Reconsidering Induced Demand

Induced demand is no doubt an important concept in transport planning, with wide-ranging implications for the efficacy of certain investments – especially in large road projects. However, it seems that induced demand is brought up all too often as an excuse for the failure of public transport to compete against the car, fitting into a wider story of new road construction eating away at public transport use. Conversely, it is used by some as an argument to justify the reintroduction of otherwise unsustainable long haul country passenger rail services; because …

This post is published in full at Transport Textbook.

Branding in Melbourne

The presentation of a public transport system to the public is of great importance. Branding of a system, when done well, comes to not only symbolise the the system, but the city as a whole (as we’ve seen with London and the tube). Although the branding of any given system will only be as good as the system itself, I think it’s wrong to see it as merely a side issue or gunzel fantasy. It’s important to look at recent Melbourne experience with branding and system image, the costs and benefits of change, and how it could be achieved…

This post is published in full at Transport Textbook.

Transport Textbook live!

The aformentioned group blog is now set up and ready to go! The address is www.transporttextbook.com

To write articles, register at the site (there’s a link on the meta section of the right sidebar) and if you’ve been commenting here I can generally make you a contributor. Otherwise, just drop me an email at phin.melbptATgmail.com.

There’s obviously going some teething issues with the blog – so if you see any problems just let me know. Also, I’m keen to hear thoughts on how to organise and present external content (such as Riccardo’s training track series) in the best way possible. The first paragraph-no comments-link idea was a good one, I’ll have to get that worked out in the next few days. Thanks again to Michael Angelico and his brother for their help!

cheers

Phin

Group blog almost ready

It has been quiet here over the last week, but that hasn’t been from a lack of activity on my part. If you cast your minds back to the Common Resource post from a couple of months ago, you may see that I promised to get that group blog set up. Well, with Midga’s kind hosting help, I’m almost finished, and it should be ready in the next day or so.

More details to come…

ALP gone in WA – what now for Transperth?

Against all odds, it seems that the Liberals will form the next government of Western Australia. I’m no expert of WA politics by any stretch – but with the Liberals and ALP both holding 24 seats, and the Nationals with the balance, I can’t see how it’s going to go Labor’s way.

I’m no great fan of the Labor party generally, but there’s no doubt they did a damned good job in WA on public transport with Alannah MacTiernan as minister. Their policies have really lead to a true public transport renassance in Perth. How sad it is then, to see them replaced with these guys.

If the ALP can’t win the WA state election – where they have a proud record on public transport and have an opposition that kept that idiot Troy Buswell in for ages and ages; what hope do they have in a state like Victoria? Our forthcoming (2010) state election will be fought in large part on public transport issues – an area where the Victorian ALP have miserably failed – I honestly can’t see the ALP holding on in Victoria – and they don’t really deserve to either.

PS. Apologies for my blog absense of late, I’ve been pretty fatigued and was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease a couple of weeks ago. But recovery is easy so there should be a lot more posts from me in future.

cheers

Phin

Prospects for Proper Light Rail in Melbourne

I had actually started this post with the intention of discussing tram priority measures in Melbourne’s narrower streets. I was thinking about things like full time clearways, proper traffic light priority, blanket right turn bans etc., and whilst some of these might be sensible policies (especially traffic light priority and some right turn bans), I’d been approaching it from exactly the wrong way. Rather than trying to make street track as fast as reserve track, perhaps we should first aim to get the reserve track working like proper light rail. Under such a plan, we can – for want of a better term – get the low hanging fruit on the tram network and provide the biggest speed and capacity improvements at the lowest cost.

It’s predominantly the Dandenong Rd. tracks that have piqued my interest, and the idea of upgrading them has been covered extensively by Riccardo in the past. I didn’t initially realise the potential of the area, but with a bit of work, it could function as serious light rail. To do so, new high capacity vehicles would be required; as would platform stops at less frequent intervals, near instant light priority, basic signalling to prevent bunching and a high service standard (frequency of every 4 minutes of better, service at a high speed). The aerial photo below shows how substantial the reservation is.

