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.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Surprisingly Not Terrible Urban Interface of McDonald’s in Alexandria, NSW

Recently I berated a hotel in Shanghai for not welcoming pedestrians from a corner. I have since come across a McDonald’s, shown in the images, which makes an effort to welcome pedestrians from the adjacent intersection, with an opening at the corner, and a clearly delineated and non-circuitous pedestrian path across the driveway to the otherwise typical and un-urban store configuration.

I don’t know the history, I imagine  there was once a typical corner hotel/pub that for whatever reason (abandonment, fire, changing market) became a McDonald’s site. The planners insisted on maintaining the semblance of urbanity at the corner, and this was the compromise. One day there will be a real building again. Until that day, I have seen far worse.

 

IMG_8033IMG_8032IMG_8031

On Real Estate in Sydney

As a new arrival, I have been studying the Sydney real estate market with dismay. To find housing, one typically goes through either domain.com.au or realestate.com.au. Domain is a spinout of the Fairfax newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age) but is now bigger than both. Realestate.com.au is an offspring of the rival Murdoch newspapers.

A panorama of the development near Green Square in Sydney
A panorama of the development near Green Square in Sydney

The first thing one notices about Sydney are the exorbitant prices.  Australia has not had a recession for 25 years, (though economists have predicted at least 10 of the last 3 recessions) and prices have steadily marched upward (until the last couple of months at any rate). People have come to believe in the inviolability of above normal profits in real estate investments. And obviously owners in the system hope this to be true, so there is motivated reasoning.

On the one hand, land, they aren’t making any more of it. And there is a large desire for individuals from Asia to buy real estate in Australia for a variety of reasons (as a form of wealth insurance by investing in a stable capitalist country with rule of law, to help children immigrate, just because they believe in the inevitability of ever rising prices. Further, there are politicians, presumably supported by their mates in the real estate industry, who will do anything to keep this game going, including letting people borrow from their Supa, their retirement scheme, to invest in more real estate. Sydney is certainly a desirably place, and the most desirable parts, with the highest accessibility and best views, are scarcer than inland areas.

On the other hand, most of Australia is pretty empty. In response to demands, supply is increasing in the city, there are cranes everywhere, and residential new starts are at historic highs. This should soak up the demand and, if in fact supply rises faster than demand, cause prices to drop some. Also, it is cheaper to rent than to pay the interest on a comparably valued house, much less own (excluding various tax gambits, like negative gearing)

My own view is this is a bit Bubbly. It seems like a Ponzi scheme or musical chairs, and you don’t want to be the last one entering a Ponzi scheme.  Australia has a very long coastline, other cities are less expensive, and the amenities that provide value are steadily being spatially distributed.

So we are renting, for now, perhaps forever. My sense is that capital would be better invested elsewhere (or in cash – since the stock market is overvalued as well) than in such an obvious bubble. When conditions change, we will reconsider.

The real estate market differs from the US in a few ways. Stamp duty (about 5%) on property sales is a large source of government revenue (while normal rates are lower). (Notably, this is a weak form of land value capture, especially since much of the value is in the land rather than the structure). Also there is a single land registry which makes title search pretty trivial.

Karen Strojek writes about the Torrens Title System:

The story of Torrens and the Real Property Act of 1858 is fairly well known. Torrens took an interest in reforming South Australia’s chaotic deeds-based land system when an acquaintance lost money on a property, owing to a faulty title.

With help and advice from competent friends, and a sustained campaign for conveyancing reform, Torrens won the seat of Adelaide in the first parliamentary election of 1856. His Real Property Act came into effect in 1858. Soon afterwards, Torrens resigned from government to run the new land titles registry.

Under the new system, the location and dimensions of each land parcel were to be surveyed and registered. Every new land owner received a secure grant of title, guaranteed by the Crown.

Recently there has been discussion of privatising this database. It is not clear what the value added of the private sector is here.

Renting

Most rentals appear to be handled by Real Estate Agents (while in the US, it appears far more owner-driven). The agents will list the property on the above-noted websites. This ad will include a few photos (with fisheye lenses to make it look bigger) and not include a floorplan because that would benefit the renter not the landlord (unless it is a large unit). So you can’t easily compare units before you go and see them, which is exceedingly annoying.  Even for sale properties,   which do have a floorplan, they often don’t include gross floorspace.

