Playing with trains – a North-West rail link

by pfh007 on 4 October 2010 · 18 comments

Not content with scrutinising the plan for a National Broadband Network in Australia, guest contributor @pfh007 has now turned his analytical beer coaster to a network of a different sort: a railway network.

There is a Ph.D. for the taking by any researcher who is able to unlock the evolutionary origins of the propensity of young children (and many older people) to be mesmerised by trains, even the generic suburban variety. You can see the rush of endorphins on the faces of weary commuters as an express service roars past within a metre or two of their aching feet. People seem to have a railway gene.

Sydney Train

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the annual model train exhibition held in the Willoughby Town Hall in Chatswood was a highlight for the local kids. It took a full day to observe every detail of the elaborate models complete with green fuzz trees, fields of tiny cows and platforms full of frozen people and Hornby OO gauge recreations of famous rolling stock clattering around and around. Although remarkable as demonstrations of what can be achieved in a backyard shed, those models and their kin were probably responsible for turning large measures of the population into armchair rail network designers.

Consider this a contribution from one such Backyard Bradfield.

One of the striking features of the recent federal election was the ferocious response to the promise to complete the Epping to Parramatta section of the Chatswood to Parramatta line even though new (or finally completed) rail should be of immense appeal to residents of the area. It seems clear that the strength of the reaction was largely due to the failed rail promises of recent NSW political history. In short people were tired of having their railway gene tweaked for short term political advantage.

At one level it is hard to understand why building a new railway in Sydney is so difficult. Unlike the technological challenges facing the early railway builders in Sydney (see the ponies and pick axes in the photos at Museum Station) we have access to marvellous mole-like machines that can bore tunnels right through the Sydney sandstone. We also have advanced administrative systems for compensating people whose houses must give way to new surface track. Shanghai has been laying a new subway at a great rate over the last 15 years, so why can’t Sydney?

Could the problem be cost, even though modern technology and construction methods should have caused construction costs to fall over the last 100 years? Perhaps it is not so much the cost as the complexity of the financing arrangements, which have become too ‘elegant’. The Waratah train deal seems remarkably ‘elegant’ and yet, according to the press, it is poised for implosion.

I think the real problem is that these days we are spending too much time thinking about what we want rather than what a railway needs to be viable. That is we should decide to build a railway and then shape that part of the city to suit the railway. After all, if the majority of Sydney’s suburbs were designed around the car it is highly unlikely that they will be suited to a rail line without substantial modifications.

As the National Broadbank Network (NBN) has established back of the beer coaster calculations as a valid method of policy analysis, I will adopt that technique for some rough calculations of the North-West rail line viewed from the perspective of the needs of the railway.

Route

Using Google Maps, the following route seems reasonable in terms of not going too close to existing rail lines. The precise route is not critical as the demographics and structure of the suburbs will change to suit the new rail line by way of changes to zoning requirements.

Number of Stations: 15

Balmain, Drummoyne, Gladesville, Top Ryde, Denistone East, Eastwood (interchange with Northern Line), Carlingford (interchange with Chatswood-Parramatta Line), North Rocks, West Pennant Hills, Castle Hill, Kellyville, Rousehill, Box Hill, McGrath’s Hill and ending at Windsor.

Train Capacity

Capacity of the new Waratah trains is 896 seated (8 carriages) and, say, another 320 standing (20 in each vestibule) = 1,216 people in total per train

Peak Hour Capacity

The beer coaster is not very big so I will stick with peak hour only and peak “hour” is taken to extend from 6.15 am to 8.45 am, so 2.5 hours. We want a well-signaled, well-designed speedy network that can handle trains at 6 minute intervals. This means we can run 10 trains per hour. Thus the number of peak hour trains is limited to 25 trains.

25 trains in 2.5 hours can carry between 22,400 people (all seated) and 30,400 people (40 standing in each carriage) into the CBD.

I have assumed that during peak hour everyone gets on and travels to the city and everyone comes home by train at the end of the day. I have also assumed that every train going in the opposite direction during peak hour is empty

Station Capacity at Peak Hour

With a capacity at 30,400 people between 6.15 and 8.45 am and assuming that the load is spread equally between all 15 stations, each station will process 2,026 passengers during peak hour. Assuming they all arrive evenly spaced during peak hour, there would be no more than about 80 people on the platform at any one time.

