Monday, 10 September 2018

ACTION NEEDED: Save Federation Square's "Shard" from Metro Tunnel and AppleScum

The Western Shard at Federation Square was a compromise to the original design, but it was built largely stylistically integrated with the rest of the square, and is therefore integral to the whole.

I must apologise to the world for the lateness of this post, life moves so damn quickly these days. Tomorrow, Wednesday September 12 is the deadline for submissions to Heritage Victoria in opposition to the awful and unnecessary new Metro Station entrance proposed for Federation Square.

I also apologise the layout on this post is a little haywire but I haven't got time to fix it right now.

I write today encouraging all Melburnians to lift up their pens for what will not be the first time in defence of one of the world's premiere civic spaces, and will briefly run through the core arguments that we feel should inform the public objections.
The core of our objection to the proposal is that the Western Shard is specifically listed as significant in the site's interim heritage listing as adopted by Heritage Victoria. That means it is protected from demolition unless in the most exceptional of circumstances that demonstrate an overwhelming imperative to demolish the structure.

Quite simply, no such imperative is demonstrated in the plans submitted by the Metro Tunnel Project, and therefore the plans must be rejected.

The plans do not demonstrate any need to demolish the structure, because they do not give any valid reason why a station entrance could not be constructed within the existing structure.

A Disingenuous Proposal

disingenuous - adjective. Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
It's one of my favourite words - disingenuous. Once you've conceptually grasped it, you start to see it in evidence everywhere if you spend any time at all engaged with public policy. Politicians, of course, are severely recidivist criminals here, but most public servants (especially those with public facing roles) are well trained, both formally and informally in the dark arts of the disingenuous.

So, what IS the imperative to demolish this structure and erect a low-rise, lightweight, see-through structure in it's place? It is VERY obvious that this has been done for Apple (scum), probably at their insistence, because the existing structure, as clearly shown in the photo below, would block sightlines to the Apple (scum) store from the existing retail strip, and indeed from the entrance to the Square itself.

Image from the submitted plans clearly showing the shard obscures the location of the proposed Apple (scum) store from the existing retail strip.

The entire proposal is therefore both disingenuous and in bad faith to both the public at large, who are being sold a lie concerning the reasons why this project is deemed necessary, and to the processes of Heritage Victoria, which are being gamed.

Precedent Shows This Must Be Rejected

The clear precedent for Heritage Victoria decisions is that arguments of mere economic convenience to the applicant or one of the applicant's stakeholders should not be accepted as the basis for demolition of a protected structure. Without any pressing argument to this effect contained in the proposal's business case, Heritage Victoria must reject the proposal.

The heritage citation for the site, as adopted in interim by Heritage Victoria clearly states:
"The Western Shard The Swanston/Flinders Street corner of the site is occupied by the Western Shard, a glass-walled pavilion which provides access to the underground Melbourne Visitor Centre. The entrance features interactive news tickers in colour LEDs and small screens promoting current activities."

The proposal posits that "as it is not an element that reflects the original design intent, we consider that the proposed demolition and replacement with another sympathetic structure is acceptable." We find this an appalling statement from a heritage professional. Where the feature in question is specifically cited as significant, trying to second guess that citation after the event and now argue the feature is not significant does not represent a valid argument.

Attempting to Alter a Protected Heritage Place

Furthermore the proposal itself concedes that the proposed structure is also not stylistically consistent with the original design intent for Federation Square (a position that is completely undermined by the previous argument), stating that "architecturally, the proposed eastern station entry for the Town Hall Station draws on the same ‘NewModern’ functionalist architectural tradition of Federation Square without attempting to replicate the Deconstructivist architectural forms of the Lab/Bates Smart design."

Coupled with the proposed introduction of yet another new design style in the form of Apple (scum) store, we can clearly see how through the complete raft of changes proposed for the space, that  their effect would be to take a coherently-designed world-beating, deeply symbolic, major architectural space of tremendous significance to most Melburnians, which even in its short lifespan is already iconic to the city, and replace two of the existing buildings replaced with new structures in TWO COMPLETELY NON-COHERING STYLES, and thereby literally ruin the entire whole, as we explained in an earlier post.

How Can I Help?

So, we urge all caring Melburnians to urgently get tapping on their keyboards and make these points politely and succinctly to Heritage Victoria by close of business, Wednesday September 12.

To make your submission, email
Please reference "Permit Application P29470, Federation Square" in the subject line.
View Metro Tunnel's plans online

And don't forget the Rally in the Square to oppose the Applescum Store - next Wed September 19 at 5.30pm

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Melbourne Suburban Orbital Rail - Mapping the Route to Success - Part 1 - Southland to Broadmeadows

"Melburnians, it's a GREAT time to be a suburban orbital rail enthusiast."  
- The Bloodied Wombat, March 13, 2017
So you can imagine what the last fortnight has been in Wombat-ville. The Andrews government's commitment to commence planning for a "suburban rail loop" is most of our collective prayers for Melbourne answered in a frothing torrent of holy water.

"BAPTISE this city, Mr Premier, with your heavy rail holiness!" 
- The Bloodied Wombat, August 28, 2018.

And while we always thought the politics of such a project would be good, we've been blown away by the real enthusiasm with which the public has embraced the vision. Alan Davies has been telling me this was a stupid idea for as long as I've been discussing it, but his recent commentary has really been the outlier in pouring scorn on the project's mooted benefits.

I'd like to return specifically to some of Alan's concerns in the concluding blog to this series. But first, let's take a look at the project as it is currently proposed, and make an assessment of the logical "next steps" in project planning to ensure we return maximal benefits from the project for all Victorians.

  • In part one here today, we'll look at the majority of the network, and the portion most likely to be delivered as tunnel - from the Frankston line through to Craigieburn. 
  • Next week, we'll look at the remainder of the network through the western suburbs and how the delivery and timetabling options and imperatives out there actually look very distinct to the underground portion of the network.
  • In part three we'll look at some rudimentary cost-benefits and respond to some of the common critiques of the plan as well as look at some further incremental developments to consider to address any major goals this orbital rail plan is unable to, and so deliver a maximum benefit metro style heavy rail system for Melbourne.

i'M SORely what Melbourne needs 

For starters, we need to do something about an acronym. The notional Wombat project suffered a little from nomenclature overload, usually going by some variant of "Urban Orbital Rail" and "Suburban Rail Loop". Other commentators seem to have just settled for the obvious - the government document is entitled "Suburban Rail Loop Strategic Assessment", so SRL it is.

