Sydney’s bike network stuck in the slow lane | Sydney Morning Herald

Nigel Gladstone at the Sydney Morning Herald writes: “Sydney’s bike network stuck in the slow lane“. My quote below:

Sydney University Professor of transport engineering David Levinson said bike network plans are “unambitious” because the government seems reluctant to face any backlash from the loss of car parking.

“What’s the most valuable use of road space: moving people or storing cars?” he said. “The alternative is turning over more footpath space to cyclists, which creates a different set of conflicts and footpath space is a lot scarcer.”

Dr Levinson said judging demand for bike lanes under current conditions is like trying to “judge the demand for the harbour bridge by the number of people swimming across the harbour.”

The City of Sydney has installed 6 temporary cycleways as it makes bike riding a transport priority in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
City of Sydney Bike Network, including Pop-up Cycleways. The “Local Bike Network” is not even sharrows, and some links are shared footpaths..

Outer Sydney Orbital, Western Sydney Freight Line: no corridors rezoned for M9 motorway | Daily Telegraph

Jake McCullum at the Daily Telegraph writes: Outer Sydney Orbital, Western Sydney Freight Line: no corridors rezoned for M9 motorway . The big news is that the freight line will be tunneled (and the trains electrified) along with the M9 motorway.

My quote:

Transport expert and University of Sydney Civil Engineering Professor David Levinson said electric locomotives for freight transport had been used in NSW previously, and was used “much more widespread in Europe”.

“There are no technical reasons freight trains can’t be electrified, and if they have renewable power — which over the next decade will be increasingly common — electrified freight would be much cleaner than diesel overall, and due to lack of emissions, better for operations in tunnels,” Prof. Levinson said.

Western Sydney orbital (M9). Source: Daily Telegraph
Western Sydney orbital (M9). Source: Daily Telegraph

I’m going to Sydneyland

One day, the world will reopen, and people will again travel and want to see the sights. Some of them will come to Sydney.

SydneyHarbourBridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

According to Australian Tourism  Statistics, during 2018 in Australia there were 8.5 million international visitors spending $43.9 billion over an average of 32 days. It generates 2.6% of GDP and 4.5% of employment Much if not most of that takes place in Sydney. This is one of Australia’s largest export industries, and despite the dollar signs in the eyes of the local capitalists, I don’t think it is maximised.

Disneyland

 

Scrooge McDuck represents the miserly side of capitalism.
Disney’s Scrooge McDuck represents the miserly side of capitalism.

Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, California , one of many parks owned by The Walt Disney Company, saw 18.67 million visitors in 2018, similar to, but less than, a successful shopping mall (Mall of America gets 40 million visitors a year). Most, if not all, of those Disneyland visitors were single day (I am not clear how the accounting is done, but if I were them, like a transit agency I would be reporting turnstile entries rather than distinct people), and many were domestic, but nevertheless, Australia is a bigger tourist attraction than Disneyland.  Disneyland, like Germany, is divided into several lands:

  • Main Street USA
  • Adventureland
  • Fantasyland
  • Frontierland
  • New Orleans Square
  • Star Wars Galaxy Edge
  • Tomorrowland
  • Toon Town

Disneyland also sports an adjacent California Adventure Park with its own lands. Its sibling, Disneyworld, Florida features Hollywood Studio, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom parks in addition to the Magic Kingdom.

Sydneyland

IMG_0641
Sydneyland’s Opera House functions like Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Sydneyland is similarly divided into lands

  • Circular Quay and Opera-land
  • Shopping land: George Street and Pitt Street
  • The Domain / Botanical Gardens
  • Darling Harbour (Casinoland and Convention-zone)

In addition, there are some other nearby Parks that are elements of the greater Sydney amusement properties

The Opera House serves the function of the Princess’s Castle, though it is not quite visible from all the lands. Both have fireworks and entertainment for visitors.

Sydneyland vs. Disneyland

Sydneyland and Disneyland differ foremost in  urban embeddedness. Disneyland is situated as an isolated park in Anaheim within the Greater Los Angeles region. Sydneyland is enmeshed in the Sydney urban fabric, it’s part of a real, if a bit fantastical, city. The ownership and management of Disneyland is centralised. Although the transport links are fully public controlled, with private contractors, Sydneyland’s attractions are largely decentralised. That creates value, opening its creation beyond the cathedral of Disney Imagineering to a broader marketplace where individual entrepreneurs can create a more changing experience. But while the gain is creativity, there is a loss in synergy, of a central oversight that tries to capture positive externalities. Similarly there is no system-wide pass, cash is required for every attraction.

People work in Sydneyland for purposes other than immediate guests services. While tourism is a dominant feature of the economy, there are other aspects which have non-touristic functions interspersed among the various lands.

Disney has played with urban planning.  EPCOT was initially conceived as a real city, that is not how it was realised. Disney did ultimately construct the town of Celebration, Florida on its properties, but with a population of 7,500, it hardly compares with Sydney’s 5 million people, or even the City of Sydney’s 250,000. So Sydneyland restaurants and museums can serve locals as well as tourists. This provides some robustness.