Ticket revenue generated by Peak Hour Capacity

Assuming that everyone works about 46 weeks per year and no one uses the train for any other purpose the revenue generated by the new line (at $50 per week for a weekly ticket) is 30,400 × 46 × 50 = $69,920,000 (roughly $70 million per year)

Certainly people will use the rail line outside of peak hour, but as they will often be concession fares, etc. it is probably safer to do the sums on the basis of the peak hour capacity.

Out of that $70 million you will need to remove operating costs (say $25 million) leaving you with $45 million to pay down the debt used to construct the rail line. As $45 million would only produce a 6% return on $750 million worth of bonds and building the line would cost a lot more than that, there is quite a large shortfall to be found.

To give you an idea of how much that shortfall might be, the price tag for completing the Epping–Parramatta line is estimated at $2 billion.  It seems likely that the cost for the full North-Western rail line would be well in excess of $5 billion.  How do we cover the shortfall?

Remodeling the suburbs along the route

The beer coaster calculations make it quite clear that the finances of our beloved new railway are marginal even if we squeeze 1,200 people on trains running every 6 minutes non-stop between 6.15 am and 8.45 am.

That means we need a nice steady supply of warm bodies arriving at the station.  Where will they come from?  This is what demands the remodeling of the suburbs along the route.  Unless there are  sufficient people who can use the rail line we will not even get to the stage of trying to convince them to use it.

Finding 30,400 people in a Sydney of 4 million during peak hour can’t be that hard, can it?

Well yes it can.

It is worth keeping in mind that, currently, the inner West line in Sydney only runs about 4 services per hour in peak time and you can usually get a seat at Petersham, which is one of the closer stops to the city.  That means that, even in the relatively densely-populated inner Western suburbs of Sydney, it would be a struggle to get anywhere near 30,400 people.

Walkers are unlikely to want to walk more than 15 minutes to the station. It may be that  most people will only be willing to walk a shorter distance. A 15 minute walk at a brisk pace is only 1.5 km.  That means that the walker catchment for each railway station will be a circle of radius 1.5 km.

Bus links and commuter car parks can help extend the catchment for each station, but when you are trying to get an average of 2,026 people to each station during the peak hour, that means a lot of buses or a rather large commuter car park for each station.

The only practical solution is to permit or, better still, encourage medium-high density housing for a 1.5 km radius around each of the 15 stations. Ideally this would be mixed office/housing/retail construction so that the inhabitants of the 1.5 km zone might get away without having a car at all.

On the assumption that only 20% of the people living in the 1.5 km radius will be daily commuters, we will need about 10,000 inhabitants in each 1.5 km radius to generate the 2026 passengers. That is quite a lot of houses or, more likely, apartments (say 5,000–2 people per dwelling).

The re-modeling will not require an army of town planners.  Simply change the zoning rules for the 1.5 km radius around each station to allow medium-to-high density construction of approximately 5,000 dwellings and let the builders and developers of Sydney do the rest.

If this approach was applied to the other rail lines in Sydney we may find that we can deliver an enormous supply of new dwellings (apartments) over the years ahead without any increase in the area occupied by Sydney.  This would allow the preservation of the market gardens on the outskirts, which currently supply much of Sydney’s vegetables.

Needless to say, an increased supply of dwellings where people want to live will go a long way to making housing more affordable in Sydney.

What about the shortfall between construction costs and ticket revenue?

It might be possible to increase the weekly ticket price, but I think $50 is probably a price that will not cause too much “sticker shock”.

It is hard to justify making people outside the railway catchment pay the cost as they will probably have their own rail link developments to fund. It seems reasonable that the shortfall between ticket revenue and paying the construction cost should be recovered from all the property owners in the railway catchment as the rail line will increase the value of their properties.

This could be done by imposing an annual State “infrastructure” tax on houses in the catchment for as long as it takes to retire the bonds issued to raise the construction capital (perhaps 20 years). The rate of the tax could vary depending on the benefit to the taxed property of the rail line.