I'm probably a little bit tragic in this regard, but I look at that acronym and the only words that enter my dyslexic head are "Stevie Ray Vaughan". So I think we can and should do better. A loop is necessarily orbital, so we can turf one of those two words, and I think it needs a bit more LOCAL, yokels. So I'm going with Melbourne Suburban Orbital Rail or MSOR, and you'll just need to adjust your sets accordingly.

Orbital Rail Benefits - Recapped

It's all about the network effect. Human civilisation's greatest quantum advances have all taken place as a result of technology that enhanced our ability to network together as human beings. The invention of railroad itself is but one critical illustration of the phenomenon.

We've seen in an earlier blog that Melbourne's existing employment centres map very neatly to the established heavy and light rail network (image below), and it's important that we state from the outset that the PRIMARY goal of MSOR, in order to make the project stack up cost-benefit wise must be the facilitation of transport movements radially IN to designated suburban employment centres.

Melbourne Employment Densities and Centres with Tram/rail Networks

The main benefit of the policy - the entire point of spending $50bn is to purchase the necessary enabling infrastructure to allow us to build the ever more mythologised "20 minute city". The point of this MUST be a radical re-envisaging of the MAJORITY of suburban employment journeys to enable a significant mode shift to public transport.

We've estimated previously that as many as 200,000 more Melbourne commuters hop in their cars  DAILY for the journey to work than their Sydney counterparts, and tendered significant evidence that the less radial nature of that city's heavy rail network was the most obvious source of this.

But we also simultaneously discussed the ways in which Sydney has done a far better job of the planning side of the equation - on facilitating remedial land uses and attracting employers into rail-enabled locations.

The real beauty of orbital rail as imposed on the existing radial network is that it creates innumerable opportunities for multiple heavy rail "spokes" to operate radially IN to the new suburban employment centres, over-writing Melbourne's current hugely dispersed suburban employment patterns with a new map that creates a critical mass of employment destinations walkable to heavy rail stations.

And where the heavy rail network previously left enormous public transport blackspots across Melbourne's eastern suburbs, the networked, web-like lattice into which it is transformed by MSOR means that vast swathes of the east in any given direction are now just a few train stations from the new employment centres, whereas previously a commuter in Box Hill would have needed to travel in to Richmond and then out again to get to Glen Waverley, around tripling the necessary travel distance versus car.

That this is not a high demand journey today is not the point, the above shows exactly why the demand isn't there.

Wombat's Melbourne Suburban Orbital Rail Route - Southeast (orange)

We're planning here for Melbourne 2118, from which vantage point, this project will be deemed to have paid for itself several times over. In the same way we'd decry the insanity of ripping up any of our established lines today (and again, the Upfield line would never have stood up to Infrastructure Victoria's methodology if proposed today, as they would assume it would cannibalise 60% of its ridership from the Craigieburn line).

Not Because It's Easy, Because It's Hard

It's very important that we convey that it is NOT POSSIBLE to do the cost-benefit calculations on MSOR, without first calculating the potential benefits for re-shaping land use, employment and transportation patterns all along the corridor. And you CANNOT do that calculation without doing ALL the detailed planning on exactly where the stations are going, how much viable land exists around the new station for consolidation into an urban activity centre, what the potential of that location is as an employment destination, and so on.

In short, the potential of MSOR is less as a pure transportation project and more as a tool to guide land use and strategic planning. Because if history teaches us humans anything - we have two great assets as a species which have enabled all the marvels of our civilisation down the ages. One of those is our ability to network together with our fellow human beings. The other is an ability to plan collectively and work strategically towards a long term goal.

We've only got to where we are as a species by incrementally envisaging better worlds in exactly this fashion. MSOR is a project that dials in a very specific vision of a better world and then goes about planning for it.

Thus is Melbourne Suburban Orbital Rail the very acme of visionary, big picture human undertakings such that truly elevate one's eyes to the horizon, that actually do make a body ever so slightly proud to be a tiny chapter in humanity's infinite history.

Optimising the Route

The initial Strategic Assessment provided by Development Victoria leaves largely open the question of how many new stations will be included in the project, instead nominating a number of broad locations that are intended to be served, as well as indicating the likely interface stations with the existing network.

So, let's look at the Wombat-optimal suggested solutions to some of the core issues. Let's map out an actual proposed network, starting in the Southeast.

Our considerations here are really threefold - to cater to established employment centres currently poorly served by public transport - to facilitate enough new employment centres in order to render the 20 minute city concept feasible - and to provide new commuter stations in existing rail black spots.

We raised in an earlier post our concerns that Plan Melbourne actually fails to designate enough activity centres with enough geographic spread to come close to enabling the 20 minute city it waxes so lyrically about. That concern was overlaid by a sense that not much actual practical policy existed to facilitate the creation or agglomeration of employment or activity centres outside of the small number of headline locations.

We strongly suggest that enabling legislation should be considered for this project which grants full control to the Planning Minister for any planning issues within specified distances around the station sites - with their scope/size roughly scaled according to the 'site potential' ratings suggested below. We'd suggest doing the same for ALL the station sites in yellow and red in the map above.

We would then suggest either a new standalone body, or something within Places or Development Victoria which is responsible for involving stakeholders and developing masterplans for each of the zones, which may or may not have some responsibility for actual land acquisition or consolidation of sites as necessary. It would ideally have a charter to ensure that sensitive or heritage neighbourhoods were preserved, and that larger scale or higher intensity development were focused away from residential areas, but the body's charter would essentially be to develop these areas as employment zones.

Where the government has already nominated value capture as a key potential funding source for the project, we'd suggest you've already taken several large steps towards the need for just such a body or bodies to be established anyway.

