MTF: Love for better buses

The future of buses was ‘electric’ at the October MTF Meeting with inspiring presentations from Victorian Transport Action Group and TransDev.

The meeting also bid farewell to Cr Jackie Fristacky, long time Yarra delegate and transport advocate. Jackie is not standing for election again in Yarra after 18 years on council.

Victorian Transport Action Group’s Peter Parker inspired the room with ten opportunities to dramatically improve bus services. His detailed worked included many improvements that could be achieved simply by tweaking existing routes. You will love the understanding of route planning in this presentation.

TransDev’s Loretta Lynch offered a glimpse into the future with her report on their recent street level trial of a locally made e-bus in Melbourne. Incredibly quiet and exhaust free, the e-bus has delighted drivers and transported passengers on the 246 route for many months. But there’s a lot to learn about making e-buses work on streets: recharging options and opportunities (including solar), coping with unexpected delays (especially in hot weather with air con draining the charge), size of vehicles, production costs and more. “It’s all about the practicalities of matching buses to routes,” said Loretta.

Challenges aside, e-buses are clearly the future, with NSW set to buy 1000 e-buses as part of a complete transformation of the fleet over 2 decades.

Peter’s presentation
Loretta’s presentation TBA
E-bus fact sheet

Getting the wheels turning, fast and almost free

MTF Cycling Ambassador Cr Tom Melican. Pic: Herald Sun

Former mayors want to make the most of COVID inspired walking and cycling by making it easier for councils to lower speed limits on local side roads.

Cycling and walking may not be as politically compelling as tunnels and trains, but practically cost-free ideas emerging from local government could deliver powerful, profound and positive change in the way Melbournians choose to make short trips.

Here’s a thought. Simply by reducing the speed limits on selected suburban streets more people will choose to walk or ride for many local trips.

And before car drivers start honking their horns in protest, we are not talking about main streets or busy thoroughfares. This idea applies only to selected local side streets chosen by councils because they are suitable and provide easy access to common destinations. For drivers, it only adds seconds to their trips, if it makes any difference at all.

Our simple plan is to enable councils to reduce speed limits to 30 kph on selected streets to quieten traffic and make local trips by foot or bike much more attractive. This will capitalise on one of the few benefits of the COVID restrictions, namely more local cycling and walking. It will also reduce the Department of Transport’s lengthy and time-consuming assessment of individual Council applications for speed reductions across 79 Councils.

It also sets up our suburbs to better cope with the long-term impacts of COVID safe social distancing and changing work habits. With more people working and learning at home, we’ve seen bike shops booming and footpaths buzzing as trips to local destinations like takeaways and food shops have become daily highlights.

This fundamental shift in behaviour has been imposed by COVID; but it could be the catalyst for clever, easy and inexpensive changes to make cycling and walking more attractive for more people.

Giving local councils the power to reduce speed limits to 30 kms on council local roads, would make cycling and walking more attractive without expensive infrastructure. All it takes is some signage, community information and education. It could also be done in a pop-up style, without extensive works or planning – and reversed easily if required.

International data, Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) reports and a recent 30km trial in Fitzroy-Collingwood local streets assessed by MUARC, all show that 30 km limits reduces crashes and make both pedestrians and cyclist feel safer. A swag of positive side effects result: more kids walking to school; more people cycling for local trips; quieter and friendlier streets; and of course, a multiplicity of health benefits. This is why 30km/h is a common limit on local streets in Europe.

Working from home also changes what many need from their local economy. The coffee shop of choice will be a walk or ride away; the work break can also be a local shop break; getting the kids could be a walk instead of a drive. These are changes that will be welcomed by many local businesses struggling for a post-COVID future.

Predictions that up to one in five people will now work regularly from home, at least several days a week, indicate a seismic shift in the way we use our streets and suburbs. The commute to work will be less important, while the trip to local destinations becomes more important. Pre COVID, 20% of car trips were less than 2 kms, and 50% under 5 kms. If we are smart, we can change this to make walking and cycling the preferred mode for most local trips.

In the short term, it’s likely that traffic congestion will increase across Melbourne as more people use private cars instead of public transport for commuting. This only reinforces the importance of walking and cycling for local trips because it takes those trips off the busy, congested arterial roads.

By walking and cycling more, many Melbournians are already sending a message to their governments, now is the time to listen to them and act.

Cr Tom Melican is former Mayor of Banyule and Cr Jackie Fristacky was Mayor of Yarra. Both are passionate cyclists.

DoT looks towards recovery

DoT looks towards recovery and getting Melbourne moving again.

MTF September meeting was very pleased to get a comprehensive briefing from senior Department of Transport officers about the new structure and the priorities in these COVID times. This included advocating Councils bring forward Active Transport projects for rapid approval.