For example:  the 75,000 dwellings (15 × 5,000) within the 1.5 km radius of each of the 15 stations might pay $3,000 per year for 20 years and the 300,000 dwellings (I have no idea how many there are!) outside the 1.5km radius but still within the railway catchment might pay $750 per year for 20 years.   This ‘infrastructure’ tax would raise $450 million per year.  Add in the $45 million from ticket sales and the annual total of $495 million would pay 6% interest on about $8.2 billion worth of government bonds (or less for a non-government borrower). Taking into account repayment of principal as well over, say, a 20 year period, the debt $450 million could support would be closer to $5 billion.

Not quite there, as the construction cost is probably a lot more than $5 billion but at least in the ball park!

Is it all too hard?

The numbers above are all beer coaster figures, but they do suggest that better public transport has a real cost and involves changes that cannot be imagined away.

Survey after survey reports that Sydney is sick of congestion and wants better public transport, and yet I cannot recall too many attempts by our politicians (of any shades of the political rainbow) to lead the debate as to what better public transport may require of us in terms of contributing to its cost and accepting some changes to the car-flavoured landscape of Sydney.

Perhaps that is the real obstacle to improving public transport in Sydney.

Conclusions

  • If we want new rail lines, we need to think more about what they require of us rather than what we require of them.
  • If we are serious about better public transport, we need to be serious about increasing the density of Sydney’s population (although not necessarily increasing the total population).
  • The main obstacle to building new rail lines in Sydney is low population density.
  • Building a new rail line will require substantial remodelling/re-zoning of the areas within a 1.5 km radius of each station, preferably a mix of medium-high density housing/offices and retail.
  • One way of funding the cost of better public transport is a state infrastructure tax on the properties that benefit from better public transport services.
  • The next time you catch a train in Sydney, take along a beer coaster and count the people on the platform, the density of housing around the station, the frequency of services and the price of the ticket and then start designing your own preferred extension to the City Rail network
  • Some suggestions—Bondi Junction to Cronulla via Kurnell (tunnel under the mouth of Botany Bay), Northern Beaches, Parramatta to Hurstville, Chatswood to Dee Why, Hornsby to Mona Vale.
  • It the context of the above discussion, it is perhaps unsurprising that people are raising questions about the rationale for an expenditure of $43 billion on the NBN.

Photo credit: coverling (copyright Creative Commons)

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 pfh007 October 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

On the question of how much the North West rail line would cost to build and the work that has already be done the following links are interesting:

Ecotransit article

Ray Williams in NSW Parliament Hansard

2 Mike October 5, 2010 at 9:09 am

I don’t think train usage as it is now is a good estimate of what train usage figures might be.

The train gene is strong in my family, but on the three days a week I take public transport, I go on the bus, partly because it’s slightly cheaper but mostly because the ticketing is much more flexible. There’s no TravelTen equivalent for trains and a weekly would be a waste of money.

Without integrated ticketing, it’s a lot harder to extrapolate usage. BUT if the government can’t get integrated ticketing right (and they didn’t) there is no way we should trust them to fix the actual trains.

More generally, this debate has the same problem as the NBN debate: conflation of policy (“We will improve Sydney’s public transport system” / “We need to provide good broadband to everyone”) with technical implementation decisions. (“We need a line to these suburbs” / “FTTH!” “Wireless!” “FTTH!” “Wireless!”).

Public debate is a crappy way to make implementation decisions.

3 Stubborn Mule October 5, 2010 at 9:20 am

@pfheath: while I like the beer coaster calculations, which do provide a useful insight into why rail lines get the patronage they do, I can’t help feeling that asking for a user-pays cost-benefit analysis for a rail network (or indeed the NBN) is a loaded question, not so very different from “are you still beating your wife?”. If the user-pay model

orks, the response would be that the private sector should surely be able to take on the project and if not, what is the government wasting taxpayer money on a project that is doomed not to cover its costs? The problem with this approach, in my mind, is that the very nature of infrastructure is such as to make effective identification of the beneficiaries of the infrastructure very difficult. If a road is built, it is not just those who drive on the road who benefit but also, for example, those who buy goods transported in trucks along the road. Similarly, with a new rail line, commuters certainly benefit, but so do businesses and property developers who tap into the growth along the line. Employers also benefit from easier access to a pool of potential employees who may otherwise have found it hard to commute into particular parts of the city. Of course, there’s also the question of timeframe. Sydney continues to benefit today from the Harbour Bridge, many more than 20 years after construction.