Finally, we'd LOVE to see some sort of incentive scheme for large employers currently located a long way from public transport be facilitated to relocate to these new activity centres, and the owners of those large industrial sites be given incentives to redevelop those as residential or other beneficial re-uses.

Which Way South?

Regular readers will recall that the Wombat Plan last left this concept with two feasible N-S routes through the eastern suburbs - an inner AND an outer connection and actually advocated the staggered construction of both. The inner route is largely the one as put forward by Development Victoria. The outer route ran via Doncaster to Ringwood then on to Knoxfield, Dandenong, Braeside and Mordialloc.

The outer route was mostly about enabling rail to those several existing centres, which it should be more than a footnote here, are still probably crying out for some form of enhanced public transport solution on the basis that it's much harder to start an entire new employment centre than to better plan for an existing one.

I'm a little heretical amongst transport buffs, in that I view "park and ride" models for heavy rail into suburbia as a very major success factor in improving the overall mode share for public transport in Melbourne, and accordingly the park and ride potential of the various sites is something we'll be considering in some detail.

I should apply my usual caveat in that the first-best option is obviously having suburban bus or even new light rail services operating super-frequently in to the station from local destinations as feeders to the heavy rail system rather than cars. The extent to which further such enabling policy were put in place would actually have a serious impact on the size of the potential benefits column for MSOR, and so obviously the issue warrants addressing.

But one of the issues this project contends with is that it is retrofitting a european style heavy rail metro into areas with significantly lower population densities than much of Europe, and in order to plan realistically for final yards travel in a city that has never had a good relationship with its suburban bus network, we simply need to factor cars in for the foreseeable future.

Optimising the Station Locations

Urban Melbourne recently carried some good commentary showing what the development pipeline looks like in the suburbs slated to receive MSOR. It can be quite illuminating to read alongside my proposed route. When you get a sense of the quantum of change that is already happening, the benefits of this project appear to be as much in being able to actually take direction of that change as they are in facilitating anything new.

Site potential: A
Park and Ride Potential: B
The first question arises at the bottom of the 'clockface'. The Strategic Assessment resolutely states that the route is intended to meet the Frankston line at Cheltenham. This has, however, widely been interpreted as actually meaning "Southland" station, and we would very much encourage the latter.

One need only look at the land usage around the shopping centre, even before thinking about further possible apartment towers on top of the shops to know which site has the greater redevelopment potential as an employment/activity/residential centre. We embark at Southland.

Unlocking the park and ride potential of the site, given it is surrounded by residential areas would be a key success factor, and this would obviously be dependent on arriving at a mutually beneficial arrangement with Westfield to utilise the existing parking areas.

Site potential: B
Possible Location: Blamey and Nelson Rds
Park and Ride Potential: D
Moorabbin represents one of the few properly established existing employment centres that we are adding to the heavy rail network, so the proposed location is really at the heart of the industrial zone.

We would suggest significant scope exists, given the large nature of the landholdings in the area to create a small central retail/hospitality zone around the station, but this would not be an attractive location for residential redevelopment at scale. Moorabbin's role would remain primarily as an industrial-style employment zone, and as such park and ride is a lower priority at this location.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Huntingdale and Centre Rds
Park and Ride Potential: B
South Oakleigh is currently a small scale employment zone, which has appreciable redevelopment potential for potentially some more intensive scale office and retail developments around the new station. It is also bounded by significant residential areas, so we would suggest some property acquisition to enable construction of a park and ride structure would be a key success factor.

Site potential: B
Park and Ride Potential: C
This station has always been at the fringe of the actual employment zone, so its catchment contains a mixture of residential and commercial sites with some consolidation potential as the broader employment zone develops.

Site potential: D
Possible Location: Around the site of the current bus terminus at the Southern end of the campus
Park and Ride Potential: N/A
The core reason why this station has scored so low on the site potential rating, is that locating the station well for on-campus purposes renders its potential to cater to surrounding residential and employment areas minimal, and because we can't be stopping the trains every 500 meters, forces us to place the second new Monash precinct station in a sub-optimal location for unlocking the maximum potential value of the precinct.

The potential to reduce car dependency amongst the campus' 30,000 odd students and academics is significant enough that these issues are obviously unavoidable, and accordingly park and ride would be inappropriate and unworkable here.

Site potential: A
Possible Location: Dunlop and Springvale Rds
Park and Ride Potential: B
Again, this is probably not the optimal location from a broader precinct planning perspective - so if forced into a site like this, the precinct planning should obviously do what it can to try and develop something of a walkable town centre in the vicinity the station.

Site potential: B
Park and Ride Potential: C
An established site obviously, does a reasonable job catering to the adjacent Glen shoppping centre, and has a reasonably good residential catchment with a small number of commercial sites nearby providing some redevelopment opportunity.

Site potential: D
Possible Location: Springvale Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
An entirely residential area, this station would be a purely commuter station, and therefore sufficient landholdings to enable appreciable park and ride would need to be considered.

Site potential: B
Possible Location: Burwood Hwy and Springvale Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
A great opportunity to develop a more pedestrian-friendly mixed use zone around this intersection, where the 75 tram also forms another two "spokes" into a possible employment hub, and where the size of the land holdings thereabouts offer decent scope for renewal, we would urge strong consideration be given to giving this potential employment hub much more focus than it might appear to warrant at first glance.

Site potential: D
Possible Location: Blackburn Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
An entirely residential area, this station would be a purely commuter station, and therefore sufficient landholdings to enable appreciable park and ride would need to be considered.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Middleborough Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
Another site with some established commercial/industrial and good potential for an actively planned mixed use precinct.

Site potential: A
Park and Ride Potential: B
Box Hill station, as poorly integrated as it is with the existing shopping centre and bus/tram interchanges, presents a real opportunity, if the long mooted complete re-build of the thing were still on the cards, then Box Hill unquestionably has the greatest potential of any eastern suburbs site on the MSOR for an effective high density residential, office and retail hub.

However, the issues relating to transport connectivity would need some really good planning around them to maximise the opportunity here. We should also seriously consider the extension of the 109 tram along Whitehorse road to provide a new rail "spoke" into this highly significant potential activity centre.

