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Cake day: Mar 14, 2023

"A cycle path built through part of Sydney’s inner west will be ripped up on Tuesday, five months after it was completed, due to a council decision described by riders as a knee-jerk reaction to complaints from residents."

Consumers across Europe no longer want to travel to big car-dependent hypermarkets on the edge of cities to buy food and goods. Here's why.

An interesting look at the new Central Walk concourse at Sydney's Central Station.

Local and state governments have a unified goal to transform a suburb plagued by generational disadvantage into an economic powerhouse.

"A train line to Rowville in Melbourne’s outer east was first proposed in 1969. But five decades later in the federal electorate of Aston, the car is still king."

"A radical plan to overhaul the tax system for housing, open up Melbourne’s middle suburbs and stop rampant population growth on the city’s outer fringe has been proposed by Victoria’s peak infrastructure body."

An attempt to turn Melbourne’s “Little” streets into pedestrian-friendly promenades is failing because motorists refuse to share the busy laneways and obey new speed limits.

The Perth-Peel metropolitan area now stretches 150 kilometres from end-to-end. When will it stop?

"Crews working on Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project have clocked 40 million hours of work in delivering the city-shaping project."

The Caulfield to Dandenong sky train has been included in the National Gallery of Victoria’s latest blockbuster exhibition, Melbourne Now.

Here's another excellent video to check out from the Heartland Urbanist...

From the ABC: "Sydney's train network has again been hit by delays due to "urgent signal repairs" at Homebush, with some trains cancelled. "Sydney Trains is warning passengers to seek "alternative arrangements", with commuters facing long delays at stations across the city."

In a new video on Urbanists.Video, the Heartland Urbanist explores the unique challenges train travellers face when trying to travel interstate using Amtrak. A PeerTube site that’s basically like YouTube for Urbanism
cross-posted from: > This video site is worth checking out, if you haven't already. Share videos of what's working, and what isn't, in your community.

"Queensland Rail has released horrifying footage of erratic and irresponsible drivers smashing through boom arms at level crossings, prompting a desperate plea for caution around the tracks. "Queensland Rail Senior Manager Security and Emergency Preparedness Drew Brock said the footage painted a distressing picture of drivers blatantly ignoring safety signs and signals as they dashed across the train tracks."

"A Monash University team pioneering an eco-friendly alternative to the millions of railway sleepers across Australia has received a $500,000 research and development grant from the Victorian Government."

"The surge in popularity of larger vehicles in Australia has been driven by tax perks that incentivise buying SUVs, utes and other 4WDs instead of less-polluting smaller-sized cars and sedans, transport experts argue. "SUVs accounted for more than 50% of new vehicles sold in Australia last year, a share which has almost doubled over the past decade. The uptick has prompted calls to tackle the trend by limiting tax incentives, building bus lane-style narrow lanes and more parking spots exclusively for small cars." A PeerTube site that’s basically like YouTube for Urbanism
This video site is worth checking out, if you haven't already. Share videos of what's working, and what isn't, in your community.

I certainly hope so.

As for the challenges that come from trying to densify Sydney’s wealthiest inner suburbs, especially in the east, I’ve put up a separate thread here:

Looks like the NIMBYs are out in force in Sydney's wealthy inner eastern suburbs. They're complaining about over-development in the wealthy inner suburbs in the roughly 6 kilometre area between the Sydney CBD and Bondi Beach. These are Australia's wealthiest suburbs, including Bellevue Hill, which has a median house price of A$7.6 million (US$5.1 million): They're opposed to new apartments being built above a train station, and new bike paths in the area. In fact, despite being ideally placed near the Sydney CBD, they're opposed to any development unless their area gets more roads: "At a candidates’ forum at Double Bay Bowling Club last week, most questions centred on the planning system and what the aspiring MPs would do to stop 'overdevelopment' in the east. "Sloane doubled down on her comments from last year that the eastern suburbs should not be “punished” with more housing. She also said she was not there to defend previous government decisions. "Independent candidate Karen Freyer – an ex-staffer to former Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps – drew an even harder line against development, saying unless the east had more schools and better roads, housing growth targets should be set at zero. "That included a council plan for up to 500 apartments directly above Edgecliff train station. 'That’s not the only infrastructure people living at Edgecliff will need,' Freyer said. "Last week’s candidate forum also heard complaints about a possible skate park in Rushcutters Bay –which has been on the agenda for 10 years – and the proposed Oxford Street East Cycleway from Taylor Square to Centennial Park Gates."