These considerations lead to the problem that looking at almost all infrastructure on a narrow user-pays basis taking into account only the most direct or visible beneficiaries (and I do note you’ve tried to extend the net by including nearby property owners) will almost always make a given project look shaky. This is why governments have always been the most natural providers of infrastructure as the cost is automatically defrayed across the largest possible user-base: all tax-payers. Rather than agonising about the user-pays for infrastructure, the focus should be working through the grey areas of what constitutes true “infrastructure” that should be provided through the government and what should be left to the private sector by means of user-pays finance. I feel that for the last 30 years or so we have made the mistake of pushing far too much into the user-pays basket and our infrastructure has progressively degraded as a result.

4 pfh007 October 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

Yes – there are clear limits to a strict user pays analysis.

Applied strictly to a railway the cost should be fully recovered from tickets/freight. In the instance of a North West rail link the weekly ticket cost would be more like $350 per week ! However, the user pays analysis is useful precisely because it is an effective response to two arguments:

1. That if the trains were cleaner, better etc etc enough people would use them to make them viable. Clearly it would not.

2. Why should people/ businesses in the rail catchment pay anything if they do not use the railway. Because it would not get built.

An ‘infrastructure’ tax of the type suggested applied to dwellings and commercial premises in the railway catchment would be an effective way of spreading the cost to the majority of the beneficiaries of a fast heavy rail link within and out of the area. Whether a sliding scale is more trouble than it is worth is another question.

If a lump sum ‘rail contribution’ fee had been imposed on each dwelling and commercial space in the railway catchment as it was developed the funds for construction would be available at an earlier point in time, the cost of rail transport would be explicit in the cost of housing and commercial premises and it would avoid the need to administer an ongoing charge over a 20 year period.

If anything I would argue that the public transport paralysis of the last 30 years is not so much the limits of the user-pays analysis but a refusal on the part of politicians to explain the need for and articulate a model where all of the users/beneficiaries of infrastructure contribute to the cost.

What would then be my response to an argument that we should just fund all of these out of consolidated revenue (the mother of all infrastructure funds) and tell everyone in the state that they are contributing by that method. Firstly, that there are some infrastructure projects where some people clearly benefit much more than others and secondly, that there has been an almost complete breakdown in trust on the part of the public that their tax money is allocated appropriately. The federal/state model where the fed taxes and the states spend adds to the confusion.

Providing citizens with an annual ‘infrastructure’ tax invoice that sets out what specific infrastructure projects they contributed to would go along way to both giving some information regarding what the money and also some understanding of what infrastructure they benefit from. It might be interesting to for people to see just what governments need to spend money on to keep the state ticking over.

For my own part I think there is a disconnect in expectations between the amount we contribute to provide for infrastructure and what we expect government to provide.

There is an article on Wikipedia on the original Hills District Railway that closed in 1932. The history of that line and the reasons for closure are quite interesting and relevant to this discussion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogans_Hill_railway_line,_Sydney

5 Tim Rowlands October 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

The two main problems with public transport in Sydney are lack of availability and lack of frequency. For the bulk of the city’s population, particularly in the western suburbs, there is no public transport within reasonable reach. In other areas where there is a regular service available, the frequency of travel can be an issue. I live in Newtown and on Sundays the trains run every 20-30 minutes to the city – a six minute journey. If I haven’t memorised the timetable and don’t adjust my arrival at the station accordingly it is frustrating. Even on weekdays I seem to spent a disproportionate amount of time waiting at Town Hall for a train compared with the journey.
So, two suggestions. Split every 8 car train in half and run twice as many services with the 4 car trains. Yes, I know that the worst of the inner city stations would buckle under the strain of the increased number of trains but surely that is fixable either by an extra route through the city and/or by upgrading signalling infrastructure.
Second, buy a couple of thousand or more mini-buses and run shuttles round every suburb in the metropolitan area to nearby schools, shopping centres, train stations etc so that no-one is more than a few minutes walk from a bus stop. That is, focus on local trips with a hub and spoke model for people who need to go further. How many car trips are to take the kids to and from school? To pop down to the shops for bread or milk? To pick up a dvd rental? If these sorts of journeys could be replaced by regular local shuttle buses then the culture would gradually change and we’d all ditch the second car. This would probably cost less than the $5bn plus $25m in start-up and running cost of the beer coaster estimate of the north west rail link. Let me beer coast a little myself. Five thousand mini-buses at $100k each is around $5oom. They’d probably have a usable life of five years or so meaning a capital cost of $100m per year on average. If each ran from 6am to midnight then you’d need three drivers per bus (allowing a little slack for holidays, sick days etc) at say $50k each. That’s 5000 by 3 by 50k or $750m plus insurance, maintenance etc so call it a round billion per year. This would get you 5000 buses across 500 suburbs, each on average about 4 sq km in area(according to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sydney_suburbs and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney), so that gives 10 buses per suburb. Someone else can do the maths properly but I’m guessing no-one should be more than 250m from a bus stop with most people within 100m, and there should be no more than about 8 minutes between buses (based on a 2km by 2km square with 5 buses running back and forth north-south at regular spacing and five running back and forth east-west at regular spacing and average speed of 30km/h). OK, obviously the route network would be more complex than that and maybe that density of buses is overkill but imagine how life in the ‘burbs would change under that scenario?