Site potential: D
Possible Location: Springfield and Dorking Rds
Park and Ride Potential: B
An entirely residential area, this station would be a purely commuter station, and therefore sufficient landholdings to enable appreciable park and ride would need to be considered.

Specifically situated to titillate Simpsons fans.

Site potential: A
Possible Location: Shoppingtown
Park and Ride Potential: A
Another established shopping centre and major bus terminus with significant surrounding residential, including some medium-high density as well as commercial and industrial. Excellent potential for effective creation of a medium-high density mixed use zone, which would posit interesting challenges in needing to make an effectively private space (the shopping centre) the town centre.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Doncaster Rd & Eastern Fwy
Park and Ride Potential: B
Some small scale nearby retail, but a mostly residential area, and thus this would primarily be a commuter station.

Site potential: D
Possible Location: Bulleen Rd & Eastern Fwy
Park and Ride Potential: B
An entirely residential area, this station would be a purely commuter station, and therefore sufficient landholdings to enable appreciable park and ride would need to be considered.

Site potential: C
Park and Ride Potential: C
As an established station servicing a sizeable mixed use retail, commercial and medical precinct, it offers limited scope for additional park and ride, nor would we really want to encourage that near an established retail shopping strip.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Edwin and Bell Sts
Park and Ride Potential: B
Largely residential area, some small scope for enhanced commercial along the main roads in the vicinity.

Site potential: B
Possible Location: Northland S/C
Park and Ride Potential: C
Largely established industrial area, but as industrial does offer reasonable scope for future precinct planning. A core challenge here again would be to effective activate anything beyond the shopping centre - perhaps the best realistic outcome would be a mixed use development of the existing shopping centre.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Waterdale Rd
Park and Ride Potential: C
This is an existing small scale industrial area south of La Trobe University, and as such offers tremendous opportunity for creating a transport-oriented employment precinct either allied or independent to the University

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Somewhere near the Agora
Park and Ride Potential: N/A
The issues here are similar to Monash, except the larger distances mean that station location doesn't really force compromises elsewhere, although it won't be a long way between stops to Plenty Rd ...

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Plenty Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
Some larger dispersed commercial and industrial sites along Plenty Rd. The large amount of surrounding parkland makes this a less than ideal point for the actual interchange with the tram, and so we suggest positioning the station to attempt to garner the largest residential catchment for the station.

Site potential: B
Possible Location: Cheddar Rd & Hanrahan St
Park and Ride Potential: B
Thomastown is a kind of sprawling, lumbering semi-industrial suburb that was absolutely gutted by the 1990s recession - having been home to enormous swathes of now vanished manufacturing. The area is only really just now starting to re-make itself, and it has enormous potential for re-development of almost unlimited scope, scale or use.

Site potential: B
Park and Ride Potential: B
Surrounded by variously industrial, retail and residential zones, Thomastown Station offers significant potential for the creation of an effective mixed use neighbourhood, and in fact if we were grading the prospects of the activity centres, we think no other such centre presents so high a potential with the addition of orbital rail. As we can see, it's possible to create fully 3 stations (2 new) which are very well located to create a large scale, medium density mixed use suburb. We strongly suggest Thomastown needs to rise up the activity centre priority list accordingly.

Site potential: C
Possible Location: Ring Road and Mahoney's Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
Although this station would have a large residential catchment, it would also serve the eastern end of the larger industrial sites situated between Mahoney's and the ring road, providing some further redevelopment opportunities across the wider Thomastown activity centre.

Site potential: B
Possible Location: Camp Rd
Park and Ride Potential: B
Significant planning has already gone in to re-instating the former Campbellfield Station, which closed in 1956. In fact provision was made for the station during the recent level crossing removal, and this is an obvious urgency. It's long been an incredible frustration for users of the orbital smart bus routes that because of this station's absence they don't actually connect conveniently anywhere with the Upfield line. There are significant industrial, commercial and retail sites in the vicinity of the proposed station, including Campbellfield Plaza, such that the potential for developing an effective mixed use neighbourhood around the station is quite high here.

Site potential: A
Park and Ride Potential: A
Broadmeadows is obviously one of the main designated activity/employment centres under Plan Melbourne, around which extensive work on future land use planning and so on is already underway. We will look next week at the possible infrastructure issues around the station, where it is anticipated this would be the point that we finally rise above ground since we first hopped on at Southland, from this point, we need to share some infrastructure with the existing network, so we'll discuss that next week.

Profiling the New Stations

We could break all these down by typologies relatively easily and these would determine what type/how much enabling policy you put around facilitating new uses for each, looking something like the following. If we throw in a few of the western suburbs stations to complete the picture, we're looking at something like the following:

1. Designated Employment Centres
Box Hill

2. Existing or Potential New Employment Centres
Burwood East
South Oakleigh
Glen Waverley
Northland/Heidelberg West
Sunshine North
Keilor Park

3. Universities
La Trobe

4. Shopping Centres
The Glen/Glen Waverley
Airport West
(THINK about it - you will be able to shop 5 massive malls in 1 day with 1 Myki (or 2050 equivalent))

5. Residential/Commuter
Waverley Nth
West Doncaster
Balwyn Nth
Heidelberg Heights
Bundoora Park
Keilor East

So that gives us around 20 "destination" stations, and we contend that this is number is much closer to the optimal number of activity centres than the last version of Plan Melbourne posited, if we are to enable a "20 minute city" in more than rhetoric. We contend that facilitating these new land uses and transportation patterns in to them is a goal so important that it is worth spending $50bn over an extended timeframe to solve. But more on that in part three.

Be sure to tune in next week, and we'll look at the western portion of all this in a lot more detail, as well as consider what a Melbourne rail timetable might look like in 2050, once all of this is up and running.

As usual questions, comments and critique are welcome - we love hearing your feedback!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Why Melbourne Cannot Build Metro Rail 2 until Stage 1 is Complete

Correct call, Cap'n!
Victorian Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan

This week, the Greensparty in Victoria committed themselves to building Melbourne Metro 2, which is really a bit like Caligula committing his horse to the Roman Senate in terms of its impact on reality.

