Are infrastructure costs higher on the fringe?Posted: September 20, 2011 Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: Assessing the costs of alternative development paths in Australian cities, Darren Bilsborough, dwellings, Future Perth, Housing, infrastructure costs, Inner city, Peter Newman, Roman Trubka, suburbs 3 Comments
The exhibit above purports to show that the cost of infrastructure associated with building a new dwelling within 10 km of the CBD of a city like Melbourne is, on average, $50,503. In contrast, it costs $136,401 to provide infrastructure for an outer suburban dwelling i.e. located more than 40 km from the CBD. That’s a huge difference: $85,538 per dwelling.
The figures come from a 2007 report, Assessing the costs of alternative development paths in Australian cities, written by three Curtin University academics, Roman Trubka, Peter Newman and Darren Bilsborough. I’ve mentioned this report before, but that was primarily in the context of The Age and some public sector agencies tending to conflate economic costs with infrastructure outlays (they’re not the same!).
The figures above however are solely infrastructure outlays (not economic costs). Judging by the extent to which Trubka et al’s report is cited by government agencies, there appears to be strong demand for this type of information. It seems, however, that these are the only numbers on this topic around. That’s unfortunate because they have some very serious shortcomings as an indicator of the relative cost of providing infrastructure in inner and outer locations.
The key deficiencies are they’re old; they don’t relate to Melbourne; and they’re not transparent. Trubka et al sourced them from a 2001 report, Future Perth, prepared by the WA Planning Commission to assess infrastructure costs in Perth. Future Perth didn’t calculate its estimates from first principles but rather surveyed 22 earlier studies, some dating from as far back as 1972 and some relating to costs in the USA and Canada.
Future Perth is a working paper and hasn’t been published – hence the rigour of its methodology and those of the 22 studies it drew from hasn’t been tested. Unfortunately, Trubka et al provide scant explanation of their infrastructure estimates, relying instead on a reference to Future Perth.
I can’t say for sure the Trubka et al estimates are wrong, but I can say they’re unlikely to be right. I can also say they’re far too flaky to be relied upon to guide significant policy or investment decisions here in Melbourne. There’s clearly a demand for this sort of information so it would be sensible for the State Government to undertake its own rigorous and up-to-date assessment of the costs of metropolitan infrastructure provision.
Although not as decisive as the shortcomings discussed above, I also have some issues with how Trubka et al have set up their cost comparison. Actually, because the report doesn’t elaborate much on the various infrastructure items, I’ll treat these as questions, or areas that need clarification. Read the rest of this entry »
Why do the worst infrastructure projects get built?Posted: July 19, 2011 Filed under: Infrastructure, Management | Tags: Bent Flyvbjerg, CBA, cost benefit analysis, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, project management, rail, reference class forecasting, road, Said Business School, transport 21 Comments
Under-estimating the cost of major infrastructure projects and over-estimating the demand is so chronic that forecasters deserve some harsh medicine, according to Professor Bent Flyvbjerg from Oxford University’s Said Business School. He says “some forecasts are so grossly misrepresented that we need to consider not only firing the forecasters but suing them too – perhaps even having a few serve time”.
Australians have plenty of experience with underperforming infrastructure projects. For starters, just in transport alone, there’s Brisbane’s Clem 7 road tunnel, Sydney’s Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels, the Brisbane and Sydney airport trains, Melbourne’s Myki ticketing fiasco, and the 2,250 km Freightlink rail line connecting Adelaide and Darwin. And they’re just the ones we know about!
Professor Flyvbjerg says cost overruns in the order of 50% in real terms are common for major infrastructure projects and overruns above 100% are not uncommon. Writing in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, he argues that demand and benefit forecasts that are wrong by 20–70% compared with the actual outcome are also common.