6 pfh007 October 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Thanks Tim – Great stuff. The trip view app for the iphone has helped me time my run to the station but more frequent services would be a much better solution. I don’t know why they don’t split the trains and run 4 carriage trains – many years ago they did so. Probably saves them more to run fewer trains than have some train guards unclip them.

Your bus idea is a good one as well though I think it would work even better with more population density. Certainly worth trialling the concept in a couple of areas and see how it goes.

It seems that my guess that a north west link would cost a lot more than $5B based on the estimated cost of $2B for epping to Parramatta may be dodgy. That Ecotransit link in my first comment above suggests that the NSW govt generates hugely inflates estimates for rail proposals because they just don’t like trains. A friend told me a similar story – that a former minister apparently hated the rail unions and would not hear a word about new rail. It would be very easy, if you were so minded and lacked some imagination, to produce a ‘computer says no’ response to ideas for new public transport infrastructure.

7 pfh007 October 6, 2010 at 6:41 am

After some further reflection I think my response to the stubborn mule’s comment could be clearer.

I would not regard my analysis as a user pays analysis in the strict sense as I suggest that 90% of the costs ($450M) of the $495M annual payment required to repay the construction costs in 20 years, be recovered from people who may not directly use the service (i.e. ride the rails). Accordingly, my proposal already involves a heavy socialisation of the construction costs (assumed to be approx $5B) associated with a North Western rail line.

There remains the question as to why I think that it is better to that 90% of the costs be socialised just to the railway catchment as against the entire state of NSW (consolidated revenue) or Australia (some national building fund). That is a fair question as in principle there is no reason why 100% of the cost could not be socialised (i.e. not paid by the direct user). All it would mean is that no ticket price is charged to ride on the train. Service issues relating to demand levels could easily be monitored by turnstiles or a free electronic tag.

The question of how much of the cost of infrastructure projects should be borne by a direct user and how much should be socialised across some broader section of the community is something that probably should vary depending on the nature of the project. Some projects benefit the entire community (eg The Pacific and Hume Highways) much more than any individual community. Some communities may want a specific item of infrastructure of extremely limited benefit to the rest of the community and be prepared to pay for it. I can see no reason why they should not be allowed to do so and a flexible approach to infrastructure funding would allow this.

In the case of this specific proposal I feel that there is a need for the direct user of the service to bear at least some cost for riding the rail unless a decision was made to remove tickets across the City Rail system. Many would say I have been too generous limiting it to 10% of the cost. I also feel there is a strong case for limiting the area/population that the costs of the North West rail line are socialised as the majority of the benefits are clearly going to be enjoyed by the rail catchment area. However, I concede that there are some benefits to the remainder of the Sydney basin (eg; better air quality as the number of cars on the M2 and M7 and local roads are reduced). Perhaps, a split along the following lines would be appropriate 10% direct user (tickets), 80% rail catchment, 10% Sydney basin.