Visitor Transport in Sydneyland

Visitors typically arrive in Sydney by boat or by air, both of which have good connections to the local network. Beyond walking, the primary tourist transport system in Sydneyland is the ferry and train services, along with special buses, though the ferry and train network fails to connect all the key destinations without the concomitant bus service, and transfers are required.

Gaps in the Sydneyland Experience

What’s missing from Sydneyland? The Sydneyland tourist experience would be much improved if many things that were once here were not removed. Sydney is too quick to abandon places and networks, abandonments which it may come to regret, which results from their decentralised decision-making and failure to maintain.

Restoration

Transport

The Sydney Monorail, c. 2000.
The Sydney Monorail, c. 2000.
  • Trams  provided connections between many of the scattered destinations in Inner Sydney. The system was designed for local residents, but one imagines today it would have evolved like Melbourne to have a large tourist market.  Sydney’s trams were removed in favour of buses by 1961, Melbourne didn’t make the same decision. New light rail lines have a different function, and are also much more expensive to construct.
  • The Sydneyland monorail was disabled last decade, rather than being expanded to fully cover Sydneyland. The network was too small to be effective and too expensive to be for anything other than a one-time ride. But the concept of an urban circulator geared toward visitors is not of itself unreasonable. Rather, the execution needs more thought.

Attractions

  • History: Historical buildings. Sydney then and now (book) and Facebook group show many sites where buildings were lost and replaced with something inferior. While restoring many of those older architectural structures that have been replaced is a big ask, preserving what remains should be a higher priority.
  • Living History: A full-fledged history park, perhaps like Old Sydneytown, but better located, to help assuage the parents that the trip to Sydneyland is educational, and not simply entertainment. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is a model. (There is Australiana Pioneer Village, which I have not yet visited so cannot assess)
  • Food: A good food market, like the Haymarket’s Paddy’s Market might have been. This could be revised on the lines of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market.
  • Rides: Sydney once had Wonderland Sydney in the western region, as well as O’Neill’s Adventureland. There are proposals for new amusement parks, but nothing concrete.
  • Entertainment Film: A studio tour, transforming Fox Studios, now accessible by light rail, and the adjacent area into more than just a sterile Entertainment Quarter site for those attending stadium events. Imagine a Mad Max: Fury Road themed ride, or entering the Matrix (filmed in Sydney). (a Studio Tour for Fox’s Back Lot is not a new idea either, Fox had a theme park from 1999-2001). [Of course there is a Warner Bros Movie World in the Gold Coast, but that’s pretty far from Sydney]
  • Entertainment Games: SegaWorld – themed on everyone’s favourite Hedgehog, Sonic, located in Darling Harbour
  • Animals: A world-class aquarium [Seaworld in Gold Coast doesn’t count, nor does SeaLife]
  • Animals: A ‘safari tour’, though hopefully with a more Marsupial theme, as people probably don’t come to Australia for an African Lion Safari.  (The Safari started as a home for Bullen’s circus animals apparently).
  • Exhibits: A  Garden Palace, which Sydney once had for the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, before it was burned down, coincidentally? destroying public records along the way.
  • Nightlife: Shows and drinks and things that take place after dark. People always seem to be saying it used to be better in their youth.

Expanding Sydneyland

But in addition to wishing that what was taken away was instead preserved or will now be restored, we might also think about what never was but should be. Copying other cities is a cheap way to get some attractions, but the real question is what can be done that would make Sydneyland more unique, not just another homogenised tourburb in the world vacation system.

Transport

Unlike me, most people don’t come to a city for its transport in general, a few distinct icons, like San Francisco’s Cable Cars exempted. But they stay and return if the transport system is interesting and convenient. From the tourist perspective, the most glaring gap is easy service by Train to Bondi Beach. A local circulator bringing White Bay, Darling Harbour, and Circular Quay is also an obvious gap, and some have proposed a gondola, which we would all ride once, but this seems less efficient then rebooting the Monorail, and perhaps the Metro West line stations at the Bays Precinct, Pyrmont and Barangaroo will fit the bill. The mode that will make people happiest is undoubtedly ferry though. Most cities don’t have good ferry systems, and people like being on the water. The ride itself is an attraction.  It is well within Sydney’s grasp to have a more efficient ferry system that turns boats around quicker and serves more destinations at a higher frequency.

A decent shared bike/e-bike and scooter system coupled with a comprehensive network of separated and protected bike paths will also enable many tourists to get between attractions independently and happily. The city and region need to be more ambitious on this front.

Attractions

While Disneyland is short of land, Disneyworld has planned for the future, and has plenty of expansion opportunities. Sydneyland too is readily expanded. The most obvious target area is around Glebe Island and White Bay, which can easily be plugged into the Ferry and Metro networks. DisneySea in Tokyo can be a model for this. In fact the DisneyWharf at Sydney Harbour proposal, more like Florida’s Celebration, considered this site and would have been open to the public without a gate, though individual elements would of course been charged for. White Bay has a Cruise Terminal now, but not much is walkable from the site, and it is not as desirable as the Cruise Terminal at Circular Quay (which is great for the tourists, but less attractive for everyone else). The government has tried to pitch this site for corporate headquarters, but no one has bitten yet.

