The forgotten station |Honi Soit

The transportist gets a shout out in The forgotten station by Simon Coleman in Honi Soit, the University of Sydney newspaper. The article concerns Redfern station, which we talked about earlier in Sydney train stations need two exits. An excerpt below:

An artist’s impression of a future Redfern station. Image: NSW Government / RedWatch.
An artist’s impression of a future Redfern station. Image: NSW Government / RedWatch.

40 per cent of USyd students use the station to commute to campus, and the University expects the student population to increase by 26,000 to 75,000 in the next two decades. Director of campus infrastructure services Greg Robinson has labeled Redfern Station “inadequate” while lobbying the state government unsuccessfully for light rail and metro, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2015 the University lost out to Waterloo for a new metro station as part of the second harbour crossing, and the proposed West Metro is unlikely to go anywhere near the University. Three years prior, in 2012 UNSW prevailed over USyd for a light rail link. More recently, the state government has canceled light rail planning for Parramatta Road (and given Labor’s lack of  support) it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Given the absence of planned alternative transport options for the University, Redfern Station looks set  to become increasingly important.

Previous government studies (obtained by the RedWatch community organisation under freedom of information laws) have shown that Redfern’s capacity and accessibility could be increased while preserving its heritage. The original entrances on Lawson Street could be closed, and a modern concourse with two staircases and lifts to every platform (removing the bottlenecks of the old cramped stairs)  built at the opposite southern end of the platforms.  The new concourse would have an eastern entrance at Gibbons Park near the apartment towers, and a western entrance at a pedestrianised Little Eveleigh Street or Ivy Lane. This western entrance would provide a direct walk to campus and pedestrian access far less cramped than Lawson Street.  As University of Sydney Professor of Transport Engineering David Levinson notes on the Transportist website, the western entrance would reduce backtracking and save at least a few minutes of walking to campus.

I would hope that not merely would there be a new “southern” entrance to Redfern, but that the “northern” entrance would be retained.

9 Barriers to Walking in Sydney

I am a pedestrian in Sydney, living in a car-less household, so I have had a few months experience in the pedestrian environment. As nice as walking in Sydney is, walking in Sydney should be nicer. For a city with such high densities of people and shops, such a large number of parks, doors on the street, and gorgeous weather, and such terrible internet service driving people from their homes, walking should be the dominant mode. Yet there are barriers to living the motor-free lifestyle here (and undoubtedly elsewhere). Some that come to mind.

  1. At Broadway, for instance, the Pedestrian is not allowed to cross on this side of the street, and is instead forced to cross two roads (or maybe three) to cross one. Is this really safer, running the pedestrian through more potential vehicle conflict points.
    At Broadway and City Road, for instance, the Pedestrian is not allowed to cross on this side of the street, and is instead forced to cross two roads (or maybe three) to cross one. Is this really safer, running the pedestrian through more potential vehicle conflict points.

    T-Intersections Intentionally missing crosswalk markings (and pedestrian signals) are quite common, especially at T-intersections, where pedestrians might only have markings and a signal on one side. While this undoubtedly makes cars go faster (the presumed purpose for this), it makes the walker’s life more miserable, reducing choice and potentially adding travel time. For longer distance trips, backtracking can be avoided by crossing upstream where the signal is available. For short distance trips, this is inefficient. The largest T-intersection I have encountered where this is an issue is City Road at Broadway, where to get from the east side of City Road to the north side of Broadway (which houses a nice shopping mall) requires crossing both streets instead of just one.

  2. Fences. Walking midblock is strongly discouraged on some roads. Presumably for safety and for traffic flow, but still creating a chaffingly regulated environment for the pedestrian who wants to cross the shopping street.

    A regulated pedestrian environment (Hume Highway in Ashfield)
    A regulated pedestrian environment (Hume Highway in Ashfield)
  3. Obey
    Obey

    OBEY Pedestrians must obey traffic signals or risk getting run over. While almost all of the Pedestrian Actuation (Beg) Buttons work, the phasing of traffic signals is so chaotic as to be nearly unpredictable as to when the pedestrian has right-of-way without a light. The pedestrian phase is extremely, needlessly short, just enough for pedestrians already at the corner when the light changes to make it across on the green walking man, not enough for someone not there, even when the car phases would make it safe for pedestrians to cross. Drivers only look at traffic lights, not for context, so if you are in the crosswalk (marked or otherwise) you will very much risk getting hit (or at least the ire of the driver) if you do not have a green walking man providing moral and legal support. In many cases these are absurd.

    For instance the figure at Thai Tha Hai restaurant.