The Agents then set an open-house window of 15 minutes, and wait for the hordes to flood in. Strangely, many showings are scheduled simultaneously (typically Saturday morning) so people are racing around looking at properties. So you get to kick the tires for a very short period. If you are interested in one or more properties, you apply. Fortunately there is an online application that is common to most agents called 1form. Unfortunately there are competitors to 1form, so it is not the 1form to rule them all. Agents make up nonsense about it not working with their system, but I think the agencies don’t want to pay the associated fees or higher a coder.

The whole process is Dynamic Optimization. You must apply simultaneously to multiple properties, and keep looking until you put down money. If you don’t, someone will grab the property out from under you.  The agents screen the applicants and the owners than look at the applicants and then you are notified. If you are interested, you must then put down a non-refundable Holding Fee. This will apply to rent if you ultimately sign, and takes the unit off the market until the contracts are signed (or not). Obviously you don’t want to put deposits on more than one property, since then you will forfeit money.

Owning

The process of buying houses differs as well. The property is listed on the above websites. There are a few viewing times. And then there is an auction. In the US an auction is an indication of a distressed or foreclosed property. Here it is the most common way of selling.  (Though you can make an offer before the property is auctioned). The auction process seems to work for the benefit of the seller, playing on people’s emotions and excitement. It reduces the work of the agent, and clears the market faster. A standard metric that is reported about the market is auction clearances.

Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil), University of Sydney

The University of Sydney just prepared a video on our Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) program. The video is below. …

 

Civil engineering is a broad profession that combines functional solutions with creativity and innovation to improve society. Civil engineers are responsible for the design and construction of such things as buildings, towers and transport infrastructure in addition to the design and management of gas and water systems and irrigation systems.

Our Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) degree provides you with a suite of embedded technical and professional skills to create infrastructure that improves lives throughout the world.

Throughout this four-year degree you will study a series of core units as you master the foundations of civil engineering, with the option of then specialising in an optional major, including construction management, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structures, transport engineering or humanitarian engineering – the first of its kind in Australia. You will have the opportunity to gain invaluable hands-on industry experience through internships as well as the option to utilise your knowledge in a engineering fieldwork trip to a developing country.

For more:  http://sydney.edu.au/courses/bachelor…

Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Sydney

School of Civil Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies
Reference no.1048/0517

  • Be valued for your exceptional knowledge and experience in Engineering Transport
  • Great opportunity for a scholar with expertise in Transport Engineering
  • Full time continuing role (remuneration package: $120-170k p.a. which includes leave loading and up to 17% super)

About the opportunity
Applications are invited for the appointment of a Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in the area of Transport in the School of Civil Engineering, within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, to coincide with the launching of a transport major as part of the civil engineering undergraduate program. We are seeking candidates with an outstanding record of research and scholarship with proven and substantial research expertise in transport engineering areas of interest to the school, including, but not limited to, Traffic Engineering, Transport Planning, Freight Transport, Public Transport, Active Transport, Travel Behaviour, Highway Engineering, and Transport Safety Engineering.

The School of Civil Engineering is introducing a Major in Transport Engineering in the BE (Civil) degree program in 2017. You will work collaboratively to implement the new Transport Engineering Major and lead a Transport Engineering research group. You will have opportunities to collaborate with researchers in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), which resides in the Business School of the University of Sydney, www.sydney.edu.au/business/itls, and has achieved worldwide recognition for its research and teaching on transport and logistics management. You will be also expected to engage with the wider research community related to transport engineering within the engineering faculty and other faculties in the University.

About you
The University values courage and creativity; openness and engagement; inclusion and diversity; and respect and integrity. As such, we see the importance in recruiting talent aligned to these values in the pursuit of research excellence. We are looking for a Lecturer / Senior Lecturer with:

  • a PhD Civil Engineering or related discipline
  • teaching experience at tertiary level
  • excellent academic administration skills
  • excellent teamwork and communication skills to work with a broad range of internal and external stakeholders.

You will be responsible for teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in one or more of the areas of transport and the supervision of research students in these and other specialist areas. You should be able to demonstrate a commitment to high standards of teaching and to the maintenance of academic standards in a broadly based civil engineering school. The school is committed to increasing its research output and to increasing the number of research students.