Woolloomooloo Bay, with the naval base protecting us from a Japanese invasion looks like another site for potential addition to the Sydneyland core economy. What the appropriate feature for this site remains to be seen, but undoubtedly there is always room for more casinos.

The various islands in the Harbour could also feature nice attractions. It has been proposed (and rejected) to turn Cockatoo Island into an art precinct.

Sydney also should have a first-rate transport museum. The Tramway museum is a bit remote and under-developed, but has a nice collection of rolling stock. The Sydney Bus Museum is excellent, and is adjacent to a bus depot in Leichhardt, but still a bit obscure. The State Train Museum is in Thirlmere and requires a bus transfer to reach by public transport. The Powerhouse, named because it was a Powerhouse, an energy generating building for Sydney trains, combines transport (including rail, aviation, and space, among others) and fashion (under the guise of technology), and a few other bits and bobs, but is being dismantled and reassembled for Parramatta, apparently, as part of a redevelopment opportunity. The Nautical Museum in Darling Harbour is really nice as well, and perhaps most oriented toward tourists. This should be systematically rethought.

The ethnic suburbs of Sydney are great, and not really well marketed to those from outside. While as customers we don’t want our favourite local places overwhelmed with tourist buses, I am sure the vendors would like more business. And if you are spending on average a month in Australia, more time in these suburbs seems appropriate. A food tour of Sydney should definitely take you out of the CBD.

John Cornell and Paul Hogan, mates
John Cornell and Paul Hogan, mates

The Statue of Liberty, facing New York City, was a gift of the French. Their two other core values: Égalité and Fraternité, should similarly be located at the entrepôt of other world cities. While Australia, like many places struggles with equality, the value of mateship, or fraternité, is central. A giant statue of Fraternité in Sydney Harbour would help cement Sydney’s position among the great cities. I imagine it would be a statue of John Cornell and Paul Hogan, but perhaps there are better sets of mates, like Burke and Wills (though that ended badly) or Bennelong and Phillip.


Notes

  • Disneyland, California is used as the example here, obviously different parks have some differences in their land, embeddedness, and so on.

Master of Transport – Masterclass

Study Australia’s first interdisciplinary degree focusing on the engineering, urban planning, and business management of the ever-growing global transport sector.

Masterclass for the Master of Transport https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/masterclass-for-the-master-of-transport-registration-68231310687
Register for a Masterclass for the Master of Transport , October 8, 2019

Click for more information about the Masterclass or the Master of Transport in general.

Description
Our masterclasses program is your opportunity to taste test our curriculum.
Delivered from a class that may form your future course, so you can explore which postgraduate option is right for you.
Understanding How Technology Shapes Cities

This class will look at the history and future of transport, and how it has and may change where and how we live. By exploring the evolution of systems such as the London Underground, Sydney’s Trams, and US Highways, we can learn about the processes that effect the landscape as electric, autonomous, and shared vehicles become widespread.
Presented by Prof David Levinson..

This class is delivered as part of CIVL 5703, a unit of study offered through the Master of Transport.

Considering other courses? Find all our masterclass options as part of our event series Postgraduate Studies Week.

If you have any accessibility requirements for this event please contact imogen.sheridan@sydney.edu.au.

Access across Australia: mapping 30-minute cities, how do our capitals compare?

Reprinted from The Conversation.

Accessibility – the ease of reaching valued opportunities such as jobs, workers and shops – is the whole reason cities exist. There is no reason to locate anywhere but to be near things, far from things, or to possess things. Access measures this.

Locations with better accessibility to urban opportunities generally have higher development density and more expensive real estate. This is because places with higher accessibility are more productive, so their workers earn higher wages. And modes of transport that reach more opportunities – that is, provide access to places where people work, live, shop, and more – tend to have higher market share.

Our new report, Access Across Australia, for the first time generates a set of consistent maps and graphs of 30-minute access to jobs and workers by each transport mode for each of the eight capital cities. This covers around 70% of the nation’s resident workers and employment opportunities.

The full report compares 10-minute to 60-minute accessibility to both employment locations and to workers’ homes by four modes of transport – car, public transport, walking, and cycling – for each city. It also reports the overall job-worker balance, comparing how many workplaces can be reached to how many competing workers want to reach those same workplaces.

The accessibility measures take into account the effects on travel times of traffic congestion and the walking and transfer elements of the public transport mode.

Accessibility captures the combined effect of land use and transport infrastructure. The faster and more direct the network, the higher the access. The more opportunities (people and places) that can be reached, the higher the accessibility.

This value varies across and between regions. For this article, we show this in maps for Sydney – the full report has maps for all four transport modes, for both jobs and labour (resident workers), for all eight cities. In the table, city-level accessibility numbers are reported as a metropolitan average, weighted by the number of people who experience that accessibility (population-weighted accessibility), to best represent the experience of the working population.

Population-weighted 30-minute accessibility to jobs; cities ranked by the size of employment opportunities. Hao Wu and David Levinson

The rankings in the table are discussed below for each mode.

Cars

Cars have higher accessibility than public transport, walking, or cycling. Perth has the greatest number of jobs and workers reachable by car within 30 minutes.