    I think I can make it across, even if the standing man is red.
    I think I can make it across, even if the standing man is red.
  4. Uneven sidewalks. For a variety of reasons, most sidewalks appear original, although wheelchair curb-cuts have been retrofitted in most places. While roads are periodically resurfaced, the sidewalks, which were likely fairly even when first poured, have unevened with the heave and ho due to poor construction, changing soil conditions, trees, recent construction and the like. Except for the few sidewalks that have been shaved, this leads to tripping hazards. While these hazards are easily identified (send out some interns), it won’t be solved unless someone develops a multi-million dollar robot to ride all the Sydney sidewalks and provide a report, with a large construction contract on the other end.
  5. Shared paths. Many sidewalks are marked as shared paths with bicycles. This isn’t as much of a problem for the pedestrian as it might seem, since so few people bike. That is a problem for other reasons.
  6. Circuity.
    A commute in Sydney
    A commute in Sydney

    Much of the network is circuitous (see [1],[2],[3]), missing links abound. I previously noted the lack of railway crossings, but there are other issues on the street network. I haven’t tested whether this is especially bad here compared to other places, but subjectively it is noticeable. So for instance my trip from home to work more or less as shown in the image could be much straighter than it is, were there a southern/western crossing of the tracks at Redfern station.

  7. Crowding. While pedestrian crowding is not common on most sections of sidewalk, there are times are places where this is a problem. (In the map, the path to and from Redfern Station gets crowded at peak times). Crowding is a problem for several reasons. Pedestrian speeds are slowed to the speed of the slowest traveler, so overtaking is required. The sidewalks are narrow in place, worse on trash collection days, when the rubbish and recycling bins are out. The crowding is especially a shame given the use of space to store empty cars on streets, space that could be reclaimed for more productive human movement.
  8. Lawson St. and Everleigh St. The navigation sign is correct, and there is nominally a shared zone. Spot the mistake.
    Lawson St. and Everleigh St. The navigation sign is correct, and there is nominally a shared zone. Spot the mistake.

    Navigability. While soon our Augmented Reality glasses may make navigation an irrelevancy, in the meantime, I often try to figure out where I am. This requires looking at my phone because there are not street signs visible to pedestrians. The signs are aimed for autos, and on one-way streets for cars (which are still two-way streets for pedestrians), the signs all face the direction the autos are moving.

  9. Fumes and Noise. Cars and especially trucks and buses produce fumes and noise and other externalities that increase the unpleasantness of walking and lower the pedestrian’s expected lifespan. While electrification will eventually do away with both fumes and noise, trucks will be the last surface vehicles to electrify, so this will likely be a feature on the roads for decades. Given the rate of construction in Sydney, many of these are especially large, loud, and polluting construction-related vehicles.

All of that said, there are plenty of nice parts. Some of the best features of walking in Sydney are below:

  • There are some pedestrian only streets (e.g. Kensington, shown)
  • There is a lot of traffic calming within shopping streets and neighborhoods. (The effect of the traffic calming is to push more traffic to the signalized arterials, where it is controlled, but now more congested than it otherwise would be.)
  • Drivers almost always obey the marked crosswalks if a pedestrian is waiting to cross (though what constitutes ‘waiting to cross’ is a bit ambiguous). (They will not yield at unmarked crosswalks unless the pedestrian is in the street, and even then only reluctantly and with ire.)
A pedestrianized street in Chippendale. Kensington Street.
A pedestrianized street in Chippendale. Kensington Street.
A more supportive pedestrian shopping street in Summer Hill, with a pedestrian crossing table.
A more supportive pedestrian shopping street in Summer Hill, with a pedestrian crossing table.

Opening: Chair in Public Transport

CHAIR IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT INSTITUTE OF TRANSPORT AND LOGISTICS STUDIES THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY BUSINESS SCHOOL

David Hensher writes:

I am in the early search phase to seek out interest in joining the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) as the Chair (Full Professor) in Public Transport. This is a full time position funded by the NSW Government and is a continuing appointment (i.e., tenured).  Professor Corinne Mulley has held the Chair since it was established and is retiring at the end of 2017. She will be continuing to be involved with ITLS as an Emeritus Professor.

Re: a timeline, we hope to be advertising in early September with a closing date at the end of November, with interviews after short listing in early 2018.

Details:

Introduction

Public transport is an important element of the transport system and plays an increasingly important part in developing sustainable cities. The New South Wales (NSW) Government is committed to plans predicated on increasing public transport use which in turn requires professional capacity building to ensure that the skills and knowledge are available to support the development of public transport. These skills include:

  •   Integrated transport and land use accessibility and mobility planning.
  •   Transport policy and regulation evaluation.
  •   Transport modelling, pricing and parking policy development.
  •   Determining public transport planning and priority criteria.
  •   Traffic management.
  •   Appropriate use of information technology.
  •   Determining methods for efficient use of road space.
  •   Public transport planning.
  •   Public transport systems operation.

In 2007, the NSW Government established a partnership with the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies in the now University of Sydney Business School (previously the Faculty of Economics and Business) at the University of Sydney to assist in this general aim. In particular, the NSW Government aspired to this post accelerating research, education and training in public transport, in conjunction with in-service training provided by government bodies and support for a strong local government capability in public transport policy and planning.