"If we held the balance of power in Victoria, committing to building this would be a key prerequisite for our support", is a very different message altogether, and one that would garner them a hell of a lot more credibility with public transport advocates and the general public alike.

Pretending that you'd ever be in a position to actually build the project yourselves, getting out your crayons and doodling wishful lines on a map (qv the umpteen dozen random and ridiculous tram extensions they took to the previous Victorian election) without any concern whatsoever for cost-benefit analyses, only undermines your credibility as a political party.

We are supposed to have turned a corner in this country in relation to infrastructure spending. We are supposed now, in Australia, to be driven by the imperative of allocating scarce resources to those projects with the highest benefit-cost ratios, and we've created a raft of semi-independent bodies to ensure this.

Now, it must be said that I very strongly feel that the way many of these bodies are making their assessments are still strongly based on methodologies that systemically bias road projects over public transport ones.

For Infrastructure Australia to start out with the assumption that "70% of Doncaster Rail's patronage would be cannibalised from existing public transport services" dooms that project's prospects before you've even got your calculator out, and it is completely fallacious when you look in detail at the evidence. Journey to work data shows that public transport mode share in areas proximate to heavy rail is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than this assumption presumes.

But for a party that currently holds two Victorian lower house seats to have put their plans for building a Metro 2  in the public domain whilst holding a straight face is just insulting to the voting public. Could one journalist not have insisted on their explaining how and in what parallel universe this is ever going to happen?

The Greensplan. Note also they are claiming credit for extensions to Wollert and Wyndham Vale,
both of which have been in PTV's Network Development Plan for YEARS ...

"If we held the balance of power in Victoria, committing to building this would be a key prerequisite for our support", would be a good answer to that question. Without that, we are left with - "well, we are going to quadruple our Statewide vote from current opinion poll data, and from our highest ever recorded level of support in just 3 months' from now, and thereby secure government".

But then you're also left with "and we're going to throw out any notion of deferring to Infrastructure Victoria and return to politicians using these billion dollar projects as political pork barrels." It's inspiring stuff, isn't it?

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan's response to the proposal was entirely the correct one. Even if the project stacks up, it absolutely cannot be built until the Metro One Project is complete. That is scheduled for 2021. 3 years from now.

You cannot undertake a project of this scale without fully three years of planning, systems and engineering prep work. That's exactly how long it has taken to get Metro 1's shovels in the ground after the election of the Andrews Government, so let's forget about implying sophistry on the Minister's behalf, and let's credit her with being the only party to the discussion who appears to be living in the real world.

You can add to that assessment the fact that there are actually a finite number of workers adequately skilled for these sorts of projects available at any given time, and if you try and build such a thing in an environment of scarcity, you wind up significantly driving up labour costs and ballooning the total cost of the project.

But there's another crucial reason why Metro 2 cannot possibly be built before Metro 1 is complete. We need to consider the interaction of the two projects and the overall project goals. In fact there may be a far more cost effective solution for Metro 2 which builds upon the infrastructure already in place for Metro Rail 1. Readers will be unsurprised at this point to learn there exists a patented Wombat Plan for Metro 2 which does precisely that.

Hang On, What IS Metro 2?

Broadly speaking, Melbourne Metro Rail 2 is the proposal to re-route heavy rail services from the western suburbs of Melbourne over the Yarra River from Newport Railway Station, thereby providing the new Fisherman's Bend development zone with much needed heavy rail access.

Most proposals to date have conceived this project as a rail tunnel running through Fisherman's Bend then back under the river to new underground platforms at Southern Cross Station, Flagstaff and CBD North, and continuing through the inner north before returning above ground at a junction with the existing South Morang and Hurstbridge lines.

However, we contend that there is a way of doing this which provides significantly better returns in the all important 'project benefits' column.

What's Wrong With These Proposals?

We start out with the proposition that the extra capacity potentially provided by this proposal at both Southern Cross and Flagstaff (the lowest trafficked city loop station by a significant quantum), is completely redundant to the network's needs.

We also contend that Melbourne has created a significant urban problem in the Southbank residential redevelopment zone. One of the main benefits of this type of living is supposed to be reducing car dependency, but we've seen a lot of data recently suggesting that car use and certainly car ownership in Southbank is actually out of control.

The area is walkable to everything in the CBD, and has trams running along Kingsway, Queensbridge and Sturt Streets, but these tram routes actually really border the main areas of the suburb rather than running right through it. If the logic exists to provide heavy rail access to the Fisherman's Bend redevelopment zone, the same logic should have applied when we were planning Southbank. We believe the heavy rail opportunity now created at Fisherman's Bend provides an opportunity to remedy the lack of planning at Southbank.

Melbourne Metro Rail - Wombat Style

We therefore propose that instead of running via Southern Cross Station, Metro 2 should continue east via 1-2 new stations at Southbank and re-join the remainder of the network at the Metro 1 tunnel, whose capacity it would share through the CBD, before running underground through the northern suburbs and meeting South Morang/Hurstbridge roughly as per existing proposals.

Click the images below to enlarge.

So, we're essentially creating 4 new stations south of the river - Wirraway (which I've situated so it can in fact serve both the Wirraway residential zone and the designated employment zone to its north), Sandridge, Casino/Convention Centre, and Southbank.

In the north, which is really pretty well transport enabled already, it's just two new stations for the shorter tunnel - we see the return from the dead of Museum Station (at which far too many people arrive by car - the location was never sensible from this perspective) and Johnson St, approximately half way between Smith and Brunswick Streets. Alternative name would be "The Rochy" :)

Metro Tunnel Capacity

The obvious benefit of the Wombat proposal over anything running via Southern Cross is the shared tunnel infrastructure with Metro Rail 1. Armchair critics will already be reaching for their revolvers about the limited capacity of that tunnel reintroducing a bottleneck into the network.

I fully concede that would be the greatest weakness here, but I don't think it actually need be a limiting factor once we sit down and actually look at the numbers, given that we are building the Metro 1 tunnel with future high capacity signalling in mind.

Let's look at how this might work. We are suggesting that ONLY Werribee line trains be re-routed through the Wombat Metro Tunnel, and that Williamstown line services would continue to run above ground to Southern Cross and/or Flinders Street, otherwise we're left without any trains at Seddon, Yarraville and Spotswood.

