What happened at Spit Junction Master Plan public meeting Nov 25

December 11, 2013

IMG_4209The mayor explained that the session was not a decision making meeting. It was designed to provide a briefing to the public to allow questions and comments and to provide further background information for those considering making a submission. A key constraint was that the development was to be cost neutral.

It was clear from the Mayor’s presentation that the focus of the present Council is on the redevelopment of the Council landholding which covers the Council building itself, the car parks, the Library and Library Walk.

Craig Covich, the acting Director Environment and Planning, overviewed the original Master Plan which provided three options for the Council landholding. All options involved demolition of the existing Council building and putting in its place a building with high public usage (Art Gallery, Library, Council one stop shop). All involved significant residential development with outlooks over Alan Border Oval and various reconfigurations of the existing public space and village Green. Read the rest of this entry »

Speak up for Mosman 2088

October 16, 2013

Picture1There is a proposal before the Geographical Names Board, instigated by Mosman Council, to re-write history and create four distinct suburbs in Mosman. Clifton Gardens, Balmoral Beach, Beauty Point and Mosman Bay would each have precisely defined boundaries with Mosman 2088 being confined to whatever is left.

A similar proposal came before the last Council, instigated from a longtime Balmoral resident who has, since postcodes were introduced in 1967 steadfastly refused to give her postal address as Mosman 2088, putting instead Balmoral. Not surprisingly much of her mail was wrongly delivered to Balmoral 2283 or Balmoral 2571 or Balmoarl 3407 or Balmoral 4171 or Balmoral 4552. Needless to say the last Council rejected the idea unanimously.

If you, like the previous Council feel that rubbishing the Mosman 2088 brand and imposing a massive cost in getting stationary and databases updated is nonsensical, make sure you let the GNB know. You can do it here, it is enough to say that you oppose the idea.

Here is the submission I made.

My reasons for preferring the status quo are as follows:

• Mosman, because of its topology and history is rich in local place names associated with geographical features, the estate names of land releases and tramway junctions. People living in the vicinity of these locations identify as living in that area as well as having a Mosman 2088 post code. There are no hard and fast boundaries and people living ‘in between’ these locations simply identify as living in Mosman (see attached map)

• When I am asked where I live, and I say Mosman, I can confidently assume that the questioner will immediately understand as Mosman has a very high recognition factor. I am also free to elaborate that the area of Mosman where I reside is Beauty Point if pinpointing is required. My postal address is clear and unambiguous as Mosman 2088.

• Before postcodes were introduced there may have been an argument for fine-grained locality naming. Now, more than 40 years after the single Mosman post code was introduced a change would cause decades of confusion and mis-addressing until the new system settled down.

• The cost imposed on the community in getting all stationary and databases updated would be considerable.

• The proposed boundaries force certain locations that have never identified with the place name that the proposal would give them to have that name, for example the East side of Spit Rd from Parriwi Junction would become part of Beauty Point which has only ever been identified with the West side of Spit Rd and half the shops in Mosman Junction would be in Balmoral Beach and the other in Mosman

• Any attempt to define arbitrary boundaries to divide the suburb would result in similar inconsistencies and confusions as for example the fact that houses on the ridge 100m above Balmoral Beach and a considerable distance from it would still have a Balmoral Beach address

• The proposal rides rough shod over history by redefining boundaries of that were associated with particular land releases

• Dividing a community which works very effectively as a coherent whole would be a backward step

• The reasons being advocated for the change are spurious. There is no danger that a locality name will disappear simply because it is not part of the formal postcode based addressing system. Is there any danger that Circular Quay or Wynyard will slip from usage simply because they lie within the Sydney 2000 post code zone?

• The proposal was unanimously rejected by the previous Council

An evidence based tax to tackle global warming

July 7, 2013

CaptureA Canadian economist, Ross McKitrick has come up with a really simple idea for dealing with climate change that has the potential to unite scientists, politicians, environmentalists and dissenters and get global action in place to manage the risk of climate change.

