independent public inquiry into sydney transport

The independent public inquiry into Sydney’s long term public transport plan released their preliminary paper on 13 February 2010, with the expected final report due in 2Q 2010. Since then, the Government has delivered their Transport Blueprint.

The paper itself is approximately 500 pages long. I do not intend to indulge my idle time reproducing the entire report here, but I have selected some more interesting portions to analyse.

The Recommendations

The paper gave several recommendations which I have summarised as:

  • a call for action after times of inactivity and neglect
  • the development of a long term plan and an authority to oversee all transportation related issues
  • the coordination of transport with city planning processes
  • balancing the need for roads against public transport needs
  • seamless integration of the public transport network including integrated station design and fares
  • cost-effectiveness
  • short-term urgencies and long term improvements and commitments
  • showing leadership and transparency in decision making processes

Choosing the right train types for Sydney

There was discussion of the need to have different types of rail transport (suburban, metro and light rail) in Sydney in order to facilitate the movement of people especially as Sydney’s population nears 6 million by 2030. Different trains will suit different scenarios. The use of single deck “metro” trains with ample standing space and doors allows for fast loading times at stations (only if so designed to facilitate large passenger movements like those in Asia) and are suited to short trips of around 8kms. Sydney’s current double deck trains are designed for longer distances and have considerably longer station dwell times. This is amplified when they become overcrowded. The paper argues that close integration of the networks is essential and no one train type is “the way of the future”, as the Metro was touted to be.

Paris’ suburban RER train network mimics Sydney’s suburban network by allowing trains run through the CBD and beyond. Paris’ system successfully copes with the increase patronage because of their high capacity and wide station design, advanced signaling systems allowing trains to travel closer and more efficient train carriages. Contrast this with the extremely narrow platforms at Town Hall and Wynyard station and the difference is immediately visible. Hong Kong’s wide island platform designs were used as comparison and to criticise the planner’s lack of foresight in planning Sydney’s stations.

Read the thought provoker paper here (pdf).

Fares

It was noted that the biggest obstacle to the creation of cost-effective services is the complicated fare ticketing system. It was held that despite MyZone ticketing being introduced from April, the issues identified in this section of the paper continued to hold true because there is no change to fundamental fare structures. My commentary on MyZone here.

The paper identified that commuters are penalised for using more than one transport source. Not only this, commuters are charged on a ‘section’ basis which is overly complex and labour intensive to explain. It was discovered that there is also a penalty for using a faster mode of transport to get to a destination.

These are all barriers to producing an integrated network that helps to increase patronage.

On the issue of integrated ticketing culminating into the production of a smart card, the estimated time required for completion is 3-5 years. The biggest problem is that the government shows no intention of progressing down this path. For a successful smart card system, integrated fares needs to be addressed. That is, fares that are both rational and simple. The use of technology cannot hide the fact that Sydney’s fares are a shambles. Reforms need to be done here before any smart card can be utilised. Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane has had integrated fares long before it established its integrated tickets in the form of smart cards. It may be that a smart card system be deferred because it is much cheaper to do so considering the long line of delays and cancellations that are a characteristic of the NSW government.

The paper explores many different fare options including the flat fare and different types of zone fares (concentric, grid, irregular). It noted that any choice here is an improvement on the current one.

Read this part of the paper here.

The CBD train network

There is a great section exploring various options for a railway network under the CBD, including provisions for a CBD Metro and a second harbour crossing. As well there is a comparison to Bradfield’s vision from the 1920’s, and what is present in 2010 is vastly less than what was envisioned nearly 100 years ago. This section is worth reading.

What you should do

I urge those that have a spare moment and are interested in the findings of this inquiry into our transport network to have a read. It’s broken into parts for lighter reading. Essentially a lot of common sense regarding Sydney transport all in one place. It is disappointing that it’s not in a government paper. Who knows how many more years Sydneysiders will need to suffer before a long-sighted government not driven by rampant corruption (my opinion) can come implement even some of these recommendations.

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