But ultimately, a proper light rail network should be segregated from not only cars, but conventional street trams as well. For example, there’s a very compelling case for high standard light rail for Dandenong Rd, but that same case doesn’t really apply for Wattletree Rd. or Hawthorn Rd. Likewise, St. Kilda Rd. is ripe for a high capacity, segregated light rail upgrade, but High St., Malvern Rd. etc are not. Consequently, the street track sections need to run as shuttles and terminate at the light rail trunks. Yarra Trams have been advocating something along these lines for a while now – and good on them for doing so. But if a one size fits all approach is taken, the network is only as good as its weakest part – and in the case of Melbourne’s trams, that’s very worrying.

Some possible harebrained schemes to split up the tram system…

Following through with this logic dictates that Melbourne’s tram network would really become two distinct systems in terms of the service standard offered. One system would follow the current street tram set-up (although with ThinkTram and associated improvements), focussing predominantly on shorter trips. The other system would be based on high frequency, high capacity, high speed light rail. I’ve drawn up a speculative scheme based on this framework for the St. Kilda Rd. and Dandenong Rd. areas, shown below (note the map I made was basically drawn over the excellent Melbourne tram map on Wikipedia – hats off to the creator, John Shadbolt).

As you can see, I’ve connected Dandenong Rd. to the St. Kilda light rail via Fitzroy St. The Fitzroy St. connection would cost money to upgrade – probably substantial amounts at St. Kilda Junction (especially if flyovers are included), which is not purely in keeping with the ‘upgrade the easiest bits first’ philosophy I set out at the start of this post. However, these costs could well be offset by the benefits of the creation of a high standard light rail line. Also note that basically all the street trackage is running as feeder lines into the light rail/heavy rail trunks.

This arrangement largely mirrors my already stated plans for connecting up Plenty Rd., Nicholson St. and St. Georges Rd. as a single light rail line. For clarity, this is shown again below – perhaps the northern and southern light rail lines could be through-routed.

Speed and capacity of decent light rail

I’d argue there are three main things that separate Melbourne’s current trams from modern light rail – frequency, speed and capacity. The frequency issue has already been discussed – a 4 minute headway (or 15tph) seems about right to me, although St. Kilda Rd. really needs double that. It’s capacity and speed that warrant more thought.

In terms of capacity, the choice of vehicle is very important. Obviously running Z3s at a 4 minute headway isn’t going to to much for capacity – you need proper light rail vehicles. I don’t know enough to recommend a specific vehicle – just buy something off the shelf. However, Budapest’s version of the Combino Plus did attract my attention. At 54m long, it is the biggest passenger tram in the world, with a passenger capacity of 352. Run at a 4 minute headway, they could move 5280 people per direction per hour. For comparison, that’s about what Paul Mees claims the Dandenong line is handling at peak hour now.

Increasing speed is the trickiest part of the plan. It’s obviously easiest to do in reserve track areas, but even then, instant light priority is required to keep services moving smoothly. This could be likened to level crossings on the rail system – trains get absolute priority. Whilst this may not be easy to do in St. Kilda Rd. (given the sheer number of trams and large number of intersecting streets – some of which themselves have trams), it should be no substantial problem on Dandenong Rd. Fewer stops and the use of vehicles with lots of doors would be helpful too.

But even if you can get average speeds along Dandenong Rd. and the St. Kilda light rail up high enough, it’s all going to come crashing down at Whiteman St. Currently in peak hour, travel time on the 96 between Spring St. and Whiteman St. (some 2.8km) is timetabled at 20 minutes. The MMTB had a plan back in the 50s to underground the city tram lines – and let’s be frank, it was insane. Undergrounding traditional tram lines is crazy, it’s pricey and you lose many of the short trips that make trams so useful. But for light rail/premetro, the equation is perhaps somewhat different. I honestly don’t know whether it would work or not – and I’m prepared to be convinced either way.

Doncaster Bus Reform

As has been quite rightly noted, I haven’t written all that many posts on buses. So I thought I might have a look at buses for a change – more specifically Doncaster buses. As I’ve blogged on numerous times before, I favour the provision of heavy rail to Doncaster Hill (running at near metro frequencies) combined with the extension of the 48 tram and a complete reorganisation of bus services.