At time thresholds of 40 minutes and longer, residents of Sydney and Melbourne have higher accessibility than other cities. During the morning peak period, Melbourne has moderately better car accessibility than Sydney, despite Sydney being larger and having more opportunities overall. This indicates that roads in Melbourne are faster than those in Sydney.

30-minute job accessibility by car in Sydney. Hao Wu and David Levinson

 

Public transport

Public transport accessibility incorporates time to reach transit stops and station on foot, and equals the minimum of walking and transit times between an origin and destination. It remains at a significant disadvantage compared to car travel, reaching between 12% and 18% of the urban opportunities accessible by car under a 30-minute threshold.

Public transport accessibility tends to be high in city centres and low in other places. The disparity with cars peaks at 20-30 minutes’ travel time.

Sydney and Melbourne have the best public transport accessibility among Australian cities, followed by Perth and Brisbane. It could be higher still with better-located station entrances and exits.

30-minute job accessibility by public transport in Sydney. Hao Wu and David Levinson

 

Cycling

This report identifies cycling as a viable option for improving accessibility. Assuming cyclists are willing to ride on the street, people cycling can reach about twice as many jobs as people on public transport within 30 minutes in all eight Australian cities, and around one-third of job opportunities reachable by car (except for Perth, which is 16%). Sydney and Melbourne have the highest cycling accessibility.

Of course, it should be recognised that many potential bicyclists are extremely uncomfortable riding in traffic. Their accessibility on a more limited network of residential streets and protected bike lanes would be much reduced.

30-minute job accessibility by cycling in Sydney. Hao Wu and David Levinson

Walking

People walking cannot travel as fast as those on other modes, particularly over longer distances, where public transport and cars can travel at much higher speeds. Not surprisingly, walking has the lowest accessibility of all four modes. The presence and timing of traffic signals that give priority to cars significantly reduces walking accessibility.

Walking accessibility is closely related to urban density. City centres, especially those in larger and denser cities, tend to have better walking accessibility.

Among the eight major Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne have the best walking accessibility. Hobart and Darwin have the lowest.

30-minute job accessibility by walking in Sydney. Hao Wu and David Levinson

Job-worker balance

The job-worker balance of a place is measured dynamically as the ratio of jobs and resident workers reachable within 30 minutes. City centres have superior accessibility to both jobs and workers, and less pronounced advantage in car accessibility compared to other modes. Higher jobs-to-workers accessibility ratios in city centres show that, in general, jobs are distributed closer to and better connected with city centres than residential locations.

The job-worker balance is a potent indicator for identifying urban centres and for measuring the strength of centres.

Ratio of 30-minute job accessibility to worker accessibility by car in Sydney. Hao Wu and David Levinson

Conclusions

This research gives us a baseline accessibility measurement using the best available data for 2018. Repeating this analysis over time will enable long-run tracking of accessibility as a performance measure.

This will enable us to answer questions such as: is accessibility by a particular transport mode rising or falling? Is that due to congestion, network contraction, new infrastructure, or changes in residential or employment density? Are policies working to expand accessibility for the population as a whole, and for areas within cities? Which investments give the most accessibility “bang for the buck”?

Some of the results are surprising – in particular, the observation that the speed of Perth’s freeway and street network more than compensates for more limited scale in producing 30-minute car accessibility.

But this result is just an indicator of broader accessibility, which includes additional relevant opportunities, more times of day and more information than is presently at hand. This is likely to become more widely available in an era of big data if governments choose to actually implement the open data claims they advertise.

Taken for a ride | AltMedia

Joan Henson writes Taken for a ride in AltMedia. My quotes below, the full interview below that.


Sydney lags internationally for cycling

University of Sydney Professor David Levinson has researched how the distance between commuters and stations can be shrunk by installing strategic station entry points, thus expanding commuter catchments.

As bicycle speeds can be three to four times that of walking, “many more people are in range of the station via bike.”

For safe accessibility, cyclists need entry points in low-speed residential streets and protected cycleways on high-speed roads.

In addition to better station accessibility, he says that Sydney “sorely lacks a protected bike lane network.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in five Australians hospitalised for a transport-related injury from 2015-16 was a cyclist.

In early May, it was reported that the rate of injury for other road users declined from 1990-00 to 2015-16 by 1.3 per cent per year.

Over the same period there was an increase of 1.5 per cent per year transport-related injuries for cyclists, until the last six years, where the average increased to 4.4 per cent per year.

Levinson says that far fewer people cycle in Sydney than in places with better cycling infrastructure like Canberra, Portland and Minneapolis in the United States, or “most places in Europe or China,” and that changes in road rules and infrastructure could make walking and cycling more attractive alternatives.

Andrew Chuter, President of Friends of Erskineville, says that his group has started canvassing the community about building a southern entrance to Erskineville station, inspired by Redfern Station developments.

The new Ashmore Estate development, which will house about 6000 residents, presents challenges for accessing the station via walking and cycling.

“That estate accesses Erskineville Station by walking up a hill to the top of the station, and then comes back down to the platform,” he says.

“It really doesn’t make sense… to come back down to the platform.”

The City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 target aims for 10 per cent of all trips to the city to be made by bicycle.

In early May NSW Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was “very aware that Sydney is not a cycle-friendly city”, and wanted to work with councils and the Transport Minister to make improvements.

