At first glance, the Victorian Opposition’s enthusiasm for a new rail link between the existing Huntingdale station and Rowville seems like simple opportunistic politics. And it undoubtedly is. But as we shall see later, a variation on this idea might be worth a second glance.
The idea of a Rowville rail line goes back to 1969. The most recent substantive development was a pre feasibility study commissioned by Knox City Council in 2004 and undertaken by Professors Bill Russell and Peter Newman.
The study endorses the rail line, arguing that it could reduce the travel time from Rowville to the CBD by 30 minutes, improve the mobility of students using rail to access Monash University, remove cars from freeways and reduce the need for households to own second cars.
The pre feasiblity study is very “preliminary”, but nevertheless there’s enough there to see that there are some formidable obstacles to this proposal. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a commonplace in politics, as it is in most things, that it’s better to focus limited resources on a few objectives than to spread them thin over a broad front.
So I’m therefore more than a little surprised that the Greens in Victoria, fresh from winning the Federal seat of Melbourne, are reportedly going to demand the Transport portfolio if they control the balance of power at the next State election (here and here).
If true that strikes me as a curious demand. There are doubtless complex political issues around why the Greens would even want a Ministry, but in terms of the scope for improving the environment it seems to me that Energy would be a more logical choice than the Transport portfolio.
There are a number of reasons for this view.
First, as this report prepared for the 2008 Victorian Climatechange Summit shows, electricity is a far larger generator of CO2 emissions than the transport sector. In Victoria, 64% of all carbon emissions are generated by the residential, commercial and manufacturing sectors. Almost all of this carbon is emitted from coal-fired power stations.
In comparison, all passenger transport in the State – by both car and public transport – generates 14% of Victoria’s total carbon emissions. The transport of freight is responsible for another 5%. Comparable figures are also published in The Victorian Transport Plan.
So on the face of it there’re potentially much bigger gains for the environment from clean energy production than there are from clean transport. Read the rest of this entry »
There have been some quite spectacular reductions in Melbourne’s water consumption in recent years. The latest invoice from my water company proclaims that total water consumed by customers has fallen 36% since 1997.
Most of this gain is undoubtedly due to water restrictions and jaw boning. Pricing doesn’t seem to have been a big influence, even though most economists would suggest that it is one of the most efficient ways to moderate demand.
I just got my water bill for the last three months. Average daily use by my household is 495 litres, or 124 litres per person. That’s not bad compared to the Government’s daily target of 155 litres per person (although admittedly it’s been a pretty wet winter).
What surprises me however is the relatively low profile given to pricing as a mechanism for dampening demand (pun intended). My Consumption Charges only amount to 24.4% of my total bill. The other key items are Parks Charges, Drainage Charges, Service Charges and Sewage Charges. Read the rest of this entry »
The map shows what residents call the “black hole” and this story in The Age gives the history of high school closures in the area:
“The troubled Moreland City College closed in 2004. Coburg High School shut its doors in 1993 and is now the site for a planned 510 apartments. Newlands High School, now part of the Pentridge Prison development, folded in 1993. Moreland High School taught its final class in 1991 and is now Kangan Batman TAFE”.
The Education Department says there isn’t sufficient demand to meet the minimum size requirements for a junior high school and that there are others nearby with adequate capacity to take Coburg children from year seven. The residents argue that these schools are either too far away or unsuitable.
There are two existing high schools within the circle, shown in grey on the map, but they are not full-service schools. One is Coburg Senior High (co-ed, year 10 upwards) and the other is Preston Girls College (girls 7-12 only). The obvious “new junior school” solution is to expand Coburg Senior High.
I’m not concerned with the reasonableness of either side’s case, but I am interested in the issue of how far teenagers should reasonably be expected to travel to school. I also think there’s some insight to be had here into the issue of whether or not there is spare infrastructure capacity in inner suburbs. Read the rest of this entry »
In yesterday’s post I asked if our largest capitals could grow bigger and remain liveable. Today I’m looking at the flipside – whether or not the National Broadband Network (NBN) will give regional centres the wherewithal to draw population growth away from Sydney and Melbourne.
This question is prompted by avuncular New England Independent, Tony Windsor, who argued on Q&A this week that the National Broadband Network could be a key driver of decentralisation:
“If there’s been a piece of infrastructure (if it’s done correctly) that negates distance as being a disadvantage of living in country Australia, this is it…..
“We’re going through a population debate at the moment. The election was about the people of western Sydney and western Melbourne and Dick Smith and others talking about how we’ve got to constrain the population of this nation. Nothing about regional Australia in that context. Nothing about the infrastructure out there. If we get the broadband system right it could revolutionise country living and solve some of the city-based problems”.
