Saving Newtown from Westconnex

One of Sydney’s best known and loved precincts is King Street. It’s a busy street and is already a clearway in the morning and evening peaks. The traffic does not move fast during day but that makes it tolerable for pedestrians. The fear is that all the thousands of extra trucks and cars that would flow into Inner West roads from the New M5 massive St Peters Interchange will wreck it as a place where people can work, shop and enjoy themselves.  At any time, the far too powerful Roads and Maritime Services Department could declare it a 24 hour clear way.

The Minister for Roads Duncan Gay doesn’t much like King street or the people who campaign to save it. But he has recently come to understand the strength of opposition in the community. He says the community should trust him when he says it will not become a clearway.  Somehow he expects us not to realise that in a few years, he will have retired from NSW political life. In any case, the EIS for the New M5 provides convincing evidence that guarantees given at the time of construction come to mean nothing. If the New M5 goes ahead residents down at Kingsgrove are losing conditions for Parks and preservation of bushland that were imposed when the old M5 was built.

“Small independent retailers are the shops that bring colour and originality to an area and make it a desirable place to be. We suffer most from clearways already and rely on our weekend trade to survive. More clearways would spell the end for us, and a slow creep to the destruction of the entire precinct.” Celia Morris, Owner, Dragstar and Shorties, King St Newtown

The New M5 EIS does briefly acknowledge the value of the street life of King Street. Despite this, the EIS contains no information about what the traffic would be like North of Alice Street which is in South Newtown, nearer the project.  After that point, all modelling ceases. There are a few allusions in the EIS to future plans to steer traffic away from King Street and block the turns from other roads but residents know that all these changes would accomplish is forcing thousands of cars and trucks back into the streets of Alexandria, Enmore and Erskineville which is not acceptable. Anyway, quite a bit of it would inevitably end up in King Street. Continue reading

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WestConnex: What will you get? What will you pay?

The WestConnex Updated Strategic Business Case shows that drivers will be paying up to $8.27 (each way) to save as little as 5 minutes. Truckies will pay three times that. And tax-payers will pay too.

The business case shows that the cost of using WestConnex will be (2016 numbers):

  • flag-fall: $1.17
  • per kilometre: $0.44
  • capped at $8.27
  • payable in: both directions
  • goes up by: 4% a year

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Someone using WestConnex for a 16km commute would be paying $82,70 a week, and more, if they have to use other toll roads as well.

Exactly how much you pay, and how much you save, depends on where you are travelling from and to.

If the predicted time savings are right, and there’s no guarantee that they are, but if they are, then these are some samples of what you’ll pay, and what you’ll save, and how many dollars it will cost you to not sit in traffic for one hour:

Distance Cost Without WestConnex With WestConnex Time saved $cost /hr saved
Sydney University to Wattle St, Ashfield 7 km $4.22 25 min 15 min 10 min $25.33
Liverpool to Leichardt 30 km $8.27 55 min 49 min 6 min $82.68
Liverpool to Sydney University 30 km $8.27 61 min 49 min 12 min $41.34
Summer Hill to Airport 9 km $5.10 41 min 26 min 15 min $20.38
Strathfield to Airport 15 km $7.72 41 min 25 min 16 min $28.94
Parramatta to CBD 35 km $8.27 46 min 38 min 8 min $62.01
Penrith to Airport 60 km $8.27 74 min 58 min 16 min $31.01
Penrith to CBD 57 km $8.27 89 min 67 min 22 min $22.55

What you will get. What you will pay.

The tolls will cover the cost of running WestConnex, but not the cost of building it.

For several recent toll roads, tolls have only covered 1/3 of the cost of construction. The New M5 will carry less traffic than the Cross City Tunnel, but it will cost far more to build. WestConnex will cost at least $18B to build. The cost has been blowing out at $2B a year, every year, since it was announced. If the WestConnex can somehow be sold for $6B, then the cost to the taxpayer will still be $12B, or about $3,000 per person in Sydney, and it will mean we have privatised the M4 and the M5.