Nick Foa, Deputy Secretary, Transport Operations, Department of Transport, explained the structures and priorities. While Alan Fedda, Executive Director of Metropolitan North-West Victoria, Department of Transport, provided a deep dive into the projects on the go.

The breathtaking takeaway was the scope of the new DOT: More than $70 billion in projects, 120K jobs, 4K employees, 40 acts of parliament, and three ministers. Interestingly, within this monolithic structure, roads and public transport are covered by one Minister – Ben Carroll.

Every Department has a set of headline goals, in this case mission priorities were a reformist agenda:

1 Significantly less congested metropolitan networks
2 Faster more reliable freight movement
3 First and last mile mobility.

Much emphasis was given to progressing Victoria’s Big Build despite COVID restriction. The list of projects on the go is staggering. But even so, they have one eye on the post COVID normal and another on coping with increased traffic congestion as PT usage remains lower than normal.

Alan Fedda provided a detailed insight into the roll-out of congestion busting technology across the road network. This included trials of real time adjustments informed by a roll-out of 700 CCTV cameras and other data sources.

Of most immediate interest to LG was moves to make all clearways tow-away zones and increased road-occupation charges.

Mr Fedda recommended Councils bring forward innovative active transport projects, like pop-up bike infrastructure. He said DOT were keen to innovate to get people moving.

He said the State was already building 250kms of new active transport links.

Walk and ride to boost the local economy

MTF meeting 5 August 2020
Key note speakers:
Melisa Backhouse, Vic Health;
Ben Rossiter, Victoria Walks

It was not a coincidence that the MTF August meeting heard two presentations on active transport. Not only is it one of our top three ABC issues, it’s also very COVID current.

Both presentations highlighted the ‘opportunities’ that COVID changes present for local government. The data shows that people are walking and cycling more, creating opportunities to support and encourage this in the future.

But also, walking and cycling could be a powerful support for the local economy. Could a ‘walk to local’ message simultaneously help maintain active transport and support hard hit local businesses in your LGA?

Walk local, cycle local, buy local …..

The presentations

Melisa Backhouse from Vic Health looked at cycling and walking projects that’s Councils can get involved with. They are working closely with MAV, especially Geoff Oultan to reenergise walking and cycling, especially to school and other short trips.
View PowerPoint

Ben Rossiter from Victoria Walks presented on what he called the ‘invisible transport mode’ – walking. Most interesting was the increase in recreational walking during the COVID restrictions and data on the economic benefits of increased walking.
Dropbox link to Victoria Walks presentation by Ben Rossiter

Responding to COVID across all forms of transport – DOT

Presentation to MTF 1 July 2020
Brett Langley
A/Head of Transport Services, Department of Transport


Brett Langley presented on the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID 19 transport network, which he described as being part of a pervasive emergency context since the start of 2020.

He commented on the department’s response, its work with the Department of Health, its continuing monitoring of patronage and staff wellbeing, and also what strategic actions it is considering providing greater flexibility for the system into the future.

Topics included

Restrictions saw a 90 per cent drop in public transport patronage
Restrictions also caused a 40 per cent drop in traffic
Traffic volumes have returned to ~85% as restrictions have eased
Movement of freight remains a priority
Changing travel patterns on arterial road network
PT patronage has climbed back to ~ 30 per cent
Drive Easy COVID-19 Congestion Management Interventions
Challenges & opportunities for 2021 and beyond

See Brett’s presentation

More cycling could be COVID’s positive legacy

Cr Melican is a Banyule councillor and the Metropolitan Transport Forum’s cycling ambassador. Image: Herald Sun

As Melbourne’s cycling ambassador, Cr Tom Melican is organising councils across town to look at ways to make cycling a more realistic alternative for more people.

The shock arrival of COVID-19 and the enduring restrictions on social distancing are set to profoundly change the way Melbourne moves.

Already many Melbournians have taken to cycling during the restrictions. They have marvelled at their city with fewer cars on the road and revelled in the opportunity to be more active in a safer, less polluted world. Strange and uncertain times indeed, but could this be a real chance to recognise the lasting role that cycling can play in a healthy city?

While nobody is sure what the future holds, we can be confident that safe social distancing will severely limit the capacity of public transport while greater reliance on private cars will only lead to hellish gridlock. It’s a predicament that’s not likely to go away quickly.

Local governments have already adjusted activities to meet the COVID situation. Now most councils are looking at the serious implications for mobility within their municipalities and city-wide.

What will be the impact of social distancing on public transport capacity and usage? What are the implications of more people working from home more often? How can we encourage active transport for everyday mobility needs? How will footpaths cope with more outside dining, walking and riding? Can already congested roads cope with even more cars?