The full interview is below:

I watched your Tuesday Friends of Erskineville talk where you spoke about the extended catchment area that would be provided to commuters at various Sydney railway stations by building an extra entry (bringing commuters closer to stations and potential workplaces).

  • In your estimation, briefly, which Sydney stations could most benefit from better bicycle accessibility and whyI imagine there might be some overlap with the study you referenced at the Tuesday talk, but also unique problem areas, such as connecting to cycleways and making wider concourse entry/exit areas?

I think all stations could benefit from better bicycle accessibility, including both bicycle access routes and bike storage at stations. Bicycles expand the catchment area significantly beyond the walk catchment. Bike speeds are about 3 to 4 times as fast as walking, so in the same 5 or 10 minutes, many more people are in range of the station via bike. The issue is not just bike access to stations on safe facilities (low-speed residential streets and protected bikeways on higher speed roads), but bike access to everywhere. Sydney sorely lacks a protected-bike lane network. People say no one bikes in Sydney, and while not true of course, far fewer people bike here than in good cities for bicycling like Canberra in Australia, Portland and Minneapolis in the United States, or most places in Europe or China. Is the lack of facilities due to the lack of bicyclists, or is the lack of bicyclists due to the lack of facilities? I think at this point the latter is true. Sydney’s roads have been given over to maximising automobile throughput at the expense of all other modes, and this is socially counterproductive. The new Metro was an excellent opportunity to connect to local neighborhoods with protected bike lanes. I don’t think this opportunity was fully taken advantage of (yet). It is much easier to do this in the Western suburbs, where the rights-of-way are wider (enabling protected bike lanes to be installed with less pain), and the distances longer, making the region even more amenable to bicycling than walking.

  • Have you done similar catchment studies related to bicycle accessibility? 

Not as such. The logic is the same though, bikes are just faster so the territory is wider. If we assume bike speeds are 3 times faster than walking, and bikes can go everywhere people on foot can, then the 15-minute walk access catchment is the 5-minute bicycle catchment.

  • How could Redfern station and Macdonaldtown cycling accessibility be improved? 

Part of the issue at both stations is that the railway tracks act as a barrier to north-south crossing. One (or more) pedestrian/bike crossing between would be useful. There are plans for this, but they haven’t been implemented. As the new south/west entrance at Redfern is planned, this helps shorten distances, but it should be designed to accommodate crossings for both modes (without bikes having to dismount), and the entrance should provide bicycle storage for bike-to-train travelers.

  • Do you see problems with the Transport for NSW’s Redfern station overpass model? What about its likability to the currently in-construction Wilson st cycleway and never-made Lawson st cycleway?

The plan is still a schematic. I think it should be wide-enough to accomodate separated bike lanes.

Lawson Street, which I use daily, is a separate matter, and needs a major redesign, far too much space is given over to cars for parking, and not enough for people on foot to move when Sydney University is in session. A shared space design, with many fewer parking spaces, and slower speed limits, might be appropriate here. But again the problem from a transport perspective is the tracks act as a barrier, so too many people are channeled onto a small road. The new entrance at Redfern would reduce pedestrian demand on Lawson significantly.

  • Does Sydney have a problem synchronising cycling infrastructure with roads and railways? How in particular? Should changes be made and what are the priorities in your view? Is there a disconnect between state government and Sydney City Council cycling prioritiesAnd does that confuse future infrastructure planning investments and commuters? If so, how?NSW Public Spaces Minister, Rob Stokes, recently said that the road network is shaped in a way that is not friendly to bicycle riders. The state has been reluctant to approve plans to link up cycleways in the inner city. There is no east-west cycleway in the CBD, links at King, Castlereagh, Chalmers and Liverpool streets lack state funding and approval.

Australia has given far more power to the State government, and less to local government, than most places in the United States, where I am most familiar. Given that governance structure, it is not surprising that NSW privileges the longer distance trips over shorter distance. Imagine local governments (or even a new metropolitan-level government) had more powers over local streets, they would be more responsive to local demands, and less to demands from people who would be considered non-residents (non-voters). You may periodically wind up with a sympathetic state government for bicycle issues, but structurally, it is not embedded in the system. Local governments, of whatever party, will support local travel rather than through travel.

  • What led you to found the Walk Sydney group? What feedback have you received?

Brigid Kelly was the main organiser of WalkSydney. I and others helped. There was no one advocating for pedestrians in Sydney, and so pedestrians get the short end of policies. I saw this especially with traffic signal timings. While Sydney is walkable from a land use perspective, there are lots of adjacent activities and interesting things to see. The footpaths are decaying, and the delays for those on foot so that cars don’t have to stop are appalling. The road rules favour cars rather than pedestrians in a way that is strange.

I was previously involved in establishing and chairing the streets.mn group in Minnesota, which provided a forum for discussion of transport and land use issues, and grew to be a pretty successful website and community that influenced public perception of transport and land use questions. Minneapolis has become much more progressive on these issues since we started talking in a coherent way about them.

I think Sydney needs something similar, that brings together intelligent people discussing the transport and land use problems here in a civilised forum. There are lots of small advocacy groups, but no strong voice, and no one looking systematically at the problem multi-modally.