I’ve previously concluded (here, here, here and here) that the prospects for diverting growth from our cities to regional centres on a significant scale do not appear promising (other than if nearby regional centres become satellites i.e. de facto outer suburbs). However could the NBN, as Mr Windsor suggests, be the magic bullet? Read the rest of this entry »
The issue of decentralisation could be back on the table given the elevated significance of the three regionally-based independents*. I’ve previously argued (here and here) that there are big questions about the viability of decentralisation on a large scale, so today I want to look at whether or not our major cities can cope with more growth.
There was quite a bit of interest in the 60s and 70s around the idea of an efficient city size. The assumption that a point was reached where diseconomies of scale set in was part of the rationale for the failed decentralisation push of the Whitlam era.
There’s a better appreciation today that cities make structural adjustments in response to growth and may generate new economic advantages. There’s wide acceptance of the idea that productivity increases (modestly) as city size/density increases.
Australia’s major cities are certainly not bursting at the seams, notwithstanding residents’ concerns about issues like traffic congestion and housing affordability. Sydney is actually only the 80th largest city by population in the world and Melbourne the 87th. Many of the larger cities dwarf ours – Tokyo, for example, has more than nine times as many residents as Sydney. Read the rest of this entry »
His letter to The Age this morning (“Share the smarts”) contends that bike share schemes have taken off in more than 135 cities around the world. “In any city that values public health, combined with a sustainable solution to transport and congestion problems, they would have to be a winner”, he says.
He also wants to see the compulsory helmet laws repealed so that Melbourne Bicycle Share can flourish.
I think the discussion around the Bixis is very confused. Too many people are mistaking policy on Bixis for policy on cycling. They’re very different – one’s a political stunt, the others real life.
Contrary to Mr Todd’s claim, Bixis won’t do anything whatsoever to reduce congestion even if their numbers are expanded. They are a substitute for walking and public transport in the CBD and near-CBD, not for cars. The sort of person who’s going to cycle at lunch time from Spring St to Melbourne Uni is not generally the sort of person who would otherwise drive. Read the rest of this entry »
I like dogs so I’d say Docklands is more like a mangy, flea-bitten hyena. It’s ugly, it’s shrill and it’s very ill-mannered.
As a friend and I cycled down Latrobe Street and over the railway bridge a few Sundays ago, I thought for a moment I was entering one of those anonymous, soulless suburban business parks that abound in the US.
I’ve written recently on how successful Docklands is as a business park so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see so much banal architecture in one place – not every building, but there’re far too few that aren’t tinted glass boxes.
The residential areas exude the very worst of the Gold Coast, even down to the vulgar attempts to “stand out” from the crowd. They’re as flash as a hyena with a gold tooth. If there’s such a thing as a “Melbourne architectural style” that draws on subtlety, wit, intellect, culture and life in a cold climate, then it’s turned its nose up at Docklands.
This was my first daytime leisure visit to Docklands in a while and it shocked me. I seriously don’t know how I ever imagined that one of Melbourne’s competitive advantages is its high standard of architecture. How could Melbourne produce this generic tripe? Read the rest of this entry »
Melbourne’s W Class trams have serious limitations when it comes to doing what urban transit systems are supposed to do – move people around efficiently and quickly.
But they might potentially provide enormous benefits – particularly in relation to tourism and city “branding” – that could make their continued operation (and expansion!) more than worthwhile.
Twenty five W Class trams currently operate on the 78/79 route (Chapel St) but the Minister for Transport says they will be phased out by 2012. Another twelve operate the free City Circle route. There are possibly another 200 W Class trams in storage.
While they exude history, they are old and more like museum pieces than components of a modern public transport system. The youngest models were built in the 1950s, but the design dates from the 1920s. So there is no denying that the W Class has many shortcomings for use on a contemporary transit network.
They are slow. They are not air conditioned. They don’t have low-floor access. They are extremely noisy. They are bumpy. They do not offer adequate protection to the driver in the event of a collision with another vehicle unless they run at speeds lower than 40 Km/hr. On mixed routes they would hold up faster and more efficient trams like those operating on the 109 route, preventing them from being used to their potential. Read the rest of this entry »
Crikey’s Election Tracker reported today that Gillard has so far flown 39,431 km during the campaign and Abbott has flown 40,800 km.
I thought I’d take a ‘ballpark’ look at the carbon emissions associated with that travel.
For simplicity, I’ll assume they both flew all those kilometres in a standard jet such as a 150 seat Boeing 747 400. If I also assume a relatively high load factor like commercial carriers typically achieve, then Gillard’s personal carbon emissions so far are of the order of 6.2 tonnes and Abbott’s 6.4 tonnes (I’ve assumed 158g/passenger km, but there could be considerable variation depending on type of aircraft, load factors and distance. I’ve made no allowance for the altitude of discharge, so I’m treating this as a simple “order of magnitude” estimate) .
