliterated. Baird appears to be intent on giving the Chosen People from the North Shore the choice of using York Street and Park Street as an alternative route to the Eastern and Southern Suburbs.

The BUS ONLY lane that allowed buses priority access to the bus stops at Hyde Park in Elizabeth Street south-bound has been obliterated together the  BUSES EXCEPTED signs on the must turn left lane. The signs have been re-painted on the kerb-side lane north of King Street but it is not physically possible now for buses to not turn left.

Cat Lady number four

Marg Prendergast
There was Gladys, then Pru and then Constance. Now a career public servant, Marg Prendergast, has been appointed Coordinator General, whatever that may mean, during the construction phase.

Chris Lock, the "brains" behind the George Street trams is nowhere to be seen. Marg Prendergast is the spokeswoman for a project which she had nothing to do with. She is mindlessly reiterating the same slogans as her predecessors: "We are removing more than 220 dirty, smelly, noisy buses from the CBD/George Street (whatever comes to mind)". This claim has no foundation in reality and has been belatedly revealed to be achieved be redefining the definition of "the CBD". Constance is still making the claim, rapidly, in TV interviews and print media releases. There is no scrutiny or dissention from the jounalists.

Æsop had a fable about a boy who cried wolf but now Sydney-siders have a Cat Lady who cries out for motorists to stop coming to the CBD and for people to take buses that no longer take them to where they want to go, everytime a benign section of George Street is closed to traffic.

The people of Sydney have been forced into an abusive relationship that they cannot walk away from, no matter how far they have to walk between bus stops. They will have to be progressively degraded over the next four years until they lose any sense of what they have lost.

The closure of the section of George Street between Bathurst and Market Streets will make the congestion in bus routes dramatically worse. Then, it is the closure of the arterial roads Chalmers Street and Rawson Place that will make congestion in bus routes intractible.

Chris Lock told the Randwick businessmen's breakfast that: "We will all be looking at it in five years time and saying how on earth did we live without the light rail?" He became a total recluse shortly after and was sacked for incompetence.

The government now accepts that when the trams are running the congestion in bus routes in the CBD will get worse, then progressively worse for the rest of the life of the city, and the media is promulaging the idea that the city will never operate the same and the people of Sydney will have to accept the degradation of their lives.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Lights, cameras, no action

Bus lane monitors in Elizabeth Street
Investigative journalism has ceased to exist in NSW. Most people will have never seen bus-lane cameras. Fortunately blogs and social media are now available to keep people informed. This post not only shows what the cameras look like, it details where they are located in Elizabeth Street (above).

I'm scared
I'm scared
The cameras for bus-lane monitoring have to be more than 100 metres apart and must come in pairs.

Bus-lane cameras 1
Bus-lane cameras 2
There are two sets of cameras with each monitor. There is a wide-focus camera on its own Smart Pole and, in Elizabeth Street, two cameras focused on the bus lane, mounted on a street light pole or their own pole. The digital cameras focused on the bus lane record the number plates of vehicles. The cameras record the rear plates.

The cameras may work a treat on long stretches of highway but they are clearly all but useless in Elizabeth Street, as we shall see.

Elizabeth Street south of Park Street
Once again there is little correlation between the plans published and assessed in October 2014 and what eventuated just before 4 October 2015, so we have had to take photographs. The northern-most monitor is about level with the northern side of 201 Elizabeth Street, the Askin-era building that overshadows the War Memorial. It does not appear to be able to read number plates of vehicles in the bus lane south of Park Street and is focused on the other side of Park Street.

Google Earth View from Maps no longer allows labels to be turned off. The distance measurer is superior to the App.
x marks the spot of the bus lane cameras.

The length of the bus lane between Bathurst and Park Streets is little more than 100 metres so the same rules of engagement apply as is the case at King Street. General vehicles are permitted to enter the bus lane after the Bathurst Street intersection and can queue in the three lanes at the Park Street intersection lights. Vehicles can turn in pairs into Park Street which does not have a designated left turn lane. Vehicles heading north past Park Street must make a bee-line from the second lane to the NO STOPPING kerbside lane at the Park Street intersection.

Before the lunatics put in control of TfNSW showed their hand on 4 October 2015 sanity prevailed for bus services using Elizabeth Street. Buses queued in the inner of the two right-turn lanes to turn from Liverpool Street into Elizabeth Street then made their way into the kerbside lane to arrive at the bus stop that butted onto the Bathurst Street intersection. When passengers had been discharged and had boarded the buses the drivers pulled out into the second lane. General traffic is required by law to make a space for a bus to pull out from a bus stop and motorists throughout the state are aware of this - it is one of the rules studied for a drivers licence. A bus driver was never stuck at the stop as he could move forward to the intersection. Buses could have been given first access to the intersection with a B green light but this was evidently considered unnecessary.

Motorists headed north past Park Street avoided the second lane which was a de facto bus lane with buses headed straight to the set-down only stop outside the David Jones store. Buses that left the stop at the intersection had to riffle-shuffle with vehicles needing to turn left into Park Street but this worked smoothly as there is a fourth lane between Bathurst and Park Streets and the kerbside lane was a perpetual NO STOPPING lane.

The George Street trams will dramatically increase the number of vehicles that have no option but to make left-hand turns from Elizabeth Street into Liverpool, Park and Market Streets, as has been pointed out in posts over the last three years, and will be discussed in a future post. Bus drivers will, of necessity, have to cope with riffle-shuffling through these vehicles from the kerb-side NO STOPPING lane (yellow lines) as well as the centre lane (blue line).

The capacity of Elizabeth Street northbound to handle buses has been drastically diminished while the number of bus services it is expected to handle has gone through the roof.

If you want to know how to facilitate the movement of buses in a city ask a bus driver. Do not rely the advice of public servants with a degree in Traffic Management from a Roundhouse/Squarehouse university.