The Chair has been held by Professor Corinne Mulley from 2008 to February 2018, who becomes an Emeritus Professor following her retirement. We are now looking to appoint a new Chair Professor to this prestigious position.

Motivation

The motivation for the Chair in Public Transport grew out of recognition that there is a need in Sydney for some independent and ongoing framework within which the full agenda relevant to supporting public transport in a balanced transport system can be housed. A major objective is to increase knowledge and learning of public transport within the transport industry (and the community in general, including the media) through research and educational activities including briefings, papers, workshops, training courses, opinion pieces and media commentary. A major thrust of the chair’s inception was to enhance learning and understanding regarding public transport development associated with Sydney in particular and NSW in general.

This Chair will be active in directing the overall program of public transport research, education, and training, overarching all themes of interest to ITLS, government and industry. Given the Institute’s strong interest and reputation in urban transport, the Chair will focus to a great extent (but not entirely) on passenger transport issues in urban areas. Themes that are high on the agenda

include growing patronage, efficient service delivery, environmental impacts, traffic congestion, the future of public transport, public transport performance in urban areas, mobility as a service, community transport, rural and regional transport needs, and optimal mixing of transport and land use facilities.

The key activities of the chair should include all areas listed below:

  •   Research
  •   Professional and Public Seminar Presentations
  •   Independent Media Commentary
  •   Industry Training (including briefing forums)
  •   Interaction with government through customised training, dissemination activities and one-to-one interactions
  •   Professional Office Roles
  •   Refereeing for International Conferences and Journals
  •   Conference/Workshop organisation
  •   University Teaching (public transport courses)
  •   Other Activities
  •   Publications
  •   Contract research

The Chair, in particular, will be active in tracking global developments in areas such as public transport reform, the performance of the public modes, technological developments to enhance the performance of PT, the growing interest in bus rapid transit (BRT) through the Volvo Research Education Foundation Centre in ITLS (in partnership with MIT, PUC Chile and Embarq), integrated transport systems, the role of PT in delivering sustainable transport outcomes, funding of PT, planning systemwide public transport services, supporting rural accessibility needs, the challenges facing socially excluded societies and the broad role of PT.

Governance

Regular guidance on the chair’s activities will be provided through an annual ‘chair in public transport reference group’ meeting. This meeting will review the current and planned future activities of the chair and provide guidance on future work program priorities. This group shall comprise senior representatives from Transport for NSW, the University of Sydney and other invitees as appropriate.

Profile of the Appointee

As this will be a high profile appointment, the incumbent will be expected to represent the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies and the University of Sydney Business School (and the University more generally) on the national and international stage. The successful candidate, who may be from any discipline, will be personable, dynamic, outgoing and imaginative. He or she must have the leadership abilities and flair necessary to motivate the Institute’s research and teaching programs in public transport and be an active commentator on public transport matters.

The person must have a commitment to a broad perspective on public transport and be aware of and committed to the role of strategic, tactical, and operational initiatives and the systems view of passenger transport logistics.

Other Attributes of the Person to be Appointed

Given that this position is a leadership position, applicants must have the following credentials:

  1. A strong track record of involvement in public transport
  2. A strong track record in research focussed on public transport
  3. A strong track record in lecturing or giving presentations in a relevant area
  4. Substantial success in generating funds in general
  5. Demonstrated ability to manage research teams and deliver high quality research outputsleading to publication in the relevant journals in the field.
  6. Demonstrated ability to work with persons in government and industry in promoting debateand an evidence base on public transport policy, strategy and system performance.
  7. Demonstrated evidence of working well with external bodies in the capacity of both consultant and joint researcher, especially the government sector, peak (advocacy) bodies andthe media
  8. Demonstrated capability of independent media commentary.
  1. Demonstrated reputation in attracting outside interest in activities of a research institute such as ITLS.
  2. Demonstrated ability to represent the Institute and the University on the national and international stage.
  3. Demonstrated leadership abilities and flair necessary to motivate the Institute’s research and teaching programs (award and non-award) in public passenger transport logistics.

Inquiries and Application Details

Confidential enquiries regarding the position may be made with Professor David Hensher, Director, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, email david.hensher@sydney.edu.au.

The position is full-time continuing and may be subject to the completion of a satisfactory probation period for new appointees. Membership of a University-approved superannuation scheme is a requirement for new appointees.

The I-35W Bridge Collapse, Ten Years On

August 1 marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic and shocking collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis.

Around the fifth anniversary, I did an 8-part blog series on the subject, which is worth re-upping:

Bridges

Motivated by the collapse, we conducted a number of inter-related studies, powered empirically by traffic and GPS data collected before and after the bridge reopening:

The nice thing from a scientific perspective was the ability to use the GPS data collected before and after the bridge reopening for other studies as well, the data comprised part of four of my student’s dissertations, and several from Henry Liu’s students.

