Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bogota puts Sydney to shame

Carr-addicted Sydney was put to shame last night by the achievements of Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota Colombia, who spoke at a free talk put on by the Council at Angel Place Auditorium.

Penalosa had confronted powerful interest groups and took electoral risks by rejecting the typical RTA solution of building more roads to solve traffic jams. This was like putting out a fire with gasoline, he said.

A major study by Japanese engineers had recommended a Darling Harbour-style aerial freeway cutting across Bogotar. Penalosa instead built a 35km Greenway through the city, built first for buses, bikes and pedestrians and filled with trees and greenery. Cars came a poor last -- and the people loved it.

He also went on a campaign to remove cars from sidewalks -- he showed slides of previous car anarchy with the demand for parking in the cash-strapped city dominating most public space, to the detriment of social amenity. By contrast, later slides showed people walking, cycling and congregating in the freed space.

He overcame stiff resistance from pro-car interest groups and from a golf course which lost some land to the Greenway.

"It is much easier to tell the story than to do this," he said, raising a laugh from the audience.

He redirected scarce city resources towards an integrated bus system with car-free express routes interchanging with local routes at stations. One ticket gives all-day travel and there is a flat price for all, regardless of the distance travelled. This helped the poorer people who tended to live further out of town -- their fares were subsidised by the richer people in the centre doing shorter trips.

Instead of paving roads and carparks, limited money was spent creating and paving children's amenities, along with a network of free public libraries with computer acess. Slides showed well constructed civic areas surrounded by carparks which resembled bogs.

Traffic jams are a good thing, said Penalosa, because they were a cost-free way of limiting traffic. His message was that car use had to be restricted in conjunction with the improved public transport and cycle facilities. Rather than a congestion charge which dominates the Sydney debate, the rapt audience heard about a tag scheme which kept 40% of cars off the road two days a week. The City's main drag was closed to traffic on Sundays, a move which is so popular that if the police forget to erect the roadblocks on time, the locals do it with rocks and junk.

When asked how he bulldozed his vision through, he recommended a 'dictatorial' approach, taking the political gamble that the moves would prove popular afterwards. We in NSW are used to that -- only our dictators are Philistine carr-loving headkickers living in a 1950s dreamland.

Penalosa is running for the presidency of Columbia this year and has published a number of books including "Democracy and Capitalism: Challenges of the Coming Century." He said Sydney was the most beautiful city he had seen and wished he had all our problems, in an ironic reference to the relative wealth we have.

Clover Moore opened the talk and remained in the audience with her new General Manager, Peter Seamer.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Traffic snarls will boost tunnel profits

The RTA has a grand plan for traffic in our area. Local groups claim it's really about channelling traffic into the Cross-City Tunnel. The following research has been compiled by DRAG and 2011 residents' Association for your information. The plan looks pretty crook for locals, we think.


The following closures to local streets and regional roads (by City of Sydney) and to the arterial road network (by the RTA) are proposed or have been approved:

1.1. Sydney City Council proposes closing:

# Liverpool Street to all traffic at Whitlam Square (except emergency vehicles);
# Francis Street to all traffic at College Street;
# All traffic coming down Stanley from College can only turn left into Yurong and then proceed to William Street;
# Palmer Street exit to Oxford Street (as part of Oxford Street Upgrade).

1.2. The RTA has recently implemented or proposes closing:

# Bourke Street closed South of William Street or permanently half closed north of William Street;
# Prohibit right turns from William St into Bourke St northbound;
# Bourke St (north of William) is now one-way running south. Driving south from Bourke St you can only turn west to the CBD ;
# Cathedral St is now one-way between Palmer and Bourke Street eastbound. The rest of Cathedral remains 2-way.

1.3. The CCT/RTA has approval from Dept of Planning (now DIPNR) to implement these changes:

# Stop traffic from Sir John Young Crescent from entering the Harbour Tunnel. Instead, traffic will U-turn at a single lane roundabout constructed at the intersection of Crown and Sir John Young Cresc to Macquarie Street and over the Cahill Expressway or proceed via Cathedral Street/Bourke St to Cowper Wharf Road;
# Restrict access from Cowper Wharf Road to northeast CBD. Through traffic originating east of Kings Cross would be required to use either the CCT or William St;
# Access to the Harbour Tunnel only from Cowper Wharf Roadway westbound;
# Kings Cross traffic will now enter the CCT portal via a new ramp from Ward Ave (located 30 metres east of the existing Kings Cross Tunnel).


The effect of these changes would be to:

# Force locals to use a more circuitous route to the CBD or Harbour Tunnel;
# Force surface traffic trying to access the Harbour Tunnel into the CCT;
# Increase traffic into the CCT by ensuring increased “choice” of the CCT by locals.” The RTA aims to encourage car use as a Public-Private Investment (PPI) incentive;
# Cause delays for locals exiting Woolloomooloo east of Bourke St;
# Increase traffic on Ward Ave, Kings Cross Road and Victoria Sts as well as Neild Ave, McLachlan Av and Liverpool St (Darlo) and MacDonald St;
# Concentrate traffic onto New South Head Rd (already congested by 72,900 vpd beyond its capacity of 60,000 vpd);
# Create a bigger bottleneck on Macquarie Street (from 19,800 to 26,800 vpd) ;
# Increase traffic northbound on the Bridge (+7000 from Cahill Expressway and +7840 vpd from Bradfield Highway).


