I had a 1 day meeting in Melbourne. Apparently the SYD to MEL is the busiest air market in the world outside of Asia (and depending on the list, 2nd in the world).
I flew Virgin Australia (VA) on a 7:00 am flight
The Sydney airport is near the city and served by (pricey) rail. To get to the airport I took an Uber, which was $13 to the Domestic Terminal at Sydney. (It would be about a 1 hour walk). For reasons, a Train is $11. Clearly the train is overpriced, this is due to a PPP to build the train, and a poorly written contract that has never been corrected. The aim is to extract dollars from airport travelers (the high price is only for boarding or alighting at the airport, not elsewhere on the line.
The Sydney terminals are fairly new and modern.
Security doesn’t ask for ID. The line is short. Take out your laptop and walk through, while your bags are scanned. (Update: I am reminded that you can take your liquids with you as well.)
The airline doesn’t ask for ID, you just show a Boarding Pass. I could be anyone. No one cares. It is not a problem.
Boarding occurs from both the front and back of the plane, the front through the jetway, the back via steps on the tarmac. This halves boarding time. If boarding time is the bottleneck, this seems significant.
The flight was on-time.
The flight was not full, no one was in the middle seat
VA has inflight app so there are no screen in the seats (lowering airplane weight by the amount of 180 small monitors, saving fuel). The working assumption is everyone has their own device. The WiFi only serviced the app, rather than the full Internet.
They give you select drinks (but not soft drinks … which are both expensive and scarce in Australia) and a cookie complementary. It was a tastier cookie than found on US airlines.
Deplaning at Melbourne is also via the tarmac for the back half of the plane
The return (MEL to SYD) that evening was again via VA
VA cancelled my scheduled 8 pm flight, but rebooked automatically on a later 9:15 flight. They texted me with a few hours notice.
I called the number in the text message, and they picked up right away. (Not 3 hours later, the way Delta operates.)
I was rebooked on an earlier (7 pm) flight, though I got a middle seat instead of the preferred aisle. This flight was delayed 35 minutes, to 19:35 but 25 minutes earlier than the previous flight.
Melbourne terminals are new and modern. They are not terribly distinct from most US terminals. However the airport at Tullamarine is located far from the city center and not served by rail or tram. There is a bus service we did not use (we came by taxi)
Security at Melbourne was similar to Sydney, except I get “randomly selected” with a few other people for the magic wand treatment looking for explosives. Sadly, none were found. None are ever found.
I would fly VA again. It’s far better than any US carrier I have experienced, despite being reschedued.
I took the train home, because I would have to figure our where to find the Uber pickup at Sydney airport, and wait, which is about as much time as walking back from Green Square.
I have been hearing and reading a lot about the Greater Sydney Commission’s (GSC) Our Greater Sydney 2056: A metropolis of three cities – connecting peoplePlan for Sydney.
As the title says, the core idea trifurcates Greater Sydney into three “cities” *
Eastern City/ Sydney/Harbour City,
Central City/Parramatta/River City,
Western City/Aerotropolis/Parkland City.
In one very important sense, these are all Greater Metropolitan Sydney. In another legal sense, the “City of Sydney” is a legally-defined ‘local government area’ including the most famous bits and surrounding areas. There are many legally-defined cities (local government areas) in greater Sydney, and these get periodically redefined by the state government to which they genuflect.
Now I am sure in part the use of the word “City” is a rhetorical device, to find some way to combine the vast area of the West into a coherent thing. But absconding with the word “City” to mean neither the integrated metropolitan Sydney nor the local government areas does violence to the language and creates confusion where clarity is desired. The word “region” is overused and indeterminate, but surely there is another word here. I like “Quarter” but that implies 4 parts, at least to the purists, or “Borough”, but someone can figure this out. New York and London have ‘boroughs,’ perhaps that is what makes a world-class city.
The idea of three “cities” (or even “boroughs”) may seem innocuous, but if not carefully unpacked and dismembered, it risks becoming like the lines on the map of transport plans decades ago which inevitably get realised, and eventually find itself as yet one more layer of government, or a replacement for existing local government areas and increasing the remoteness of the ever less-local local government.