Transport projects are among the worst performers (see exhibit). Professor Flyvbjerg examined 258 transport projects in 20 nations over a 70 year time frame. He found the average cost overrun for rail projects is 44.7% measured in constant prices from the build decision. For bridges and tunnels, the equivalent figure is 33.8%, and for roads 20.4%. The difference in cost overrun between the three project types is statistically significant and the size of the standard deviations shown in the first exhibit demonstrate the high degree of uncertainty and risk associated with these sorts of projects.
He also found that nine out of 10 projects have cost overruns; they happen in all nations; they’ve been a constant over the last 70 years; and cost estimates have not improved over time.
And it’s not just under-estimation of costs. Errors in forecasts of travel demand for rail and road infrastructure are also endemic. He found that actual passenger traffic for rail projects is on average 51.4% lower than forecast traffic. He says:
This is equivalent to an average overestimate in rail passenger forecasts of no less than 105.6 per cent. The result is large benefit shortfalls for rail. For roads, actual vehicle traffic is on average 9.5 per cent higher than forecasted traffic. We see that rail passenger forecasts are biased, whereas this is less the case for road traffic forecasts.
He also found that nine out of ten rail projects over-estimate traffic; 84% are wrong by over ±20%; it occurs in all countries studied; and has not improved over time.
Thus the risk associated with rail projects in particular is extraordinary. They face both an average cost overrun of 44.7% and an average traffic shortfall of 51.4%. Read the rest of this entry »
Do we still need to conserve water?Posted: June 16, 2011 Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: conservation, desalination, Doncaster rail, Hoddle Street, pricing, sewage, water, Yarra Valley Water 10 Comments
It seems the water conservation message is starting to recede as the Government and water authorities come to grips with the breaking of the drought and the oceanic task of paying for new infrastructure like the desalination plant and north-south pipeline. Some small evidence of this trend is evident from the latest invoice my household got from our water retailer, Yarra Valley Water.
Our consumption for the three months to 25 May was 626 litres per day. The invoice has the familiar graphic showing how to convert household consumption to per capita consumption, but there’s no longer any target to compare your performance against. We consumed 157 litres per day per person but there’s nothing to help make sense of that number. Unless you can recall the now-abandoned daily target of 150 litres per person, you won’t know if you’re consuming too much water or too little.
The other thing is water consumption charges still account for only a small proportion of the bill – in fact our 626 litres make up slightly less than a third of the total amount. The rest of it is made up of standing costs for “drainage”, “sewage” and “service” charges, which customers have no real control over*. So even if we worked harder at reducing our consumption, the financial pay-off would be pretty small. The pricing of water continues to offer little incentive for conservation, a point I made nine months ago.
Discouraging water use is now a financial liability for the Government and water authorities. They’re in deep water primarily because the former Government had a political problem – it needed to show it wasn’t out of its depth but had a plan to deal with the drought. But rather than navigate the politically troubled waters of low-cost measures like stronger conservation incentives (for example, by raising water prices) it did what governments usually do – spend big licks of money and rely on the costs being diffused over time across large numbers of customers.
This pattern of spending rather than managing is pretty much standard practice for governments. We currently have the possibility of immense sums being spent to address the congestion and capacity problems of Hoddle Street, when the vastly more efficient solution would be to price access to roads. We have the more likely prospect of even bigger sums being spent to construct a rail line to Doncaster when effective public transport can be provided by bus at much lower cost. Read the rest of this entry »
What can Sydney teach us about airport rail lines?Posted: February 16, 2011 Filed under: Airports & aviation, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: ACCC, aviation, Melbourne airport, Public transport, rail, Sydney airport, train 30 Comments
There is little doubt that Melbourne Airport needs action to improve land-side access for passengers arriving and departing from the airport.
Many observers argue the solution is a rail line from the CBD to the airport. I think there’s a much bigger picture they’re missing. They would be well advised to look at the Airport Monitoring Report 2009-10, just released by the ACCC (see chart).
It shows that only 39% of trips to Sydney Airport are made by private car (on-airport parking, rentals and kerbside drop-off), compared to 69% for Melbourne Airport. Since Sydney has a train and Melbourne doesn’t, it’s tempting to conclude that a train is the answer to Melbourne’s woes.