Overseas, and indeed in the Melbourne CBD, local authorities are acting swiftly to provide alternatives to unsafely crowded public transport. There is a growing lobby calling for wide-spread and immediate pop-up cycling infrastructure in response to reduced capacity of public transport. In local government, Melbourne City Council is leading the charge with funding to replace some car parking with footpaths and 12 kilometres of pop-up cycling lanes to allow people to socially distance in the CBD.

A plethora of other organisations are also backing moves to more active transport. Obvious lobbies like the Bicycle Network are keen, so too are Infrastructure Victoria, Infrastructure Australia, mental health organisations and also the RACV.

Councils across Melbourne are now assessing ideas to keep people moving for work, education and day-to-day activities. They will be looking at pop-up cycle lanes, wider footpaths and quick ways to make active transport more attractive. Some of these ideas will be temporary, others more enduring.

Asking a rhetorical question might help guide this shift. What could be the legacy of COVID for Melbourne’s mobility? Could it be a sustained lift in active transport?

As cycling ambassador, I am hoping that these difficult times will be remembered for the actions we took to reinstate cycling and walking as safe, fun and healthy transport alternatives for more Melbournians.

Cr Melican is a Banyule councillor and the Metropolitan Transport Forum’s cycling ambassador.

MTF Highlights May 20

Jane Waldock to become Executive Officer

Jane Waldock will commence as MTF EO from 1 July, until then she is working handover with retiring EO Susie Strain.

The MTF voted to endorse an executive recommendation to appoint Jane Waldock as Executive Officer for an initial period from 01 July 2020 until the Annual General Meeting in 2021.

The current Executive Officer Susie Strain is set to retire on 30 June after serving the MTF for more than 15 years.

Jane comes highly recommended by her peers and has a close and ongoing relationship with the MTF, having represented Yarra City Council on the MTF for many years.

She is a qualified civil engineer, and has worked in construction, contracting, local and state government and consulting sectors. Jane has worked for over 15 years in local government, most recently at the City of Yarra, where she was a member of the Executive Team, as well as managing the Sustainability and Strategic Transport branch.

Zoom Cycle workshop – Urban Bicycle Parking Insights

Facilitated by Harry Barber from Phillip Boyle and Associates, the May participants heard from several councils who had delivered improved bicycle parking, including:
Kate Simnett, Active Transport Planner, Maribyrnong PDF
Simon Stainsby, Sustainable Transport Officer, Moreland PDF
Julian Wearne, Transport Planning Officer, Yarra PDF
Anthea Hargreaves, General Manager, Public Affairs & Marketing Parkiteer, Bicycle Network. PDF

Break out groups also discussed improving parking at schools & shops, and at outer suburban railway stations.

Ministers response on buses

The MTF has received a very detailed response from Minister Horne in reply to our submission for additional bus funding in the next state budget. The letter acknowledges the DOT commitment to increasing bus patronage by 70% over ten years.

The letter also acknowledges the historical shortcomings of buses and outlines the government’s program of network improvements planned for the medium to short term.

Copies of the full letter are available to MTF members on request to Greg Day

MTF ABC notes April 20

April media note worthies

Amids the saturation coverage of the COVID-19 response, the implications for transport and major infrastructure projects were widely canvased.

Two government messages emerged. First, that the State was committed to proceeding with the Big Build items, especially as they are job creators. But doubts started to arise about the timelines, given labour and supply concerns. Second was the importance of rapid take up job creation projects. It was not lost on cycling advocates that the long list of unfunded projects in the cycling plan could fit the bill very nicely.

Commentators mused over the long term impact on patronage, cycling, working habits and commerce. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 will be a line in the sand.

April media note worthies

What do we want life in Melbourne to look like on the other side?
By Nicholas Reece
The Sunday Age 26 April 20

The road to recovery: Are Victoria’s mega-projects still worth it?
By Clay Lucas and Timna Jacks
The Age 25 April 20

Calls to rethink Victoria’s most expensive road project during pandemic
By Timna Jacks and Clay Lucas
The Age April 17, 2020

Crisis talks as Melbourne’s train, tram passenger numbers slump by 90%
By Timna Jacks
The Age 27 March 20

First Victoria-built electric bus gets thumbs up from bus expert
Renew Economy 28 April
Background: Transdev have purchased 1 electric bus for 12 month trial. We make 88 return trips per day on route 246 with around 25-30 buses travelling this route each day (numbers vary according to timetable and fleet). The electric bus trial on Route 246 between Queens Parade in Clifton Hill and Elsternwick Railway Station/Horne St (Elsternwick) between 5.45am to 11.30pm weekdays. Route 246 operates a high frequency service with buses every 10 minutes and was selected for the trial as the trial route needs to be repeatable with buses following each other in closely timed proximity for comparison between the performance of existing late model Euro 5 and Euro 6 emission standard diesel buses and the new electric bus.