 

Another thing to note, from a career perspective, was that this research agenda was an unanticipated turn. Though I had done some empirical route choice studies before hand, and so was primed to take this direction, I was moving more into the transport and land use and network evolution realm. If you had asked me on July 31, 2007 what I would start working on on August 2, 2007, this was not it.

Minnesota planners begin to envision driverless future | Star Tribune

Eric Roper at the Strib writes: Minnesota planners begin to envision driverless future.

My quote:

“We’re sitting here fighting about a train — a billion-dollar train that it tells you when you have to be there and where to go,” said state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who owns a Tesla. “Pretty soon here you’re going to have cars that can just pick you up wherever you are and take you to wherever you want to be.”

But others like David Levinson, the lead author of the U report, said large cities will still need high-capacity transit to serve busy urban areas.

“Cars, even driverless cars, can’t move as many people per hour past a point as trains can,” Levinson said.

Now my fuller response to Eric Roper (to be clear, Eric never said his questions were off the record, and he was talking to a blogger, so he should have been aware):1self073017gr_online_525px

Do you think we’re planning enough for the arrival of this technology? It seems like there’s enough unknowns that folks like the Met Council don’t have much to say about how it will affect land use. And I’ve gotten some vague answers from Minneapolis, which is looking into it.

What should cities and states like the Twin Cities and Minnesota be doing at this point, if anything, to prepare and plan for the shift?

As you gathered no one [at the Metropolitan Council] is planning for [driverless cars]. Now, it is hard to say what the effects will be (I have my ideas), but my concern is not that we are NOT planning for driverless cars, but that we ARE planning for nothing to change. I.e., all of the plans and forecasts assume today’s technologies remain unchanged 30 years into the future, which seems implausible. This is a good time for alternative scenario planning rather than forecasts.

As a consequence of extrapolative forecasts (both in computer models and in people’s mental models of how cities work), cities like the Twin Cities (and others) are planning for more highway capacity when all the expectations for driverless cars should be more efficient use of road space (closer spacing between vehicles both laterally (narrow lanes) and longitudinally (shorter headways or gaps between vehicles). Given that roads are very long term investments and hard to reverse (i.e. roads are historically unbuilt at a much slower pace than they are built), building road capacity for needs that may soon disappear seems unwarranted and a classic example of a white elephant.

Nevertheless, there are factors which may increase travel demand (deadheading (i.e. empty and relocating vehicles), faster speeds, less driving responsibility (train passengers e.g. are willing to travel more time than car drivers because they can do something else while in motion), less expensive vehicles (EVs should cost less than the internal combustion engine when built to scale) and less expensive energy (with renewables, the price of electricity will continue to fall)).
However, there are other offsetting factors which could dampen this (switching from car ownership to a more taxi-like model in urban areas that charges on a per-trip basis, moving from an individual shopping to a delivery model for goods). Also one has to question whether the 5 day a week daily commute will remain as common in a world 30 years from now (with more telecommuting and more flexible work environments).
And all of this can be controlled with policy, we underprice roads by failing to recover both their direct costs (like infrastructure – fuel and related taxes pay for less than half of infrastructure costs) as well as their externalities (like pollution (most of which disappears with EVs), noise (similarly), crashes (most of which disappears with AVs), and congestion (which could disappear with proper road pricing)).
So what we should be doing: Don’t build new roads, or widen existing roads, until we implement a time-of-day based road pricing system that discounts off-peak use and recovers the full cost of car and truck travel.
In response to the Garofalo comment, I wrote:
Driverless cars don’t resolve the fundamental space issues of large cities (we can argue whether Minneapolis qualifies). Cars, even driverless cars, can’t move as many people per hour past a point as trains can. So if you have large demands to move people between fixed places, as you see in places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Sydney, or just about any city in Europe or Asia, AVs cannot solve that problem.
And that’s even assuming there’s some added capacity, right? Or do you disagree with the Tom Fisher argument that we’ll have a lot more roadway in urban areas to repurpose for other things?
To be clear, we will have more roadspace to repurpose (see our book), (we already do). But there are limits. If there are cities with large demands, trains will always move more people in a given amount of space than cars. Are the demands large enough now (or in the future) to justify the costs?  The biggest gains in space will come in (a) skinny cars (which will allow doubling the number of lanes), and (b) more widespread adoption of bikes and e-bikes and increased walking, with some additional gains from eliminating on-street parking, narrowing lanes for full-size cars and trucks, and shorter headways between vehicles.

Is it fair to say then that they could be commonplace by 2030?

 

Common, but far from universal. The median age of a car on the road is about 11.5 years, so if that still holds, the median car on the road will have been built in 2019.

