Tim Williams, CEO Committee for Sydney
Tim Williams presented to a meeting of transport advocates, experts and local Councillors recently in Wellington on the subject of Keeping Sydney Moving. Truly competitive global cities have the transport infrastructure to match their aspirations. While Sydney’s transport offering continues to improve, we need a step-change in provision if we are to equal the performance and accessibility of our competitors. The momentum towards a modern public transport system for Sydney needs reinforcing as vital to economic success and access to opportunity across the city.
Notes, by Paula Warren
Start from what sort of city you want. Transport will transform the urban space. Use it as a tool to get where you want to go, rather than mopping up after it has made a mess of things. Town planning and transport planning have to be fully integrated.
You can’t build out of congestion. That message needs to be got out there consistently, until the public accept it.
You can’t improve travel times (on average). If you speed traffic, people just move further out so their travel time is the same.
Most of the reasons given for road building are therefore not based on sound evidence.
The prosperous city of the future is one that has its economy based on knowledge workers. To get that, you need to attract people who are graduates and young. People tend to stay in the city they settle in when they are in their 20s. They are attracted to walkable cities that offer good lifestyle. They likely to be happy to be carless and in dense, medium rise accommodation. Knowledge cities ae also likely to be built around knowledge hubs like universities.
Greater walkability means greater property value, for both residential and commercial properties.
To get big PT projects built, you have to find the money. A key place to get it is by capturing the property values it will generate (e.g. by levies).
Increasingly we are seeing two cities (e.g. in London, Sydney) – a CBD which is prosperous, dense, with good PT, and has all the jobs, and the suburbs which are low density, car dependent, and have few jobs. In Sydney there are 8 jobs per 10 people in the CBD, and 3 per 10 people in the west. Poor PT means poor social mobility. Poor walkability means poor health.
When doing transport appraisals, start with what problem you are trying to fix, and then think about what mode will solve that problem. Don’t start from the mode.
But you need an LRT example for people to look at, so they can envisage it as a solution. But LRT can be done badly and damage urban form. So get it right. Or use another city’s LRT as your showcase.
You must get the business community on board. Go for the international companies, which aren’t ideological and have experience with high PT cities. They know they can’t get workers if they don’t offer good cycling, walkability, etc.
You need to be thinking about the network, not individual bits, and designing a network that will work for the next 100 years. It should have walkable neighbourhoods connected by slow PT to its immediate catchment and fast PT (e.g. rapid rail) to CBDs/other centres.
Privatisation isn’t in itself a problem, but has to be accompanied by good regulation/tendering.
Use story telling as well as data. Engage with heart and head.
There are some good examples out here, including Denver’s FasTracks capture of value and mobilisation of business support.
Roger Blakeley, Councillor, GWRC:
A possible way forward could include:
- Pedestrianisation of Lambton Quay (with a secured allocation of space for future light rail): It seems that in this new triennium this could have the support of WCC.
- Improved bus services: Based on the many concerns raised by residents during the election campaign at some of the outcomes of the review of bus routes and timetables, take the opportunity to examine those concerns. The overseas expert that was contracted to do the bus review could be asked to advise on changes that were made in the final outcome. For example, this could look at achieving objectives of shorter bus routes and hubbing, with good connections, to achieve greater reliability and predictability of bus services, and maintaining service standards within financial constraints. This could be complemented by ongoing work on using GWRC- collected real-time data from buses to identify where there are current delays, and measures to reduce delays such as bus priority at traffic lights, and reduced on-street parking where necessary. Also, very important, is ongoing work on fare discounts and integrated ticketing.
- Review of 2012 Public Transport Spine Study: The benefit-cost ratio for the light rail option was a miniscule 0.05. However, this could be attributed to poor route selection and other factors. The Y shape chosen had several disadvantages: it loaded the costs of a second Mt Victoria tunnel onto light rail (and excluded the option of using Pirie Street and the existing Mt Victoria bus tunnel); it also did not take full advantage of aligning the PT spine to high growth residential areas such as Te Aro, Newtown, and Kilbirnie; and it did not allow for increase of patronage whereas overseas experience is that introduction of light rail can bring an immediate 25% increase in patronage because of improved service standards. A review by an international consultant with experience in design and operation of light rail and roading options is warranted.
- Determine preferred route for Public Transport Spine and secure (future proof) the route: This would follow on from item 3 above and determine the best route for the PT spine from the Railway Station to the airport/eastern suburbs. It would examine options e.g. Taranaki Street/Wallace Street/Newtown v Kent and Cambridge Terraces/Adelaide Rd, recognising integration with urban design objectives for intensification and Transit Oriented Developments in places like Adelaide Rd, and opportunities for value uplift capture.
- Timing issues: Consider timing issues. Item 2 above is an immediate priority. Items 3 and 4 should be completed by the end of 2017 to allow for any funding provisions in the 2018 Long Term Plans. There would also be a need to examine potential funding solutions for light rail e.g. Government funding of 50% for public transport (as was agreed for Auckland's City Rail link) and commercial interests already expressed in a Public Private Partnership. Subject to the above assessments, a desirable timing for light rail to be operational would be in 10 years. This would recognise the increase in capacity that light rail would provide (12,000 persons per hour compared with 4,000 persons per hour for two Mt Victoria tunnels), and the contribution that it would make to solving the Basin Reserve traffic congestion problems. A 10 year time frame would also coincide with the end of the bus contracts to be signed next year.
The above is a possible working model of a way forward for discussion and testing. As Sue said, it would be good to get your feedback on this as a group of transport experts and community representatives, and on the value that a group like this (with open opportunity for membership) could provide as community feedback to elected members as ideas are developed by the councils.