The idea? Introduce an evidence based, tax neutral carbon tex.

McKendrick proposes using some indicator of global warming (he thinks the temperature of the troposphere is the best indicator) and to link the level of carbon tax to this indicator.

Put simply this would provide an incentive for everyone, from the biggest mining companies to the individual citizen to seek out the best evidence of likely tropospheric temperature rises and make their investment decisions on that basis. It would encourage everyone to put their money where their mouth was. Dissenters could happily invest in fossil fuels, those that put more faith in the scientists would be putting their money into renewables.

MCKitrick’s proposal’s brilliance lies in the fact that it harnesses the power of the market to deal effectively with climate change. He argues that this simple approach would allow the scrapping of all other regulatory approaches, and if that happened it would certainly be the most cost effective.

Getting a political consensus on an issue within a country. let alone across the globe is a major challenge but this idea has a better chance than most. A good start would be for us as a global community to get over the unproductive verbal mud slinging between true believers and dissenters and debate instead what would be the most effective indicator to base the tax on (sea level?, Arctic ice melt?, ocean temperature?) and at what level the tax should be.

I am reminded of the old adage for every problem there is a simple solution – and it is always wrong. In this case there is nonetheless the germ of a good idea that could be nuanced into something that would have universal support, and be effective. You can read the full article here.

Death by a thousand cuts

July 4, 2013

I reproduce here, with permission a letter from long time Mosman resident Damien Stapleton to Mayor Abelson on the topic of he Mosman Rider . It represents my views exactly. It appears that if a service is not useful to the present Council’s very well heeled backers then it is to be scrapped, no matter how vital it is the vulnerable young and elderly. Not immediately of course, given contractural obligations, so it has to be death by a thousand cuts. One can only surmise that the reason they rejected signing up to an attractive five year contract was they wanted to get rid of the service when the current contract expires in two years.

Mayor Abelson in his July occasional letter claims it was a controversial matter in the community with passionate supporters for and against. What he omitted to say was that the against side was made up of his and Cr Bendall’s supporters who loved to hate the previous Council. It appears that this Council is out to white ant and then knock over anything and everything the previous Council set up. What Mayor Abelson also failed to mention was that those in favour of he Rider were users of the service -either because they relied on it, or they shared the previous council’s view that substituting the Rider for a car trip was more fun, more social and good for the environment.

Serving Mosman, Mayor Abelson’s political party, campaigned on a platform of bringing in a new era of a Council that listened to the community. At least he now acknowledges that the community is not of one mind. Does he now accept I wonder that the previous Council did listen to the community , but not to those with the loudest voices, as he has opted to do. Will his thinking evolve to the point of recognising that given there is a diversity of views in the community, Council needs to be not just guided by opinion, but by values.

Here is Damien’s letter

It is most disappointing that Mosman Municipal Council has reduced its very successful initiative, The Mosman Rider community bus service, during winter months.

I regularly use the service and have signed the citizens’ petition presen tly before Council, which protests that reduction. Having not owned an automobile for 24 years and leading the extremely active life I do, I am totally reliant on and aware of the Public Transport options in this area including The Rider, as I pursue my many daily activities.

I have resided in Mosman for 41 years and we are greatly advantaged here by a very good Public Transport system which puts us in contact with linking train, ferry, bus and even air services, to all points of the compass. The Rider is now an integral part of the local Public Transport grid.

It is an invaluable asset to the area servicing many parts of the Municipality hitherto not serviced by any Public Transport eg providing transport for school students from Pearl and Quaker’s Hat Bays, transporting the less mobile to shopping, health care, and entertainment commitments and lessening cars on the road thus contributing to the environment. It is also a beneficial tourist attraction. The Rider service does not compete with, duplicate or militate against any Government Transport in the area. Government bus services are not threatened by the service.