Those that can’t afford the toll, or just choose not to pay it, will be forced on Parramatta Rd, Stoney Creek Rd and other roads that are already congested. These roads are going to get worse when WestConnex opens.

This is how WestConnex can promise time savings – not by making the M4 and M5 better than they are now, but because the tolls will force people off the M4 and M5, and onto other roads.

WestConnex is a project with no winners. If you use it, you will pay a lot of money to save not a lot of time. If you don’t use it, your trip will take longer than if WestConnex was not built. And whether or not you use, you will pay for the building of it.

WestConnex is spending $18B to make Sydney’s traffic worse.toll_bhills_to_arncliff.jpg

Part 4 : Chris Standen finds myriad of flaws in Westconnex Traffic Model

Ed : Westconnex is transport project that is supposed to solve traffic congestion. So while the analysis of impacts on our community is important so too is the credibility of the Traffic and Transport analysis. The full details or those that are published can be found in Appendix G.In this last part of his submission, transport planner and modelling specialist Chris Standen spells out a myriad of reasons why he argues that the Traffic and Transport analysis is not reliable. While unlike Standen, the editors of the People’s M5 EIS are not experts in traffic modelling,  the levels of unknowns, complexity and uncertainty are obvious to any reader. This is of great public concern when you think that billions of Federal and state money have been committed before the EIS was even lodged. We certainly need these gaps to be filled and answers to all these questions. 

Read Parts one, two and three of Chris Standen’s submission

General Comments

The Traffic and Transport Assessment does not stand up to scrutiny. There is not enough information about the methodology, input data or assumptions for the forecasts to be independently verified.

Continue reading

Part 2 Chris Standen: New M5 EIS fails to meet requirements

(Ed: The New M5 is being assessed under State Significant provisions of the NSW Environment, Planning and Assessment Act. Under this law, the Department prepares  the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs). You can read a full copy of the SEARS here.

This is the second part of  Transport planning and modelling specialist Chris Standen’s  four part submission. In this part, Standen analyses the SEARS and finds the EIS does not meet a number of requirements. It’s worth noting that some local Councils and other experts agreed with Standen that the M4 EIS requirements were not met by the Westconnex EIS.  The failure to meet requirements should be a serious matter that if allowed to pass without examination undermines the entire assessment process. No decision has been made on the M4 East project yet.

( If you have missed the first part of his submission, read it here.)  

The submission has been presented by the People’s M5 EIS is a format that suits wordpress. The full submission will be uploaded later on the People’s M4 EIS. You can use this and other submissions on the People’s M5 EIS to develop your own response. 

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SEARS

Alternatives

The SEARS provide for  an analysis of feasible alternatives to the carrying out of the proposal and proposal justification, including:

  • an analysis of alternatives/options considered, having regard to the proposal objectives (including an assessment of the environmental costs and benefits of the proposal relative to alternatives and the consequences of not carrying out the proposal), and whether or not the proposal is in the public interest,
  • justification for the preferred proposal taking into consideration the objects of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979,
  • details of the alternative ventilation options considered during the tunnel design to meet the air quality criteria for the proposal,
  • details of the short-listed route and tunnel options from the tender process and the criteria that was considered in the selection of the preferred route and tunnel design, and staging of the proposal and the broader WestConnex scheme, and in particular access to Sydney Airport and Port Botany and improved freight efficiencies.

Standen’s finding: FAIL 

Comment: The EIS does not include cost-benefit analysis, modelling, or any other objective analysis of feasible alternatives. Only cursory descriptions are provided.