No cherry picking, and in fact if I wanted I could have picked even more stark examples.

Here’s a heatmap of Melbourne property prices, with higher prices being in orange and lower in deep purple.

You’ll notice that the prices are higher near the inner city, with the highest prices in a cluster of bayside and inner-eastern suburbs just near the CBD (places like Brighton and Toorak):

Similar heatmap for Sydney. Again, highest prices in the inner city and a cluster of suburbs immediately to the east of the city, on the north side of the harbour, and the inner west. Note also that the further you go west, the more purple the suburbs tend to be:

There’s also a well-known meme about socioeconomics in Sydney known as the “Red Rooster line”.

Basically, the fast food chain Red Rooster tends to only operate its stores in working class outer suburbs.

By plotting a line between the stores that are closest to the Sydney CBD, you get a good approximation of where the boundary line is between wealthier the inner suburbs and the poorer outer suburbs of Western Sydney.

If you’re interested, here’s some analysis of the Red Rooster line from the University of NSW:

Here’s a good YouTube explainer of it:

From the Australian Financial Review:

"Waterfront locations and coveted school zones dominate the country’s most expensive postcodes, new Domain data shows.

"All the postcodes in the top-20 list were in Sydney, led by the eastern suburbs, the northern beaches and the north shore.

“Six of the postcodes in the top 20 have a median house price higher than $5 million, and 12 have a median price above $4 million.”

So yes, Australia hasn’t seen the same hollowing out of property prices in the inner-city and inner suburbs of our metropolitan areas as the US. Very much the opposite in fact.

And those wealthy folks in the inner suburbs have a lot of well-resourced NIMBY groups that fight what they see as “overdevelopment”, and who get their leafy inner suburbs heritage protected, pushing more development to the outer suburban fringe. This is a serious ongoing issue:

In principle, I completely agree that we need more density near existing rail lines, in the inner city, and the inner suburbs.

I absolutely agree that all new development should be within walking distance of train and trams, in medium- or higher-density mixed-use higher density communities.


That leaves a whole bunch of outer suburbs that were built in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and more recently that are heavily car dependent.

In Australia at least, these outer suburbs tend to overwhelmingly be working class.

And in many of them, the only accessible mode of transport is the bus.

At least in the short- and medium-term, the most cost-effective way of providing transport to these areas, and improving social equity, is by improving bus services.

I know in the US, inner city areas have tended to be where poorer people lived, and the outer suburbs is where wealthier people live.

In Australia, it tends to be the opposite. The inner city is wealthier, outer suburbs tend to be poorer.

So the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Surry Hills is A$820 per week.

The median rent for a three-bedroom house in Bossley Park is A$560 per week.

So it’s around $260 per week cheaper to rent a three-bedroom house in an outer suburb in Western Sydney, such as Bossley Park, than a two-bedroom apartment that’s 1km away from Sydney Town Hall.

So that social equity equation is the polar opposite in Australia, compared to the US.

In terms of the costs, running four additional buses per hour to transport people from the outer suburbs by bus pales in comparison to doing it by road.

In Sydney, the WestConnex road tunnel cost A$16.8 billion, mostly to transport people from outer Western Sydney to the CBD and the airport:

In comparison, 10-minute bus services are a drop in the ocean.

One more thing on costs and social equity.

In Glebe, an inner-city neighbourhood 3 kilometres from the centre of Sydney, the local 433 bus runs at a peak hour frequency of around one service every 10 minutes:


Apples-to-apples comparison here: The median rental price for a 3-bed apartment in Glebe is $992 per week or $1000 per week for a 3-bed house, compared to $560 per week for a three-bedroom house in Bossley Park.

So yes, wealthier inner-urban areas do get better bus services than outer suburbs.

Better bus services in Australia’s poorer outer suburbs can deliver less spending on roads and better social equity.

I wouldn’t get one from them either. And definitely not the first one.

But just the fact that a major tech company is getting aboard the e-bike trend is noteworthy in itself.

Another excellent video from Not Just Bikes ☺️

The proliferation of SUVs and big trucks in the US is a public policy disaster.

“Imagine that we had the same gaps in car networks that pedestrians have in their networks … You would drive to an intersection and then the road just ends. Or you can’t take a right turn since there is no road. That’s what #pedestrians are constantly up against” Most cities don’t map their own pedestrian network. Now, researchers at MIT have built the first open source tool to let planners do just that.

