It seems to me that that both the government and Vicroads have made incorrect assumptions that cars, trucks, roads and freeways will meet most of our transport needs now and for the future.
I wonder if they listen to the radio reports every morning of the congestion and delays on all freeways as increasing numbers of commuters try and get to work along "freeways" blocked with congestion by single occupant cars whose drivers obviously don't believe they have adequate public transport options available to them. 30-minute delays over the last 10 to 15 kilometres are common in the mornings, and very slow speed due to congestion are now chronic over similar distances in the afternoon and early evening.
The government must be aware of this very real problem, yet their answer seems to be "we need more freeways, tunnels and links" - as the Brumby governments terms of reference seem to suggest for the Eddington report - which seems to be focusing on reasons why building an east-west tunnel link between the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways should proceed.
I have just read recent reported comments by Transport Minister Lynn Kosky in this article, including:
"We are working to find ways to meet increasing demand for public transport services," Ms Kosky said.
The Government had just ordered 18 new six-carriage trains that would carry 14,500 more people during peak times — "equivalent to more than 12,000 cars and more than six freeway lanes of capacity".
So they do know that trains are much more efficient than cars for mass transit. They would also know that car transport produces around 8 times more carbon emissions (using dwindling oil reserves) compared with urban rail transport.
However, just buying more trains and trams will not solve the problem for those who don't have easy access to local rail tranport, as this map below illustrates.
We don't have enough train lines. No new heavy rail lines to the suburbs have been built in Melbourne since the Glen Waverly line was completed in 1930, yet there has been massive population growth in south eastern, northern and western suburbs. Whole new suburbs and regions exist with no access to rail transport. No new significant rail lines are planned in Melbourne.
Those that have been planned, and even committed to in the past, such as the Doncaster and Rowville lines, are apparently on hold or shelved. Recent plans to extend the Epping Line to the new sustainable suburb of Aurora have not been delivered.
During this time, freeway constructions include:
- Eastern freeway (and extension to Springvale Road, following by an extension through to Ringwood and Eastlink)
- The South eastern freeway - since widened and connected to (and incorporated with) the Monash freeway
- Monash freeway (and extensions/bypasses to the Princes Highway now past Pakenham)
- The Western Ring Road
- Eastlink (about to open) connecting Ringwood with Frankston
- The Mornington Peninsula freeway (in two sections)
- The Western freeway
- The Calder freeway
- The Tullamarine freeway
- The Princes freeway to Geelong
- Citylink connecting the Tullamarine, Monash and West Gate freeway via bridges and two tunnels.
Over recent times the government has chosen to spend money on large projects such as the Southern Cross station upgrade, on ticketing systems that don't work properly, and on employing ticket inspectors, none of which have actually provided better, more frequented integrated public transport. One has to question these priorities.
Here are my suggestions for getting urban transport solutions back on track:
- Set up an new transport authority to evaluate, promote and implement the best transport solutions for sustainability and mass urban transit. This authority should include proper public consultation during their strategy development and planning processes.
- Ensure funding for public transport is equivalent to or greater than that for roads.
- Mandate provision of rail or light rail transport and cycle paths with all future freeway road constructions
- Include carbon emission costing for all transport related infrastructure expenditure.
- Keep public transport operation or management public. Public ownership and government accountability for service delivery are essential to ensure that public transport is integrated and efficient, rather than just run for "profit" under secret contracts with public subsidies.
- Build a rail link to Melbourne airport. Thousands of taxies carry travellers to and from Melbourne every day.
- Investigate options for an inner urban metro system
- Resurrect and build stalled rail projects such as the Epping line extensions to South Morang and Aurora, the Rowville and Doncaster lines and the Alamein line extension to service Chadstone.
- Integrate cycle paths with train networks by mandating construction of cycle paths along railway easements and provide for carriage of bicycles on trains.
- Our politicians should use some of their travel allowance to visit Los Angeles to see how badly an extensive freeway system much bigger than Melbourne's cater to mass transit needs
As oil reserves diminish our very expensive freeway system could at least end up providing fast and efficient bicycle transport!
- List of proposed Melbourne rail extensions Wikipedia
- Getting worse, that's what commuters think of system The Age
- 18 more trains ordered for metropolitan rail system Media release, Lynn Kosky
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