The buses are air conditioned, clean and comfortable and drivers are extremely courteous and jovial and very cooperative and helpful, particularly to elderly passengers and those with young children. It is particularly convenient that passengers may hail the bus in spaces where it is legal to do so and are not limited to conventional bus stops.

The Mosman Rider was the quid pro quo resulting from the decision of Council some years ago to install Parking Meters at Balmoral Beach. It was to be and is funded from revenue from those meters and from infringements arising where

Parking provisions are not complied-with. It functions therefore at no cost to Mosman Ratepayers whose obligation to pay for parking vehicles does not exist, is minimal or results from poor time management. I am reliably informed that such revenue from this source now exceeds $2 million and the present Rider service costs $275,000 and that most of that revenue is derived from motorists who live outside Mosman.

The installation of the meters became necessary to control abuses of free-of-charge parking at the beach including inter alia: long- lunchers parking all afternoon and being too intoxicated to drive so leaving cars overnight for collection the next day, teachers and students from the local private girls’ school parking all day and yachties’ parking their trailer and car for days as they cruise the blue, hogging two parking spaces with no regard for the inconvenience they caused.

These abuses and their ilk had to be remedied and I must point out that one in particular of your fellow Councillors based his expensive presidential and humiliatingly unsuccessful 2012 campaign for control of Mosman Council, on Council’s Parking Meter initiative at Balmoral. It is interesting however that Council now seeks to massively increase revenue from meters at Balmoral Beach by increasing parking charges and expanding the meter culture to Spit Junction while installing a Parking Infringement Review Panel whose only function can be seen to be the overturn of parking fines with the effect of reducing the authority of Council Rangers and being left exposed to claims of cronyism where the infringements of mates are able to be overturned.

I supported and still do, the installation of Parking Meters at Balmoral and its resulting bus initiative and they are an inextricable package. I support any reasonable revenue-raising initiative of any public body including Local Government.

In its decision to reduce the Rider service, Mosman Council is in severe breach of its covenant with its citizens who have been grossly betrayed by Council in this matter. In other words the case is made that the service should in fact not be reduced but increased and Council would still have change.

Our adjoining Councils Willoughby and Manly, operate multiple free-of-charge bus services at Ratepayers’ cost.

Mosman is a wealthy small Council in the most affluent demographic in the Commonwealth of Australia. Its liabilities are minor in proportion to larger Councils with great social problems. To argue that because a service provided at no cost to its ratepayers does not bring a financial return; is a cost to them, is absolute nonsense and an insult to the community intelligence. Using such logic the argument is made that Council services which are totally Ratepayer-funded such as Balmoral Beach, our parks, public toilets, The Art Gallery, Senior’s Centre and Meals on Wheels to name but few, should all henceforth be closed,

The only deficiencies I see in the Rider service are those I suggest should be remedied as I suggest below.

Accordingly I call upon Council to immediately:

• reverse its decision to reduce the Mosman Rider service,
• increase the Mosman Rider service to a half-hourly service
• commencing from Balmoral Beach 0700-1800
• every day and
• embark on an advertising and promotional campaign to make the entire community aware of the service, how it affects their individual neighbourhoods, how best for them to use it, the benefits available to them and the community from using it.

The April 9 Mosman Rider debate in Council

April 10, 2013

Last night the Mosman Rider came up at Mosman Council. As interested as I am in the fate of the Mosman Rider, it was not the Rider but Cr Bendall that captured my attention. Cr Bendall had me gasping in disbelief. How could someone holding public office show so little understanding about an issue that he was passionately opposing.

Try to follow his argument. I may be doing Cr Bendall an injustice but this is how it sounded to me. A substantial number of children under 5 use the Mosman Rider. Children on STA buses are free. Therefore, according to Cr Bendall, the STA is cost shifting to Mosman Council to the tune of $7 for every child carried.

Had I been on Council this is how I would have responded to Cr Bendall’s ludicrous proposition.