However the ACCC’s report says that more people travel to Melbourne Airport by public transport (14% – all by bus) than is the case for Sydney Airport (12% – train and bus).
A key difference between the two airports is that taxis (incl ‘mini buses’) are far more popular in Sydney, where they account for 49% of all airport trips. The comparable figure for Melbourne is just 17%.
Part of the reason for this difference is taxis are more competitive in Sydney against cars and against the train – Kingsford Smith is 8 km from the CBD and hence is relatively central. In contrast, Melbourne is 22 km from the CBD so taxis are not as competitive with either buses or cars (other reasons for the difference include more tourists at Sydney, as well as higher parking charges).
As I discussed last week, Brisbane’s airport – like Melbourne’s – is also located a considerable distance from the city centre. It might be that the location of both airports on the edge of their respective metropolitan areas – well away from the centre of gravity of population in both cities – is a key reason for their high private car use (and low taxi use).
Yet distance can’t be the whole explanation. The Brisbane airport train only captures 5% of trips and all up, public transport carries 8% of airport journeys. That’s considerably less than either Sydney or train-free Melbourne.
Given the experience of Sydney and Brisbane, it cannot simply be assumed that constructing a rail line from the CBD to Melbourne Airport will inevitably lead to a significant increase in public transport use – at the expense of cars – over and above the already substantial mode share enjoyed by buses. Read the rest of this entry »
Is this the way we’ll live next?Posted: February 15, 2011 Filed under: Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: aerotropolis, aircraft, airport, freight, Greg Lindsay, Lawrence D Kasarda, logistics, Tullamarine 6 Comments
The centre of the city of the future will be the airport, according to a book by John D Kasarda of the University of Carolina and journalist Greg Lindsay to be published next month.
They say in Aerotropolis (subtitled, to emphasise its inevitability, The Way We’ll Live Next), that “not so long ago, airports were built near cities, and roads connected the one to the other. This pattern—the city in the center, the airport on the periphery— shaped life in the twentieth century, from the central city to exurban sprawl”. But things, they say, have changed:
Today, the ubiquity of jet travel, round-the-clock workdays, overnight shipping, and global business networks has turned the pattern inside out. Soon the airport will be at the center and the city will be built around it, the better to keep workers, suppliers, executives, and goods in touch with the global market.
Soon the airport will be the centre of the city?!!! I am, to put it mildly, sceptical about this view of the future.
Yes, cities have almost always developed around transport infrastructure – first ports and rivers and more recently railheads and freeway nodes. Yes, local concentrations of economic activity have sprung up in various places to provide logistics services in close proximity to major airports, some of which are very large. And of course, as this preview of the book states, the share of high value freight carried by air is increasing at a much faster rate than trade generally.
Now if some marketer wants to start calling Melbourne airport and the surrounding area ‘Tullamarine Aerotropolis’ or something similar (‘Tullatropolis’?) that’s OK by me. It is after all one of the biggest concentrations of jobs in the suburbs of Melbourne and a fair number of those jobs are doubtless related in some way to aviation.
But arguing that the city of the future will “be built around the airport” is silly. Read the rest of this entry »
Where will the money come from?Posted: November 30, 2010 Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: debt, Infrastructure, Lateral Economics, Nicholas Gruen, PPP, Public Private Partnerships 3 Comments
According to Paul Austin in The Age (29/11/10), there’s little doubt that infrastructure inadequacies weighed heavily on voters’ minds in last Saturday’s election. His list of problems includes overcrowded trains, congested roads, the Myki debacle and long hospital waiting lists.
The pressure to “fix” these problems from voters in the eastern suburbs and sandbelt electorates that fell to the Coalition on Saturday will be immense.
The new Premier, Mr Baillieu, might therefore find it worthwhile to look at this report on public sector borrowing by Dr Nicholas Gruen (summary here).
Dr Gruen contends that governments in Australia have focussed on the cost of debt but have ignored the benefits. They’ve reduced the budget deficit to zero but exchanged it for an infrastructure deficit. Their constituents have saved on debt repayments, but:
they are paying inflated tolls on roads and heavy mortgage repayments that reflect the lack of land release and the loading of infrastructure charges onto the land that has been released. And they are paying with their time as they wait at peak hour in traffic that has slowed to a crawl or crowd into late trains and buses.
Thanks to the culture of strict fiscal rectitude that dominates modern government thinking, new debt has been kept off the government’s balance sheet by funding infrastructure in other ways – partly through asset sell-offs but mostly via Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Read the rest of this entry »
Why do major infrastructure projects fail?Posted: September 2, 2010 Filed under: Cars & traffic, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Clem 7, Clem Jones Tunnel, infrastructure failures, Infrastructure financing, Matt O'Sullivan, Midtown Tunnel, Peninsula Link, Public transport, Rivercity Motorway, roads 15 Comments
It was reported this week that the new Clem Jones Tunnel in Brisbane (known as the Clem7) is in diabolical financial trouble due to traffic levels that are well below those forecast.
Fewer than 30,000 vehicles a day are using the tunnel even though tolls were halved from 1 July (now $2 for a car). This compares with a forecast of 60,000 on opening, rising to 100,000 after 18 months. The operator of the tunnel, Rivercity Motorway, posted a $1.67 billion loss for the year to 30th June.
Clem7 joins a growing list of infrastructure projects funded on the basis of overly optimistic forecasts of initial usage. These include Sydney’s Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels, the Brisbane and Sydney airport trains, Melbourne’s Eastlink, and the 2,250 km Freightlink rail line connecting Adelaide and Darwin.
The Age’s Matt O’Sullivan is gob-smacked that Clem7’s transport consultants could have forecast traffic levels higher than those on New Yorks Midtown Tunnel, given that Brisbane’s population is a quarter of the City of New York’s:
“Yet traffic forecasters predicted that thousands more motorists would use the new Clem7 tunnel under the Brisbane River every day than another four-lane artery in New York linking Queens with central Manhattan.
“Running under the East River, the two-kilometre Midtown Tunnel has had about 80,000 vehicles passing through it each day. And it has been that way for much of the 70-year-old tunnel’s life. Half a world away in the Sunshine State, well-paid traffic forecasters had predicted that 91,000 vehicles daily would use the Clem7 by now and, by late next year, more than 100,000”.
What strikes me immediately is that this is not a sensible comparison. It’s highly likely the Midtown Tunnel is at capacity and probably has been for a very long time. Read the rest of this entry »
A new high school for Coburg – what are the lessons?Posted: August 26, 2010 Filed under: Education, justice, health, Infrastructure | Tags: Coburg High School, Education Department 7 Comments
There’s a fascinating struggle going on between the Education Department and residents of Coburg about the need for a new junior high school in the area (see here and here).
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 »
Where are the (infrastructure) white elephants?Posted: August 25, 2010 Filed under: Decentralisation, Infrastructure | Tags: Clem 7, Docklands, Eastlink, Federation Square, Infrastructure, MYKI, National Wine Centre, Southern Star Observation Wheel, white elephant 7 Comments
With the renewed political focus on regional development, it’s timely to think about white elephants – in this instance specifically about Infrastructure White Elephants.
Anytime politicians are excited by regional development, herds of white elephants can’t be far away. I touched on this important matter in a previous post on “visionary” projects, but now I’m interested to know which projects, if any, qualify as Infrastructure White Elephants.
To begin with I’ll use a simple definition – according to Wiki, a white elephant is a valuable possession whose level of use is low relative to its cost to build and maintain.
