Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CityRail wins Idiot Award

'Her indoors' just arrived home from work, furious. Rain had persuaded her to catch the train from Town Hall to Kings Cross instead of her usual walk. She bought her ticket and went all the way down to Platform 5, only then hearing an announcement that trains were not running on the Eastern Suburbs line. There was a bus, however, up at street level which would accept train tickets.

Unfortunately there was no way out except through the ticket-collecting robots which captured all the single tickets. The bus driver then rejected the ticketless passengers who went back down to the station to complain.

A CityRail employee proceeded to open the machines, take out the tickets and started quizzing people where they had come from and at what time, searching a big stack of tickets, even as more exiting passengers became trapped in this catch-22. He refused to lock the barriers open, citing fare evaders, and when some impatient young men started vaulting the barriers he went ballistic.

Some English backpackers loudly lamented not being on the London Tube, and in fact started lamenting London, telling 'her indoors' about the bus driver who yesterday gave them the wrong ticket even though they had asked him about their destination. An inspector boarded the bus and fined them, the driver denying everything.

They had also hailed a taxi at Central whose driver did not know where Paddington was.

Welcome, tourists, to laid-back Sydney! Do come again -- and tell your friends!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

RTA perfects the art of doublethink

The bicycle-bashers at the RTA are now indulging in self-deception of Orwellian stature. After getting the go-ahead to remove the cycle lanes from the mid-section of William Street in the city, they now want to remove the remaining lanes to the east on the grounds that they are 'discontinuous'.

A letter to the Department of Planning from RTA chief Les Wielinga also cites 'safety' as a reason to force cyclists back into traffic – in a state where 40 per cent of motorists admit to driving while over the legal alcohol limit ('NSW: the state of regular road rage' SMH 22/08/06).

These cyclists, if they live, will only obstruct traffic as they labour up the hill, so the RTA's strategy to 'ease congestion' is also self-defeating.

Meanwhile there is a bleedingly obvious alternative to scapegoating cyclists. The buses on Frank Sartor's 'boulevarde of broken promises' have no stopping bays so each bus parks in a traffic lane while the driver makes change, holding up the traffic. Please, just shift a few bits of Frank's precious grey granite footpath and solve the problem they caused in the first place.

If anyone wants to shove one up the RTA, I can point you to the relevant documents and contacts. Email me or post a comment below.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Spins of the week

You have to pay the political spinners for their sheer creativity (come to think of it, we do). Recent top-scoring spins were Frank Sartor's takeover of the CUB site in Chippendale in the pursuit of 'greater flexibility' (read higher towers, more apartments and car spots, more profit for Fosters & the developers).

That was topped only by Israel gaining an 'extended presence' in Lebanon. I can just picture Cato celebrating his 'extended presence' in Carthage.

Meanwhile the RTA, not satisfied with their upcoming removal of bike lanes from William Street between Palmer & McElhone Sts, has re-applied to the Planning dept to remove the remaining bits from McElhone St to Rushcutters Bay. Their rationale? Once they remove the middle bits, the remainder will be 'discontinuous'.

On those grounds they could justify the removal of all bike lanes in Sydney. The irony is, the RTA caused the whole problem by approving a one-way underground motorway from the Cross-City Tunnel north. There is no return route, so all returning traffic has to use the surface roads. Doh! Fred Nile missed that small glitch -- even though I for one included it in my submission to his enquiry.

This state seems to run not on petrol or ethanol, but on bureaucratic drivel.

Other resident blogs

Have discovered a couple of other resident blogs in Sydney -- in Chippendale and Glebe. Making this an active interlinked network could be quite enlightening. All you have to do is click on the headline...

The Glebe blog which wants to 'Keep the foresdt in Forest Lodge' is at

Monday, August 21, 2006

Crazy banks to blame for Kings Cross rental sting?

I have long wondered why landlords in places like Kings Cross and Oxford street prefer an empty shop at outrageous rent to a tenanted shop at a reasonable rent. Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH last Thursday explained:

'This disturbingly counter-intuitive effect derives from the fact that retail
properties are valued on rental yield. To reduce rent is to lose borrowing
capacity, summoning the spectre of foreclosure. Even vacancies are better
than that.'

So banks would rather lend to a person with no rental income than to someone with a reasonable one.

It's a vexed question in Kings Cross which, despite endless spin to the contrary from Council and the Kings Cross Partnership, continues to drag its retail feet.

Some residents, and Clover Moore, want to curtail the liquor and club industry in the Cross. There is a theory this will reduce rents in neighbouring premises.

However it would be difficult to prove the effect -- given that the same problem exists elsewhere, and it appears to relate to banks, there is a risk that this negative policy would only succeed in curtailing the more successful night time economy of the Cross while having little effect on rents. Let's not forget that all these late-night patrons are voting with their feet and their dollars They have rights to their entertainment just as we residents have a right to have a say in our area.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Arts festival de-funded

Ironically the previous post on this blog was an interim web presence for the last Kings Cross Arts Festival program. Nearly a year later, it looks as if the 6th annual festival was the last one as council has decided not to continue funding. Council's rationale is that the festival had received funding for three years therefore other things had priority.

On the other hand the Kings Cross Partnership, a big-business association which has also received funding for several years, has been awarded $70,000 in direct funding, seemingly $20,000 above the limit set for business associations.

Council's rationale for de-funding the arts festival would therefore appear to be utter drivel.

This comes as no surprise to the local arts community as this council has bent over backwards to block, divide and sabotage the volunteer-driven event. Originally awarded $30,000 pa by the previous Lucy Turnbull council, this council halved it when a splinter arts group also applied, cutting the budget to $15,000. This is hardly enough to pay for publicity, let alone to hire artists or mount public events, and contravenes the council resolution which approves funding for AN arts festival each year.

There appears to be no redress when staff simply disobey a council resolution.

Nevertheless the Kings Cross Arts Guild went ahead and produced two successful festivals on this reduced budget, with an extensive program covering several weeks, featuring a high proportion of local and original talent. The Kings Cross Partnership refused to sponsor or support the festival.

The problem? The local community of Kings Cross are, shall we say, forthright, earthy people. This is not acceptable to Lord Mayor Clover Moore and council staff who it appears respond only to corporate or gentrified elements. They are rabid about 'cleaning up the Cross' despite their 'City of Villages' policy which aims to maximise the unique character of each urban village.

Unfortunately for them, the character of Kings Cross includes strip clubs, homeless people and thousands of late-night clubbers so its character is unacceptable to the 'naice' people. After $20m+ spent on 'upgrading' the place, not much has changed and we have 60 or so vacant shops in or around 'the strip'. The banks have all moved out and there is little parking. Yet the KX Partnership and council continue to fantasise about turning it into a nice little retail strip for 'the mother and child market' -- just like every other suburb in Sydney. Llankelly place, the first area to be 'upgraded' is virtually dead and its thriving Pad Thai restaurant is about to move across to Roslyn Street where they have more indoor seating.

Many locals, on the other hand, believe that major arts initiatives are the way to revitalise the Cross in a way that evolves its character rather than destroys it. So what does council do? Remove funding for the local arts.