While there are maps showing these regions, it is unclear what actually differentiates them along the continuum of urban development. Arguably, a park-belt separates the West from the Center, and that would seem an almost natural boundary, but if you look closely at the map, it splits the western city from itself. The only thing that differentiates the East and the Center is orientation to a primary node of activity (Parramatta or Sydney), and that is so overlapping as to be not very meaningful. Nor is orientation systematically defined, and even if it were, it is subject to change with the economic fortunes of each core. Moreover, there are many activity centers located throughout each of the “cities”.
While the eastern and central cities of Sydney and Parramatta have core central cities, in addition to numerous local activity clusters, the West is a core-less cluster of cities.
Planners imply the void will be filled in the west will by the planned Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek (on which a lot seems to hang), and the surrounding Aerotropolis of rental car vendors, cheap hotels, sex shops, establishments serving quickly prepared food, and warehouses. An airport is a decidedly non-urban land use, even if the terminal is city-like in perverse ways. The airport is shown looming large on the map, larger than the existing Sydney Airport, which in all but area it will be smaller and less important than for decades to come.
The West, with an airport smack dab in the middle seems a network or cluster of activity centers more than a single coherent thing deserving the label “city”.
The definitional argument is intimately related to the idea of the “30-minute city” wherein a majority of people (say 70%) have commutes less than 30 minutes. Ensuring people can reach more things in less time is the correct planning goal of accessibility. And today, most people in Sydney have a 30 minute or less one way commute (be careful of means vs. medians here, there is a long tail), but as the city grows, this becomes harder and harder to achieve as people seek out better matching opportunities farther away, and there is more growth away from the center. All else equal, entropy dictates commutes will on average get longer not shorter as metropolitan areas grow. People will adjust their homes and jobs.
For Sydney to remain a 30-minute city, and more importantly, for Western Sydney to achieve this, many more jobs must relocate westward, or be created in the western region. (Or people just stop commuting as much, or transport connections become much faster.) This is one of the points of the plan. If the plan is successful, and jobs do materialise in the west, most Western Sydney residents would not need to commute east for jobs.
Identity: West vs. East
Planning doyenne and the Chief Commissioner of the GSC, Lucy Hughes Turnbull, said Wednesday November 15 at an Industry Briefing: Planning the future of transport and land use in Greater Sydney and Regional NSW, that the Western city comprises “Campbelltown, Liverpool, Penrith, et cetera”.
I would be unsurprised to find those who live in the town of “Et Cetera” view it differently.
To my outsider eyes, the West really seems to me to be a collection of disparate areas that might eventually conurbate into a continuum of suburbia with traditional existing centers as nodes of activity. But is the “West” really the identity people will have? Won’t they say I am from Blacktown, or I am from Sydney instead of I am from Western Sydney (Western City/Aerotropolis/Parkland City) or whatever name wins out? I suspect they will go for local (Blacktown) or global (Sydney) recognition rather than I am from Aerotropolis, or the Western City, or the Parkland City or any other sub-metropolitan, supra-municipal objectifier.
For instance, in American Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Angels/California Angels/Anaheim Angels eventually became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Not the Orange County Angels, nor the Eastern LA Angels. (And Los Angeles c. 1955 is probably the best American analogy to Sydney, the populations and geographies are similar, with San Francisco c. 1980 next best.) The “Greater Western Sydney” Giants, an Australian-Rules sportsball team, plays in Spotless Stadium at the Olympic Park, which is East of Parramatta. Will they eventually be renamed the Parramatta Giants, or the Sydney Giants of Greater Parramatta/Olympic Park?
Identity matters. As can be seen from the results of the Gay Marriage Plebiscite, people of Western Sydney have, on average, different political opinions and social values from the East, or most of Australia. But these political preferences don’t align cleanly with the Western/Central/Eastern City.
Other Matters: West vs. East
Addressing local needs matters. Housing is less expensive out west, but travel costs are higher since commutes are longer.
Building connectivity matters. The west is much more auto-reliant than the east, and will remain so largely independent of public policy. That’s what the land use dictates. The land use won’t change much, as that’s what the transport system enables. This is largely locked in through a decades long process of mutual co-evolution. Even as they rise with population growth, the densities of the west will remain lower than the east.
The first figure shows three transport hubs (presumably transit hubs, though out west this might not be the case in an important way), that are anchors of an interlocking hub-and-spoke system. These three hubs are identified as the centers of the cities. Well Central Station, is not, despite it’s name, Central to Sydney CBD, it is at the edge. This may evolve over time as the CBD marches south. Parramatta station similarly is at the southern end of the local business district. And I can’t imagine too many people walking around Aerotropolis after exiting the station there. It’s early days at Badgerys Creek, but this is little better than a crayon drawing, and building transit to serve the vast wasteland of an unbuilt airport is likely to be a hard sell when there remain so many existing real needs and areas of much higher transit potential in the eastern parts of Sydney.
Encouraging economic development out west, at the expense of losing some economies of agglomeration in the east, is important for spatial equity and transport, if not efficiency, reasons.
E Pluribus Unum
Arbitrarily dividing Sydney into three (or more) cities doesn’t seem especially helpful, even as a framing device, and results from the kind of remote thinking to persuade distant decision-makers rather than an organic expression of how people self-associate. It’s how marketing and economic development officials think.
Instead the job of a Greater Sydney Commission is not to exacerbate the already existing divisions, and keep the westerners out of the east, but to unify, to forge One City, One Sydney.
So a ‘city’ is a community, a place where people settle. It is also larger than a town. The actual dictionary definitions are vague, as are the way people use the words. In the US, a city generally is a legally-defined municipality which is large and has more legal authority than the surrounding unincorporated area, and more than smaller towns or townships. So the more appropriate term might be ‘urban’ area. `Urbs’ is just a Latin word for city:
The US Census, which needs to operationalize these things says:
The Census Bureau first defined urban places in reports following the 1880 and 1890 censuses. At that time, the Census Bureau identified as urban any incorporated place that had a minimum population of either 4,000 or 8,000, depending on the report. The Census Bureau adopted the current minimum population threshold of 2,500 for the 1910 Census; any incorporated place that contained at least 2,500 people within its boundaries was considered urban. All territory outside urban places, regardless of population density, was considered rural.
The Census Bureau began identifying densely populated urbanized areas of 50,000 or more population with the 1950 Census, taking into account the increased presence of densely settled suburban development in the vicinity of large cities. Outside urbanized areas, the Census Bureau continued to identify as urban any incorporated place or census designated place of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people.
Urbanized areas and urban clusters form the urban cores of metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, respectively. Each metropolitan statistical area will contain at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more people; each micropolitan statistical area will contain at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 and less than 50,000 people. Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas represent the county-based functional regions associated with urban centers (hence, the generic term “core based statistical areas”).
Other statistical agencies undoubtedly have similar definitions.
Peter Thornton, a local transport consultant in Sydney released an interesting slide deck “Rail Links and Sydney’s Airports” discussing the factors that drive rail mode share to airports, which is of interest given the planned second Sydney Airport at Badgery Creek, and more generally given the desire to connect selected airports to CBDs via rail (Washington Dulles, New York’s Airports, etc.).
For the Western Sydney Airport, he argues:
If rail fares are simply set at Opal Card rates then for Sydney CBD and Parramatta then rail passengers are around 24%- 22% of all passengers from that location; if around $16 similar to Sydney Airport, %’s are 18%-20% and if around $30 then the %’s drop to 15%-16%;
Similarly, if travel times are based on the existing network, %’s are in the low 20%s but if travel times are cut to 30 mins (CBD) and 15 mins (Parramatta) then %’s increase to beyond 30%;
Cost of alternative modes such as taxi or Uber has a significant impact – Uber level fares reduce rail passengers to 12%-15% from 22%-24% for standard taxi fares. This has a major effect on the usage of rail;
There are other interesting and sound observations in the presentation.
“Security is the enemy of efficiency”. I don’t know if anyone has said it before, but it has become clear to me that the primary outcome of most security systems is to make my (and others’) life less productive. Whether I am safer as a result I have no evidence to produce.
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