Unfortunately, these capital works projects seem unrealistic in the current political climate – Doncaster will receive only buses for the foreseeable future. So the question then becomes as follows: how can we make buses work better using current resources and what sort of investment is required to make them competitive against cars? This question fits in nicely with a hypothesis I’ve been looking to test – namely that bus frequencies could be substantially increased by axing unnecessary and circuitous routes and replacing them with fewer higher frequency routes running along main roads.

Testing the hypothesis for Doncaster

To see whether I’ve been on the right track with my suspicion about buses in Melbourne, we need to work out total route kilometres currently run in our sample area (in this case Doncaster and surrounds) and compare that against total route kilometres run on the hypothetical high frequency-fewer routes system. My methodology was thus: determine the length of the route and services run each way per weekday, then multiply these together to find out total route kilometres travelled per direction per weekday. This was a real bastard of a job and explains in part the long time between this post and the previous one – but I got it done and the results are presented below.

Route

Length (km)

Services each direction per weekday

Total km travelled per direction per weekday

200

19.5

35

682.5

201

20.5(35.5)

31(1)

671

203

20

20

400

205

18.5

4

74

207

22

31

682

273

10

27

270

279

10.5(11)(13)

46(18)(2)

707

281

11

27

297

283

15 *one way /2

11

82.5

284

7.5

25

187.5

285

16(18.5)

16(1)

274.5

286

11(14.5)(12)

44(1)(2)

522.5

289

14.5(4.5)

18(1)

262

291

11

68

748

293

15.5

34

527

295

12

21

252

301

24.5

32

784

303

27.5

2

55

304

44(34.5)(28 )

19(7)(12)

1413.5

305

32.5(27)(25)

11(8)(13)

898.5

306

31.5(25)

4(2)

176

307

26(22)(16.5)

32(1)(3)

903.5

308

24.5

8

196

309

29.5(24.5)

5(7)

171.5

313

22.5

2

45

316

27

3

81

319

25

7

175

364

22(16)

19(9)

562

365

21(12)(10)

17(12)(1)

511

578

N/A

579

N/A

TOTAL

12611.5

Non M’ham routes

202

8(2)

15(1)

122

302

20

25

500

548

6.5

41

266.5

609

6.5(3)(3.5)

2(3)(1)

25.5

TOTAL

13525.5

As you can see, each weekday sees buses in Manningham (excluding) travelling 12611km each way. Including non-Manningham routes affected by my study, that figure increases to 13525.5km.

The Alternative

To test my theory, I came up with an alternative bus arrangement for Doncaster and surrounds, which is shown below.

This new system of routes probably has various errors, omissions and irregularities, and may not be the best way to run buses in Doncaster, it merely sets out the broader idea I’m trying to advocate, and I’m not going to die in a ditch over specific route locations. It’s certainly more simple than the status quo – have a look at the Manningham local area map on Metlink – it’s madness! The service standard I’m advocating is something I’m far more certain about – 100 services a day for most routes (with more on the main trunks). That works out to a bus every 15 minutes from 6 to 7am, every 10 minutes 7am to 10pm and every 15 minutes 10pm to midnight. That pretty much has to be the minimum to compete with cars. The total route kilometres from these routes and service standard is set out below.

Route

Length (km)

Services each direction per weekday

Total km travelled per direction per weekday

200A

25.5

100

2550

200B

24

100

2400

202

12

100

1200

281

10

100

1000

282

12.5

100

1250

283

5.5

100

550

284

8

100

800

285

7.5

100

750

286

10.5

50

525

291

11

100

1100

293

14

100

1400

300A

18

100

1800

300B

26

100

2600

301A

23

100

2300

301B

30

68

2040

548

6.5

100

650

TOTAL

22915

Conclusion

Well the data didn’t really support my hypothesis – my new routes would see 22915km travelled per weekday, compared to 13525.5 under the status quo. The proposed extension of the green, yellow and red SmartBus into Doncaster, combined with Eddington’s $250-300m investment in DART (if it ever goes ahead) would tip the scales back in my favour somewhat, but I suspect not enough – especially given that I haven’t even looked at the even more woeful weekend services. I still stand by higher frequencies and fewer routes – but looking through this makes it clear that new investment is indeed needed on top of route reform. On the plus side, many of the service improvements I’m advocating are in off-peak, which means employing more drivers without the need for many more buses, so the new investment shouldn’t break the bank.

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