According to PC Magazine, Acer is jumping aboard one of the hottest new tech trends: e-bikes.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for higher density and transport-oriented developments.

But at the same time, there are still a lot of suburbs out there, and until we can retrofit them all, we should aim to get at least some decent public transport out there.

In Australian metro areas, typically outer suburbs are poorer than the inner city.

For example, the median price for a three-bedroom house in Surry Hills (around 1 kilometre from the Sydney Central Business District) is A$2.3 million. In Bossley Park (where the 806 bus runs), 36 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD, it’s $990,000.

Surry Hills is also walking distance to multiple train lines, has light rail, and multiple high frequency bus lines.

Public transport is a network. Even if I don’t live in Bossley Park, I still benefit from it having higher frequency services, because if I need to travel out there I can on the public transport network.

In Australia, public transport is funded by state governments (rather than by local councils), and tends to be operated as a metropolitan-wide network with a single system-wide ticketing system.

The other important point is that if the local bus there runs once every 30 minutes, there will be far fewer people who use it than if it runs every 10 minutes.

The great thing about public transport is that it benefits from economies of scale.

The more people that use a system, the lower the cost of that system is per passenger.

There are overhead costs in running a depot and maintaining a fleet. The more services that run, the less these cost per service (because those fleet and depot overheads are distributed across a larger number of trips).

The cost to run a bus (the driver’s salary, maintenance, fuel, etc) is the same whether there’s one person onboard, or 40. But the more people aboard each bus, the lower that cost is per passenger.

Assuming a fixed fare per passenger, the more people on board, the more of that cost is covered through the fare Box.

The cost of going from one service each half hour to three is relatively low compared to other public transport investments (such as building new metro or light rail lines).

Yet it can generate a substantial increase in the percentage of trips taken by public transport, and the overall number of passengers.

That leads to lower costs per passenger.

And more passengers on local bus routes means more passengers on their connecting train services too.

Population density isn’t the only variable that determines the number of passengers. The other two critical variables are service levels (the quality of public transport services and how frequently they run), and modal share (the percentage of trips taken by public transport.

High population density doesn’t automatically guarantee either good service levels, or high ridership (although it can help with both of those things).

There are high-density cities with low ridership and low modal shares, and very low density villages (think Switzerland) that have high public transport modal shares and relatively high levels of public transport ridership.

There are real world examples where increasing service frequency leads to a huge growth in public transport use. It’s the same area, with the same population density, upgrading to higher service frequencies has led to higher public transport modal share, and higher ridership. Here’s an example:

In many suburbs, the modal share for cars is well over 90% because there’s no viable alternative.

If the public transport option is one or two buses every hour, then of course it’s not going to be a viable option for many people.

Increase the frequency to one bus every 10 minutes, and it becomes a more viable option for more people, and suddenly it becomes a much better option for more people. This leads to a higher percentage of trips being made by public transport.

Have there been bus network upgrades as the light rail has rolled out? Or has the focus just been on the shiny new trams?

An interesting look at where the two major parties stand on transport, ahead of the New South Wales state election on Saturday. "The Perrottet government will push ahead with business cases for four lines to link up with the future western Sydney airport. Labor will only proceed with two, with the Coalition accusing it of deserting western Sydney, an area earmarked for extraordinary residential development in coming years."

Article on the Strong Towns website makes the case for why the top-down urbanism of new stadia and entertainment precincts often fail to deliver on their promises.

Definitely agree the world needs more electric cargo bikes.

And decent, barrier-protected bike lanes for them to be used in.

Here’s an example of the type of situation I’m thinking about.

The 806 bus is the main public transport options for a number of suburbs in outer Western Sydney

The problem is the timetable is infrequent. If you miss a bus, you’re potentially waiting half an hour for the next one.

The bus is already there. It already runs. Just it’s incredibly infrequent.

Improving the timetable so it runs every 10 minutes would be enough to encourage more people to use public transport, rather than driving.

And it can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of a new underground metro or light rail.

A mini-bus taxi service won’t do the trick. It’s less than what’s there already.

And we’re not talking bus rapid transit here. Just a regular, reliable bus service with a decent frequency.

Yes, in an ideal world, suburbs such as the ones the 806 shouldn’t exist. The fact they were built is a planning mistake.

Now that they do exist, is there a case that at least getting decent bus and cycling infrastructure should be more of a focus than it is in urbanist circles.

Do we need to focus more on suburban bus services? #Urbanism #UrbanPlanning #Transit
Yes, in an ideal world, we would all live in walkable cities with great cycling and public transport. But, particularly in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, we have been left with around 60 year's worth of car dependent suburban sprawl. In quite a few metro areas, the inner city has a great public transport network. Yet once you get out to the suburbs, you're lucky to see a bus every half hour. Services often also start late and end early. As a starting point, should there be more emphasis placed on upgrading suburban bus networks to a 10-minute frequency or better? Better bus networks are less expensive upfront than large extensions to metro and heavy rail systems. And they can prove that demand exists, when it becomes available. What are your thoughts?

He describes it as a "funky, whacky" public transport system.

"Well-built, connected bike lanes can be life-changing, keeping people on bikes safe, comfortable and mobile. But in so many cities, what emerges instead is something that feels half-hearted -- disconnected and unprotected lanes that don't keep cyclists safe and don't enable people to truly get around on bikes."

It’s a little surprising that Ulsan doesn’t have any metro or light rail, given it’s a metro area of over 1 million people. Is it on the drawing board over there? What’s the official reason the city hasn’t built any rail?

The last time I was up there, the light rail had made a huge difference to transport on the Gold Coast.

Unfortunately, at this stage, it doesn’t connect with the train line at the south end, doesn’t connect to the airport, doesn’t connect with the stadia, and doesn’t extend to the theme parks.

Hopefully it will see some extensions with the Olympics coming.

Architect Stewart Hicks recently posted a video about a groundbreaking (for it's time) mixed-use residential development in Chicago.

Is that American coffee drive through place for real? What an utter waste of land!

Not Just Bikes made a similar point in a recent video. It really is shocking how unnecessarily large US commuter vehicles are getting!

Greener buildings, barrier-protected cycle lanes and pedestrianised streets are on the agenda in the new masterplan for Maroubra Junction.

His topic is living car-free in Vegas, and other questionable life choices.

Interesting that you mentioned only having access to buses in the suburbs, because that’s a problem for many suburbs in every Australian metropolitan area. That includes Melbourne and Sydney, which both have reasonable train and tram networks in the inner city and some suburbs.

Surprising, but true. From the article: "A detailed report has been filed to the transportation committee of the City of London Corporation, the municipal governing body of London’s square mile, which suggests at peak times, people cycling represent 40% of road traffic in the city and 27% throughout the rest of the day." So even in a city as busy as London, it can be done.

What’s the worst thing about cycling or transit infrastructure in your city?
Keen to find out what's the most pressing transit issues in your city? If there were one thing that you could change about the cycling or transit infrastructure in the city you live in, what would it be? In Sydney of late, the reliability of the train network has definitely been an issue. Also, some outer suburban Western Sydney bus services run half hourly or worse during the morning and evening peak, with no nearby rail alternative nearby.

Railway upgrades aren't just great for rural and regional communities because they provide more options for freight and commuter travel. They can also be a major catalyst for communications network upgrades, as the Inland Rail project is showing.

"The expert behind the New South Wales government’s fast rail strategy has warned that a landmark policy to spread population growth outside Sydney in coming decades is destined to fail amid revelations the Coalition has shelved plans to build a dedicated fast rail system."

The business lobby representing Wollongong and the NSW South Coast (for overseas readers: the coastline immediately south of Sydney) are calling for railway upgrades ahead of the next state election.

More urban density is being planned for South Brisbane, which is just across the river from the city's CBD. The city's amenities are within comfortable walking distance. A new metro station is planned in the precinct. And of course the local NIMBYs aren't happy. From the article: "They are used to living in a quiet neighbourhood where they can grow tomatoes and mangoes and vegetables in their backyard, yet still being within walking distance of the CBD and having very little traffic."

Professor Andrew McNaughton, the chair of the authority that manages Britain's high-speed rail line, recently examined the route as part of a yet-to-be-released fast rail strategy delivered to the New South Wales government. He said basic improvements to the track, such as straightening out bends, could reduce the journey to roughly three hours, which would be comparable to travelling by road.

From the article: "Major causes of air pollution affecting health were industrial sites including mines (133 deaths and $1bn in health costs), cars and trucks (110 deaths and $832m) and coal power stations (46 deaths and $346m).

They’ve also spent 40-odd years building high-quality bike infrastructure, including barrier-protected bike lanes.