3.1. In East Sydney & Woolloomooloo

Traffic in East Sydney is now light, except for the four streets—Oxford, William, Crown, Stanley—all densely packed with residents, businesses and restaurants. These streets are heavily congested, with heavy noise and air pollution. The proposed closures are of streets with light traffic which will decrease further when the CCT opens.

Congestion on these heavily used four routes will be aggravated because:

# Traffic from the City will have to use Crown Street to access any streets between Hyde Park and Crown. There will be a single lane turn for east traffic into Crown from William;
# If Bourke Street is closed south of William, traffic cannot turn into William Street from Bourke Street. All Bourke Street traffic will travel along Crown Street or Stanley/Yurong to leave the area;
# Traffic currently using Liverpool Street to enter East Sydney will travel via Oxford Street and Crown Street;
# Traffic currently exiting from East Sydney to Oxford Street via Palmer will travel via Crown Street or Victoria Street Darlinghurst;
# Crown Street between Oxford and William Streets will be jammed during peak hours. Cars from side streets already have great difficulty turning into Crown Street;
# The only east-west streets open in East Sydney also carry the 389 bus route;
# The 311 and 312 bus routes would be re-directed in Woolloomooloo. The 311 will be gridlocked between Cathedral and William;
# Harbour Tunnel access is by weaving via Crown or Palmer to Cathedral, then via Bourke to Cowper Wharf Road;
# Harbour Bridge access is via Macquarie Street or through the City or via the CCT;
# The increased traffic threatens the success of the Oxford and William Street upgrades.

3.2. In Kings Cross, Potts Point and Darlinghurst

# Traffic on Victoria Street will increase;
# Ward Ave and Craigend St will be clogged with traffic accessing the CCT;
# Traffic will increase on Darlinghurst Road, Macleay Street and Wylde Street in Kings Cross, since this will be one of the major routes for Darlinghurst and Kings Cross residents to access the Harbour tunnel;
# East Sydney traffic will use Darlinghurst Rd/Victoria Street or Darlinghurst Rd/Macleay St as an alternative to Crown Street.

Monday, February 07, 2005

One small step for Ombudsman

A giant leap for Sydneysiders appears to be on its way in the long overdue reform of the secretive despotism of council staff.

Another Press release from Clover Moore follows, referring to the Ombudsman's scathing report on CoS staff. This was triggered by complaints by the SMH that council refused to supply documents concerning their ten-year refusal to implement a bike plan for Sydney. One hopes that the senior staffer who recently boasted that he likes running down cyclists will get a kick in the pants.



The NSW Ombudsman office has recommended changes to the City of Sydney's Freedom of Information (FOI) procedures. I support full
implementation of the recommendations, which include redetermination of a two and a half year old FOI request and an independent review of similar FOI requests during the preceding 18 months.

I also want the City go beyond the Ombudsman's recommendations and undertake a review of the City's existing FOI processes and related procedures for providing public access to information.

The review should consider best practice approaches and develop options for Council's consideration on how to enhance ease of access to document the public has a right to view, minimise the number and length of time documents are withheld, and ensure reasons for withholding documents are clearly articulated.

I am strongly committed to FOI reform and, during the 52nd Parliament, co-authored the Independents' Charter of Reform that
opened up political decision-making processes, increased scrutiny of public administration, and made freedom of information processes more accessible.

Most recently, I sponsored in Parliament legislative reform (the Government (Open Market Competition) Bill) to increase public scrutiny
for government contracts and grant arrangements. In November, Council supported my proposal to review Council's handling of tendering and contracts with a view to strengthening these principles in Council's operations.

I will pursue the positive principles of the Charter of Reform within the City of Sydney. Council recently appointed a new Chief Executive
Officer who will have my full support to continue a process of positive reform.

Council provides 'thought leadership'

A press release from Clover Moore follows. One can only hope that the disparity between this thinking and what's happening in William Street will close with time. I suspect it will need more than a 'workshop' with council staff.


I hosted the first in a new series of "Thought Leadership" seminars at Town Hall this week. These seminars are a way to get distinguished experts on urban living to talk about their ideas and projects -- and to stimulate discussion towards more enlightened city governance.

The speaker at our inaugural "Thought Leadership" seminar (attended by over 200 residents, business leaders and planners) was Professor Jan Gehl, whose particular and important contribution has been to bring a human dimension into urban planning.

Half the world's population lives in urban areas, but many cities are dysfunctional, with common social problems. To often, the emphasis is on development, not planning, and there is rarely the will to fund the changes needed to plan for quality and sustainability in urban life.

Throughout the 20th century, the motor vehicle became the dominant feature in urban planning. Here in Sydney, our comprehensive tram
system was dismantled in the 1950s, and successive governments have promoted city expressways over public transport. We now have to
address the impacts of alienation, transport gridlock and pollution.

Remaking city areas and returning them to people have been Professor Gehl's major contributions. Lively or lifeless public spaces depend on quality and the invitation extended to users to walk, stay, sit or otherwise enjoy the area. Professor Gehl's insights provide inspiration and a system to provide a careful treatment that creates inviting and human public spaces.

His work in Copenhagen, over a thirty year period, has led to its renaissance as a "walking city", with substantial benefits to that city's residents and tourists. He has been involved in other cities around the world, including London, Wellington, Zurich, Adelaide,
Melbourne and Perth.

Our City is committed to the creation of new public parks, places, walkways and cycleways, and has embarked on a comprehensive program of renewing existing public spaces, from parks and foreshores, to streets and laneways.

Professor Gehl also ran a workshop with city staff. We hope to learn from the clarity of his vision for bringing life to our streets.