  • What are the most pressing safety concerns for you for cyclists on Sydney transport networks?

Crash and fatality rates in Australia are higher for cyclists than many other countries. We need to ask why. And then we need consider whether the putative safety solutions with heavy fines are important  to improve safety or just ’safety theatre’. It’s not like we can’t learn from other countries that have a much safer environment, and import their strategies. Some of this is driver education and behaviour and enforcement, but most of this is road rules (which are especially hostile to pedestrians here and give drivers an expanded perception of their privilege) and infrastructure (protected bike lanes, wombat crossings for pedestrians and cyclists), things that can be directly affected by pubic decisions.

  • Where do you see thefuture of transport alternatives in Sydney, like cycling, walking and new alternatives like shared electric scooters, Lime Bikes (after failure of share-bike predecessors)?

I think walking remains the most important of the set you gave, followed by bicycles and e-bikes. I see more privately owned e-scooters/e-skateboards around. Dockless Bike share (and scooter share) did not work here the first time around. The issues are in part for the shared bikes/e-bikes/e-scooters etc. are that people who are using them are traveling faster than walking, so shouldn’t be on footpaths generally, but not as fast as cars (or feel unsafe doing so) so don’t want to use streets. Thus, without a comfortable place to use the device, prospective users aren’t going to rent bikes (or scooters). So this gets back to infrastructure. The companies are doing what companies should do, explore the market. But as they have learned, the market environment here unfortunately isn’t ready for them.

Sydney Metro Opening Day: A Review

Sydney opened the long-awaited first Northwest section of its “Metro” line. Sydney has long had grade-separated, high-frequency train service (Sydney Trains) through its core, the “Metro” is different in that it is:

  • single-deck rather than double deck, with more doors, for faster boarding times
  • standing rather than sitting oriented (on a crowded train more standees than seated passengers, compared with Trains)
  • automated rather than manually driven
  • with platform-based as well as train-based doors, to improve safety.

In other words, while Sydney Trains is what Americans would think of as commuter rail, but on steroids, Sydney Metro  is like late 20th century (early 21st century) trains built in much of the developed world, most similar to systems like BART, DC Metro, or MARTA.

To get to the Metro, we took Sydney Trains from Redfern to Epping. At Epping, one descends and descends to reach the Metro platform. The stations and controls from Epping to Chatswood were remodeled from the early 21st century trains line (when the corridor was expected to be a Trains rather than a Metro. We took the line west to Tallawong (a parking lot and near the train stabling facility), and alighted and boarded the eastbound train which we took to Rouse Hill, where we alighted for lunch, making a series of culinary choice errors at the Rouse Hill food court, though I am not clear one could do otherwise.

The good news is that demand was high (75,000 in five hours, the Sydney Morning Herald gushes), apparently exceeding expectations. People are curious about the line, want to see it succeed, want to be able to use public transport to reach the city. Even before the problems that I will soon describe emerged, it was Standing Room Only on the westbound run.

The trains had indicators showing where they were on the line. There was an emergency stop button located near the doors which look like a User Interface disaster waiting to happen (that is, there will be an enormous number of false positives as people will push the button accidentally or in the believe it is required to open the door, as in an elevator).

The braking sound of the train is very much like DC Metro, though deceleration did not induce the same kind of nausea that DC Metro does. There is nevertheless a significant uncomfortable jerk as the Metro train comes to a stop at many of the stops.

After thoroughly exploring the Rouse Hill Town Centre, we queued up to board the Metro back, to go to Chatswood, and then transfer to a Train back to Redfern.

The bad news is the service operator (MTR) was not quite ready to provide a reliable service. We may eventually discover whether someone(s) specifically screwed up, or whether failure is indeed an orphan. Apparently (I did not witness this, but people report) there were issues with platform and train doors aligning, and issues with doors closing properly and with trains overshooting the platform. This held up trains Chatswood and Macquarie Park, and thus eventually all the trains in the line, as shockwave of stoppage cascades backwards all the way to Tallawong.

It took 1 hour and 40 minutes from Rouse Hill to Chatswood. The first 40 minutes were queueing at Rouse Hill, so as not to overload the platform for the few trains making it through, it was no 90 second, or 4 minute, or 5 minute headway as variously promised by various people at various times. The remaining hour was on train from Rouse Hill to Chatswood. The scheduled time is 35 minutes station-to-station.

Epping Metro, as the train to Tallawong approaches
Epping Metro, as the train to Tallawong approaches
No up escalators at the spacious Rouse Hill Metro Station
No up escalators at the spacious Rouse Hill Metro Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This opening debacle will, as first impressions are important, likely create a perception that the service is unreliable. If this is coupled with a few well-publicised rush hour breakdowns, it will take years to fully regain a reputation for reliability, and people will clamor for restoration of more express bus services. Obviously some of this technology problem is teething issues, and will be eventually sorted out, but surely this should have been worked out in testing … unless it was rushed for some reason.

The queue management was professional if indicative of problems. The communications with customers about the problems was vague.

Now, to be fair, opening day often brings about unexpected outcomes.

The opening of the Green Line light rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul was marked by an automobile wrongly driving on, and getting stuck on, tracks; and the train hit multiple pedestrians in its first year.

The Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway killed a prominent Member of Parliament. So the delays on the Sydney Metro are perhaps small potatoes in the scheme of things. One just would have hoped for a better performance.


* I am not commenting on the strategic decisions about the location of the line, etc. here.

 

How close is Sydney to the vision of creating three 30-minute cities?

This article, by Somwrita Sarkar, Hao Wu, and David Levinson first appeared in The Conversation.

The Greater Sydney Commission has proposed a 40-year vision of a metropolitan region formed of three “cities”: the Eastern “Harbour” City, the Central “River” City, and the Western “Parkland” City. The plan aims to create 30-minute cities, where the community has access to jobs and services in three largely self-contained but connected regions. Thus, Sydney would be polycentric.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s Three Cities Plan. Greater Sydney Commission

A polycentric city has multiple centres of employment, economic or social activity. Local labour markets and residential zones minimise long commutes, create a sense of place and neighbourhood, and strengthen economic agglomeration as companies, services and industries benefit from being close to one another.

However, it is still unclear whether Sydney is actually moving towards such a structure. In our recent work, we developed new ways of measuring polycentricity. We applied these to Journey to Work data from the 2016 Census to test how consistent the current centricity patterns of Greater Sydney are with the proposed plan.

How do you measure polycentricity?

Traditionally, employment densities are used as a measure of polycentricity. If the density of jobs in a location is higher than the average density for the entire region, then it is a centre.

However, this simple measure misses a key notion that makes cities what they are: network flows and spatial interactions. People “flow” from one place to another. Employment centres “attract” flows, and residential areas “produce” flows. Thus, a city is a collection of locations that interact dynamically, connected by daily commuting flows.

We proposed a set of new metrics to capture this idea of flows. We defined the net inflow of people to a location as the total number coming to this location to work minus the total number going from this location to work elsewhere. If the net inflows are positive, this place is a centre.

The chart below illustrates the idea. The base arc on the circle shows the number of people “flowing” out of a location to another location. The connecting arcs are coloured black if the net inflows into the focus regions (a), (b) or (c) are positive.

Testing polycentricity via net inflows: (a) Sydney City and Inner South (Sydney CBD), (b) Parramatta, (c) Eastern Suburbs. Source: The authors

Sydney CBD clearly emerges as a global centre for the whole region. Parramatta is a regional centre. Other locations such as the Eastern Suburbs are not centres at all.

The net inflow to a location can be divided by the total number of trips in the system, so inflow values are scaled from 0 to 1 using a standard statistical procedure. The higher the value, the higher the centre’s rank in the urban system. Here, a score of 1 means the centre is an absolute: all the trips in the system are a net inflow into the centre.

This gives us a trip-based centricity measure. And based on the area of the location, we can calculate a density-based centricity measure.

The maps below show trip-and-density-based measures – (a) and (b) respectively – for Greater Sydney at the Statistical Area Level 2 (representing a community that interacts together socially and economically).

Note the dominant role of the Sydney CBD. The other centres emerge as weak centres. Also, many of the second-order centres are very close to the CBD.

Visualising polycentricity in Sydney (red indicates highest values): (a) trip-based centricity, (b) density-based centricity, (c) transit-accessibility-based centricity, and (d) auto-accessibility-based centricity. Source: The Authors

The concept of accessibility

Counting the net inflow into a location may provide us with information about general centricity. However, it still does not tell us how easy or difficult it is for people to actually get to jobs. This brings us to the idea of accessibility.

Walter Hansen defined accessibility as “the spatial distribution of activities about a point, adjusted for the ability and the desire of people … to overcome spatial separation”. More practically speaking, a location is accessible if it can be reached within a set time (say 30 minutes) from another location.

We counted the net accessibility of a location by counting the number of jobs minus the number of workers (labour) that could be accessed from a particular location (SA2) in Sydney within 30 minutes. We counted travel time both by car and by public transport during a usual weekday peak hour (Wednesday 8am). Similar to the trip and density measures, accessibility centricities can also be scaled as values between 0 and 1. This allows us to compare across the four measures.

In the maps above, (c) and (d) show the transit and auto-based accessibility centricities based on accessibility for public transport and vehicles. Sydney CBD is highly accessible. The second-order centres show much weaker accessibility.

Takeaways for urban policy and the three-cities plan

The chart below shows the top-ranked centre, Sydney CBD (Level 1 centre), and the lower-ranked subcentres (Levels 2 and 3) emerging from our analysis.

Identified Level 1, 2, and 3 Centres for the Greater Sydney metropolitan region. Source: Authors

Accessibility planning should guide the design of a polycentric city

The design of polycentric Sydney should be guided by accessibility, the locations of jobs and homes, and subregional labour market organisation.

In short, the region should give priority to making jobs accessible by locating new jobs in emerging centres, instead of a mobility-focused system that takes people to jobs.

Reduce spatial mismatches between jobs and homes

Our results show that Sydney, paradoxically, remains strongly monocentric and strongly dispersed at the same time. The Sydney CBD accounts for 15% of jobs in the region, with the remaining 85% of jobs scattered around in weaker second-order centres and non-centres. Positive correlations exist between percentage of employed workers, trip-based centricity and the subcentre ranks.

But we see significant disparities between these ranks and accessibility centricities. This shows the spatial mismatches for commute lengths in the system.

A subcentre with high trip-centricity, employing a high percentage of workers, but relatively lower auto- and transit-based accessibility centricity, implies that even though a significant percentage of the population comes to this location to work, access to jobs at this centre within 30 minutes is low.

A policy response would be to increase the accessibility of jobs from this location, as it already serves as a centre. This situation is particularly clear in the cases of Parramatta-Rosehill and Macquarie Park-Marsfield. Penrith and Liverpool too have extremely weak accessibility centricity.

Parramatta CBD is emerging as a secondary centre in the Greater Sydney region, but with much weaker accessibility of jobs than Sydney CBD.haireena/Shutterstock

 

Polycentric cities should promote spatial justice

As cities grow in size, commute lengths increase if the labour market for the entire metropolitan region is integrated. Commute lengths will stabilise if a city has a clear polycentric or modular structure.

In the case of Sydney, spatial equity has always been a concern. However, inter-city comparisons show city size has a strong bearing on its equity and efficiency.

Our results show it’s increasingly important for larger cities to introduce a framework of subregional labour markets as part of the polycentricity agenda. Enabling shorter commutes for workers will improve spatial equity as well as efficiencies.

 

The article is based on this paper: Sarkar, Somwrita, Wu, Hao and Levinson, D. (2019) Measuring polycentricity via network flows, spatial interaction, and percolationUrban Studies. [doi])

How to increase transit ridership by up to 35% with one weird trick.*

This is a reprint from an article I wrote for The Conversation about our recent report “Catchment if you can: The effect of station entrance and exit locations on accessibility.”

The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson
The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson 

Train riders have to get to stations somehow. This is often referred to as the “first mile” or “last mile” problem. There are many technical solutions to help travellers get from home to the station and back, ranging from cars to electronic scooters, but most people use a much older technology, their feet, to get from A to B. What is seldom considered is access to the train platform itself.

Stations are not points but places. They occupy a large area. A person walking at average speed takes about two minutes to walk from one end of a full-length eight-car train to the other.

Often platforms have a single access point on one side of the station, which makes it more difficult for people on the other side of the station to get to the platform. Passengers may need to almost circumnavigate the station to get to the platform. At an average walking speed, the extra distance they must backtrack adds up to six minutes per trip each way, our research has found.

Imagine being so unlucky to have an extra 12 minutes of travel time every day if you take the train. You might be tempted to drive instead.

Catchment.jpg
Illustration of worst-case scenario, traveler lives west of the station with an East Platform and works East of a station with a West Platform, adding 6 minutes of travel each way, 12 minutes per day.

The table below shows the extra travel time in minutes depending on platform locations and access points for a traveller’s origin and destination. The average time for such a one-sided configuration of train stations is 3.25 minutes each way.

Work

East

West

Live

Platform

East

West

East

West

East

East

0

4

4

2

West

4

4

6

2

West

East

2

6

4

4

West

2

4

4

0

Table 1: Additional Travel Time Depending on Origin and Destination Residence and Workplace Location vis-a-vis Platform Location.

While this example is hypothetical, it is drawn from experience in Sydney, where 44 of 178 train stations have only a single side entrance.

So what impact will a second entrance have?

We examined those stations and access to their platforms: how many people lived within 5, 10 and 15 minutes of the station platform, considering actual entrance location, and how many jobs were within 5, 10 and 15 minutes of the platform. Using existing ridership data from Opal cards, we estimated a model that related the passenger entry and exit flows at each station to that station’s accessibility.

Accessibility at train stations across Sydney. Author provided

We sketched a second entrance at those 44 stations and measured accessibility again. It’s now higher, as having two entrances instead of one means more people can reach the platform in the same time. We then estimated the increase in ridership from the model due to the improved accessibility, assuming no change in population or employment.

Over all 44 stations, total morning peak period entries increased by 5%. But some stations benefit a lot, and others not at all, so prioritisation of investments matters.

It will be no surprise to locals that Erskineville station comes out on top with a nearly 35% increase. While many of the new apartment-dwelling residents west of the station make the extra hike every day, even more would catch the train if there were a convenient entrance.

Other top 10 stations include: Bankstown, Newtown, Villawood, Redfern, Burwood, Sydneham, Caringbah, Meadowbank and Penshurst. Planning is already under way to improve Redfern station.

While this result considers existing development, adding a second entrance can make new transit-oriented development that much more valuable. This is because it will likely increase activity on the previously less accessible side of the station, as the example of Erskineville shows below.

Author provided

 

Other considerations include accessibility for people who cannot use staircases, as many of the stations are older and will require lifts. The prospects of park-and-ride lots, the costs of construction, the presence of nearby stations, and site feasibility also play into final decisions.

Our formal findings and details methods are summarized in this Executive Summary, and written up in this report: Catchment if you can: The effect of station entrance and exit locations on accessibility

The full Atlas is here: Atlas

 

A brief interview was ABC NSW News, Friday May 3, 2019, starting at 13:24 into the broadcast.


*Results vary by station.