At the rate of around $25/tonne propounded by the Greens, they could each offset their personal emissions on the international market for little more than $150. Read the rest of this entry »
A new report on the safety of Melbourne’s trains says they are getting safer. Reported offences fell from 45 per million passenger boardings in 2005-06 to 33 in 2008-09. That’s a phenomenal 27% reduction.
The report, titled Personal Safety and Security on the Metropolitan Train System, was prepared by the Victorian Auditor General and released publicly on 9 June 2010, shortly after a mob attacked a train at McKinnon station.
While the statistics look good, the report also says that passenger’s perceptions of safety on trains nevertheless got worse over the same period and are significantly lower than for trams and buses. Passengers feel reasonably safe during daylight hours but markedly less safe at night, not only in trains but also on stations and in car parks.
An initial observation is that 33 offences per million boardings is actually not that good. For example, crime is much lower on the New York City subway (see chart -shows absolute numbers), which carries ten million passengers on an average work day. The Boston rail system carries 350 million passengers per year with only 2.2 crimes per million boardings.
But what I want to look at is the puzzling matter of why passengers feel less safe on Melbourne’s trains even though crime is apparently falling.
Disappointingly, the Auditor General’s report doesn’t seek to explain why they are out of kilter. The implication seems to be that passenger’s perceptions are irrational and shaped by the media. Read the rest of this entry »
In fact it has been so successful that I wonder what the implications are for office space markets in the rest of Melbourne, not just in the CBD and near-CBD markets, but in particular in the six major suburban activity centres envisaged in Melbourne @ 5 Million i.e. Footscray, Broadmeadows, Box Hill, Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston.
The recent announcement that the headquarters of the National Broadband Network Company would be located in Docklands merely continues the momentum already established in the area in and around the old docks. Current tenants of this end of town include the National Australia Bank, ANZ, Myer, National Foods, CSC, Fairfax Media, Customs, Channel 7, AFL and the Australian Tax Office.
Other organisations planning to move to the area include Melbourne Water, BP, Channel Nine and Chartis Australia. Even the Demons have been mooted as prospective tenants of a new training park (or stadium) proposed for the precinct. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s easy to see why that most Whitlamesque of policies – decentralisation – has been revived in this election campaign. Not only does it offer the familiar prospect of more jobs and economic activity in regional areas, it can also be sold as improving the quality of life in our crowded, heaving cities.
However I think the Minister for Sustainable Population, Tony Burke, is stretching credibility with his latest claim about what’s driving decentralisation.
Speaking at the National Press Club debate last Thursday, Mr Burke argued that the decentralisation debate is different now to what it was 40 years ago. Then, he argues, it was all about moving people to regional areas by relocating government departments. Now however decentralisation is:
“being driven by the market through the movement of retirees, through the mining boom and through the roll-out of the National Broadband Network, which allows businesses that previously could only be located in the heart of the CBD to locate in other areas”
His use of the present tense is curious because there’s little evidence of actual decentralisation away from Australia’s two ‘super cities’ – Sydney and Melbourne – to regional centres over the last five years. Sydney grew 1.4% p.a. over 2004-05 whereas regional NSW grew by 1.1%. In Victoria, Melbourne grew 2% p.a. but the remainder of the State grew 1.4% p.a.
But it’s the drivers of growth he cites that I find even more curious. Read the rest of this entry »
I watched Anthony Albanese foreshadow on Lateline on Wednesday night that the Government, if re-elected, would fund a $20 million feasibility study of a high speed rail connection between Sydney and Newcastle as part of a Sydney-Brisbane route.
The Minister’s subseqent announcement on Thursday puts more emphasis on an east coast Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne HSR but it seems clear the Central Coast is a key target of the initiative (Robertson is a marginal seat).
The announcement was greeted with some scepticism – an HSR link between Sydney and Newcastle was announced by Bob Carr twelve years ago. Crikey’s Canberra correspondent, Bernard Keane, reckons Labor isn’t serious about HSR and is only pretending.
Provided the focus is on Sydney-Newcastle, I think there are some reasonable aspects to this initiative notwithstanding its apparent political motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
Google is being used for respectable academic research on issues like economic activity and health epidemics (for example, see this paper on how the recession in the US is impacting concern for the environment), so I thought I’d see how Julia Gillard is faring in terms of internet interest compared with Tony Abbott.
The first graph compares Google searches on ‘Gillard’ (red) and ‘Abbott’ (blue) over the last 30 days (up to August 1) within Australia.
Google says the numbers on the graph “reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don’t represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100. Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point, or 100. When we don’t have enough data, 0 is shown”. Read the rest of this entry »