1. The assumption that had the Rider not provided the service, those children would have travelled by STA, just doesn’t hold water. The Rider route duplicates STA services in tiny fragments. Most people using the rider use the service to go from home to shops or the beach. While there are many homes in Mosman that have an STA service to the shops or the beach, the ones on the Rider route by and large do not use the Rider as it takes longer and is less frequent than STA. The Rider is a service designed for those who DON’T have a good STA service or who want to travel at times when the Rider has a service but the STA does not

2. The $7 per passenger would not be saved had the children not used the Rider. The Rider costs the same no matter how many people use it. The $7 figure that was quoted in the report was derived by dividing the operating cost of the service by the current number of passengers. Every extra passenger carried equates to more benefit for the same cost. If Cr Bendall is appalled by the $7 cost why isn’t he out there encouraging all and sundry to leave their cars at home and take the Rider instead. This is what Manly has done and lo and behold they have reduced their per passenger costs to less than $2 (Cr Bendall’s figures) Even Cr Abelson was complaining that every child carried up Awaba St was costing Council $7. The valid way to make the point Cr Abelson wanted to make would be to say that children using the Rider to save their legs walking up Awaba should be discounted from the passenger count. If only ‘valid’, ie passengers for whom the service was established, were counted the cost per passenger would clearly rise above $7, but this would be to dismiss a significant benefit, albeit an incidental benefit, to Mosman’s children, as worthless.

3. The notion that somehow Mosman was carrying costs that would otherwise have been borne by STA is the biggest furphy of the all. The cost to STA of running its services are not impacted in any way by the Mosman Rider. To the extent that the Rider steals passengers from STA services ( a tiny fraction of Rider passengers as explained above) Mosman residents are getting the benefit (free travel) and STA are copping the cost(reduced fare revenue).

Having set up 0-5′s as the mechanism by which the NSW Government was cost shifting to Mosman Council, Cr Bendall was on a roll. It wasn’t just 0-5′s it was all school students who have bus passes, all seniors who can travel for $2.50.

How odd that Cr Abelson should pick up on Cr Moline’s maths when she claimed that 40,000 would be affected when of course the 40,000 was trips not individuals, but remain silent on Cr Bendall’s blunderings in a logic free zone?

What Cr Bendall and Cr Abelson don’t appear to understand is that the Rider has increased transport amenity in Mosman. It was introduced as a free service for Mosman residents, like the Library. Like all services it costs money to operate. It needs to be promoted more, so that more people use it in place of driving as this will bring down the per passenger cost. By all means optimise the timetable to, for example, minimise the need for penalty rates and multiple drivers. But there is a real risk that tinkering with the service, now that it has been established, will slow down the growth in passenger numbers, as it will make the service less convenient and less predictable and hence raise the per passenger cost. At the very least, on daylight saving weekends and in the school holidays the service should continue to run until 6pm.

I wonder how Councillors Bendall and Abelson view the London Congestion charge, where all revenue collected is invested in improving public transport in London? Isn’t using parking meter revenue to fund an alternative to driving, and thus a away of avoiding the parking charges, the same concept?

The good news is that Council resolved last night to guarantee that there would be an hourly service service seven days a week, at the very least mornings and afternoons until the current contract expires at the end of 2014. Just what the commencing and finishing times will be depends on what savings could be made, and that depends on the contractor. The decision will be made in six weeks, but thanks to Cr’s White, Moline and Menzies the community will be consulted before the final decision is made

The Mosman Rider is under threat!

April 5, 2013

Picture1At the last Council meeting of 2012, Councillor Bendall was successful in getting the numbers for a resolution instigating a thoroughgoing review of the Council’s free bus service, the Mosman Rider. The Mosman Rider was an initiative of the previous Council and Mayor Abelson and Cr Bendall have made many public statements questioning the value of the service, so this motion comes as no surprise. Supporters of the service see it as the beginning of the end. Cost benefit analyses are a convenient way of justifying ideologically driven decisions. Any desired result can be achieved, depending on how the dollar figure for benefits is calculated. The fundamental problem is that while the costs are very clear and carried by Council, the benefits are distributed across multiple stakeholders over a long period of time and are very difficult to measure.