On that definition I’d be tempted to include Sydney’s Cross City tunnel and Brisbane’s Clem 7 under-river tunnel on my list of provisional white elephants, as initial traffic levels were much lower than forecast. Then going back a bit, other potential candidates might include the Ord River Scheme and more recently the Alice Springs to Darwin rail line. Read the rest of this entry »
Is being “visionary” sufficient to justify new infrastructure?Posted: August 11, 2010 Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: High Speed Rail, Infrastructure, Melbourne Airport rail link, NBN, Ord River Irrigation Scheme, Robert Moses, Robert Risson, Snowy Mountains Scheme, Sydney Opera House, white elephants 2 Comments
All the talk around at the moment about ‘visionary’ infrastructure projects like High Speed Rail (HSR), the National Broadband Network (NBN) and a rail link to Melbourne Airport, reminds me how much Australians love to gamble.
Big and costly projects that don’t stack up on conventional evaluation criteria are often justified as being in the ‘national interest’; or the result of ‘big thinking’; or comprehensible in the “big picture’; or contributing to ‘nation building’.
Proponents frequently resort to the Field of Dreams argument: “if it’s built, they will come”*. Some cite ambitious projects like the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the Ord River Scheme and the Sydney Opera House, contending that they would not have been built if it weren’t for some big thinking. However they conveniently omit to mention the downsides of these projects, or any ‘visionary’ schemes that are widely thought to be disappointments (let alone any that were unmitigated disasters).
More informed proponents will focus on the foresight of previous generations who built infrastructure like the national and urban rail systems, water supply and sewerage systems and the electricity generation and distribution networks. Some even mention the elaborate freeways within and between our major cities.
The argument is commonly put that if the visionary politicians, engineers and financiers of a century and more ago hadn’t looked beyond economic and financial criteria at the time, much of the infrastructure we value today would not be available for the use of current generations. And we are very fortunate they did, so this line of argument goes, because it would be impossibly expensive to provide infrastructure on that scale today.
That’s all very well, but I don’t think this interpretation tells the whole story. Read the rest of this entry »
Would an airport rail link take us for a ride?Posted: August 9, 2010 Filed under: Airports & aviation, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Essential Economics, Melbourne airport, rail link, Skybus 15 Comments
A senior economist at Essential Economics, Sean Stephens, has joined the debate about a rail link from the CBD to Melbourne Airport, arguing in The Age last week that “a rail link would help Melbourne maintain its world-class status, where visitors and locals could access Melbourne Airport, our gateway to the world, with ease and convenience”.
There are some misconceptions in the article and an evident misunderstanding of existing public transport services between the airport and the CBD.
The main supplier is Skybus, a privately operated and profitable operation that carries two million passengers per annum, or about 8% of airport passenger traffic. Skybus operates a 24 hour service (with 10-15 minute frequencies between 4am and 11.45pm). Because Skybus makes use of the emergency lane on the freeway, it takes 20 minutes from the airport to the CBD in the off-peak and up to 40 minutes in the peak.
Also, from next year, the Government will extend operation of the existing Frankston to Ringwood Yellow Smartbus service to connect with Melbourne Airport via Broadmeadows station. Buses will operate every 15 minutes with ticket prices based on the standard Metlink fare structure.
Mr Stephen’s only concrete criticism of Skybus is that the fares are too expensive and “well above those of comparable cities that provide a rail link”. In fact Skybus tickets cost $16 one way, much the same as those on the Sydney ($15) and Brisbane ($15) airport rail systems, notwithstanding Melbourne airport’s greater distance from the CBD. Skybus offers airport workers a discounted fare. Read the rest of this entry »
Does Labor’s Sydney-Newcastle High Speed train make sense?Posted: August 5, 2010 Filed under: HSR High Speed Rail, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Albanese, High Speed Rail, HSR, Newcastle, Sydney, VFT 9 Comments
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 »
What will high speed rail do for regional development?Posted: August 2, 2010 Filed under: Decentralisation, HSR High Speed Rail, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: albury, Decentralisation, High Speed Rail, regional centres, very fast train, wodonga 12 Comments
Yesterday I looked at the carbon reduction justification for high speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne. Today I want to discuss another argument – that high speed rail will promote the development of regional centres. It is argued that this could in turn relieve capital cities of much of the burden of projected population growth.