There are also degrees of autonomy, (see the SAE report on this  ). I think most discussion refers to Level 4 (or 5) as Autonomous. Today we are between level 2 and 3 in production cars (Tesla autopilot is better than level 2 on freeways effectively, but not really quite level 3, the Waymo (Google) Car is level 4 in mapped environments), and the trials of test vehicles at the Level 4 and 5 range still require human intervention (“disengagements”) from time to time.

The Transportist: July 2017

Welcome to the July 2017 issue of The Transportist. As always you can follow along at the blog or on Twitter.

I was in Brisbane for the WSTLUR 2017 conference at the beginning of the month, and the family moved down, and it’s winter break, so slow this month.


Last call (closes July 30)

Transportist Posts

Sydney

Media Appearances

 

Transport News

Transit

Bike

Roads

Taxis

(Almost no Uber news this month)

Delivery

AVs

EVs

Rail

Land Use

Equity / Justice

[As a Minneapolitan relocated to Australia, I am the mirror of Justine Damond, so I have been following this. Really, the police shouldn’t be killing anyone, there are better solutions in almost every case. And, as the Guardian reports, police manage to kill hardly anyone at all in many developed countries. In Australia, police killed 94 people in 20 years (5 per year), US police kill that many in one month. After controlling for population (325M vs. 25M (13x), police homicides in the US are still hugely more (1093 per 325M in 2016, vs. (scaling Australia levels to the US) less than 65 per 325M in Australia). For the math inclined, I am 16 times more likely to be shot by a police officer in the US than Australia. This is not random. It is not bad luck. It is systemic and systematic and it is not getting noticeably better. I have no special transport angle here, though the police apparently shot from the inside of the car, because why? Unlike Philando Castile, last year’s wrongful police shooting in the Twin Cities, after a traffic stop, where the police were outside the car and shot inside.]

 

Safety

Internet of Things

Fantasy

  • Elon Musk says he has ‘verbal’ OK to build N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop – NPR [Is all news reporting so credulous? Famous person tweets something absurd, and it is just repeated far and wide by NPR, among others. My response: Today we launch a new solution to America’s traffic, The Pricing Company. We received tweets of approval from all 50 states to toll roads.]

Urbanism

 

Research

By Us

Call for Papers

CALL FOR PAPERS – Deadline October 31, 2017
55th International Making Cities Livable Conference on Healthy, 10-Minute Neighborhoods
May 14-18, 2018, The Shaw Center, Ottawa, Canada

Commuter car parking

The Parliament of New South Wales is asking about commuter car parking.

Terms of Reference

That the Committee inquire into and report on commuter car parking in NSW, including:

  1. The effectiveness of current state government policies and programs covering commuter car parking;
  2. Processes for selecting the location of commuter car parks;
  3. The potential for restricted access or user pays commuter car parks;
  4. Consideration of alternative modes of first mile/last mile travel, including point to point transport, active transport and on demand buses; and
  5. Any other related matters.

This is my response …

 

It is my pleasure to provide information to the New South Wales Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Infrastructure regarding Commuter Car Parking. I am Foundation Professor in Transport Engineering at the University of Sydney, with more than 25 years experience in the field in the United States. While I cannot comment on individual car parks or their location, as the appropriate designs are usually context-specific, I can provide some general background and ways of thinking about the question.

The problem of commuter car parking is more generally the problem of accessing public transport stations, sometimes referred to as the “last mile” or “first and last mile” problem. While having fast, direct, frequent, and reliable public transport service is important, being able to get to that service is also critical. The travel times involved in accessing transit stations at either end are often as long as the time spent moving aboard the transit vehicle.

There are a variety of means that can be used to access public transport service, including walk, bike (including both traditional privately owned bikes and electric bikes (e-bikes) and bikes from newer bike-sharing and e-bike sharing systems), taxi (including ride-hailing like Uber), other public transport (like local bus or multi-party ride sharing vehicle), as a car passenger (‘Kiss and Ride’), or as a car driver (park-and-ride). (One can imagine other modes as well (e.g. car-sharing (like GoGet or CarNextDoor, but those are usually less practical). The best choice varies by individual and location, and most public transport stations will have a mix of arrival modes.

Historically, dating from the age of trams and stream railways, public transport was accessed primarily on foot. For this reason tram lines were spaced closely together (say every half-mile (or 800m)) so that walking to stops was convenient. Older suburbs in cities like Sydney developed around this transport mode, and had the residential population density to support frequent public transport service by tram, train, and later bus. Walk had and continues to have numerous advantages over other access modes, as it is low cost and has no environmental externalities.

Location efficiency (land use) with Walk and Bike Access

In a transit-based city, public transport and land use have historically evolved together, and new transit lines should be complemented with appropriate land development (and vice versa). Everyone in such places everyone can walk to public transport.