An annual or quarterly infrastructure invoice showing how funds were allocated to projects may help raise the level of understanding and quality of discussion regarding the difficult decisions involved in prioritising infrastructure projects. It may even lead to a greater willingness to pay more for more infrastructure projects. The invoice could show credits for any funds received from the Federal government or other taxation sources that the government decided to allocated to infrastructure. The invoice recipient would just pay the balance. The invoice could indicate the expected invoice amount for the next 12 months as well so the recipient can budget.

Such an invoice could easily broken down into local, regional and statewide projects. For 20 years the invoices for people in the North West rail line catchment would show a larger amount for the rail line and the invoices for the people in the remainder of the Sydney basin would show a smaller amount. The invoices for people living in Moree might show no allocation for the North West rail line.

And yes – including an annual charge for the costs of the NBN infrastructure that it is not proposed to be recovered by user pays might be an interesting exercise. (or is it all going to be recovered by user pays?)

8 Mr Woof Woof October 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

Great rant Mr pfh,

for those who argue for user pays on the train line, how about costing the benefits to those not using the train line.

- the traffic should flow more freely, thus improving the fuel economy for those no longer in traffic jams and there is less pressure to build new roads. My beer coaster puts this saving at $9m per year.

- there will be less accidents on the roads; accidents use up both emergency services and hospital resources which cost money. According to my beer coaster this will save $4.5m per year.

- better air quality (from less cars) which leads to lower health costs. Hard to calculate again, but lets say $1.2m per year.

- lower road wear, though arguably since trucks account for most road wear this may not be that big a saving; maybe $4.3m per year.

- I’m sure town planners can come up with many more saving; lets say these are $340k per year.

Sorry if these don’t fit on the back of your beer coaster, and whilst they may not be accurate; they do help show how a train line will benefit everyone in the community.

9 pfh007 October 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Mr Woof Woof – long time no see! – Hope all is well

All of those estimates look good to me. I should note that I am not actually proposing a cost benefit analysis. As I have a major train gene I just assume (for many of the reasons you state) that a heavy rail link through the hills district is a no brainer – that is the benefits speak for themselves.

My focus is more towards working out how to frame the discussion to get around the various excuses that have been trotted out in the past not to do it and have a discussion about how and who should pay for it. At the moment it seems that the pollies are too scared to sell the idea of taxing people for infrastructure. The only way they seem to think it can be done is by flogging off power stations or digging millions of tonnes of coal out of the ground.

10 Robert October 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Good to read a fellow Newtownian…

Some general thoughts from people’s posts:
If the properties didn’t go up in value, would home-owners have a right to sue to get the charges back for an imposed cost? Or to seek damages if they have to sell a property they currently own because of an unforeseeable new tax?
Would those not near a station but near the line have a right to sue for damages due to noise as they don’t get the benefit, but incur an externality?
Given the cost of roads, which with the exception of a few toll highways are not charged on the basis of their usage, should we require all vehicles to be monitored via GPS and charged for road usage, with the proceeds then spread been the various government levels that maintain and build road infrastructure? With a corresponding drop in taxes and increases in welfare payments as needed, this would surely be the ultimate user pays. Otherwise aren’t you just picking on those poor households near to a train station.

The idea of free public transport is interesting. Given the subsidies to road users, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me to subsidise public transport as well. Or to charge fully for both, and only distort the market to achieve a public good rather than because we’ve always done it one way before.

11 pfh007 October 7, 2010 at 4:22 pm

For some reason I thought the poison pill placed in the M2 deed to prevent competing public transport had a limited life. I thought it was only 20 years and that after 20 years the road reverted to public ownership. It seems that the contract period is actually until 2042.

http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/publications/reports/financial/2000/vol3/report.pdf

Completing the Epping to Parramatta link appears okay but a rail link to the North West may not be. I wonder if this is the reason why the govt was only prepared to announce the Metro to Rozelle. They had not yet worked out how to get around the non-compete clause in the M2 deed.

Perhaps the government will need to buy back the M2 so they can defuse the non-compete clause. Needless to say this puts a different light on the current proposal to widen the M2 and further entrench the motor car as King of the Hills district.

All the more reason to have a solid debate on the best approach to funding infrastructure and assessing the merits of competing projects.!

12 An Anonymous Zebra October 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Great article – did you fit all those calcs on one beer coaster or did you need several trips to the bar to get through it?