In terms of passenger comfort, the bus has a low floor, is quieter and is equipped with passenger USB ports.

Melbourne in a post-pandemic world: how the virus could transform the city
By Jewel Topsfield, The Age 3 May
It’s early days but urban planners are already pondering the marks that will be left by COVID-19.

NTC innovative vehicles

Barriers to safe and legal use of innovative vehicles
MTF April 2020

Mandi Mees, National Transport Commission, presented a review of Personal Mobility Devices (PMD) and possible national approaches to the April meeting.

Mandi Mees, Executive Leader Safety, National Transport Commission (NTC), discussed the ongoing review of the Australia Road Rules (ARRS) with respect to motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters (MMDs) and personal mobility devices (PMDs).

Mandi is also Deputy Mayor of Macedon Shire and well acquainted with the local government perspective.

Mandi provided some background to the National Transport Commission, established in 2003 to lead national land transport reform across the Australian governments to improve safety, productivity, environmental outcomes and regulatory efficiency. The NTC is accountable to the Transport and Infrastructure Council, and seeks to align land transport practice across state jurisdictions, including local councils. Local government is invited to submit or otherwise engage with the NTC on current and relevant issues. NTC will develop model Australian Road Rules, it is voluntary for individual states to adopt.

The NTC intends to establish a national vehicle regulatory framework for Australia by 2021. This includes driverless buses.

The NTC review has included international experience, and Mandi showed a wide range of emerging mobility options of the MMD and PMD type. Examples were given of several North American cities also grappling with the legality and safety of a variety of devices.

Key points

PMDs growing in popularity: demand for comprehensive ecosystem of transport alternatives. Use is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Australia Road Rules are outdated and predate newer PMD technology.

Recognise motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters as separate category. As such all motorised mobility device operators are treated as pedestrians.

Jurisdictions under pressure to regulate PMDs –no national consistency.
> Research to inform best practice regulation is limited, but beginning to emerge.
> Lack of national consistency could create confusion for industry/community.
> Limited understanding of the safety risks associated with use of devices.

The National Transport Commission on PMD and MMD seeks to join the dots from leisure/recreational to disability devices to extend freedom of mobility for everyone in a safe environment.

Following the issue papers and active consultation, the NTC will report to the Transport and Infrasturcture Council which will consider MMD in June 2020 and PMD in November2020.

Chair Cr Jonathon Marsden thanked Mandi for her presentation and discussion, and it was agreed to keep in touch with the ongoing review, and the work of the National Transport Commission, and invite Mandi again at a future date.

Link to presentation slides
.

MTF’s ABC notes February 20

Selected news related to the Metropolitan Transport Forum’s ABCs (Active, Buses & Choices)

ACTIVE
Melbourne Cycle Super Highways added to the Infrastructure Australia Priority List.

Proposed by RACV, IA noted that the bicycle network is not currently meeting community needs and expectations of a safer, lower-stress and better-connected network. The next stage is for the RACV to identify initiatives and develop options

Infrastructure Australia Priority List: Cycling access to Melbourne CBD (see page 135)   | RACV comment

BUSES / CHOICES
Frankston public transport connectivity added to IA priority list

Proposed by the Committee for Greater Frankston, IA notes that public transport is not keeping up with population growth.

The initiative is for public transport connectivity improvements to, and through, Frankston. These could include optimising the existing bus network, increasing bus service frequency and coverage, plus upgrades to rail services and infrastructure.

Infrastructure Australia: Frankston public transport connectivity(page 139) |C4GF media

CHOICES
Inquiry into Expanding Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone

The reporting date for this inquiry has been extended to 1 September 2020. The close of public submissions on 31 January prompted a flurry of coverage. PTUA says scrap it, Sally Capp (in a private capacity) says extend it. Basically, it’s a two-way split, PT advocates generally against, business / tourism / education in favour. Expect more in this Council election year.

PTUA submission  | Ms Capp | Weblink for committee

BUSES
Boris promises £5b for buses

The UK will spend an extra £5b for London Style buses alongside their massive £100b high speed rail linking northern England to London.

The £5bn over five years would result in more frequent services, including on Sundays, a simpler fare structure, and new priority schemes to allow buses to skirt traffic jams.

Outside London, UK buses are notoriously infrequent and unreliable, and subject to savage cuts since Thatcher.

Guardian UK: Boris Johnson bets on HS2 to deliver new spine of UK transport
WIRED: Forget the HS2 hype, buses are Boris Johnson’s real masterstroke

Happy to receive items for inclusion [email protected]