I have no doubt that improving connection times between regional centres like Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne will benefit both.
But if regional centres are to be a serious alternative for growth, they will need to provide new arrivals with jobs. The question I ask is: where are those jobs going to come from?
One way could be that regional centres provide a “dormitory” for workers who can live in the country but commute to work in capital cities like Melbourne by high speed rail. Read the rest of this entry »
High speed rail – are the Greens as shallow as the rest?Posted: August 1, 2010 Filed under: Energy & GHG, HSR High Speed Rail, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Bob Brown, High Speed Rail, Julia Gillard, The Greens, Tony Abbott, very fast train 12 Comments
Bob Brown let us know yesterday with his call for a high speed rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne that the Greens are just as susceptible to populism as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.
In April he costed a Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne link at more than $40 billion. Yesterday he pointed to a survey commissioned by the Greens showing 74% of Australians support high speed rail. That’s not surprising because it is an attractive and beguiling idea – 94% of readers of The Age support it. After all, China and Europe can’t seem to build enough high speed rail and President Obama has grand plans for an extensive network in the US.
The idea of some form of very fast train service connecting Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne has been around at least since the 1980s. A number of feasibility studies have been undertaken, all of which concluded that it wouldn’t be feasible without massive Government assistance. So it’s worth asking a few questions:
- why would we want to commit billions in Government subsidies to replace one form of public transport (planes) with another (trains)?
- why would we want to replace the four airlines that currently compete vigorously on price and service on this route with a single monopoly rail operator? Read the rest of this entry »
Are wind turbines a danger to birds?Posted: July 29, 2010 Filed under: Energy & GHG, Infrastructure | Tags: bird deaths, bird strikes, National Research Council of the National Academies, wind turbine 1 Comment
A common objection to wind turbines is that they’re dangerous for birds. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution reports that the number of birds killed by wind turbines in the US is between 20,000 and 37,000 annually.
He draws on data from this report by the Committee on Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects, (US) National Research Council of the National Academies.
The report puts the bird strikes from turbines into context with annual estimates for deaths in the US from other causes (the wide ranges in the estimates indicate this is not an exact science):
Collisions with buildings: 97 – 976 million
Collisions with high tension lines: 130 – 1,000 million
Collisions with communication towers: 4 – 50 million
Collisions with cars: more than 80 million
Toxic chemicals: more than 72 million
Cats: more than a billion
BP oil spill: more than two thousand to date Read the rest of this entry »
Why are these students studying under streetlights?Posted: July 6, 2010 Filed under: Education, justice, health, Infrastructure | Tags: electricity, governance, Guinea, Paul Romer, streetlights 2 Comments
This photograph, via Paul Romer, shows students in Guinea who go to the airport to study for exams because they don’t have electricity at home.
The BBC reports that petrol stations, airports and even spaces under security lamps outside upmarket homes have become pockets of learning, where determined students are to be found in large numbers.
Access to light is a serious problem due to the “deterioration of power supplies, which started in 2003 when the country’s economy went into freefall:
The national power company, Electricite de Guinee, provides light to consumers on a rotational basis of 12 hours a day – but even so, these schedules often prove erratic, with dozens of outages before dawn…..
Between 1999 and 2002, schools in Guinea had a modest pass rate of 30-35%. Since 2003, that has dropped to between 20 and 25%”. Read the rest of this entry »
Forecasting patronage: it’s easy, isn’t it?Posted: July 4, 2010 Filed under: HSR High Speed Rail, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Clem 7 Brisbane, Cross City Tunnel Sydney, High Speed Rail, very fast train 2 Comments
We’ve seen some high profile examples in recent years of how hard it is to forecast patronage on new transport infrastructure.
The Cross City tunnel in Sydney and the Clem 7 in Brisbane, for example, have both performed well below forecasts. Even when it was free, the Cross City tunnel did not approach the forecast volumes of 90,000 vehicles per day. Traffic volumes on the cross-river tunnel in Brisbane fell from almost 60,000 during the free period to around 20,000 in the first week of tolling.