This article in wikipedia on “rapid transit” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_transit mentions a reasonable maximum capacity of 32,000 people per train per hour (allowing a leisurely 120s between trains). The use a capacity of 1200 ppl per train but due to the higher frequency fit 32,000 people per hour in which would increase your peak hour total to 80,000 not 30,000ish. The note the highest capacity in the world is in Hong Kong which has a capacity of 80,000. I am not surprised to see Asian centers liek Singapore, HK and Shanghai at the top as extensive commuter car travel is simply not an option.

One option you ave not considered to to pay for train infrastructure is “congestion charging” which is really a tax on car drivers – in London it raises in excess of GBP250m a year or say $400m.

I would suggest we need many more lines, not one or two more “commuter lines”. We need to think “rapid transit” instead. In Tokyo, as in all the best train cities you are never more than a few blocks from a railway station.

I too have the train gene though not when commuting and prefer buses which are relatively underutilised here in Bleak City, probably because people think trams are still the only way to commute. I leave you with the final four lines of my favourite poem, “For X”, by Louise Macneice. I assume it is about model trains since it is clearly set in someone’s bedroom, though I can’t see how one can enjoy one’s model train set with the lights turned off. Maybe I am missing something?

Switch the light off and let me
Gather you up and gather
The power of trains advancing
Further, advancing further.

13 pfh007 October 8, 2010 at 7:24 am

Thanks Mr Zebra,

To adopt and adapt a line from an old movie ‘I think we need a bigger coaster’.

Re-running the calculations: 1 train every 2 min (approx) = 80,0000 per peak period = 5333 per station (15 satations) = a 1.5 km walking radius population of 26,666 people = 13,333 dwellings (2 per person).

Let say the average 40 storey block of units has 4 per floor (every one gets a corner !) = 160 units. That means we need 83 * 40 storey blocks of units in each 1.5km radius. Hmmm what urban landscape does that bring to mind? Hong Kong, Tokyo? At least it does highlight that there is a relationship between the population being served and the likely usage of the rail link.

I like the poem. Sounds like the train gene has a few more generations of life in your family ! :)

Also thanks to Robert. I like the idea of reversing the argument – why not user charge the roads more fully and create a presumption that the trains/buses are the default no user charge option.

Speaking of people affected by train noise that they did not expect when they bought their property, a friend told me a story about a guy who had lived for many years in a house when the Chatswood to Epping link was announced. The original plan involved a rail bridge over the Lane Cove river near Fuller’s bridge. This required a tunnel with a gentle bend right under his house. He freaked out and immediately sold his house fearing the rumble of trains through the night and bought another one a reasonable distance away but in the same suburb. Unfortunately the plan was changed to make the train go under the river. The deeper descent required a wider curve and guess whose house that tunnel went under !

14 pfh007 October 8, 2010 at 7:55 am

As Yogi Berra would say ‘Is this Deja Vu all over again?

From today’s paper ‘Keneally seeks $7b to get new rail link rolling sooner ‘

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/keneally-seeks-7b-to-get-new-rail-link-rolling-sooner-20101007-16a01.html

15 Stubborn Mule October 8, 2010 at 8:55 am

That’s the power of the Mule platform (pun intended). Mind you, checking Sportsbet yesterday, their Financial bets are back up again, so in that particular case, the blog appears not to have been as influential as I thought.

16 An Anonymous Zebra October 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm

@pfh007
I thought I recalled a plan to build high density housing along the rail line. In retrospect this is probably precisely for the reason you suggest. The additional pop’n justifies the cost and people will want to live there because of the transport convenience. It is interesting that a lot of the redevelopment of office buildings to apartments in central Sydney was to meet the demand of people who had previously lived in such buildings in places like Hong Kong. Now native Aussies are getting with the program and the virtuous circle of more people living in the inner City leads to more services leads to more people. I forsee a similar thing happening along high density housing along rail lines. Then again the dullness of the Green Park precint suggests that it has to be managed in an organic way not just put up a 711 and bottle shop on every block.

17 Paul Heath March 7, 2011 at 8:01 am

Questions are being asked by the Greens about the cost estimates produced by the government for new rail lines. The suggestion is that they are inflated to make building roads look more attractive.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/state-election-2011/tunnel-vision-inflates-cost-of-building-rail-links-say-greens-20110306-1bjna.html

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