Archive for the ‘Built Environment’ Category

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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

Let’s each adopt a box

August 15, 2012

When you see graffiti in Mosman, chances are it will be on property owned by Ausgrid, Australia Post, State Transit, Telecom or Roads and Maritime. This is because Council’s own contractor removes all other graffiti in Mosman, whether it is on public or private property within 24 hours of it appearing. Despite countless requests none of the utilities are willing to allow Council’s contractor to remove graffiti from their property.

I have contacted each utility and it turns out they each have their own individual contracts with a graffiti remover. Although their contracts tolerate a much longer gap between reporting and removal, they do have a time limit – typically two weeks (although shorter if the graffiti is offensive.)

So really, the ball is in our court to report graffiti the moment it appears. Here is my suggestion for making this manageable. Let’s each ‘adopt a box’ – a piece of utility hardware that attracts graffiti that we can see from our house, or that we pass every day. I am happy to maintain a database of who has adpopted which box, so if you would like to participate please email me giving the street address and any utility code number on the box you would like to adopt. I will send back by return email information about how you report graffiti on that object and by what date the contractor is obliged to remove it.

Please keep a record of when each incident was reported and when it was cleaned up. At the end of each financial year I will be in touch to collect your data. If performance is not as claimed, Council will then have the evidence it needs to go after any utility not living up to its own claims. We need to show the utilities how seriously we take graffiti in Mosman. If we are diligent in our reporting they may even agree to allowing Council’s contractor to cover their property with our 24 hour service.

The future planning system for NSW

August 1, 2012

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has released the Green Paper that gives an idea of what the government has in mind in terms of reforming the planning system. The 1979 act was seen at the time as being world’s best practice but over thirty years it has been amended almost to its last breath. It is clear that Hazzard has similar world’s best practice aspirations for his act, and he is to be admired for his courage although given the long period of uncertaintly that will ensue while the new system is bedded down, one wonders whether building on the existing system as distinct from wholesale change might not have been the wiser option

At the heart of the proposal is a determination to push all the debate and community consultation into the formulation of regional strategic plans. These will provide the guidelines for what is to be conserved and how growth is to be accommodated. The hypothesis to be tested is this. If the community can reach a consensus as to how it wants to evolve and then express in very clear but non-prescriptive guidelines as to the sorts of development that will help it achieve its goals, then the DA process itself can be greatly simplified.

It is envisaged that the sub-regional plans will have ‘building envelopes and standards (eg car parking)’ and that if the proposed development complies approval is automatic. If it doesn’t comply then it is assessed on merit – ie does it run with or counter to the objectives of the sub-regional plan. Only the merit component of assessments can be challenged in the Land and Environment Court.

By taking this approach the intention is to ensure that the time and cost of getting a DA approved is related to the level of risk implicit in the development. This contrasts with the present approach that forces everyone to go through the same process whether it is a minor change to an existing dwelling or a large block of apartments
A very important reform will be the establishment of depoliticised Regional Boards whose job it will be to formulate the regional plans. The boards will have all stakeholders represented – developers, conservation groups, community representatives, local council representatives and ex officio senior staff from all the state agencies with independent chair. I would hope they would also have professionals with expertise in architecture, engineering, planning, environmental science, finance and economics. It doesn’t look as though the plans produced will be embedded in legislation and the boards will have no statutory power. (more…)

The People’s Junction

February 17, 2012

Clifton Gardens, Balmoral, Beauty Point – these are all highly desirable addresses, but Spit Junction just doesn’t cut it, does it?. It is not just the name, it is the very ordinariness of the place. And yet as a location it has so much going for it…. [Photo: NSW State Records]

It is the highest point in Mosman and the point where the two principal ridges of Mosman intersect. It is a natural meeting of the ways and the community heart of Mosman with the Art Gallery, Library, the Swimming Pool, Council offices and Bridgepoint shopping centre all clustered around public space that extends from Myahgah Mews to Alan border Oval. Spit Junction also bookends one of the best preserved and most successful high end strip shopping streets in Sydney, running for over a km to Centenary Circle

It is also a key transport node with express buses to the city and the northern beaches and local buses to most parts of Mosman as well as Chatswood, St Leonards and Milson’s Point. It is also the starting point of the high frequency Metro bus service through the city to Sydenham.

It is good the Council has recognised that redevelopment of its own land holdings represents an opportunity to transform this iconic site into something really special, particularly if the development was done collaboratively with other property owners in the vicinity. Perhaps not quite on the same scale, but something akin to how Willoughby Council has transformed what 40 years ago was a very shabby Victoria Rd into the award winning development of the station precinct and Concourse that Chatswood is today. (more…)

Mosman’s Pedestrian Plan

February 9, 2012

This week Mosman’s Pedestrian and Mobility Access Plan (PAMP) goes on public exhibition. This is a very welcome development. Over the years much attention has been paid to meeting the needs of drivers but this is the first time Council has attempted to systematically address the needs of pedestrians in Mosman. The fact that Mosman consists of a number of ridges that fall way to foreshores mean that most pedestrian traffic will either be along the ridges (where the majority of ‘trip attractors’ are) or from ridge to theforeshore.

The PAMP rightly focuses on the three ridge routes with greatest pedestrian traffic – Spit Rd from Parriwi Junction to Spit Junction, Mosman Junction to Spit Junction and Cremorne Junction to Spit Junction. Investment in these routes will give the maximum return in terms of increased amenity. These routes are not only the easiest ways for most people to get to the shops and they also provide access to the majority of Mosman’s bus services.

