Big budget as we pass the halfway point in the state
The MTF December meeting welcomed an enthusiastic group of
new councillors with an overview by MTF Executive Officer Jane Waldock about the
transport elements last week’s big spending State Budget.
The narrative of the budget was major projects that will create
jobs and stimulate the state. Big rail projects were allocated nearly $3
billion, $1.4 billion for locally made accessible trams and $1.6 billion in
A concern for many in the room was the lack of extra funding for buses and cycling infrastructure – with buses receiving only an additional $4.2 million plus $20 million to extend the trial of e-buses. Cycling projects are apparently proceeding on slow gear but there is new money to boost cycling and walking around schools.
The meeting noted the importance of including active
transport, bus improvements and support for transport choices in every new
council’s 4-year plan. This is especially important because we are halfway
through the State political cycle and are now counting down to the next state
poll in 2022 and the two crucial budgets before then.
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.
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 and getting Melbourne moving
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
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
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 …..
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.