About us
Since our inception 160 years ago, the University of Sydney has led to improve the world around us. We believe in education for all and that effective leadership makes lives better. These same values are reflected in our approach to diversity and inclusion, and underpin our long-term strategy for growth. We’re Australia’s first university and have an outstanding global reputation for academic and research excellence. Across our campuses, we employ over 6000 academic and non-academic staff who support over 60,000 students.

We are undergoing significant transformative change which brings opportunity for innovation, progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us. 



The University of Sydney encourages part-time and flexible working arrangements, which will be considered for this role.

For more information about the position, or if you require reasonable adjustment or support filling out this application, please contact Dan Kuhner, Recruitment Consultant, on +61 2 8627 0934 or dan.kuhner@sydney.edu.au.

If you would like to learn more, please refer to the Candidate Information Pack for the position description and further details.

To be considered for this position it is essential that you address the online selection criteria. For guidance on how to apply visit: How to apply for an advertised position.

Closing date: 11:30pm 30 July 2017 (Sydney Time)

The University of Sydney is committed to diversity and social inclusion. Applications from people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; equity target groups including women, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ; and people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, are encouraged.

If we think your skills are needed in other areas of the University, we will be sure to contact you about other opportunities.

The University reserves the right not to proceed with any appointment.

Candidate Information Pack

Selection Criteria

How to apply:

 

Official Post:

http://sydney.nga.net.au/cp/index.cfm?event=jobs.checkJobDetailsNewApplication&returnToEvent=jobs.processJobSearch&jobid=C76C1113-5F47-41EB-A669-A78200902649&CurATC=EXT&CurBID=949319bc-8898-4f11-ac4b-9db401358504&jobsListKey=8f81f529-635c-44c7-9d13-eb67f5f4eb7b&persistVariables=CurATC,CurBID,jobsListKey&lid=45133800008

On Trams in Sydney

‘Trams’ is the generic Australian term for smaller trains that in the US are called streetcars (in a shared right of way) and light rail (in an exclusive but usually not separated right-of-way).

The history of trams in Sydney dates from 1879-1961. Notably the early trams (dubbed the Juggernaut) were steam powered, as electric power was not yet feasible. Trackage peaked at 291 km in 1923 (the same year as the peak in the US), and ridership peaked in 1945 (also the same year as the US) with over 400 million rides per year, served by up to 1600 cars on the network at any peak times. Voommaps has developed a high-quality stylised map of the peak network.

Books about Trams and Transit in Sydney
Books about Trams and Transit in Sydney. I acquired these (for work, on behalf of the University) from the Sydney Bus Museum, in what may have been their customer largest purchase, ever.

Famously Melbourne kept its trams while Sydney engaged in ‘bustitution‘, converting its Tram routes to buses. Unlike the US, there does not seem to be too much nostalgia for Sydney’s disbanded network of trams, perhaps because residential mobility is so high, and so few people lived (or parents lived) in Sydney in the 1940s or 1950s when trams were still running.

On the other hand, the flexible bus networks seem to accumulate circuity in a way that hard-coded tram networks would find difficult. It would be difficult to reroute trams in order to serve a local constituent to the detriment of the system performance as a whole, while buses are easily changed, and these changes seem hard to reverse.

Yet the idea of trams remains more popular than the reality of buses. Some of this is idealisation, some of this is differences in quality of service that are associated with the mode rather than services, and some of this is a real difference in ride quality. This is true so much that a proposed electric bus rapid transit service was pitched as a “trackless tram“.

Bus planning in Sydney. Map via @Kypros1992 in Twitter
Bus planning in Sydney. Map via @Kypros1992 in Twitter

Sydney built its first modern light rail line (L1) along an old circuitous goods line in 1997 and extended it in 2014.

A second, more significant line (L2 and L3, denoting the two branches) is now under construction from the city along the George Street spine to the Southeastern suburbs down the Anzac Parade, serving the University of New South Wales. This is a dense corridor with a lot of potential demand, and I suspect it will be busy from day one in 2019, and in retrospect, there will be significant regret that it was not a Metro. The shopping district on George Street is being pedestrianized as the tracks are being laid.

The new light rails are designed L1, L2, and L3 (the L for LRT), but people still call them trams.