From a cost per commuter perspective, walk and bike are the least expensive modes, both for the traveler and for society as a whole. The advantage of bikes over walking is their larger catchment area. Biking (at 20 km/h) allows coverage of about 16 times the area of walking (at 5 km/h). This implies significantly more customers in the same amount of time, and should be strongly encouraged. The disadvantage is that bikes are sightlier costlier than walk as a mode to support, as bikes will require secure parking and safe access paths (walking of course requires sidewalks, which generally already exist, unlike separated bike lanes in NSW), as well as a supportive rather than hostile public policy environment. Nevertheless, the cost of bike storage is significantly lower than the cost of park-and-ride for automobiles. The Dutch are the world’s experts at bicycle transport and bike-and-ride, and many lessons about how best to do this can be learned by studying practice in the Netherlands.

Another cost-effective way to increase the catchment area of public transport is to construct entrances at each end of the station. Long platforms take nearly 2 minutes to traverse, so travellers who live, say, south of a station with an entrance at the north end may need to walk the length of the platform before entering the station, and then, depending on the preferred car to optimise their exit, may need to walk back again (an extra four minutes), which could be reduced with a second platform entrance. (They may need to walk another 2 minutes depending on their final destination vis-a-vis the exit at their destination station.)  This could be repeated on the evening commute, resulting in up to 12 minutes of lost time per day because of inconvenient entrances and exits.

Stationless bikesharing is becoming hugely popular in China, and Reddy-Go has introduced the service to Sydney. The advantage of such a system is that bikes will be located near frequent origins and destinations, and tend to cluster at stations. By encouraging bike access or egress, they make transit more desirable as a mode for more people.  Storage areas for shared bikes need to be set aside, clearly designated, and enforced should this become popular in order to ensure these bikes do not interfere with pedestrian access.

Bicycle parking at Train Station in Houton, Netherlands
Bicycle parking at Train Station in Houton, Netherlands

 

Pick-up and Drop-off.

The earliest pick-up and drop-off at transit stations date from the earliest days of the motorcar and suburban railway stations, have evolved into what are referred to as “kiss-and-ride”, whereby the driver (typically a spouse, parent, or child) drops off their family member at a transit station, and then proceed onto their final destination (after exchanging affections). (The mirror trip is logistically more complex and includes pick-ups in the evening, before returning home).  This is more efficient than park-and-ride as it avoids the need for parking at the station, and the costs of an extra vehicle for the household. While the multi-car family has resulted in this type of trip becoming less popular, saving time for the traveler chauffeuring the passenger at the cost of higher parking and car ownership costs, this type of trip may see an upsurge.  The advent of app-summoned taxis and their equivalent (Uber, Lyft, and so on) can provide access to or egress from transit stations, complementing transit service. Lyft, the main US competitor to Uber, reports that transit stops are their most popular category of destination.  While this is an added cost, more expensive than walking, biking, or well-used buses, one can imagine with the emergence of autonomous vehicles the costs will drop and this will become more popular, especially in lower density suburban areas.

Park-and-Ride 

Newer suburbs developed in the age of the automobile, and while many have grown to include train and bus services, the car is a far more dominant mode in these areas in terms of market share, and transit access is more difficult on foot because of the greater spacing between stations and lines and lower density of residential development. In these areas park-and-ride lots (commuter car parks) have been constructed.

The advantage of commuter car parks lies in basic geometry. It takes about 28 square meters to store a parked car on a surface lot (including access lanes, etc.), or about 360 cars/hectare. For a fully occupied 1 hectare lot, if every one of those parked cars carried 1 person, that produces 360 public transport boardings from that station in the morning (and 360 boardings elsewhere in the evening, assuming symmetry). That hectare generates 720 daily public transport trips.

In contrast, let’s say we had zero commuter car park spaces, and those car users could not otherwise access the station because of distance and lack of other access modes. Instead we had transit-oriented development. Let’s further assume that adjacent land uses have a 50% public transport mode share for work trips and 0% for non-work trips. We would need 720 resident workers on that hectare to have a similar number of public transport trips generated. Since only half the population works, we are looking at 1440 total persons on that ha of land to generate as many trips as transit oriented development. The point is not that anyone should (or shouldn’t) build a structure with a 1 ha footprint housing 1440 people, just that park-and-ride generates a large number of riders that cannot be easily made up with low-density transit-oriented development.

Low, or even medium, density residential development around the station will not enable as many public transport users as the park-and-ride lot. Now that doesn’t mean it is cost-effective to build a park-and-ride lot, which depends on the value of land, on maintenance costs, whether park-and-ride spaces are given away for free or can be charged for, and levels of demand. It certainly doesn’t mean it is cost-effective to construct a parking structure, which cost on the order of $50,000 per space (amortised that is about $5000 per space per year, or $20 per space per work day)

Even after accounting for construction, surface parking lots are far from cost-free, maintenance costs are surprisingly high: in Minnesota, a 288-stall lot generated $AU 43,000 per year in maintenance costs which amounts to a subsidy of at least $AU 147 per parked car per year. (Divide by occupancy, the share of spaces used daily, for the actual subsidy, which is higher), or at least $AU 0.58 per day per car. While most of Australia can avoid the snow plowing costs of Minnesota, lighting and other maintenance issues remain.

