Lobby group planning
Russell Degnan

Could transport planning in Victoria be in a more parlous state?

Consider some of the news items from the past week. First, the Committee for Melbourne put out a list of recommendations for subsiding their businesses and something about a couple of extra buses to stop cars slowing down their trucks. No proble, they're allowed.

The call for a few more freeways garnered the sort of response you'd expect. Public transport advocates put forward their own list of improvements. Notably, a much more conservative list in terms of funding.

The DOI, who put out the Metropolitan Transport Plan, said nothing - because they aren't allowed - and the government said they would like to have a meeting.

Some of these projects have merit. I think extending the Eastern freeway to the Tullamarine is perfectly sensible because at the moment it is a freeway to nowhere, dumping cars onto local streets. Some are inadequate for what they want to achieve, and it won't surprise anyone to know that extending a few buses comes under that category. And some are politically infeasible and unnecessary, such as the Northern Ring Road.

But that is not the point of this article. The point is that we have a strategy [1]. Or at least, we have something purporting to be a plan. These sort of articles demonstrate clearly that the plan is completely inadequate.

In the past, plans had substance, statistics and arguments. Things were assessed on their merits and infrastructure was mapped out 30 years hence. When funding was better than expected, the plan moved a bit quicker, when it wasn't, it went slower.

In the present, the plans don't exist, or are not published. Every lobby group pushes their own plans and their own funding priorities. There is no backbone of planned infrastructure, and no long-term assessments being made for what should have priority. It is in effect, no plan at all. Arguments that it is a 'strategy', not a 'plan' are bullshit. You can't build anything with a strategy.

The other interesting article during the week was the plan to close off the Princes Bridge during the Commonwealth Games. Again, it is a measure I fully support, and have said as much before. But again, how is this part of a plan for the centre of Melbourne? Do we want a pedestrian retail core? The number of people in and around Swanston Street during the day is now extremely high, to the point where many streets are a nightmare for cars. Surely the council, knowing that the Commonwealth Games were coming six years ago, should have thought their way through a program of progressive road closures, instead of the haphazard way this new idea is being put forward.

The problem with it, is that people want to go to the east side of the city to park. Most traffic from the bridge turns right into Flinders St. A bridge connecting Linlithgow Avenue and Batman Avenue would be an elegant solution to this, providing a useful pedestrian crossing as well. But it is too late to do that for the Games.

Opportunities lost, again.

[1] And as an aside. why does the DOI feel it is necessary to download a crap Microsoft product on their frontpage?

Sterner Matters 7th June, 2005 03:01:54   [#] 


Plans are dangerous...
Aren't there going to be problems with having actual plans, such as:

* You'll be held accountable to your plan?
* Plans are inevitably going to include things that annoy people?

Much easier for governments to simply not plan or keep their plans secret...
Robert Merkel  8th June, 2005 12:21:58  

It would be easier...
...if the government never had to face an election either. As you no doubt agree. Like withholding information, it undermines the democratic process.

And in the long run it doesn't help a government -- not that governments generally have a 'long run'. Because It causes all sorts of bad ideas to emerge (or worse, get acted on). Off the top of my head:
* Projects that cause behaviour shifts without provision for those shifts. ie. freeways that cause sprawl
* Projectswithout cost-benefit analyses that are just half baked. ie. Colin's canal
* Projects that are half-baked and subsequently massively underfunded. ie. Regional fast-rail.
* Projects that favour specific electorates and are massive misallocation of resources.
* Projects that should cause behaviour shifts but are really just to keep a lobby group quiet and are subsequently underfunded. ie. All public transport.

Not that no planning is occuring. It is just haphazard and inadequate. There are lots of partial or draft strategies here. The Inner-north one even lays out the case for a road tunnel, albeit under very narrow parameters. But when the Metropolitan Transport Plan was released it didn't justify the projects and priorities rigourously; it was mostly general strategies. Meanwhile, the other plans haven't progressed -- or at least, they haven't updated the website. So the end result is a mixture of vague and contradictory plans no more useful than nothing at all.

Of course, I think part of the problem is the modelling isn't very good, so they can't produce any realistic numbers for what the effect of any project/development/financial-incentive will be. Which is why they spent $400k experimenting in Clarendon Street. It is an expensive way of doing things though.
Russ  10th June, 2005 18:31:08