Looking at the 2016 Network Development Plan's projections for 2026 - 20 peak hour services are scheduled to run via Newport. Unfortunately the plan is agnostic as to how many of these originate from Williamstown and how many from Werribee, but let's assume a ratio of approx 3:1 in Werribee's favour, so let's say 14 and 6. It assumes 14 services running via the Metro 1 tunnel by the same date.

PTV Network Development Plan
Peak hour projections for 2031

So the key limiting question here is whether the capacity of the Metro Tunnel would allow for 28 peak hour services within the tunnel under construction. Given the current, prehistoric, steam powered network signalling has an acknowledged capacity of 20 trains per hour, we're looking for a 40% improvement, to allow a train every 2.18 minutes.

Network signal capacity is something of a dark art - as we're already experiencing with the high capacity trials underway, but there is no denying that this demand would be within the acknowledged international capabilities of high capacity signalling systems of up to 36 trains per hour.

At the other end, we then have the option of re-routing either the entire Hurstbridge or South Morang Lines through the tunnel (both would not be an option for capacity reasons and it would again render a whole raft of inner city stations redundant), OR this could be the route of a future Doncaster rail link along the Eastern Freeway.

Looking ahead to 2031, if the Airport rail link DOESN'T utilise Metro 1 tunnel, and instead runs direct to Southern Cross, then we would need to be able to run 33 trains an hour through the tunnel, and we concede that this would be straining the upper limits of today's high capacity signal technology, but you would then have the option of running some Werribee services above ground to Southern Cross to further mitigate.

PTV Network Development Plan
Peak hour projections for 2031

Furthermore, if the capacity constraints were only in a single direction through the CBD, you would actually have the option of running some Werribee services BACKWARDS through the CBD - ie above ground from Newport - South Kensington then into the Metro 1 tunnel and returning to Werribee via Fisherman's bend.

So there you have it. We tender the merits of the Wombat Plan on the basis that it
1. Minimises costs through shared infrastructure
2. Provides heavy rail access to major destinations and public transport blackspots in Southbank
3. Creates future capacity for Doncaster Rail (the peak hour constraints would all be in the opposite direction)

Would love to hear your thoughts, opinions or feedback below.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Melbourne Airport Rail Link - The Case for New Stations

Melbourne appears to be inching ever closer to proceeding with an Airport Rail Link, with the Federal Government promising to contribute $5bn towards the project, in spite of the ample evidence that $5bn would be far better spent on the Melbourne rail network by extending it to Rowville, Monash or even finally electrifying the Melton line.

Major credit to the State Government for their response to Turnbull's pure populism play. I've long had a sense that Daniel Andrews knows full well how poorly airport rail stands up to a proper cost-benefit analysis relative to almost any other possible similarly scaled improvement to Melbourne's rail network.

The state government has been insistent that if this project proceeds, it needs to be about more than just getting businesspeople to their flight on time on the dozen or so times a year the majority of them will ever travel.

Sunshine Station in Melbourne's west has enormous potential to develop as a new transport
and employment hub for the entire western region.

Unlocking The True Potential of Melbourne's Airport Rail Link

We've discussed this as nauseum here in the wombat burrow and so I won't bore you further tonight, particularly as the debating horse appears to have bolted somewhat. Some form of airport rail link is going to happen, and so as we've equally insisted before, we are about making sure if it goes ahead that it delivers the maximum benefit to the Melburnians who matter most - those who presently have tenuous access to viable public transport options. Doing it for Zone Two, as we like to say.

The state government is correct to situate the real scope of this project's potential in the context of "unlocking the City's west", and of seeking to ensure, as Melbourne's growth rebalances west now that little opportunities to expand east remain, that we don't repeat the mistakes our planners made over the part 50 years in creating vast greenfields development zones situated in public transport black holes, thereby locking their residents perpetually into inequitable, antisocial and unhealthy transport options largely confined to car dependency.

The Regional Rail Link project remains little understood and unheralded by most Melburnians, but I maintain it is the single most important infrastructure project that a Victorian government has undertaken in my lifetime. It is unquestionably John Brumby's greatest legacy. In years to come Melbourne will realise that this project has nothing to do with V/Line, because it's eventually going to be incorporated into the metro rail system, and it creates the opportunity to plan vast new greenfields residential sites around heavy rail.

As one also suspects that sticking to the original, more ambitious Metro rail project while canning the East-West Link will come to be seen as Daniel Andrews' eternal gift to Melbourne. In time I hope this decision will come to be seen as the first significant move by any Victorian politician to effect a recalibration towards mass transit investment which in turn set Melbourne up to become one of the great, if not the eminent industrial and social fulcrums of the Asia-pacific region.

The government also deserves credit for placing the project in the context of the possibilities to enable fast rail to Geelong. So we're seeing something of project's aims being lifted towards the horizon in two key dimensions - better enabling a public transport-oriented future for the West, and advancing the decentralisation agenda by rendering Geelong a viable commuter city to Melbourne.

I intend today to dwell today mostly in the former dimension as to a large extent the big questions around fast rail are all technical-boring ones regarding how to do it. My main agendas are seeing the line divert via Avalon, and at what point are we going to electrify the regional rail link anyway?

And I have two broad based pleas for the government to insist upon being part of the project if we are to have at least the benefits column of Turnbull's vanity project maximised.

1. Let's Electrify the ENTIRE Albion Rail Corridor Through to Jacana/Craigieburn

The below illustration shows the state government's approximate preferred route for airport rail as the leftmost orange track. Green is the Urban Growth Boundary, light blue is the existing tram network and dark blue heavy rail.

My proposal is to also electrify the entire remainder of the Albion freight corridor to where it reconnects with the Craigieburn line at Jacana (the right hand orange spur).

The point of this is to allow for services running Broadmeadows-Footscray (or potentially further), leaving the airport link free to run express past all but two of my new commuter stations I'm suggesting below. We've then plugged one of the largest heavy rail blackspots in Melbourne, created viable local heavy rail transit options into several existing and potential employment centres, and furthered the goal of de-radialising the network.