It is of course absolutely reasonable for the new Council to review whether the Mosman Rider is achieving its objectives in the most cost effective manner. It is also reasonable to ask whether the objectives themselves are worthy, have the support of the community and represent a better option than lower rates or spending on something else.

As one of the councillors who invested a lot of time and passion in getting the service established I am clearly going to be just as biased in favour of the Mosman Rider as Cr’s Abelson and Bendall are against it. This is the response that I would give to in response to Cr Bendall’s request for a review of the service. [The actual report prepared by Council staff is on the agenda for the April meeting. Council staff have done an excellent job comprehensively addressing each of the points in Councillor Bendall’s resolution with extensive data to back up their claims].

What are the objectives of the service

The primary objective has always been to provide a basic minimum level of mobility for Mosman residents who for whatever reason are mobility impaired. Specifically to provide a means of getting from home to the shops, to transport nodes and to foreshore recreation areas for those without a driving licence who and live in parts of Mosman not well served by public transport.

A secondary objective has been to encourage all Mosman residents to use public transport for local trips, since every car left in the garage means less pressure on parking, less congestion, less air pollution, less accidents and less greenhouse gas emissions.

At the time the service was introduced, there was a third objective – that of keeping access to the beach free. In the same way that the London congestion tax was used to subsidise public transport, revenue from parking meters paid for the Mosman Rider. Non-residents could park for free anywhere along the route and thus access the beach for nothing,

Are these legitimate aims

They are aims being very strongly promoted at all levels of government, in Australia and across the world. It is not hard to see why. Very few of us are getting the required 30 minutes of exercise we need a day to stay healthy. All the research shows that incidental exercise, the sort that we get when we use public transport rather than door to door transport in our own car, is the best way of sustaining the required level of physical activity and if the population is healthy the public purse outlays on health are much reduced. The Heart Foundation has published much on the topic. The NSW government through the Premiers Council on Active Living is urging local government to provide incentives and remove barriers to active travel. At the federal level the Department of Infrastructure has just released a discussion paper: ‘Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport’ and the American Public Health Association is continuously building on the already overwhelming evidence that providing people with an alternative to driving pays
for itself many times over in reduced health care costs, reduced congestion and reduced need for parking infrastructure.

Other areas of government stress the economic value of providing services that allow people to remain independent and living in their own homes as they age. Others again stress the importance of reducing social isolation and ensuring that the elderly can get to medical appointments. Having the independence to meet up with friends where and when you want is highly valued by youth.

I would assume that the current Council agrees with these objectives, but are less convinced about how effectively the current service is achieving them. So let’s look at that.

To what extent is the service achieving its stated objectives

You only need to go for a ride on the Mosman Rider to observe that a lot of elderly people who one suspects are beyond driving use the service. Surveying this demographic of the clientele would show the extent to which having the service was a factor in keeping them independent,

It is also clear that a lot of young people use the service to meet up with each other or go to the beach. Many families with young children use the service to go to the shops, beach or Zoo. Children love it.

There are many regulars: travelling on the bus is quite a social experience, aided by the very friendly drivers. It is not just young people who use the bus for meeting friends for a coffee

So can it be said that each person who uses the bus represents mobility being provided to someone who would otherwise be mobility deprived or a trip that would otherwise be made by car? Certainly some of the passengers do and thus they provide evidence that the service is achieving its objectives. Some do not. For example they may use the bus when otherwise they would have walked or used the services provided by Sydney Buses.

So the question we must now explore is can the benefit of the service be expanded by attracting more passengers who, had it not been for the service, would have used their car or not made the trip at all.

How big is the pool of potential passengers?