Sydney Light Rail line L1.
Sydney Light Rail line L1.

Sydney’s second CBD is planned to have another set of lines radiating from the core in Parramatta. The LRT networks will apparently not interconnect directly, at least not in existing plans, but both will connect with Sydney Trains (and perhaps the Metro if the Sydney Metro West line is ever built connecting Sydney with Parramatta). Uncertainty about whether the Metro will be constructed has reduced the size of the Parramatta network, as the eastern leg of the system serves similar areas to the proposed Metro, so they don’t want to build both at the same time. Of course the Metro will have greater station spacings, so the LRT and Metro don’t necessarily compete as much as they complement, but it is an issue in a world with scarce resources, even in Australia. While one could easily imagine extending an LRT eastward along Parramatta Road to the University of Sydney and on to the City somewhere, especially if it were sufficiently separated from the Metro Line, the ‘trackless tram’ serves the same function, and the government can’t do both.

A bi-radial system, with hub and spoke systems centered on different CBDs eventually joining is in fact how the Streetcars in the Minneapolis- St. Paul region evolved.

Another line was mooted from Barangaroo to the University of Sydney, but this proposal has been returned to the sheds.

Is Melbourne better for having kept its trams? I suspect most people would say yes, but I am not convinced. Would Sydney have been better off if it had kept its trams? This is less obvious. Though the cities are similarly sized, if dissimilar topographically, the transit mode share in Sydney (23%) is notably higher than Melbourne (16%). This is due in part to more trains, but Sydney’s buses (+trams+ferries) outperform Melbourne’s trams (+buses+ferries) in journey to work trips as well.

On Shopping in Sydney

Sydney is a consumer city. Because of the relatively high residential density, you don’t need to walk too far to run into a High Street. Further, the economy here is geared to consumption. This is aided by the large visitor and tourist population, but is true for full-time residents as well. Stores are smaller on average than the US, but there appear to be more of them (per capita). So there are successful shopping malls, and not just ‘festival market places’ inside the city, which has been more difficult to execute in the US.

Several things to note:

  1. Unlike the US, many Australian Malls have grocery stores or “supas”, short for supermarket, notably: Aldi, Coles, Harris Farms, Woolworths, as well as butchers, bakers, fruit-stands, ethnic food specialists, and fishmongers.
  2. Instead of upmarket department stores, malls have junior department stores (K-Mart, Target, also Woolworths/Big W).
  3. Woolworths is still an ongoing concern here, and seems to be doing relatively well, at least in the supermarket sector. Things I learned: there is no relation among the various Woolworths internationally. The South African and the namesake Australian chains both separately stole the name of the US F.W. Woolworths in an era where trademarks and intellectual property were less well defended,  (see this list for an untangling).
  4. Target serves the market that K-Mart serves in the US. Like Woolworths, there is no relationship between US Target and Australia’s Target, locals just stole the name, so it appears we are still in the era where trademarks are not internationally defendable. It is owned by Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s largest companies that started as a cooperative to serve farmers in Western Australia (logically enough) and is now listed on the stock exchange.
  5. K-Mart serves the market that Target does in the US. It is also owned by Wesfarmers. It was originally a joint venture between Coles and the US Kresge (the owner of K Mart), so the name is rightfully theirs.
  6. Amazon has not yet invaded the market, but is expected to enter this year. This has the retail sector very nervous.
  7. Food courts are common, and malls have more eating establishments per square meter than the US.
  8. Prepared (i.e. Restaurant) Food Delivery is huge in Australia, with a number of companies in this sector: Deliveroo, Foodora, Uber Eats, among others. I have not used them. I had thought given the suffix, Deliveroo was an Australian company, but apparently it is an import. Many of the deliverers use bikes.
  9. Most High Streets are doing well, and most Malls are adjacent to High Streets.
  10. Some malls are integrated with transit (Bondi Junction, Chatswood, Parramatta), others are nearby, but not fully integrated (Broadway, Ashfield, Liverpool, Queen Victoria Building).
  11. Some parking ramp/garage space has been converted to shops (Harris Farms, a Whole Foods-like store at lower prices) at Broadway, a Chinese supermarket at Ashfield), as shown in the Figure
    Ming's supermarket in the parking garage of Ashfield Mall. The future of parking structures is to be reclaimed for alternative uses.
    Ming’s Fish and Meat Market in the parking garage of Ashfield Mall. The future of parking structures is to be reclaimed for alternative uses.