Furthermore the entire northwest has indirect heavy rail access to the airport. And this is as much about acknowledging that the airport is actually one of the few existing concentrated employment zones outside Melbourne's CBD as it is travellers.

Their journey would necessitate one change at the new Keilor Park station (more below) to connect with the airport rail link proper, but Melbourne folk are only unused to interchange travel because of the existing radial nature of the network.

The point of this full electrification is really about giving people in the northwest a viable heavy rail transport option to local employment centres, while also facilitating the growth of those centres.

2. Let's Build FIVE New Commuter Stations

I can already hear the armchair experts slingshotting out of their recliners. "Don't be a fool, you know every new station adds a huge amount of time to the journey, and we need to be competitive with road."

Well, bulldust. The main benefit of airport rail to commuters is RELIABILITY. So long as we can tell people exactly what time they will be at the Tullamarine terminus, they will plan their journey accordingly. They will not do a mental calculation on exactly how long a hypothetical road journey might take.

Regardless, as per above, we will only catering to two of the new stations on the actual airport rail link.

So, my proposed airport rail would have stops at the CBD obviously and travel via the Metro Tunnel to stop Footscray, Sunshine then three new stations - Keilor Park, Airport West and Tullamarine Airport, which would provide for a reliable service that is time-competitive with road and which delivers maximal integration with the existing commuter network.

The picture is completed with new stations at Sunshine North, Keilor East and Gowanbrae, all servicing either existing employment centres or greenfields residential, approximately in the locations set out below.

Future Proofing the West

You will also note the above diagrams include the sometimes mooted extension of the 59 tram line to the airport. It's really an afterthought, but I was interested in seeing what the airport's potential public transport catchment looked like with that added. I think it's fair to say this would not be used by travellers, this is purely to create a maximally public transport enabled employment centre whose effective catchment would now reach all the way down to Essendon.

I intend to spend more time breaking down some of the more recent journey to work data to gain some idea what percentage of Tullamarine airport and related facility employees, live within this catchment, and ideally that data would inform the decision of whether the tram connection was worthwhile.

And to ice this cake properly, if we scale back a little and look at a similar treatment for the inevitable Upfield Line extension (which already exists as unelectrified single track, shown in red below), and further back still to incorporate the Regional Rail Link (royal blue), with its potential for well planned and managed greenfields public transport oriented development, then the risen creation looks something like the image below.

Now, that starts to look more like my definition of a NETWORK - a decentralised lattice of interconnected nodes. And if we accept the other great wombat thesis that a radically decentralised rail network is necessary to secure Melbourne's future, the city's west suddenly looks full of potential for building great, sustainable communities with easy rail access to decentralised job centres.

Transforming Melbourne at Scale

And if we were to scale back even further, and if readers will allow me to bleat once more  about the transformative potential for Melbourne of one or more outer suburban orbital tunnel/s (see HERE for the detail of THAT complete scheme), then ultimately I would suggest this entire project be considered but stage one in a much grander scheme linking all the major current and potential northern suburbs employment locations with heavy rail that operates radially IN to them as destinations in their own right.

Now, that to me looks properly transformative. And we are at the point where we need change on that scale for the sake of Melbourne's future. The current process of incrementalism is really just locking in the car culture by fiddling with small capacity improvements for rail while roads soak up the majority of the available resources. But one of those resources - space - is very finite, and we are surely approaching the point where we are physically unable to cater to much more incrementalism.

Let's make Turnbull's airport rail boondoggle the beginnings of Melbourne's quantum leap into a 20 minute city that actually exists outside the usual rhetoric.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

MVHA: Protecting Significant Mid-century Modernism in Moonee Valley

Moving to Protect Moonee Valley's Modernist Heritage

We're extremely pleased that Moonee Valley City Council has recently moved to commence a new study of post-war heritage properties across the borough. Council deserves real credit for this - it certainly places them in the vanguard of Australian local government in protecting its inventory of significant modernist and other major post-war building styles. Provided the process is properly seen through to conclusion.

This exercise has proven particularly fraught elsewhere - Bayside Council in Melbourne's Southeast sits on arguably one of the largest and most significant inventories of mid-century modernist residential buildings in Australia, and the heritage community was looking forward to the conclusion of their recent study extending protection to a number of buildings that are notable not merely on a local basis, but certainly on a national, and even arguably (given the preeminence of a number of prominent Australian architects within the international mid-century modernist movement) international scale.

2-3 Oriana Ct, Flemington
On the left is a genuine and apparently in tact Lend Lease Sundowner (an Aussie modernist classic), paired with a 1963 effort from Brine Wierzbowski & Associates

Unfortunately the response from affected property owners in Bayside was particularly ignorant and particularly shrill. To such an extent that Council staff appear to have been placed under severe political pressure by Councillors to turf out the entire basis on which heritage listing is supposed to be applied in Victoria. 

Bayside Councillors have shamefully and immorally voted to ABANDON the heritage study, and instead sought to implement a scheme whereby property owners may voluntarily nominate their properties for heritage listing, which of course none of them will, and which will result in no protections being applied to a number of highly significant buildings. Read more about the issue HERE.

The Sporting Globe Bar and Grill, Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds
We don't know much about the history of this building, but it's clearly late modernist, with a splash of 'Route 66'
We look forward to learning more in the study, it's the most significant retail building we've identified for nomination.

This is of course not the methodology that is supposed to be mandated by the planning process in Victoria, and it follows a similar debacle at the City of Boorondara.

In fact these schemes undermine the entire basis of heritage protection everywhere, and we call again on the Planning Minister to now take the initiative and seek to implement a regime that MANDATES what heritage studies need to have performed, and which mandates a methodology that ensures heritage protection must be applied to a significant property no matter how loud the owner screams.

39 Nicholson St, Essendon
A fascinating two storey brick veneer residence with unusual casement windows
(possibly inter-war)

What's in a Listing?

The idea that heritage listing negatively affects the value of a property is not, in fact, borne out in reality. Most listed properties sell at a premium, with the certainty and the certification offered by the heritage listing most usually a key driver of the outcome, and this has been borne out in numerous studies (pdf link).