The current route of the Mosman Rider was designed so that a large proportion of the population of Mosman is less than a ten minute walk away from the route. What limits its use is that either people don’t know about it, or the service frequency is too low (once per hour) or the journey time is too long (one hour for a complete circuit of Mosman). It is these two latter factors that make the service uncompetitive with driving yourself, even taking into account the hassle of finding a parking spot. Another factor maybe the presumed unreliability – we all know the bus gets delayed in traffic so often it is running well behind its timetable, and who wants to wait at the stop with a suspicion that the bus has already passed through? In fact reliability is not a problem for those in the know, as the mobile phone bus locator system largely overcomes that problem.

Clearly a higher frequency service with a shorter journey time would increase the pool of potential passengers, but it would also cost a lot more to run. Two buses would be needed to provide a half hour service on two different half hour loops.

I believe there is still considerable scope for increasing passenger numbers with the existing service. Mosman has a growing number of both children and retired people. Both groups are under less time pressure than their working counterparts and once you rule out time as an issue there is a lot of attraction in being chauffeured, enjoying the social experience, being dropped at the door, being able to drink and not having to find a parking spot. The Mosman Rider and Sydney Buses services taken in conjunction actually allow you to get from anywhere to anywhere in Mosman and back again with not too much waiting time, particularly, if the mobile phone location services are used and you start your trip only when the bus is due.

Passenger numbers have risen steadily since the service was first introduced. People typically learn about the service from friends. Once they have experienced how convenient it is, it enters their mindset and they become repeat customers. Even without any further promotion passenger numbers and hence the community benefit will grow over time as the message spreads by word of mouth. The benefit to cost ratio will consequently grow. By promoting the service the benefits would grow even faster. A short video of current clients saying how they use the service and why they like it along with details of the route and timing, screened at the Hayden Orpheum would reach the right demographic. It could be also be screened at Council and at Bridgepoint and in local schools.

Other ways to promote the service would be to letterbox drop houses adjacent to the route with timing information for their locality – when the bus passes through their area and how long it takes to get to each key destination. New residents should be taken on a guided tour of Mosman on the Rider once they have been on it and seen how it works it won’t be such a leap of faith to use it for a real trip.

Another potential benefit of the service would be to map out ‘a day in Mosman’ for international tourists staying in the city. It would involve a ferry ride to Taronga Zoo (with or without a Zoo visit), the 238 to Balmoral Beach for lunch, the Mosman Rider for a tour around Balmoral Heights and Beauty Point, a visit to the Art Gallery followed by a stroll down the shopping strip, then a 230 to Mosman Wharf and home on the ferry. Many other itineraries could be invented. The Mosman Rider passes no less than 20 places to have a coffee.

Could the cost of the service be reduced without compromising its quality?

The benefit to cost ratio can be increased by either increasing benefits or lowering costs. In this section I examine various options for reducing the cost while maintaining the same level of service ie an hourly service from most parts of Mosman to the Mosman shopping strip and a half hourly service from the shopping strip to the beach.

Let’s start with the route. The route was painstakingly worked out to meet the following criteria. It needed to be within easy reach of the majority of the Mosman population, it needed to pass close to all of Mosman’s key destinations, it should complement and add value to Sydney Buses services, it should be impacted minimally by congestion, it needed to pass the same spot at the same time each hour, it needed to get people quickly to the beach and shops, but if they stayed on the bus, deliver them to any of Mosman’s key destinations. The route chosen needed to be negotiable by the bus and have plenty of safe places to pick up and drop off passengers.

The route finally arrived at was a figure of eight loop crossing over at Balmoral. By using loops rather than a star pattern duplication of Sydney Buses services is minimised.