If the charge for car parks were free, this adds to the cross-subsidy from people who walk to public transport to people who drive to public transport. To speed revenue collection, parking should be paid for with Opal cards. The rate should be set separately for each lot as costs, demands, and conditions vary.

As the market evolves over time, surface park-and-ride lots can be thought of as a land bank, which can be developed at higher intensities when conditions warrant. The simplest way to ensure land is developed to the highest and best use, be that park-and-ride surface lots, structured parking, or more intensive land development is to place it in the hands of organisations with the right incentives. This may require allowing the transit service provider to develop land adjacent to and above (and below) stations. Land value capture techniques (like the land value tax and joint development, among others) can be used to ensure that the transit system benefits from the land value uplift created by transit services.

Trains running alongside freeways and freeway express/bus rapid transit lanes are especially appropriate for park-and-ride, as the drivers converging on downtown can be persuaded to divert to transit upstream of the city and avoid downtown parking costs (and the resulting congestion between their diversion point and the city).

Impacts of Millenial Student Loan Debt on Transportation Choices

The Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Policy Unit has a series of reports on Transportation Futures. I was involved in one of them as an advisor to the consultant, though my name is not on the report, so I am not responsible. The report  is now online:

Figure 18. Transportation and Loan Payment as Percentage of Income
Figure 18. Transportation and Loan Payment as Percentage of Income

 

Impacts of Millenial Student Loan Debt on Transportation Choices

Now the largest generation in America, the Millennials are not driving at the same rates of their predecessor generations, the Baby Boomers and Generation X. There have been plenty of studies about the millennial generation’s lack of interest in driving. Many conclude that Millennials are fascinated by technology or urban culture.

According to AAA’s findings of the 2013 ‘Your Driving Costs’ study, annual automobile spending for an average sedan owner are $9,122 (Based on 15,000 miles annual usage). For someone newly out of college with student loan debt, automobile ownership may feel out of reach. Millennial student loan debt is a widely discussed topic. Approximately 40 million Americans hold student loan debt. Currently more than 70 percent of U.S. students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree leave with debt, averaging $28,400. According to the White House Council of Economic advisors, 61% of adult millennials attended college, compared to 46% of their Baby Boomer parents. In 2014, the total outstanding student loan debt in the US surpassed $1 trillion.

This paper attempts to investigate the impact of student loan debt along with other variables on the millennial transportation choices.

 

The data was tortured looking for a relationship. If there is one, it is weak. For instance see the finding buried on p. 34

“In general, cutting back on transportation expenses may not be a central priority for those with student loans, as their job earnings enable such individuals to handle rising transportation costs. Indeed, the data shows a positive relationship between income and student loan value (Figure 15).

Taking into account all student loan holders, the relationship between student loans and transportation expenses appears unclear. While some analyses suggest a slightly positive relationship (i.e., the uptick in transportation expenses for loan-holders), many of the other trends can be explained by Figure 15. Student loan holders in our data are generally well-off, which would contribute to higher transportation expenses.

Across the board, people spent less on transportation as a percentage of household expenditures post- 2008, but Millennials showed a particularly large difference between loan-holders (Figure 16, right) and those without loans (Figure 16, left). While we might consider this drop to be connected to student loan commitments, a number of analyses seem to refute this idea.”

Closing the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay

Map of Cahill Expressway, Red line indicates section under discussion in this post.
Map of Cahill Expressway, Red line indicates section under discussion in this post.

The Cahill Expressway in Sydney, the city’s first expressway, opened in 1958, connecting the Eastern suburbs to the Harbour Bridge. After the Harbour Tunnel opened in 1992, traffic was halved, the section’s Eason or being eliminated. Looking at a map, you can see the Harbour Tunnel and Harbour Bridge approaches join north of the Harbour, and basically form an upside-down V-shape, with the Circular Quay section forming a cross, the segment turning the upside-down V into an A.

Traffic counts for the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay are given for 2012 as about 20000 average annual daily traffic in each direction. While certainly non-trivial, this is also not a lot for two lanes in each direction, equivalent to a four-lane arterial. And when the system is working, all of this traffic has alternative routes, as the route is topologically similar to the classic Braess Paradox.

The Braess Paradox observes that under certain circumstances an additional link increases total travel time, and is dysfunctional, because of the difference between the costs that travellers pay and the costs they impose by congesting others. While it is hard to prove such cases in the real world, there is no reason for this link to exist in the post-Tunnel configuration except as a backup when the Harbour Tunnel is closed or constricted to divert traffic to the Harbour Bridge.

Circular Quay Railway Station, Cahill Expressway on the top deck.
Circular Quay Railway Station, Cahill Expressway on the top deck.