California’s planned $42 billion High Speed Rail (HSR) project provides another example of the difficulties of forecasting demand. Although there are important differences between the design of the California HSR system and proposals for a Very Fast Train (VFT) between Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne, the former nevertheless has important lessons for us. I have previously discussed the VFT here, here, here and here.
A new analysis by the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Berkeley, found significant problems with the demand modelling and analysis undertaken for the California project by Cambridge Systematics (CS) “that render the key demand forecasting models unreliable for policy analysis”. Read the rest of this entry »
More on Melbourne Airport rail linkPosted: July 2, 2010 Filed under: Airports & aviation, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Melbourne airport, rail link, Skybus, Tullarmarine freeway 19 Comments
There’s been a strong reaction, predominantly negative, to my oped in The Age this morning where I argue that there are higher priorities for scarce transport funding at this time than the CBD-Airport rail link championed by the Lord Mayor and The Age.
I expected a hot reaction because The Age’s online poll is currently running 97% in favour of a rail link. Also, there were 208 comments, almost all strongly in favour of a rail link, on this piece run by The Age last Monday.
Some commenters seem to think my brief must be to defend the Minister for Transport and the Government. Others think I must be in the pocket of Skybus, the taxi industry, the Government, or all three. Someone’s even accused me of being anti public transport and of lamenting the decline in driving in my earlier post Why is Gen Y driving less? Lukas, who says he works in DPCD, reckons the consensus “around here” is we do need the link and the reason it’s not happening is “so many industries …have their hands in Brumby’s pockets”. Phew!!
Now that the flood of invective is slowing, let me say that not one of these personal insinuations is true. It is possible to raise serious questions about the desirability of this or any other transport project without being corrupt, incompetent or worse. No project, rail or otherwise, is automatically a “no brainer”.
My point remains that on the information publicly available, it does not seem to me that a rail link from the CBD to the airport is as high a priority at this time as some other pressing transport needs, such as improving outer suburban public transport services. Airport users generally have much better, if imperfect, options at present than those who live in the vast reaches of suburbia. Read the rest of this entry »
Does a rail line to Melbourne airport make sense?Posted: June 28, 2010 Filed under: Airports & aviation, Infrastructure, Public transport | Tags: Booz Allen Hamilton, IMIS, Melbourne airport, rail link, Skybus, The Age, Tullamarine freeway 10 Comments
The Age ran a front page story on Saturday (Train derailed by buck-passing and vested interests) on the need for a rail link from the airport to the CBD. I say story, but as the headline and this quote indicate, it was more advocacy than news:
“But thanks to decades of buck-passing and pandering to vested interests by successive state and federal governments, Melbourne – unlike so many other cities of its size and wealth – does not have a railway line to its airport”.
So having pressed the civic pride button, it’s a pity The Age didn’t also push the rationality pedal and ask: is there a case for constructing a new public transport system (rail) to compete with the existing one (bus)?
I would quite like to have a rail line from the CBD to the airport, but as I’ve indicated before (here and here), only if it makes sense. Let’s look at some pertinent issues.
First, the feasibility studies undertaken by the Government conclude that the numbers for rail don’t stack up (yet). The most recent evaluations, undertaken in 2001 by BAH and in 2009 by IMIS, both concluded there is not a strong enough case to build a new rail line to the airport.
The Department of Transport projected rail would capture only 9% of all airport trips and would require a subsidy of $350-450 million over 10 years (in 2001 dollars).
Second, in 2003 the Government upgraded the Skybus service so it could deal better with congested conditions around the CBD and on the Tullamarine Freeway. According to the Transport Department, new roadworks enabled Skybus to bypass traffic delays at the Tullamarine/Calder Freeway interchange and at the city fringe. The package included lane widening as well as line marking changes to create an emergency lane wide enough for buses. Read the rest of this entry »