An argument has been made that the original mobility objectives could be achieved by expanding community transport – for example providing for the eligible elderly a fixed number of taxi vouchers. Or more ambitiously replacing the Mosman Rider with a computer based bus despatching system that would respond to calls from potential passengers, optimising its route to pick up each passenger and deliver them to their destination. Leaving aside the loss of independence (having to ask for help rather than simply using a service) and the unpredictability of your arrival time with such a service, the major disadvantage is that such services are not scalable, costs rise in proportion to passengers. For the Mosman Rider, benefits increase with passenger numbers, while costs are held constant. There is thus no financial impediment to promoting the service, and consequently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demand on parking, reducing congestion

The Mosman Rider, now that it is established and growing in popularity has so much potential. It could become very Mosman to do the social and environmental right thing and get around Mosman by a combination of walking cycling, Mosman Rider and Sydney Buses – excepting of course when the weather was bad, or you had lots to carry, or you were short of time. The State government in its Transport Master Plan has argued that Sydney bus services should be restricted to trunk routes with feeder buses providing for micro mobility. Mosman and Manly will be well placed to negotiate a deal with the State government when this happens, having developed experience in running their own services

Another way of reducing the costs would be to charge for the service. This would add to operational costs and also be a disincentive. It would also be unfair as the chief beneficiaries are not the passengers but the community. They benefit from having one less car on the road. In the long term, when the service is fully established with two buses providing a 30 minute service it would be appropriate to charge a fare, provided that at that time the OPAL card is in use across all transport in Sydney, including the Mosman Rider. In the short term sponsorship, or on bus advertising could be considered.

Wouldn’t it be better to scrap the service and lower rates?

This is a matter for political judgement by the councillors. Every Council service could be scrapped and the rates dropped ever lower. The Mosman Rider first, then perhaps the Library, then the sporting venues. Where do you draw the line? I think that the Mosman community is quite comfortable with the mix of services they get in return for their rates, and are generous enough to accept that they are paying for some services that they personally don’t use but are vital for others.. As the population ages, more people live here and fuel prices increase support for the Mosman Rider will grow ever more stronger. Scrapping or even significantly changing the service now would be to squander a four year build-up of passenger good will and three years of fine tuning to optimise the service. It would put a lot of cars back on the road and make a lot of people seriously question whether they could continue independent living. It would make a lot of children who get so excited about riding the ‘Whale Bus’, very sad. It would make me sad too, seeing a great initiative by one Council destroyed by the next. But I guess that is how politics is played these days.
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24 hour clearways are not the solution

November 18, 2012

For the Northern Beaches transport corridor, the highest priority should be protecting buses from congestion delays. If we all knew that, if congestion occurred, buses would be given priority over cars, buses would begin to look a much more attractive proposition. Not because on average the journey time was competitive with using a car, but because buses had the shortest worse case journey time.

Giving buses priority wouldn’t just remove the uncertainty from journey time and thus allow us individually to operate on a tighter schedule, it would be very good for our health. By encouraging public transport use more of us would get the recommended 30 minutes a day of walking.

So how could buses be given priority?

There are in fact several distinct time periods, each of which needs a different solution.

In the weekday am and pm peak periods 5 traffic lanes are in operation (3 in the peak direction and 2 in the other). The kerbside lane is a bus or T3 lane. My proposal is to introduce electronic lane reallocation for the entire length of the corridor from Spit Bridge to the Freeway. This would involve overhead gantries as on the Sydney Harbour Bridge indicating which lanes were currently available for each type and direction of traffic. Some embedded lights on the road may also be needed. At pinch points, (but only at pinch points) some parking on the non-peak flow side would need to go in order to accommodate the pop-up bus lanes without further compromising general traffic capacity

The lanes would be dynamically changed to give priority to buses in the event of an incident or just unexpectedly heavy traffic.

This could be implemented in stages over many years, starting with hotspots. The Ourimbah Road Spit Road intersection has already been done. Read the rest of this entry »

Balmoral 2088

November 9, 2012

Does Roy Bendall really want to do this to us?

If his proposal to formally recognise Balmoral, Beauty Point and Clifton Gardens gets endorsed by Council, over half the people in Mosman would have to change their official address. Computer based automatic address checkers would reject an address such as Carrington Ave Mosman causing much frustration and confusion. To make it all happen countless bureaucrats in Council, the Geographical Names Boards and anyone who runs a business with an address databases would be required to spent inordinate amounts of time and money updating their records.