The idea is to make these routes comfortable and connected. Comfort will be achieved by paying attention to flatness, width, shade and freedom from obstacles. Connectivity will be enhanced by providing continuity across side streets via raised thresholds or wide kerb ramps and generous build-outs and refuges. Sections of Chappel St in Melbourne are not unlike Military Rd and provide an example of what could be achieved. It will be quite a challenge as the space between the kerb and the property boundary is highly contested. But even if a straight path is impossible given the utility clutter, a meandering path of constant width (wide enough to accommodate passing prams or mobility scooters) should be achievable.

The PAMP has also identified a number of laneways around Spit Junction that could be developed to expand the very successful Myahgah Mews pedestrian zone into a fully interconnected network – useful input for the ‘Peoples Junction’ planning exercise. A similar network is proposed for Mosman Junction.

One thing the PAMP makes clear is that when the current contract comes to an end Mosman’s advertising supported bus shelters are going to need to be replaced by slimmer models moved back close to the property boundary. The advertising, instead of being on side panels visible to motorists will need to be restricted to the back panels. This is the norm for shelters just about everywhere in the world where footpath space is scarce.

You can download the PAMP and make a comment until March 30 here. Once the final version is adopted by Council the recommended works will be folded into MOSPLAN and undertaken at whatever rate funding allows. Most Mosman addresses have a good walkability score. Getting the ridge routes of a high pedestrian quality and then connecting these with the many pedestrian step paths down to the foreshores will enhance that score even further. A high walkability score is something that prospective home buyers are increasingly seeking.

I am taking a great interest in pedestrian facilities in other municipalities. Here you can view my photo gallery of crossing treatments, unobstructed footpaths and bus shelters. If you want to check out your own favourite route for walkability you can download a walkability checklist from the National Heart Foundation website.

And I am trying to find out just what powers councils have in terms of ‘development’ in the area between kerb and property boundary. I am particularly alarmed at the spread of green electricity stubs.

NSW Planning Review

January 7, 2012

So far so good with the NSW Government’s review of the planning system. The current planning system was itself the result of a major review by an incoming government, It was introduced in 1979 and at the time was regarded as something close to world best practice. But community expectations have changed and the countless fixes that have been applied over the last 30 years, either to address perceived shortcomings or simply to railroad through the aspirations of the NSW government have resulted in a dog’s breakfast that doesn’t work for developers, doesn’t work for communities and doesn’t work for governments either at state or local level..

The review was one of the promises of the incoming coalition government. The two individuals conducting the review have impeccable credentials. Tim Moore, is a previous coalition government minister and senior commissioner for the Land and Environment Court and Ron Dyer is a previous ALP government minister. At first I was sceptical given the very short timeframe – the intention is to have a green paper of policy options published by the end of April this year and a white paper later on in 2012. My scepticism has turned into optimism now that I have read the issues paper. What has impressed me is that every issue raised in the extensive program of community forums conducted across the state in the last quarter of 2011 has been captured –in the form of 238 questions against which submissions are invited (by February 17)

Many of the issues raised are matters that have been of concern to residents and councillors alike in Mosman. I have been dismayed by the many serious shortcomings of the present system that up until now councils have been powerless to address. Needless to say Mosman Council will be making a comprehensive submission. Some of the issues up for discussion likely to be of interest to Mosman residents are as follows. (more…)

Reclaiming the street

October 9, 2011

In other parts of the world there is increasing recognition that local streets have a function that extends far beyond providing vehicular access. They are also places where residents and their visitors walk, garden and socialise and where children play, ride bikes, roller skate and skateboard. On occasions they can even be used for street parties. In the UK, for example, a local street can be designated a “Home Zone”. In a Home Zone the road space is shared between drivers and other road users, with the wider needs of residents, including people who walk and cycle, and children), in mind. The aim is to change the way that streets are used and to improve the quality of life in residential streets making them for people, not just traffic. In a Home Zone, changes are made to the layout of the street to emphasise this change of use, so that motorists perceive that they should give informal priority to other road users. Home Zones turn residential streets in valued public spaces, not just a space to service the movement of traffic. They foster a sense of community, reduce social isolation, particularly amongst the elderly, increase opportunities for children’s active and creative play, increase natural surveillance and thus deter casual crime, and encourage walking and cycling within the local area and to nearby destinations.

In Mosman a good start was made 20 years in clearing our local streets of rat runners by judicious road closures and traffic calming measures. In my view the time has come to take the next step and establish Home Zones. Of course not all Mosman Streets are suitable, but that shouldn’t stop us from pressing ahead with the many that are.

It is going to be a long hard slog. In Australia we don’t have any legal recognition of Home Zones, instead we have a dogs breakfast of concepts including “residential speed zone”, “local traffic area”, “shared zone” and “high pedestrian activity area” which are poorly understood. We would do well to replace the first two in the Australian road rules and introduce in their place Home Zones based on the UK legislation (or that of The Netherlands or Germany). Once the road rules have been modified power needs to be given to local councils to declare and configure streets as home zones without the need to gain RTA approval.

At the forthcoming Local Government Association Conference, I will be moving a motion, endorsed by Mosman Council, that councils be give the power to designate at road at the bottom of the RTA hierarchy (ie not an arterial or a collector) as a home zone.