Nonetheless, we can expect another round of "what, you can't list this old piece of garbage!" from property owners at the conclusion of Moonee Valley's pending study, and activists and Council need to be ready for all this in advance. Council will need to stick to its guns having commissioned this study or risk undermining its own credibility and legislated authority. It is very specifically Council's duty to apply protection to all the significant heritage properties under its remit, and that duty neither begins nor ends at any specified date.

This survey already comes sadly too late for at least one recognised property of note. The property at 14 Brewster St, Essendon was a brutalist building known as the 'Richardson House', designed by Graeme Gunn for L. H. Richardson in 1962 (and many thanks to our friends at the Mid Century Domestic Architecture in Australia Facebook Page for their support in compiling much of this data). The building won the Victorian Architecture Medal in 1966, but we all know that brutalism can be a difficult style for many to love. Unfortunately a quick check for this building on Google Earth today reveals the following image 😞

How You Can Contribute

Council is presently seeking input into the study, and have asked for YOUR nominations of any properties to include. Unfortunately they have muddied the waters a little by specifically calling for nominations of typologies that would usually be regarded as "inter-war" rather than post-war - Old English and Spanish Mission Revival being prominent amongst them, and these are two typologies that Moonee Valley is particularly strong in.

Therefore we urge readers not to be too worried about the actual dates of any of the sites you nominate, if you're in any doubt and you're definitely looking at a modernist building - INCLUDE IT, there are professionals who are paid good money to sort this stuff out and this is exactly what they are there for. More importantly, there is also an inter-war study happening in the background that was commissioned a few years ago, and we have been assured by Council that anything that's nominated here but is technically too early will go in to that study.


NB, you won't find all the houses listed here on the actual map, as it was broken for some weeks, so we've submitted a number of properties manually. See the end of this blog post for a complete list of the "missing" properties.

11 Inglebrae Court Essendon
'D.S. Series' Project Home. Designed by Cocks & Carmichael for Design 70 Pty Ltd circa 1968.

Moonee Valley Council Has a LOT More Work to Do

The other point is that in wandering around the suburbs for this study, it's become painfully obvious to MVHA that there are MASSIVE tracts of the borough that are choc full of obviously notable heritage buildings that are all completely unprotected. Entire streetscapes on of in tact period homes that the community would expect they should never lose are all completely without any sort of heritage overlay protecting them, and they are under threat from inappropriate development as we speak.

We had hoped that Council's "gap studies" approach, of which this study is the latest iteration, would be enough to ensure protection of all the necessary buildings. It's now painfully obvious that it won't, and our job moving forward will be to campaign for huge tracts of Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale, Essendon and even Flemington to have in some cases some very large precinct overlays applied to them. More on this in our next blog post, and probably ad nauseum for years to follow.

 39 Brewster Street, Essendon
Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock (c.1959)

 Post-war & Mid-Century Modernism - Some of Our Favourites

We thought we'd close by including a selection of some of the places we've already nominated (nb the map was broken for some time, so we've supplied most of these to Council directly) that may help inspire you to do likewise for your favourite places in your own neighbourhood. If you have any questions about any of this, please contact us directly -
But please hurry - nominations close on June 16.

12 Nicholson St, Essendon

46-48 Warrick St, Ascot Vale
This is a really bad photo, this double storey duplex (probably architect designed) is one of the finest and grandest examples of the type you will find anywhere. Better without solar ...

39 Lucknow St, Ascot Vale

Properties submitted by Moonee Valley Heritage Action not shown on Council's interactive map 
(again with thanks to Steven Coverdale and the good folks at his Mid-century Domestic Architecture in Australia Facebook Group - you can join up via that link - for their assistance in crowdsourcing many of the details here)

The Modernist Australia website is also a treasure trove that any lover of the style should also be familiar with.
3 Oriana Court Flemington
Lend Lease Sundowner

2 Oriana Court Flemington
House designed by Brine Wierzbowski & Assoc. in 1963

14 Brewster Street Essendon
'Richardson House' - DEMOLISHED

21 Brewster St, Essendon
designed by Clarke Hopkins & Clarke, 1965

31 Brewster St, Essendon
Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock (c.1959)

17 Albion St, Essendon

41 - 43 Nimmo Street, Essendon VIC
(Already identified in MV Thematic Places Heritage Study, 2012-13)

11 Inglebrae Court Essendon VIC
'D.S. Series' -Project Home
Designed by Cocks & Carmichael for Design 70 Pty Ltd circa 1968.

53 Willonga Street, Strathmore
Albert Ross, 1963

43 Woolart Street, Stathmore
Ian Napier, 1966

1 Noble Avenue Strathmore
Doesn't look like much from the street, but pretty sure that it's by the legendary Ernest Fooks, built in 1951, so one of his earliest

31 Wickham Grove Strathmore VIC
'Abbey House' - Designed by Earle & Bunbury for William Abbey circa 1958

31 Wickham Grove Strathmore
33 Bournian Avenue Strathmore
Former Angus Abbey house, Earle and Bunbury 1958 - 61 with stage 2 designed by Reg Curtis 1968

269 Napier St (Corner Henshall Road) Strathmore
Macfarlane & Martin, ca 1961

18 Watson Rise, Keilor
Designed by Tom Paciocco, 1990 (POSTMODERN)

44 Horseshoe Bend Road &
15 Barwon Avenue Keilor
'Gallery' - Project Homes
Designed by Sergei Halafoff of Chancellor & Patrick Architects for Inge Bros. Pty Lty circa 1968
This house design was a winning entrant in the 1968 RAIA Competition

18 Borrell Street, Keilor
18 Borrell Street Keilor
'V375' - Service Plan
Designed by Jack Clarke of Clarke Hopkins Clarke for The Age RVIA Small Homes Service circa 1962

22 Garden Avenue Keilor
'Glen 5' - Project Home
Designed by John Chamberlin for Glenvill Homes circa 1969.

6 Patrick Court Airport West
'Farmhouse Prototype' - Project Home
Designed by Chancellor & Patrick Architects for Vindin Suares circa 1968.