    . So while the value of store space outweighs the value of car storage space, store space can be expanded into the parking structure, as awkward as that seems (and it is awkward)

  12. Each bank is in each mall (This is unlike the US, but there are fewer banks here)
  13. Australia Post is often at the Mall.
  14. Each cell phone company is in each mall (This is like the US).
  15. There are still white goods stores in the mall. These have been mostly driven out in the US.
  16. Malls have more services in general (barbers, locksmiths)
  17. The malls tend to be more multi-story than the US, especially after considering parking ramps. The Mall of America is only 4 stories. Much smaller malls here go 5 or 6.
  18. Westfield owns a lot of the malls here. They also have a brightly lit sign on top of the Sydney Tower. They are buying and rebranding malls in the US. I think it best that Malls be named after their community, not have a generic corporate brand, just as Department Stores ought to have a historically local name.

 

US Malls are traditionally dominated by anchor department stores. In Sydney I have only been to one upmarket department store chain, Myer, (whose parent company at one time owned Coles grocery store, before Myer was sold) which is not in every mall, or even most of them, and it doesn’t seem to be doing so hot. Grace Bros was a former Sydney-based  department store chain, acquired by Myer (a Melbourne-based chain) and subsequent rebranded.  Unhappiness ensued (shades of Dayton’s / Mashall Fields / Macy’s) Some former Grace Bros sites have been converted to shopping malls with a variety of stores, including notably Bondi Junction and Broadway.

There is also a Dept. store chain David Jones (not David Bowie), owned by South Africa’s Woolworths (not Australia’s)

US Malls and planning in general could learn a lot from the arrangement of retail activities in Sydney.


Thus far I have been to the following shopping malls.

(w) indicates Westfield managed property.


Now, there is a dispute on Wikipedia about whether shopping centres in Sydney are notable. Many smaller centres are included in the world’s best online encyclopaedia. Yet, the following page was deleted for “non-notability” (a bogus criterion inconsistently applied if there ever was one). Now, I am not saying the perfectly innocuous Ashfield Mall is as notable as George Washington or a third-tier Pokemon character or the latest single of a soon-to-be-forgotten pop star, but thousands of people use it daily both for shopping and as a community centre, it no doubt is recorded in many places like the local newspaper and public documents, and it is easily verified, thus it is notable locally even if it is not so scandalous as to warrant much easily accessed internet newspaper coverage.

Wikipedia deletionists seem to pride themselves in the destruction of work of others and discouraging contributors, with unanimous decisions of 3 or 4 people on a kangaroo court being sufficient to destroy labor, with a process so painfully bureaucratic only those with low value of time are able to pursue it, so I will undermine their deleterious behaviour by putting the page here for posterity. (Wikipedia used to be fun).

Ashfield Mall is a shopping centre in the suburb of Ashfield in Sydney’s Inner West. It is located 10 km away from Sydney CBD and is located near Ashfield Railway Station.

History

Ashfield Mall opened in 1981 on the former Ashfield Town Hall (which was demolished in the 1980s).[1] It included four anchor tenants – Coles, Franklins, Target and Kmart. Ashfield Mall was acquired by Abacus Property in September 1997. Target closed its store in 2006 due to poor sales and Ashfield Mall underwent redevelopment which included the addition of a Woolworths supermarket & addition of specialty shops on the former Target store.[2] In 2013, Ashfield Mall underwent a redevelopment which included a new food court with a contemporary décor that included a sushi bar, enclosed eating area, brighter lighting and an Aldi store which opened on the former Franklins store. The redevelopment was completed in August 2013.[3][4] Ashfield Mall is currently undergoing a redevelopment which sees buildings of 101 apartments and refurbishment of the main entry into the shopping centre. Stage 2 encompassing the additional 6,500m2 of retail GFA and childcare centre is expected to commence in 2017 and the 67 serviced apartments in late 2017, early 2018.[5]

Stores

Ashfield Mall currently has around 80 stores including anchors such as Aldi, Coles, Kmart and Woolworths.

References

External links

Ashfield Mall official website