No alternative staging strategies are described or objectively assessed. Continue reading

Transport Planning expert Chris Standen identifies major flaws in New M5 EIS – Part One

Chris Standen is a Transport planning and modelling expert.  He has prepared this submission in response to the EIS for the New M5.  His submission will be published in four parts. Standen provides many important reasons for not supporting the project.  Draw on his ideas to prepare you own submission

  1. The EIS does not comply with the Secretary Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARS).
  2. There are major issues with the Traffic and Transport Assessment. There is insufficient information about the modelling inputs, assumptions and methodology for the forecasts to be independently verified. There is no sensitivity analysis of key assumptions.
  3. The social and environmental impacts described in the EIS are unacceptable and far outweigh any benefits of the project. Because of flaws in the modelling, the actual impacts are likely to be even greater than those forecast.
  4. The project does not meet the project objectives.
  5. Many of the project objectives, such as congestion relief, could be met through better management of demand on the existing road network, e.g., through reform of road pricing. The corridor already has an extensive and high capacity road network; there is just too much demand at present for it to operate effectively. Adding more capacity will not lessen this demand; it will only serve to increase it.
  6. A claimed benefit of the project is that daily traffic on the existing M5 East would reduce by 20-40 percent due to the new tolls. If it is acknowledged that tolls alone can be effective in meeting the main project objective (reducing congestion), then what is the rationale for adding more capacity
  7. The project makes little sense from a transport planning and policy perspective. The role of motorways is to allow traffic to circumvent densely populated areas. For radial transport into and out of urban centres, mass transit is more efficient and economical, and has less impact on the human population.
  8. The project is not in the public interest. It will be used by less than 1% of the NSW population each day. The rest of the population will pay dearly in terms of higher traffic impacts, poorer air quality, and state and federal taxes being diverted from public transport and other more worthy causes?
  9. The project has a high financial risk. The flaws and optimistic assumptions in the traffic modelling mean that toll revenue is likely to be significantly lower than forecast. AECOM has a history of providing over-optimistic traffic forecasts for toll roads, resulting in previous financial failures (e.g., Clem7).
  10. The average daily travel time in Sydney has been stable at about 80 minutes per person for decades, while the average trip distance has increased substantially (see graph below). In this time, billions have been spent on tollways. Travellers are spending more than ever on tolls, yet are not spending any less time travelling. Time:Distance travelled StandenThe higher speed of tollways has simply encouraged people to move further from work, drive more, and make longer trips than before, for example, visiting shopping malls instead of local shops. It has made road more attractive than rail for freight.
  11. This predict and provide approach to transport planning has been a failure, and is being abandoned by advanced nations. In a city of 5 million people, we can never provide enough road capacity to enable everyone to live as far from work as they like, and drive wherever and whenever they like in free flowing traffic.

 

The rest of this submission is in four Section. This post covers only the first section which  describes general issues with the EIS, the project and the broader WestConnex scheme (Section 1). The following sections will deals with non-compliances with the SEARs (Section 2), non-compliances with the project objectives (Section 3), and major issues with the Traffic and Transport Assessment (Section 4).  Continue reading

Traffic and Transport – Comment on New M5 Construction impacts

This post  by Anthony McCosker provides an assessment of the New M5 Environmental Impact Statement Traffic and Transport section which I have summarised here.  It deals with the impact of construction as assessed in the 150 page Chapter 9 of the EIS and associated 298 page Appendix G. In a further post I will  provide an assessment of the information in the EIS relating to the operation of the project.

The scope of the modelling does not allow for the full, system-wide effects of the construction traffic to be analysed sufficiently. Increasing the scope of the assessment would go some way to identifying the true impact of the construction on traffic, and would also better allow the cumulative impacts of the project on traffic and transport to be gauged.

Continue reading

Traffic and Transport Construction Impacts of New M5 – Summary of AECOM’s EIS

Ploughing through the whole EIS can be time consuming and tedious as there is so much repetition in the Westconnex EIS documents.

Researcher Anthony McCosker has provided us with a summary of the construction impacts as set out in New M5 EIS Appendix G on Traffic and Transport which consists of 298 pages.

This post should  be read in conjunction with Anthony McClosker’s comment on this section.

Later, we will provide a summary of the information in the EIS relating to the operation of the WestConnex project (note that some information deemed relevant to both summaries will cross over and be repeated or revisited).

Continue reading