If this section of the Cahill were to be removed, many of its access and egress links could be removed as well, creating additional space and sunlight in the constricted central business district. Southbound traffic would decide north of Sydney whether to diverge for the East or West and then take the Bridge or Tunnel, with no recourse except for city streets. Northbound traffic from the East would take the tunnel to cross the Harbour or exit onto city streets. The operators of the tunnel should be pleased.

 

Suppose the Circular Quay section were closed. The expressway lies on the upper deck of a double-deck elevated structure, with an elevated railway (the under-rated John Bradfield‘s City Circle, completed in 1956)  immediately below. So the whole structure cannot easily come down. Instead the expressway deck can be repurposed, much like New York’s High Line and other infrastructure reuse projects, as a pedestrian overlook (there is already a sidewalk) on the north side, with the south side hosting restaurants and open-air cafes with a gorgeous view of the Harbour.* I am sure urban designers could come up with some lovely watercolour renderings.

IMG_4456
Views like this from the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay (photo from the train deck below)

While all of this undoubtedly requires study and many, many consultant contracts, it is really easy to test the actual traffic effects (and would make a nice Master’s Thesis project). Close the ramps for a few weeks “for repairs”. This must happen from time-to-time anyway.  Perhaps there is a ‘natural experiment’ coming up, or recently passed, when this happened. Monitor traffic elsewhere in the system. Evaluate the consequences.

The hypothesis is that traffic conditions are no worse overall (system travel time is unchanged or lower), though selected links may in fact be worse off while others are improved. Given the reduction in merges and diverges, I suspect more links are improved than worsened.

If this hypothesis is borne out, there is less total travel (fewer vehicle kilometres traveled) in the city, travel is faster, and most travellers are better off.

In recent decades there has been a trend for cities to close obsolete freeway sections. San Francisco famously took down the Embarcadero Freeway for instance, opening up the waterfront. Seoul removed the Cheongyecheon freeway and restored a river. There have been others. While removal of this section of the Cahill is not likely to have the same effects, as the elevated railway will remain, it still could be beneficial.  Proposals to demolish the entire Cahill, which bisects major parks the Botanical Gardens and the Domain have also been discussed, though burying them under air rights park seems a far simpler and less controversial proposal, and less like to strand the Harbour Tunnel.

Aerial Photo (via Apple Maps) of Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay, facing south. Red marks indicate extent of section.
Aerial Photo (via Apple Maps) of Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay, facing south. Red marks indicate extent of section.

Update July 28: A reader writes:

I think you are seriously wrong about the Cahill Expressway and its utility.

It is effectively the artery that feeds and drains the eastern side of the CBD for we who live on the north side (and who I might add paid for it!) and without it the eastern side of the CBD would be near impossible if not extremely inconvenient to access. It cannot be accessed from the tunnel and otherwise requires traversing the city not fun normally and a nightmare right now.

And I think it is a lot prettier – if that can ever be used about 1950’s engineering – than the much loved EL in Chicago and other insertions into older cities to make them work.

And you can at the very least watch the NYE fireworks from it! Or pre 911 you could.

– apart from anything else it is part of JJC Bradfield legacy and that is by popular consensus untouchable!

My response

Fort Street Public School
Fort Street Public School.  A school surrounded by freeway ramps. They are very elegant and nearly perfectly circular ramps (and must be fun to drive).

I am referring only to the section on Circular Quay. How hard would it be to connect  Bridge Street only to the tunnel? I know everything takes too long and costs too much, but I bet with a concerted effort, if there weren’t any significant underground utilities, this would be under a month.  This configuration is only the way it is  for historic reasons (the Bridge was first), no one would configure it that way now.

Cahill AADT (at Circular Quay) 40k 2-ways (4 lanes 10k/lane)
Harbour Tunnel AADT 90k AADT (4 lanes 22k/lane)
Harbour Bridge AADT 160k AADT (8 lanes (1 bus only), 20k/lane)
A better argument for keeping it might be that the Harbour Tunnel is more congested than the Bridge. But surely they are in equilibrium because traffic has sorted itself out, and will do so with any other change, and road changes would be reflected in different effective catchment areas and changed patterns (longer distance trips might use the bridge to the Western Distributor to the Cross City Tunnel instead of the Harbour tunnel for instance. And with all of the development going west of the city (rather than East, where the Ocean lies), shouldn’t traffic from the east be steered away from the Bridge toward the Tunnel)
Now I guess Kirribilli is more difficult to access via the Tunnel than the Bridge, but isn’t that what the ferry is for?
Of course the irony of Bridge Street leading to the tunnel is also a worthwhile reason.
I will leave the aesthetics to the eye of the beholder, but the structure wouldn’t fully come down unless there was a solution for the trains.

 

 


* A single lane passage for emergency vehicle could be maintained if necessary.