Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Super Schools

So apparently I have never blogged here about how much I loath super schools. Time to do that, then.
Super schools require a larger catchment to justify the larger size. Thus, the average distance of a home from its school will increase. Quite apart from social and governance issues (which the government either thinks are irrelvant or beneficial, neither of which convinces me) this leads to transport issues. In time-poor households with two working parents, or single parents working full time, even on flexitime, an increase in travelling distance, particularly in the younger years, leads directly to an increase in people being driven to school.
No one lets a 6-y-o loose on public transport alone, and if schools are situated on main roads with large car parks (because of the daily traffic, suburban side-streets cease to be an option) walking or cycling, even in a group, will be less favoured. Besides the obvious environmental damage- the most polluting part of a car's journey is the first kilometre or so as it warms up- this ingrains into children an expectation that being driven, or driving, is the only way to get around.

On almost every front, I am against the new superschools policy, and ultimately this contributed to how I cast my vote in the recent election.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

~Proximate Mega-Destinations

An article by Ben Sandilands in today's Crikey argues that Very Large Airplanes will still be better than Very Fast Trains over the short distances between mega-destinations such as Melbourne-Sydney.

The logic appears to be: in Australia's car-based sprawling cities, door-to-door travel times are still quicker with a plane since a taxi to inner-city Southern Cross Railway Station is as long a drive as a taxi to Melbourne Airport. Since we don't have a good public transport system, it's better for private money to go into planes than public money (which could be spent building hospitals, says Mr. Sandilands in an attempt at moral high ground) spent building inter- and intra-city train lines.

There are so many things wrong with this argument. For a start, I want to invest my private money in train lines. And then the government can lower taxes and keep spending on hospitals steady. Nor do I accept a car-based sprawling city. However environmentally friendly the planes become, there is far too much car-generated air pollution in our cities as it is. Not to mention the environmental effects of urban sprawl- lost habitat, disrupted water catchments, lost farmland and so on.

The spurious claim that trains run on electricity- in Australia generated by coal- and that trains therefore also operate on fossil-fuels is also unfair. This neglects the hope- as with planes and algae fuel- that in the future this will change. Solar panels on train-station rooves, anyone?

Finally, the VLA thesis does not allow for people living between Sydney and Melbourne. (Nor outside their boundaries, which presumably would require either air connections or a car- requiring further airports or more fossil-fueled driving.) They're big cities, but they don't run into each other, and people between them also need transport options. If all the take-off slots are being sold to Syd-Mel runs, there'll be no time left for Canberra, Newcastle, Albury-Wodonga, and a thousand other little towns and villages which could get train service but for whom an airport simply will never be viable.

I'm still for trains.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A First Class Rail Service Needs First Class Carriages

I have just read a report by the Centre for Independent Studies which defends First-Class ("Business Class") sections as necessary to encourage longer-distance travel by train. As you can see by the title of this post, they convinced me.
My personal memories of the NSW rail system date to 2000 and can be considered "outliers", since that was the Olympics and we were staying at our cousins' house in the Blue Mountains. Thus I claim no personal expertise on that side of this issue.

But I do know Western Europe's rail well. For a long time, travelling on weekends and suburban routes, I had often asked myself why German Rail spent so much time and energy on first class carriages: they have separate ticketing windows and lounges at big stations, they have much more space when things are quite crowded in cattle-class, they have newspapers and are served at their seats. It's even the little things: the first class carriage is always positioned to be right next to where you're standing if you've just got onto the platform. It's always me who walks kilometres to a free seat at the far ends of the train. But I suppose, for them to keep doing it for so many years, it's obviously paying off.

Maybe it's an egalitarian thing we have in Australia. But let's be honest: if I am sitting in traffic in my un-airconditioned Mazda 121 (older than I am) and my father is next to me in his late-model Holden which is so modern it doesn't even have a tape deck, is that really equal? Perhaps that is why first class was abolished in 1974, a time when it became clear that in the future, everyone would have a car and trains would become superfluous. HA! They didn't think that one through, did they?

Most importantly, and a way for the company to generate carbon-credits is: it is obviously better for the environment if we're whipping through towns at villages on an electric train at 70km/h than if we're both sitting in traffic. And the inequality of the road is just mirrored while he's sitting in first class sipping his complimentary coffee and I'm cramped in second-class.

One final thing. My favourite quote from that paper, given what I read daily in Crikey about the start of NSW politics, is this: "High-speed rail connections may well be desirable but are beyond the scope of this paper. Nor do we seek to explore better organisational structures for delivering rail transport services in NSW."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maybe I'm NOT Alone?

There has been much debate in Crikey over the last couple of days about how to encourage high-speed trains in Australia, and their necessity or not for climate change prevention.
Guy Rundle, in particular, enjoys throwing out absolutely crazy plans with no hope of having them realised in his lifetime.

But what if he weren't the only one?
What if, enough of us wanted the crazy plan to happen?
Would it happen?

Michael James thought he was against Mr. Rundle's theory, but in fact I can join them together. Mr. Rundle is only against trains because they were badly represented in the interview to which he is reacting, and Mr. James is only against more cities because he doesn't understand Mr. Rundle is correct about exburbs.

In any case, I think it might be time to dust this off and start taking note of developments in field again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

German Rail

While I am spending a year studying in Germany, I shall research as much as I can about the railways there.
How they are marketed, the cost of high-speed tracks, freight options, the optimum frequency-cost balance, and anything else that comes to mind.

It must be kept in mind that DB is a private company, and some records may be difficult to get from them. But I will try.

Anything interesting I find will be posted here, but I expect this to be infrequent. This blog is in pseudo-recess until Feb '10.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Airport Line

After closer observation of the Tonsley Line, and an acceptance of how the rail system is at the moment, I have come to the conclusion that a branch after the Mile End station following roughly James Congdon Drive, and then crossing South Road (read: passing over a new underpass) immediately south of Albert St. (To be renamed Albert Tce in recognition of its new status along side a railway.)

Now, with tumbling house prices and an economy in recession, is the time to make these investments in our long-term future.

Seaford Extension

Ah, the trials and tribulations. For some reason, the State Govt. wants to put the bridge at arguably the widest point on the Onkaparinga, while the Council organised an independent report which found an alternative and much cheaper place to build the bridge. The State Govt. has shown no signs of acknowledging the Council's report, let alone acting on it.

An extension to Seaford, Aldinga and even Victor Harbor is only to be desired- tourism and commuters can only benefit. An alternative route to Willunga would also not go astray, but would either have to transfer into Noarlunga line trains, or the route from Noarlunga to Adelaide would have to become actually independent from the road system: the volume of trains would otherwise mean, for example Cross Rd, would be closed most of the time. (I have long thought Cross Road should pass under the rail line at South Rd- then you have three significant arterials moving independent of each other.)

You may point out the inconsistency of that compared to my position on the Anzac Hwy/South Rd intersection, but the two are fundamentally different: the Cross Road underpass would allow an increase in **rail** traffic, whereas the Anzac Hwy underpass allows, presupposes, encourages an increase in **road** traffic.

In any case, it is to be hoped that the Federal Govt. sees Seaford of worthy of money, because in this climate where even AAMI is neglected, I have diminishing hopes for a rail extension.