The current system whereby everyone in Mosman has the postal address Mosman 2088 works extremely well. There is only one Mosman in Australia but there are two other Balmorals in NSW alone and five in Australia and there is one other Beauty Point. Whatever our postal address we are all free to decide for ourselves how we describe the locality in which we live to our friends and real estate agents. It may depend on the context, sometimes Mosman at other times something much more specific like Middle Head or Mosman Bay. The fuzziness of the boundaries gives us this licence.

While people live here there is no danger of the locality names in Mosman being forgotten. Mosman 2088 has been our postal address for decades. But last time I looked buses still go to Beauty Point, Balmoral and Clifton Gardens. Google and every street directory I have looked also recognise all three.

If Roy’s proposal goes ahead we would no longer have the very happy circumstance in terms of branding where the suburb and the municipality cover the same geographical area. Instead the suburb Mosman would shrink to encompass the bits on Roy’s map that were not worthy of a name of their own.

I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Surely there are more important challenges that Council should be grappling with!

Mosman traffic and Infrastructure NSW’s draft plan

November 2, 2012

It seems that our generation has dropped the ball when it comes to public transport infrastructure. 160 stations were opened in Sydney prior to WW2. Just 13 have been opened since despite the population having more than quadrupled. First it was our infatuation with the car, now it is our aversion to borrowing combined with a very narrowly defined approach to cost benefit analysis. We are simply not prepared to make very long term investments. This was not always the case. The passenger numbers on the East Hills line, which was built before there was any development along the line took 50 years before passenger demand began to approach the level of capacity being provided.

This is the great tragedy of the Infrastructure NSW’s draft plan. Where is the thinking that would have argued: the Northern beaches is one of the highest amenity areas of Sydney. Everyone there has access to bush and beach and the climate is pleasant. If we are going to have medium density along a transport corridor in Sydney this is clearly the best place for it. So let’s borrow and build a rail link from Dee Why to the City and pay it back from betterment taxes that will flow as the land along the corridor increases its value.

That, sadly is not what the plan recommends, so we have to live with the lost opportunity and focus instead on what is sensible in the short term.

Here also, what the plan recommends – eliminating parking to make Spit and Military Road into a 24 hour clearway is seriously wrong.

Congestion on any stretch of road can be addressed by either increasing capacity or reducing demand. Increasing capacity by eliminating parking would provide relief in the short term, but it would stimulate demand such at in a few years congestion would be back to existing levels. In the mean time the viability of commercial and retail centres along the corridor would have irreversibly declined and the amenity of the area for pedestrians and local residents would have been seriously
eroded – in effect, for nothing.

A more enlightened approach would be to reallocate the existing capacity in favour of the traffic with greatest economic benefit and manage the demand on the capacity that remains, without any net increase in capacity. Read the rest of this entry »

The new planning system – getting the balance right

October 11, 2012

In a recent lecture given at the Royal Society of the Arts in London, Matthew Taylor used the success of the London Olympics to make some important points about what makes policies effective. The NSW government would do well to pay attention to Taylor’s insights, particularly with respect to its current reshaping of the planning system.

According to Taylor, the London Olympics worked because there was the right balance between the inputs of each of the three key players – the authorities (ie governments at all levels and their agencies), the community, and individuals. The authorities put in place the necessary structures, and systems and rules, the community threw their full weight behind the project (the volunteer program, the enthusiasm, the atmosphere) and finally it was the enterprise, passion and commitment of individual athletes that made it all come together as a hugely successful event.

The message for governments is that effective policies require more than setting rules – they need have broad community support and have built-in incentives for individuals. Taylor goes further in noting that the optimal balance between the government, community and individual drivers of change will evolve over time. Set and forget simply doesn’t work. A further insight from Taylor was the need to view policy development as a design exercise – one which acknowledged the different interests of different stakeholders and seeks to find a solution that represents the best compromise. Read the rest of this entry »


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