24 hour clearways are not the solution

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.

In off peak periods the kneejerk reaction is always to propose 24 hour clearways. In fact it would simply provide a short respite before traffic demand expanded to use the increased capacity. It would also have a serious impact on the viability of local retail and make for a much less pleasant environment for pedestrians. A far better solution would be to use the lane reallocation technology already in place to handle the peak, the only difference is that there would be that in off peak times the pool would have just four lanes rather than six.

At weekends, certainly on sunny Summer ones, the lane reallocation system would still not provide enough capacity. My recommendation here would be to make the alternative route (Ourimbah/MacPherson etc) an outbound clearway in the morning and early afternoon and an inbound clearway in the afternoon.

Additional parking in side streets would need to be provided for Ourimbah Road residents – this could be done by introducing angle parking in the side streets

The above measures must be clearly seen for what they are – temporary expedients to buy time until a way of financing a tunnel can be sorted out.

Here is the reply I received from Emma Foster of Infrastructure NSW

Thank you for your email. We appreciate your interest and the time you have taken to review the State Infrastructure Strategy, and your comments and suggestions in relation to the Northern Beaches.

As outlined in the State Infrastructure Strategy, Infrastructure NSW has recommended that Transport for NSW further investigate a range of potential enhancements to bus priority on the Northern Beaches corridor to develop a value-for-money improvement plan for the coming decade – with a scoping estimate of up to $200 million.

This recommendation is part of three phases of priorities for the Northern Beaches outlined in the State Infrastructure Strategy:

1. In the short term, bus priority measures along Military Road need to be determined via the process currently underway through Transport for NSW including consideration of dedicated centre lanes in peaks, park and ride sites and tidal flow options as well as the re-routing of buses in the CBD;
2. In the medium term, Infrastructure NSW has recommended investing $200 million on further enhancements to traffic flow between the Spit Bridge and North Sydney; and
3. In the long term, the Northern Beaches need to be linked into the Sydney Motorway network with the acceleration of the Northern Beaches Link – a tunnel under Military Road (including access for buses) with consideration of tolling to bring the project forward.

The Strategy’s recommendations have been provided to the Government for its consideration in developing future plans for infrastructure investment.

Thank you again for making the time to contact Infrastructure NSW.

It is encouraging that this response encompasses what I have suggested above as one of the possible solutions. What is disappointing however is that no acknowledgement is given to the fact that in the longer term serious investment is going to be needed in a high capacity electric public transport option – either light rail above ground or a metro underground. Jim Reid has been a long time advocate of this solution and I share his conviction on this matter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: