Debating Regional Transport Proposals (2001+)

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Introduction The original purpose of this document was to make publicly accessible some ideas about the relationship between a sub-arterial road reserve through Kenmore and transportation planning for Brisbane's western suburbs generally. However its scope expaned considerably.

Key themes that are explored in this document include:

  • Brisbane's history of unsatisfactory transport planning - which included preservation of a narrow reserve suitable for a sub-arterial feeder route through Kenmore;
  • pressure for relief of traffic congestion on Moggill Road which led to investigation of the development of a Kenmore bypass;
  • the broad regional transport implications of such a project given: (a) its impact on the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway (which is already overloaded and likely to be massively further congested by future urban growth); and (b) the unpublicised preservation of a potential continuation of the 'bypass' (the Moggill Pocket 'Sub-arterial' which would potentially divert north and east bound traffic from the Warrego Highway through Brisbane's western suburbs;
  • the highly uncertain context for transport planning in Brisbane generally in terms of (a) clear defects in the proposals to complete Brisbane's freeway network which would be vital for projects in the western suburbs to make sense; (b) fragmentation in transport planning machinery; and (c) uncertainty about the future character of Brisbane's transport system and urban form - especially in context of the global 'peak oil' event that seems likely to escalate fuel prices in the next few years.

Genesis

This started very modestly in the form of comments in 2001 on:

  • why that sub-arterial road reserve seemed no longer of potential value in reducing traffic congestion - in the context of a proposal for a Brisbane West Trail which would at least make some constructive use of that public asset;
  • the poor arrangements for developing regional transportation which then existed.

Since then, the Brisbane City Council has incorporated (and gone far beyond) the present writer's Brisbane West Trail proposal in envisaging a city-wide system of Greenways as part of its CityShape planning.

Growing Complexity

However the issue has since become hugely complex as a result of community concerns about transport difficulties in the western suburbs. In particular:

  • the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce stimulated debate about what was required for a solution (see below), and was given an account of the complexity of the issue (ie of the broader regional context and the need to consider a diversity of responses) by a Main Roads Department representative in 2006;
  • the State Government commissioned the development of integrated plans for transport (see Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation - WBTNI);
  • Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA (Member for Moggill) has argued that the development of the road reserve could end traffic congestion on Moggill Road [1, 2, 3], and obtained agreement from the Main Roads Minister for detailed study of, and community consultation about, that option [1]
  • the state government has requested comments on various transport options as a result of an interim WBTNI report;
  • the state government has advised of an intention to produce a comprehensive new regional transport plan for SE Queensland generally.

Contributions to the Evolving Debate

This document includes further ideas in relation to this evolving debate in reverse date order. Noteworthy information included as well as that outlined above is:

  • the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce's evolving assessment of the transport problem in 2006 [1, 2, 3], and some suggestions to the Chamber about this matter [1, 2, 3];
  • why diverting Moggill Road onto the Western Freeway is probably neither the best, nor even a reliable, way to reduce traffic congestion in the Kenmore area [1, 2, 3, 4]. The latter also suggest that no one can express an adequately informed view about the effectiveness of such a proposal without a regional transport network analysis - as congestion on adjacent major highways both contributes to traffic through the area and and limits the effectiveness of simple 'solutions'. Another document argues that local lobby groups in Brisbane's western suburbs opposed to the Brisbane west bypass option need to take a broader view of what is a regional transport challenge;
  • suggestions about solving the problem of traffic congestion on Moggill Road [1], and Dr Bruce Flegg's comments on them [1]
  • submissions to the WBTNI about:
    • terms of reference for its investigation;
    • issues that should be considered;
    • the possibility that the 'peak oil' issue may need higher priority than it seems to be being given (because of the increasing mainstream oil industry acceptance of the risk and the major changes to current land use and transport practices that it might require);
    • the need to (a) evaluate an alternative urban development scenario that might arise in a 'peak oil' environment and (b) publicly reveal the logic of the state government's April 2008 decision to rule out outer-suburban Brisbane west bypass options;
    • the need for more technical information to be made publicly available;
    • the inadequacy of WBTNI's suggested transport options (based on super-expensive freeways) in resolving Brisbane's traffic congestion - with WBTNI's response and follow up comments refining suggested deficiencies in the framework being adopted for Brisbane's future transport systems;
    • the inability of citizens adjacent to the Option 17 route (the Moggill Pocket sub-arterial) to have anticipated in purchasing properties that a major arterial road might affect them;
  • a response by Save our Suburbs (SOS) - Kenmore to proposals emerging from preliminary WBTNI work to consider development in the long term of the (so called) Moggill Pocket sub-arterial route;
  • submissions  to MRD about:
    • issues to consider in a planning study of the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass option (ie that the city-wide strategy of which Option 17 is part, and of which the bypass would in turn be a part, seems unlikely to be viable);
    • further efforts to analyse that city-wide strategy which suggested that it would not enable the necessary upgrading of the Western Freeway that by a Kenmore bypass and Option 17 would require;
  • comments on methods apparently being used to develop solutions to Brisbane's traffic congestion, in particular: failure to resolve strategic questions before encouraging debate on specific transport links; and apparent serious deficiencies in overall framework envisaged for reducing Brisbane's traffic congestion.
  • a submission to Dr Bruce Flegg MP that there are deficiencies in the overall framework within which public comments on particular transport options are being sought, and that addressing these questions (eg through Parliament) is needed urgently. A follow-up submission highlighted the inadequacy of reliance on buses for public transport in the absence of a well developed road network, and suggested that this also raised issues that needed Parliamentary debate,
  • submissions to the Save our Kenmore group concerning:
  • comments to the team undertaking a social impact assessment of the Kenmore Bypass option which highlighted the largely academic nature of that effort because of defects in the overall transport planning process;
  • suggestions to journalists [1, 2, 3, 4] about fundamental defects in government infrastructure priorities in SE Queensland - because huge amounts of taxpayer funds are being invested in freeway / road systems that (a) may never be completed satisfactorily and (b) appear incompatible with future needs. Specific comments are included on issues that appear to cause concern in relation to proposal to proceed with development Northern Link Tunnel [1];
  • reference to emerging evidence of declining vehicle traffic in Brisbane (presumably a reaction to very high petrol prices) which suggests that traffic congestion is likely to ease itself with much less than the currently-envisaged level of road investment;
  • reference to the 'peak oil' challenge in terms of:
    • the likely need to consider the implications of 'peak oil' for transport planning in Brisbane's western suburbs - including: (a) APSO's view of the increasing urgency of this issue; and (b) general notes on the 'peak oil' issue (ongoing);
    • suggestion to WBTNI about the need to develop alternate urban scenarios in view of this challenge; the apparent mistake in its terms of reference in assuming that 'peak oil' will not significantly affect transport; and some international views of alternative fuel options;
    • apparent inadequacy of WBTNI's scenarios in relation to 'peak oil' issue - and the subsequent recognition of the issue as a significant influence on the strategy that ultimately emerged;;
    • why it is inappropriate to define specific infrastructure elements in SEQ while broad strategic issues which might change the overall system (eg those resulting from the 'peak oil' event) remain unresolved;
    • the probability that some of the state government's planned spending of $bns on SEQ infrastructure may be misdirected;
    • suggestions about the benefits of public involvement in state government efforts to address the peak oil issue both generally and in relation to transport;  
    • the need to re-assess land use patterns in the region because of peak oil concerns (with comments on the debate about likely future fuel costs), and suggestions why urban consolidation (ie high density infill development) is probably essential in SE Queensland despite community lifestyle preferences for large backyards; ;
    • suggestions about methods for managing the diverse commercial and public policy implications in view of growing indications of its imminence;
    • a detailed technical submission that has been made by ASPO in relation to peak oil's implications for transport planning in SEQ;
    • the attitude of the Brisbane City Council's Chairman of Infrastructure;
    • the implications of proposals to build new ex-urban cities in SE Queensland,
  • suggestions to Queensland Transport about the need for public awareness and participation in their 'Connecting SEQ 2031' project through which they (together with DMR) hope to develop an integrated regional transport plan for SE Queensland. A related note pointed out that most important question for any 'environmental assessment' of the so called 'Kenmore Bypass' (which would potentially be a link in a regional freeway system) would be whether it made sense in a future regional transport context;
  • comments on suggestions from Centre for Transport Strategy about the effect of oil prices increases on urban development in SE Queensland;
  • comments on the Western Brisbane Transport Strategy that emerged from the WBTNI;
  • comments to the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) concerning their 'preferred planning option' for a Kenmore Bypass, and to a local observer on the uncertainty about whether that option (ie to to divert a great deal of Moggill Road traffic onto the Centenary Highway) would reduce or increase traffic congestion;
  • suggestions that the political decisions to rule out congestion charges is likely to have the effect of making it impossible to overcome traffic congestion problems in SE Queensland;
  • suggestions that the losses frequently being incurred by investors in tunnel freeways required fundamental review of the way in which infrastructure is planned and developed, rather than simply regulatory and pricing changes that might simply make dubious projects profitable for private investors;
  • others' suggestions including:
    • the potential of a major road through the Western suburbs to take traffic off, and thus reduce congestion on, the Centenary Highway [1];
    • potential value of a rail line and improving traffic arrangements at schools [1]

From February 2008

More Western Suburbs Transport Nonsense?

+ Resulting Interchange with Michael Roth, RACQ (A Possible Solution to Transport Nonsense?)

More Western Suburbs Transport Nonsense? - email sent 21/6/13

Tony Moore

Re: ‘UQ holds key to Kenmore bypass’, Brisbane Times, 19/6/13

Your article referred to suggestions by a Kenmore MP, Dr Bruce Flegg, and by the RACQ about reducing western suburbs traffic problems by building the ‘Kenmore Bypass’ and / or various types of bridges between Bellbowrie and Riverhills. This suggests that nothing has been learned from futile past efforts to solve such problems by speculating about local projects in the absence of a serious analysis of transport systems as a whole.

The Kenmore bypass option was studied as a result of political pressure a few years ago. Several million dollars were wasted on defining engineering and environmental aspects of a possible project, without apparently considering whether it made any sense from a subregional transport perspective – though it seemed very likely that it would not (see Kenmore Bypass: Easing or Increasing and Western Suburbs Congestion?).

A subsequent Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy recognised some of these difficulties (eg the adverse effect of diverting Moggill Road traffic onto an already and increasingly congested Centenary Highway) and pointed to new directions for future transport planning which would seek to reduce, rather than merely trying to keep up with, increasing traffic congestion.

There are undoubtedly ways to reduce traffic problems in Brisbane’s western suburbs – but realistic options can only be found by a study of regional transport systems as a whole (and by considering alternatives to ever-increasing traffic volumes) rather than by speculations about possible local projects in isolation.

Regards

John Craig


Response from Michael Roth, Executive Manager Public Policy, RACQ (21/6/13)

Yes, some stories arise because of a specific idea or opportunity and the community engages more on a project that impacts them directly, rather than long term policy or planning, but the ideas we are discussing are based on long term planning outputs, particularly the West Brisbane Transport Network Investigation.

The Kenmore Bypass does make sense, along with an upgrade of the Centenary Highway to 6 lanes as the major north-south route on the west of Brisbane. The Kenmore bypass would improve safety and relieve congestion on the eastern part of Moggill Rd and through the Kenmore and inner west urban area. The Bellbowrie to Riverhills bridge is a smaller project that would reduce vehicle kilometres travelled and link neighbouring communities that are severed by a river with no crossings for a very long length.

What doesn’t make sense is to have an infrastructure policy dependent on zero population growth without implementing the planning controls to deliver on the necessary constraint. Another thing that doesn’t make sense is to ignore the community’s expressed desire and focus instead on a public transport only principle despite a long history showing this does not deliver economic, social or environmental benefits.

At RACQ we support all modes and welcome pedestrians, cyclists and buses to also use the proposed bridge.


Reply to Michael Roth, 21/6/13

Thanks for that feedback – which I would really like to reproduce on my website together with a copy of my earlier email if you have no objection.

However I suspect that the issue is somewhat more complex for both Brisbane as a whole and for the western suburbs in particular.

Brisbane generally simply has to find ways to deliver transport solutions that don’t depend so much on major freeways, because (for example):

  • As transport engineers and urban planners have long recognised, freeways generate increased traffic and new congestion – because of their effect on urban development patterns. Thus they recreate the very problems that they were built, at great cost, to reduce;
  • decisions have been made on environmental grounds to limit capital cities in Australia to particular ‘urban footprints’. And that those decisions have to be respected because globally and even in Australia we are putting too much pressure on the environment (eg in relation to worsening access to good soils / clean water and loss of the habitats needed to maintain bio-diversity). We can no longer safely assume that the environment can take everything we throw at it. We have to adapt the way we live to reduce environmental pressure even though this is awkward;
  • one of the awkward consequences of the ‘urban footprints’ that are needed on environmental grounds is that traditional freeway solutions to urban transport problems are much less likely to be viable – because it is usually no longer possible to get access to cheap / greenfield rights-of-way for new freeways. Brisbane (like other major Australian cities) thus has a serious problem because freeway options tend to have become super-expensive while the city does not yet have urban densities that are high enough to sustain primarily mass-transport solutions. Some earlier thoughts on that problem were in Brisbane’s Transport Monster;
  • Financial constraints can no longer be ignored. Queensland and other governments in Australia have run into troubles funding government services and infrastructure (eg see Recovering from Queensland's Debt Binge). The latter indicates that much of Queensland’s budget problem arose from: (a) extraordinarily high rates of infrastructure investment; and (b) a willingness to ‘throw money at problems’ in the expectation that this would make them go away, rather than getting at the root of those problems. There are moreover good reasons to suspect that: (a) financial constraints are likely to get worse because of a worsening economic environment; and (b) that reliance on private investment via public private partnerships is not a solution (and NSW’s recent decision to abandon the PPP option for road development can be noted).

Brisbane’s transport solution probably has to involve something like a combination of: (a) changing public and political expectations; (b) densification – though this is going to take time and not be very popular; (c) congestion charging; (d) ongoing public transport development and innovation; (e) new transport technologies; (f) substituting telecommunications for transport; (g) local adjustments that enable a network of multiple roads to be more effective; (h) adoption of work and educational timetables that spread peak demand on transport infrastructure; and (i) development of viable subregional business and industrial centres to reduce the overall transport task.

Such strategic options need to be given more emphasis than trying to identify local options to perpetuate Brisbane’s extremely costly and probably unwise attempts to rely on completing / expanding freeway networks.

In relation to the western suburbs it may well be possible, as you suggested, to upgrade the Centenary Highway / Western Freeway to (say) 6 lanes to be the major NS route to the west of Brisbane. But it is very difficult to see how that route could be satisfactorily developed north from the Toowong roundabout – as the suggested tunnel option (WBTNI’s Option 3) would be very costly – and likely to be financially non-viable (as other tunnels that have been proposed / developed to fill perceived gaps in Brisbane’s freeway network have been).. And even if a way were found to make the Centenary Highway / Western Freeway into a major Brisbane-west bypass with an additional 2 more lanes, diverting Moggill Road traffic onto it for a few hundred metres at a cost of say $1bn would be highly disruptive. Re-developing Moggill Road as a separate significant route (for a cost of say $100-200m) would seem a far better way of dealing with the local problem.


Response from Michael Roth, RACQ (24/4/13)

You are welcome to post my emails on your website.

I have a sustainability perspective and agree with some of your points but I also support the need for some upgraded infrastructure links to cater for population growth and because travel on these links is more safe and efficient than on congested arterials with many intersections and vulnerable users.

Unfortunately project selection in Brisbane has not been very good over the last decade. Neither TransApex nor the busway program have been successes in a transport sense, although they have done a pretty good job on the PR considering. As you point out, a good western bypass is a long way off, but this doesn’t mean we should not build toward it. The Kenmore Bypass has a preserved corridor, so it is part of long term strategies and doesn’t require a lot of resumptions and/or a tunnel. As you say, if it is too expensive the government wont build it. The Bellbowrie to Riverhills bridge option does provide a relief valve.

The majority of public transport in SEQ utilises the road network for all or most of the trip. We do not propose any “car only” lanes.

A good source of info if you want to research pathways to sustainability for the transport sector is the Australian Low Carbon Transport Forum at www.csiro.au/ALCTF.


A Possible Solution to Transport Nonsense? - Reply to Michael Roth (25/6/13)

It has not just been over the past decade that ‘project selection in Brisbane has not been very good’. The situation has become visibly bad recently because: (a) politicians committed to spending huge amounts of money on infrastructure (presumably hoping thereby to catch up with backlogs); and (b) they had to rely on virtually unworkable machinery of government to plan and implement those investments.

Some thoughts that I put together about the long term institutional problems in developing Brisbane’s transport systems were in:

  •  2001 Comments on Kenmore Sub-Arterial Road Reserve – which, amongst other things, outlined the unsatisfactory history of transport planning in SE Queensland. [Those 2001 comments were produced because I had been advocating taking advantage of that very narrow road reserve as part of a western suburbs recreational walking / riding trail];
  •  Why Does Brisbane Have a Transport Problem? (2008) – which highlighted both the increased need for effective infrastructure development in SE Queensland (eg because of population growth) and the parallel deterioration of the machinery needed to provide it (eg because of federal fiscal imbalances, neglect in the 1980s, amateurish attempts at machinery of government reform in the 1990s, and the complexities added by private sector control of functions that are subject to serious market failures);
  •  Solving SE Queensland’s Transport Planning Woes (2009) – which commented on criticism of the transport system development process by the Auditor General. It suggested that the amateurism of the machinery established for developing infrastructure was paralleled by amateurish machinery for growth management in SE Queensland.

There is no doubt that, as you suggested, some programs that have been put in place to try to improve public transport have been more successful in terms of public relations, than in generating practical benefits. There is also no doubt that there is a need to upgrade Brisbane’s infrastructure to cope with a growing population.

The problem is that what needs to be done is anything but obvious. For example, in relation to transport systems development:

  •  Your reference to work on low carbon options is relevant. However there seems to be growing uncertainty about what is required in terms of de-carbonisation;
  •  A couple of years ago it was possible to ‘predict with reasonable certainty’ that a global peak oil event would require significant changes to past transport assumptions – because the cost of traditional fuels would escalate. However the development of fracking technologies has rendered this uncertain (though constraints remain due to environmental concerns and high decline rates, and the high costs of the fuels produced through these technologies will probably still lead to some of the same dislocating effects as ‘peak oil’);
  •  While freeways have some advantages over arterials, there are serious cost obstacles to developing urban freeways. The problem that I suggested in developing a Brisbane West bypass through a tunnel north from Toowong seems to be paralleled by similar concerns about freeway tunnels in Melbourne (see Davidson K , Why tunnel vision will cost all Victorians, big time, The Age, 24/6/13);
  •  Any serious attempt to develop systems that rely less on private motor vehicles in urban areas runs into problems (especially in Australia) related to the lack of serious alternatives to roads between cities;
  •  There may be international precedents that could usefully be considered in relation to alternative methods for transport system development (eg the ‘new mobilities’ approach to transport funding that was mentioned in Haworth L. ‘Smart transport policy takes a back seat’, Online Opinion, 21/6/13);
  •  Decisions about functions that are subject to serious market failures have to be made politically, yet this is hazardous where there are hidden agendas and conflicts of interest involved because private profits are at stake (see Crony Capitalism in Queensland);
  •  Costs of infrastructure / services can be very high, and resource constraints are increasingly severe. There is a need to allocate resources in in ways that: (a) work now; and (b) will still look sensible in 2050.

There is a need not only to deal with practical matters related to transport systems (eg running services and investing in infrastructure), but to take account of such ‘strategic’ questions.

It seems to me that better results might be achieved by a two level process. The first could involve collaborative networks of those involved in research related to urban / transport development whose members would be encouraged to publicly surface constructive insights related to the ‘strategic’ issues, while the second would involve arrangements that brought the many organisations preparing practical proposals for transport systems development together to develop responses which take account of both their practical constraints and the ‘sense of direction’ that emerges from the collaborate research efforts.

Unless something like this is done we will simply get more populist nonsense (ie political proposals for projects / services (like the ‘Kenmore Bypass’) that sound trendy, would consume huge amounts of taxpayer funds but not actually help much).

Does my ‘solution’ have any possible merit? If not can you think of a better alternative?


Response from Michael Roth, RACQ (25/4/13)

You raise a bunch of governance issues for which I don’t have a ready answer. I have been thinking of making a call for government to fund and publish peer reviews, including traffic and economic modelling, of all infrastructure proposals above a certain size. I expect this would put a lid on some of the more ridiculous traffic modelling assumptions and outputs that have justified bad projects of late. I would also like to see a mechanism of post-implementation reviews perhaps a year after opening to assess the project successes and learnings across planning, design, construction and operation. If we don’t learn, we keep making the same mistakes.

Unfortunately there are relatively few groups with public profile who are genuinely independent and sufficiently informed to assess the government on these matters. Most academics are muted as the universities don’t want to be critical of a funding body. I cant see that improving in the immediate future.


Reply to Michael Roth (25/6/13)

There certainly would be value in a more realistic approach to projects.

But there is a need to introduce more strategic awareness into the process whereby governments and others decide what sort of, as well as which, projects to invest in. This requires attention to the ‘governance’ questions – perhaps by the sorts of methods I speculated about. We won’t learn enough if we just improve performance at the project level.

There is no doubt that that at present there are few independent, competent groups who are willing and able to affect government. But they could be created, if potential participants in a strategic research network with diverse perspectives were: (a) invited to meet one another with a view to ongoing collaboration and information sharing about research that might have a bearing on practical urban and transport systems development; (b) a web-site were established on which participants’ contributions could be made accessible to others in the network, and also to the community and governments; (c) periodic events were arranged with the goal of identifying desirable directions for transport and urban development in SE Queensland (or elsewhere); and (d) government agencies and others involved in planning transport and urban development were invited to such events, with a subsequent session being convened by the Coordinator General to extract a consensus about the implications for practical planning from public agencies that participated. This would then create a channel through which awareness of desirable strategic options could be conveyed to the highest levels in government, so that if line agencies put forward compatible project options there would be a greater chance that their significance would be well understood in the cabinet and budget context.

Over the years participants in such a strategic research network would gain informal authority (because of the breadth and depth of knowledge they acquired) so that governments would have to take their ideas seriously both individually and collectively. Those from universities or research institutes would also find it easier to gain research funding.

 

 

Infrastructure Losses: The Tip of an Iceberg?

Infrastructure Losses: The Tip of an Iceberg? (email sent 1/9/10

Annabel Hepworth and Jared Owens
The Australian

Re: 'Tunnel losses put public-private infrastructure in danger', The Australian, 1/9/10

Your useful article drew attention to problems in current arrangements for involving private investors in infrastructure projects. However those problems seem likely to be only the tip of an iceberg.

My interpretation of your article: There could be a need to change the way in which infrastructure is funded because the Clem7 project: (a) incurred a huge loss and was written down by $1.56bn; (b) traffic volumes were still much below expectations despite a 50% cut in tolls; and the company might be unable to continue operating unless traffic volumes increased. Tunnel projects have lost $5.5bn across Australia. The way in which governments procure infrastructure needs to change, and governments should commit to a national infrastructure plan. Infrastructure Australia said that regulatory and pricing reforms were need for projects to be viable for private investment. Investors will lose money if bids are based on inflated traffic forecasts

Inflated traffic forecasts are not the only risks involved, for reasons suggested in Brisbane's Transportation Monster (May 2008). The latter, which was started on the basis of back-of-envelop estimates of financial requirements related to a number of projects, suggests that:

  • conflicts of interest arising from the way projects are developed appear to contribute to unrealistic traffic forecasts;
  • complex financial engineering (which has parallels with techniques that gave rise to the sub-prime crisis in the US) seems to be being used. Not only are some projects being committed on the basis of inflated forecasts, but tolls seem to be set to cover only a fraction of the project cost (with ongoing increases in debt levels for decades to fund distributions) in the hope that long term increases in traffic volumes and inflation will eventually allow project costs to be repaid;
  • the latter assumption (and the whole structures of future urban transport systems that are being assumed) could well be invalidated by the global 'peak oil' event. For example, official statistics already show a trend towards declining total traffic in Brisbane (in terms of vehicle kms travelled) though large ongoing increases are required to cover deferred construction costs.

Despite the fact that tunnel freeways seem to be both unaffordable and inconsistent with the type of transport systems that SE Queensland will require in the medium-long term, the state government has reportedly recently committed to the investigation of such an option as the basis for a 'Brisbane West Bypass' route under Brisbane's western suburbs (Gaynor M., 'Ring road round two', Courier Mail, 29/8/10) - a proposal that also seems questionable (see Another Illistration of these Problems: The Brisbane West Bypass).

Rather than regulatory and pricing reforms to make dubious projects viable for private investors, it seems highly desirable to review the whole process whereby infrastructure is planned and developed for reasons suggested in Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure (2002), Defects in Infrastructure Planning and Delivery in Queensland (2002), Infrastructure Constraints on Australia's Economy (2005) and Infrastructure Magic? (2008).

John Craig

Solving problems on Moggill Road: Not Just a Local Issue

Solving problems on Moggill Road: Not Just a Local Issue (Email sent 14/6/10)

Reshini Ratnam
c/- Westside News

Re: 'Snail's pace', Westside News, 2/6/10

I noted your report on public concern about the intense traffic congestion on Moggill Road (particularly near its intersection with Brookfield Road), and the state governments' delayed decision about the controversial Kenmore Bypass proposal.

In relation to this, I would like to suggest for your consideration that:

  • the 'Kenmore Bypass' proposal would not be a sensible way to try to reduce traffic congestion in the Western Suburbs - as:
    • it would simply divert Moggill Road traffic onto the already congested Centenary Motorway, which is likely to become ever more heavily congested anyway due to anticipated rapid urban growth to Brisbane's south-west;
    • existing traffic flows suggest that most (eg 70%) of Moggill Road traffic (if diverted onto the Centenary Highway) would seek to get back onto Moggill Road as soon as possible rather than continuing on the Western Freeway - and thus cause problems on both routes;
    • the right-of-way preserved for the Kenmore Bypass was only adequate for a minor local feeder road;
    • if developed, the Kenmore Bypass would attract additional Warrego Highway traffic to 'rat run' through the Western Suburbs - a phenomenon which is already likely to be a significant factor in problems on Moggill Road, and which (if escalated) would increase pressure for the development of a major freeway system through the Western Suburbs; and
    • infilling gaps in Brisbane's freeway network with tunnel freeways (without which the Western Freeway will soon be hopelessly congested due to lack of road capacity beyond Toowong) seems incompatible with the type of transport system that SE Queensland will need in future. A complete re-think of transport strategies for the region seems to be needed, rather than continuing to waste scarce resources on super-expensive tunnel-freeway projects;
  • the investigations of the Kenmore Bypass that have been done have largely been a waste of time, as the proposal was viewed as a local solution to a local traffic problem - whereas no solution could be developed except in a regional context;
  • the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI) resulted in proposals for a radically different approach to transport in Brisbane's Western Suburbs - one based on increasing emphasis on public transport and higher urban densities and a long term decline in private motor vehicle usage. Such a strategy is arguably necessary both to: (a) reduce the environmental costs of urban sprawl and (b) prepare for the escalation in fuel costs likely to accompany the global peak oil event. However it is anything but easy to put such a solution into practice - as the WBTNI recognised needs to be done in relation to problems on Moggill Road;
  • while I have no idea what proposals the state government might develop in relation to Moggill Road congestion, it is suggested that options such as the following might be most compatible with the region's long term needs:
    • local upgrading of Moggill Road in the Kenmore area (perhaps involving an inbound fly-over connection from the junction between Moggill and Kenmore Roads, and improvements to other intersections) so as maintain the integrity of Moggill Road as a route which is separate from the Centenary Highway;
    • serious efforts to provide improved public transport in the Western Suburbs - eg starting with reliable school bus systems - as traffic congestion significantly eases during school holidays; and
    • constraints on urban sprawl in the Western Suburbs, while encouraging higher density development.

The above points are developed further in Debating Regional Transport Proposals on my website.

John Craig

Clem7: An Example of the Need to Rethink Brisbane's Transport Strategies?

Clem7: An Example of the Need to Rethink Brisbane's Transport Strategies?
Email sent 12/6/10

Ursula Heger
Courier Mail

RE: 'Clem7 team knew of risks', Courier Mail, 12/6/10

I should like to suggest, in relation to your useful article, that tunnel freeways seem to be an unaffordable solution to traffic problems in Australian cities.

Your article noted that traffic volumes on several projects (eg Lane Cove and Cross City projects in Sydney as well as Cleam7 in Brisbane) are well below forecasts - so that the companies that own them are making losses. However the bigger problem is that:

  • promoters of tunnel projects can make short term profits from the fees earned through establishing them, even if the 'punters' who are persuaded to invest in them lose in the long term - and it has been suggested that promoters thus face a conflict of interest (ie to seek traffic forecasts that put their projects in a good light, rather than those that might be realistic);
  • freeway tunnels typically cost $500-750m / km, and thus require tolls of something like $1.5-2 / vehicle / km with 100,000 vehicles / day traffic volumes. [Don't take my word for it, do the math - its very simple]. This results in a requirement for very high tolls (eg for the Airport Link that is currently under construction in Brisbane an $18+ toll might be needed to cover costs given forecast traffic volumes of 61,000 vehicles / day);
  • the unaffordability of such projects seems to have been concealed by financial engineering, ie by proposing: (a) initial tolls that cover only a fraction (say 25%) of the capital cost; and (b) continuing to borrow for many years to cover interest payments in the expectation that growth in traffic volumes and inflation will eventually allow debts to be reduced;
  • these below-cost-initial-toll strategies can only be viable given long term growth in traffic volumes. However this seems unlikely to be achieved, because dramatic escalation in fuel prices is likely in future associated with the global peak oil event. In fact official surveys apparently show that total traffic in Brisbane (in terms of vehicle-kilometres travelled) has been declining since about 2003 (despite increases in the number of vehicles in the region) presumably because of increases in fuel prices that have already occurred.

These points are developed further in Brisbane's Transport Monster (especially in 'Airport Link: An Example of the Monster' and in briefer comments on the Brisbane West Bypass proposal and on the Clem7 Tunnel).

There is arguably a need to rethink transport strategies for Brisbane (and other major Australian cities), rather than continuing to sink billions of dollars into super-expensive freeway tunnels.

John Craig

Will Three New Cities Solve SE Queensland's Urban and Transport Challenges?

Will Three New Cities Solve SE Queensland's Urban and Transport Challenges?
Email sent 1/6/10

Craig Johnstone
Courier Mail

Re: 'Super size me', Courier Mail, 29-30/5/10

Your article was very useful in highlighting concerns about the Queensland Government's proposals for 3 new cities in SE Queensland. For example, it referred to the need: (a) to avoid building remote dormitory suburbs; and (b) to provide public transport from day one.

I should like to try to 'add value' to your concerns.

My interpretation of your article: Springfield is now a fast growing city - and the state government now wants to build three more. SE Queensland's rapid growth is forcing the state government to go outside bounds of normal policy to house 2m more residents over the next 20 years. Three new satellite cities are part of those plans. Ideas to help pay for this include charging people pay to drive home to such cities. Springfield's developer (Maha Sinnathamby) warned about building dormitory suburbs as in US where people travel long distances to work (which he sees as 'parasitic development'). However it seems easier to promote urban sprawl than high density development in Brisbane's leafy suburbs. Urban Land Development Authority is to take control of three large land parcels in Ripley Valley, Flagstone and Yarrabilba - with houses to be developed by 2012 (about 10 years earlier than expected). This differs from previous proposals to concentrate on high density living near established public transport hubs. But there will be no rail line to Springfield til 2015, and nothing but buses to proposed new cities til 2026. Thus these new cities imply increases in traffic into Brisbane. Brisbane mayor (Campbell Newman) noted the need for public transport options on day one. Logan mayor (Pam Parker) believes the planning process will effectively integrate government efforts. However the state government's infrastructure investment is set to fall from $18bn this year to about half in 2 years. Funding infrastructure with borrowing will hurt the state's credit rating, while private sector is concerned about poor outcomes from Clem7 tunnel. Tolling options for roads to new developments are to be investigated. Premier suggests that Queensland's new infrastructure plan will better align spending with population growth

Transport is a major problem in SE Queensland not only because of infrastructure backlogs and difficulties in financing sufficient infrastructure to keep pace with population growth, but also because the existing transport system (which is being enhanced and expanded at considerable cost) seems incompatible with what will be required in future (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster, May 2008).

The global peak oil event (which relates to all conventional liquid fuel sources) is likely to be followed by an escalation of fuel prices which will require significant changes in transport systems and land use patterns (presumably towards more self-contained urban centres and a reduced reliance on transport generally, as well as the development of alternative fuels). This event appears imminent - though experts disagree on precisely when it will occur. For example, the US Department of Defence recently suggested 2012-2015 as the likely start of major oil-supply difficulties. However, as most new oil prospects require deep water drilling and the current environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico casts doubt on the safety of such developments, the situation could be even more difficult than past analyses suggest.

While rhetoric about future patterns of development in SE Queensland has arguably been appropriate to adjusting to a post peak-oil world (ie involving higher density development clustered around mass transit) the reality has been quite different. Most investment has been in conventional property development and transport infrastructure (noting: (a) the lack of real progress with higher density development; and (b) very expensive extension and tunnelled-infilling of freeways). The State Governments latest proposal for three new ex-urban cities (see Three new model cities for SEQ, 26/5/10) is also not preparing SE Queensland for the future - as this would simply reinforce traditional patterns of urban sprawl mainly reliant on freeway systems.

In relation to the latter proposal it is also suggested for consideration that:

  • anyone buying into (what Maha Sinnathamby reportedly saw as) a US-style remote 'dormitory suburb' would be taking a huge risk. It is understood that it was in such centres that the collapse in US property values (which triggered the global financial crisis) started - because rising fuel prices had made such centres unattractive (see GFC Causes). Noting that Australia seems to have a property bubble driven by cheap imported capital, home-seekers would not seem wise to pay current prices for property that could well be left stranded in a post peak-oil world;
  • avoiding the development of primarily dormitory suburbs remote from existing major urban areas requires a serious focus on job creation, and there are no credible proposals for achieving this in the State Government's three proposed satellite cities. The focus of the Urban Land Development Authority is clearly only going to be 'land development', and there is nothing to suggest that existing institutions have any serious skills in economic development (see Queensland's Economic Strategy and Commentary on 'Smart State': Illustrating Queensland's Lack of Serious Public Policy);
  • methods for developing the competitiveness of an urban area in high value-added activities do exist - based on accelerating economic learning (noting that economists recognise knowledge as the primary factor in economic growth). How this might be achieved in practice was suggested in Developing a Regional Industry Cluster (2000). The use of such methods would be potentially profitable for land developers / owners, because the value of property increases with the income levels of resident households and businesses;
  • the optimal strategy for coping with rapid population growth would arguably involve using such methods to accelerate development at existing regional centres in Queensland - so as to reduce congestion in SE Queensland by creating population magnets elsewhere.

More generally I should like to suggest that the centralised 'planning' process for infrastructure which is apparently hoped to better align investment with population growth is most unlikely to achieve this goal. Central planning can't work for infrastructure functions any more than it can in the economy generally (eg in building shopping centres) - as this would merely separate decision making from those with the experience and information required to do so effectively. Defects in Queensland's machinery for planning and developing infrastructure certainly need to be reduced, but central planning is not a sensible way to try to achieve this. Solving SE Queensland's Transport Planning Woes? suggested alternatives.

Keep up the good work of drawing community attention to important public policy questions.

John Craig

Ruling Out Congestion Charges

Feeding Queenslander's Addiction to Traffic Congestion (Email sent 25/2/10)

Jessica Marszalek
AAP

Re: Brisbane congestion tax ruled out, brisbanetimes.com.au, 24/2/10

I noted with interest the apparent commitment of the Queensland Government and Opposition to ensuring that SE Queenslanders are not deprived of the pleasure they secretly gain from driving daily on heavily congested roads.

My interpretation of your article: In Connecting SEQ 2030, transport challenges facing the region (growth, congestion, overcrowding and emissions) were canvassed and a 30c / km congestion tax proposed. Opposition transport spokeswoman, Fiona Simpson, asked why plan assumed that car trip numbers would drop from 2.7m per day to 2.4m by 2031, if a congestion tax was not intended. The Transport Minister and Premier categorically ruled out a congestion charge.

It is interesting that, unlike Queensland's political leaders, the RACQ and Australian Automobile Association do apparently support a charge for driving on congested roads, on the grounds that it is as a better option than tolls on new road infrastructure (see RACQ Position on Road Infrastructure Funding and Traffic Congestion Management). The effect of congestion charges would be to:

  • directly reduce congestion, by encouraging many drivers to find alternative transport modes / travel times / places to live and work; and
  • provide a revenue source that would enable more new infrastructure to be built without tolls.

As the motoring associations have noted, tolls discourage drivers from using new transport infrastructure and encourage them to continue using congested roadways. Moreover Australia's experience seems to be that this effect is so great that investment in toll roads has typically been far less profitable than anticipated by investors - because traffic volumes do not meet forecasts. The motoring associations appear to conclude (reasonably) that congestion charges (which might do away with the need for tolls) would result in less wastage / under-usage of the massive investments that are made in new infrastructure.

This under-usage (and the resulting poor returns on the development of toll roads) is particularly significant given that:

  • very expensive toll road projects (such as Brisbane's Airport Link and Clem7 tunnel) seem to involve a financial 'black hole' - ie initial revenues that cover only a fraction of their capital costs with an expectation that the difference can be made up by complex financial engineering involving: (a) further borrowing for many years to cover distributions to investors; and (b) repayment of debts in the very long term, as a result of both inflation and growth in traffic volumes;
  • vehicle trips have actually been declining in SE Queensland and (as your article noted) the Connecting SEQ 2030 strategy (reasonably) projects that this trend will continue. If so, it unlikely that the 'black hole' in funding super-expensive toll roads will be filled. In relation to the decline in vehicle trips it can be noted that: (a) this is arguably explained by the significant increases that occurred in fuel prices; (b) the still-expected global 'peak oil' event is likely to increase driving costs far more and thus affect people's behaviour in terms of how they travel and where they live and work; and (c) in the Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy an apparently coherent and interesting proposal was advanced that would (hopefully) help cope with the impact of much higher fuel prices - because it involved an emphasis on dramatically upgrading public transport infrastructure as the best way to allow reduced motor vehicle usage.

It is uncertain how required transport infrastructure investments can be funded without a congestion charge - given the precarious financing of toll roads, and the constraints on state funding generally that were revealed in the 2009-10 budget.

Thus it is just as well the people living in SE Queensland secretly take pleasure in traffic congestion - as it is clear that there is no political interest in reducing it.

John Craig

'Peak Oil' Probably Demands Urban Consolidation

High rise development in SE Queensland: Is there really a choice?
(Email sent 13/1/10)

Mr David Gibson,
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Planning

Re: Fraser A., 'LNP attacks reliance on high-rise building', The Australian, 12/1/10

Might I respectfully suggest that peak oil considerations, which Queensland's community has not seriously started to consider, probably makes the state government's high-density urban plan unavoidable despite the community's urban sprawl preferences.

I noted your reported concern in the above article that the state government's plans for housing future population growth in SE Queensland involve a heavy reliance on high rise developments in existing urban areas, whereas most in the community aspire to live with a backyard so as to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. I also note, in support of your suggestion, that:

  • rising costs force new home buyers to locate further from the city centre, despite the government's urban consolidation goals (Ketchell M. 'Target $400,000', Courier Mail, 28-29/11/09, and Ketchell M 'Outer suburbs back in favour', Courier Mail, 2-3/1/10); and
  • both the Property Council and the Urban Development Institute have reportedly warned that high rise living is more for singles and childless couples, and most families with children want a house with a backyard. Also the Property Council (Steve Greenwood) and UDI (Brian Stewart) both argue that the state government is over-ambitious in expectations about higher density living (Fraser A., 'From Sunshine State to Sardine City ", The Australian, 13/1/10).

However no one seems to have publicly mentioned the 'peak oil' issue in this context despite the fact that this could be imminent, and likely to cause chaos across Australia both in respect of patterns of regional development and transport infrastructure. I note, for example, that:

  • the Queensland Infrastructure Minister (Hon Mr Stirling Witchcliffe, MP) defended the state government's urban consolidation targets - but did not 'go there' in suggesting why they might be necessary (Fraser 12/1/10, op cit); and
  • in developing a transport plan for Brisbane's western suburbs through the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation, the state government developed more-or-less plausible plans for responding to a 'peak oil' world (ie involving a massive increase in public / active transport and expectations about urban consolidation, so as to hopefully significantly reduce the need for private motor vehicles, urban sprawl and associated freeways) - see Comments on Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy. However in proposing such radical changes, the WBTNS did not 'go there' in giving clear reasons, and mentioned the 'peak oil' issue only in suggesting (implausibly) that a five fold increase in fuel costs would be unlikely to significantly affect transport systems. In the process, it created the basis for ongoing controversy (op cit).

While I am anything but an expert on the subject I note that:

  • the 'worst-case' 500% increase in fuel costs, whose impact on transport and location choices the WBTNS minimized, would increase increase typical household fuel costs from (say) 7% of AWOTE income to perhaps 33% - a shift that would undoubtedly affect people's behaviour;
  • in the oil price spike that emerged prior to the global financial crisis (GFC), high oil prices apparently had severe adverse effects on property values and social amenity in outlying suburbs - and some observers have suggested that this was the factor that triggered the decline in US property values in about 2005 which led to banking losses - when lending practices based on assumptions of perpetual housing price escalation collided with declining prices [1, 2, 3, 4] ;
  • analyses by the CSIRO apparently suggest that 'peak oil' will cause energy costs to be temporarily lifted from say $1+ per litre for petrol to something like (say) $8 per litre - but that when everything settles down after a decade or so and alternatives are in place energy costs will come down to $1+ per litre of petrol equivalent (see CSIRO's "Fuel for Thought" report which was publicised in "Peak oil: Petrol to Reach $8 a litre", Sydney Morning Herald, 11/7/08). However no one seems to be able to say what alternative energy sources would then be available on a large scale as cheaply as $1+ per litre of petrol equivalent;.
  • the debate amongst experts about the 'peak oil' event seems to be leading to the conclusion that it is likely to occur much closer to now than to (say) 2030 which had previously been the optimists preferred assumption (see diverse comments on the 'peak oil' challenge in Debating Regional Transport Proposals);
  • there is a possibility (though no certainty) of an imminent oil prices shock (and rapidly escalating fuel prices) because of: (a) the high cost of developing new oil fields as the global 'peak oil' event approaches; (b) the lack of recent investment due to the GFC; and (c) the rapid increase in 'real economy' activity that has been stimulated by governments in response to the GFC (see Crude Cover-up - which probably makes a valid point despite its sensationalist tone);
  • current planning for transport systems in SE Queensland may be invalid because of the presumption that this can be based largely on a continuation of past practices, as the 'peak oil' event may render past arrangements unsustainable (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster);
  • if transport systems need to be re-developed with a vastly greater emphasis on public transport (as the state government apparently intends as illustrated by its WBTNS) then a shift towards much higher density living is an unavoidable corollary - as only with higher densities can public transport systems and mass transit be economically viable.

I thus suggest that there may be a need to reconsider your arguments about future housing plans for SE Queensland. The problem may be the failure of our political leaders to alert the community to a major challenge to its assumptions about lifestyle options, rather than inappropriate state government plans for urban consolidation.

John Craig

Kenmore Bypass: Easing or Increasing Congestion?

Email sent 16/10/09

Anirban Banerjee
Harcourts Kenmore

Kenmore Bypass: Easing or Increasing and Western Suburbs Congestion?

I was interested in the suggestion in your October newsletter that the purpose of the Kenmore Bypass proposal was to ease congestion and traffic movement in the Kenmore-Moggill area.

While the the Department of Main Roads and Transport has spent a great deal on engineering and environmental studies for such a bypass, it seems that the regional traffic studies needed to show whether its construction would reduce or increase congestion and traffic movement have not been undertaken (or at least are not publicly available).

That the construction of a new road to divert Moggill Road traffic onto the Centenary Highway might result in significant further congestion is considered in Diverting Moggill Road onto the Centenary Highway: A Traffic Nightmare, while the probability that it might induce a great deal more 'rat running' through the Western suburbs by Warrego Highway traffic is explored in Comment on: Kenmore Bypass Planning Study.

John Craig

Comments on KBPS

Email sent 13/10/09  - [With several later additions]

Mr James W Spence,
Department of Transport and Main Roads

Comment on: Kenmore Bypass Planning Study- Project Update #8

Thank you for your email (reproduced below) about the 'preferred planning option' for a potential Kenmore Bypass that has been produced by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR), and reference to the Kenmore Bypass Planning Study (KBPS) on the Main Roads website.

I should like to submit for your consideration that:

  • the KBPS appears inadequate as it has dealt only with local technical / environmental implications of a project that would have significant regional implications (eg the 'rat-running' through the Western suburbs that puts pressure on Moggill Road, and has led to the preservation of the Moggill Pocket Arterial route for which the Kenmore Bypass would seem to be intended to be the first stage);
  • both the KBPS and the Moggill Pocket Arterial options are, in at least one key respect, incompatible with the the new transport philosophy embodied in the recently completed Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy, which has taken a forward-looking approach to the broader regional context (though some possible complementarities with the KBPS can be suggested);
  • given current huge pressure for, and constraints on, government infrastructure spending, it is critical to ensure that money is not wasted on options that do not make long term sense (and this defect appears to apply to both the Kenmore Bypass and Moggill Pocket Arterial options).

These comments are presented in more detail below.

John Craig


DETAILED COMMENTS

The KBPS 'planning' process seems to have dealt only with local technical / environmental aspects of a proposal that seems unlikely to make sense from a regional viewpoint - a defect to which I drew attention in an email that I copied to the Kenmore Bypass Study group. ('Selling a Lemon: The Kenmore Bypass', 7/11/08).

The potential Kenmore Bypass clearly has regional transport implications that have not apparently been considered (or, if they have been considered by DTMR, they have not been public disclosed). Its regional impact is not limited to the adverse effect on the Centenary Highway that was mentioned by the KBPS.

Regional 'rat running' (ie by Warrego Highway traffic seeking to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road) must be a significant factor in the congestion that has plagued Moggill Road and given rise to pressure for a Bypass to 'solve' the problem. Though no data about this has apparently been disclosed, its significance can be deduced from the preservation by Main Roads of the Moggill Pocket Arterial route which would allow the 'Kenmore Bypass' to be the first stage of an arterial connection to the Warrego Highway. Moreover, constructing the Bypass would presumably encourage an increase in such 'rat running' through the western suburbs, and thus make the development of the remainder of the Moggill Pocket Arterial seem essential.

It is noteworthy that the Bypass proposal was not endorsed by a recent state-government-sponsored investigation which did consider regional transport issues, ie the Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy (WBTNS). The latter (on which comments appear on my web-site) seemed to be a far more forward-looking exercise. My interpretation of the relationship between those studies is that:

  • the WBTNS stated that Main Roads is to find a solution to congestion problems on Moggill Road at Kenmore (WBTNS, p14) without suggesting what that solution might be. However;
  • the WBTNS's proposal for enhanced bus-way and veloway developments along Moggill Road would constrain its ability to carry other traffic, and this suggests that alternative road routes such as the Kenmore Bypass should be compared with options for upgrading Moggill Road itself. The KBPS notes that facilitating such developments on Moggill Road would be one advantage of a Kenmore Bypass. However;
  • the Kenmore Bypass / Moggill Pocket Arterial options seem inconsistent with the philosophy underpinning the regionally-focussed WBTNS. The latter reflects the likely future large increase in the relative cost of transport. By a strong emphasis on public transport and active transport (as well as changes to land use arrangements), the WBTNS apparently seeks to reduce (rather than merely cope with) future traffic levels (BOS - Figure 9.2). As noted above, the congestion that encourages interest in the Bypass (and would eventually require development of the rest of the Moggill Pocket Arterial) probably arises significantly from regional traffic 'rat-running' through the western suburbs. In future it is likely that the state government will have to expand the areas in which the new philosophy illustrated by the WBTNS is applied (as the effect of rapidly increasing transport costs won't be confined to Brisbane's western suburbs) - and this will affect the case for both the Bypass in the medium term and the Moggill Pocket Arterial in the longer term;
  • both studies acknowledged the adverse impact of the Kenmore Bypass / Moggill Pocket Arterial on the Centenary Highway (WBTNS: Basis of Strategy (BOS), p70). [Added later: An attempt to identify the nature of that impact is in Diverting Moggill Road onto the Centenary Highway: A Traffic Nightmare?/ It concludes that: (a) maintaining the integrity of an upgraded Moggill Road as a major route separate from the Centenary Highway / Western Freeway might well contribute most to reducing congestion; and (b) it was foolish to undertake detailed engineering and environmental studies for a Kenmore Bypass without (apparently) conducting serious regional traffic studies];
  • WBTNS suggested that the Moggill Pocket Arterial is not a relevant current development (basically because anything other than public transport does not achieve its core goal of reducing total regional traffic levels). None-the-less,
  • the WBTNS suggests that the Moggill Pocket Arterial route should be retained for the future, whilst also (inconsistently?) suggesting that it was wrong to consider the Bypass as Stage 1 of the Moggill Pocket Arterial (see BOS, p86). [Added later: The fact that the Main Roads' map of the Moggill Pocket Arterial includes the Kenmore Bypass route as part of the Arterial suggests how Main Roads has viewed this question]

Given current huge pressure for, and constraints on, government infrastructure spending, it is critical to ensure that money is not wasted on options that do not make long term sense. It is noted that:

  • in the medium term, options for eliminating congestion on Moggill Road by changes essentially along its existing route would probably be cheaper than developing the Kenmore Bypass as the four-lane route that would be required if it is to serve as Stage 1 of the Moggill Pocket Arterial in the long term (rather than as the two lane local-feeder road for which the route was originally preserved). Unfortunately, while the KBPS acknowledged the high cost of developing the Kenmore Bypass, details have not been publicly disclosed. Likewise DTMR has not revealed details or costs of local alternatives to the Kenmore Bypass that it has has presumably subjected to preliminary study (eg straightening of Moggill Road's route through central Kenmore in the medium term, and longer term investments to allow that route to also cope with both the bus-way and veloway options that the WBTNS suggests);
  • the case for both the Kenmore Bypass in the medium term and the Moggill Pocket Arterial in the long term will be affected:
    • [Added later: if congestion taxes are introduced as partial alternative to fuel taxes for transport funding as has been suggested [1].]
    • when / if the new philosophy that has been the basis of the WBTNS has to be applied to other regions - and such costly projects should not be committed if it is likely that they will be incompatible with future strategies for land use and transport in SE Queensland as a whole; and
  • while the WBTNS has considered the implications of substantially higher future transport costs, it unfortunately concluded (BOS,Table 7.2) that this would not significantly affect people's behaviour (eg in their choices of residential / industrial location and transport modes) - a conclusion that seems potentially unjustified.

Email from: James Spence
On Behalf Of
kenmorebypass@transportandmainroads.qld.gov.au 
Sent: Tuesday, 13 October 2009 9:19 AM

Subject: Kenmore Bypass Planning Study- Project Update #8 October 2009

Dear Kenmore Bypass Stakeholder Preferred Planning Option released

The Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) has finalised the preferred planning option for a potential Kenmore Bypass.

 The preferred planning option is a four-lane bypass (two lanes in each direction), linking Moggill Road and the Centenary Motorway.

Motorists travelling on the proposed bypass will link directly to Moggill Road to travel south, with a signalised T-intersection for those wishing to travel north on Moggill Road.

The bypass option includes connections to the Centenary Motorway, as well as a complete reconfiguration of the Centenary Motorway and Fig Tree Pocket interchange. Gem Road would also be reconfigured to pass under the bypass, connecting more directly to Sunset Road.

A shared off-road pedestrian and cyclist path would be provided along the entire bypass route with a connection to the Centenary Bikeway.

Please visit,
http://www.mainroads.qld.gov.au/Projects/A-Z-Search/K-M/Kenmore-Bypass-Planning-Study.aspx
(copy and paste this into your internet browser),
for more information about the preferred planning option.

Staffed and Fixed Displays [Details deleted]

Key outcomes

The Kenmore Bypass Planning Study is now complete and the key outcomes are:

  • a preferred bypass option that considered community feedback
  • confirmation that a Kenmore Bypass is technically and environmentally feasible

Where to from here

The Kenmore Bypass Planning Study is now finalised. The project team has reviewed the results from technical and environmental investigations and community feedback to develop the preferred option.

The planning study has confirmed a Kenmore Bypass is technically and environmentally feasible, and has also identified potential property requirements which will be used to help assess any future development applications in the area.

The next step is for the Government to assess the priority and affordability of the project.

Currently there is no decision or funding to build a Kenmore Bypass.

The department thanks the community for the input and feedback into the planning process, which has been invaluable in helping shape the preferred option.

For further information contact the project team on 1800 422 638 or email kenmorebypass@mainroads.qld.gov.au.

Regards Kenmore Bypass Planning Study team

 

Comments on WBTNS
 Comments on Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy

As as result of the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation a Strategy (WBTNS) was released by the Department of Transport in September 2009, together with a document detailing the basis of the strategy (BOS). An overview of the strategy was presented on the WBTNI website.

Key points emerging in the strategy were:

  • the goal was to create a coordinated approach to all types of transport and land use in one strategy - and to balance social / environmental / economic objectives;
  • the strategy covered rail, bus, active transport and road / freight;
  • key future challenges were perceived to include: population growth; public transport patronage; peak hour congestion; reducing freight forwarding; rising transport / fuel costs associated with 'peak oil' issue; and construction / maintenance costs;
  • balancing competing objectives (accessibility / economic development / sustainability) requires more than investing in roads, while investing only in public transport would not ensure region-wide accessibility / economic development / improved goods delivery / reduced freight costs;
  • the strategy seeks to: make better use of existing infrastructure; build on current infrastructure programs; and prioritize transport corridor space. For the future emphasis is placed on: affordable housing / smart design standards; market-driven employment in CBD and elsewhere; maximizing used of rail; and creation of Transit Oriented Development Centres

In relation to the WBTNS it is noted that:

  • the strategy as outlined reflects an apparently coherent and interesting perspective on future transport options for Western Brisbane - so (irrespective of whether its recommendations are followed exactly) the WBTNI, though it took longer than anticipated to complete, must be seen to have been a success in aiding a process of integrated infrastructure / urban planning and development;
  • the strategy involves a strong preference for increasing the role of public and active transport - and suggests that this would result in a large reduction in total vehicle km travelled on the network. This change is arguably necessary and appropriate for SE Queensland's future needs [eg 1, 2], but is likely to be controversial. For example:
  • in rationalizing that strategic approach the WBTNS highlighted the likelihood of much more costly transport in future eg because of 'peak oil' considerations, yet:
    • other influential local sources have implied to the present writer that 'peak oil' is not significant because: (a) the rate of decline in oil production following the oil peak is likely to be slow, offering scope for development of alternatives (see below); and (b) fuel prices are unlikely to exceed the equivalent of (say) $2 / litre for petrol, and the effect on transport will only be marginal [personal communication]. Moreover claims (reflecting yet unproven possibilities) are often made that new technologies could dramatically improve the energy equation;
    • while the WBTNS took account of peak oil as a risk factor, this was not explored in any depth. Moreover, though a sensitivity analysis of the effect of a 500% increase in fuel costs was undertaken, it was assumed that high fuel costs would would not have any effect on people's behaviour (BOS: Table 7.2). The latter seems unrealistic as behaviour would undoubtedly change if (say) household fuel costs increased 500% from $80 per week to $400 - as the latter would take 33% (rather than just 7%) out of AWOTE income ($1200 approx);
    • only a very small percentage of the community have any depth of understanding of the 'peak oil' issue or of its potential consequences - which, under some circumstances, might require very large adjustments in a state such as Queensland with its integrated economy and widely dispersed, low density population. Moreover, there is strong preference (on the grounds of affordability) for purchasing new dwellings on the sprawling urban fringes rather than much smaller units in the higher density locations necessary for strategy to be effective [1]
    • there remains a need for more authoritative work to resolve the effect of 'peak oil' on the future costs of motor vehicle transport relative to household incomes;
    • there is a particular need for public engagement in such efforts because of the relationship with complementary household / business investment decisions related to: (a) residential / industrial location; and (b) means of transport.
  • the WBTNS nominated a large number of potential investments - some of which would be extremely expensive (eg $10bn for the possible North South Motorway). However no estimates were provided of the costs of these initiatives, or of their budgetary impact;
  • attention to the budgetary impact is more than usually important given the very difficult budgetary outlook Queensland's faces. In order to make infrastructure programs such as those suggested by the WBTNS affordable, there is arguably a need to: improve the budget process [eg 1,2]; take economic strategy more seriously in terms of boosting economic productivity and thus the tax base [1, 2]; reform Australia's federal fiscal system to overcome problems resulting from fiscal imbalances; and emphasis professional competence (rather than unquestioning political compliance) within the Public Services;
  • the viability of the suggested tunnel freeway links in the road network seem uncertain, because: 
    • the WBTNS suggests that the Northern Link tunnel (for example) will substantially reduce traffic volumes on both Coronation Drive and Milton Road. However this will only be possible if large traffic volumes use that tunnel - and this seems uncertain given the proposed tolls (see below);
    • very large subsidies seem to be needed to keep tolls down to levels that are even marginally affordable (see below);
  • the RACQ's suggestions about using congestion charges within the transport network generally (rather than tolls on the facilities onto which it is hoped to attract more traffic)  would seem more logical as a mean to generate revenues from road users;
  • 'Veloways' are proposed as a potentially significant future transport option (effectively a 'freeway' for cyclists). This may be valid. However to create facilities that generate more than the trivial usage that currently seems to be attracted to major bikeways in Brisbane, much more attention seems also to be needed to the safe and convenient 'local' (as compared with cross-urban) usage of bicycles (ie for local school / work / recreation travel) in order to involve a much larger share of the population in using this mode.
  • the WBTNS implies a shift to transport and urban development arrangements which are different to the patterns that prevail elsewhere in Queensland - and, if the WBTNS reflects a realistic assessment of what will be required in future, this implies a need for huge and very expensive adjustments across the state as a whole. While clearly outside the scope of the WMTNS, this broader strategic challenge needs to be explored;
  • in particular this seems vital in relation to Brisbane's SW corridor in which the regional plan envisages concentrating a great deal of Brisbane's future growth because:
    • growth in that region will generate large travel demands through the area covered by the WBTNS (especially if the Brisbane Trade Coast area to Brisbane's NE really is an important location for future job creation);
    • transport infrastructure currently being implemented for the SW corridor region appears incompatible with the intent of the WBTNS (eg there is no clear commitment to continue the proposed Springfield rail line);
    • the adoption of a strategy favouring alternatives to, rather than catering for, ever-increasing traffic in Brisbane's western suburbs while the traditional strategy remains in place in rapid growth areas to Brisbane's SW and for inter-urban transport will create severe problems for the Centenary suburbs - because of the need this implies to massively upgrade the Centenary Highway in the absence of the bypass route to the west of suburban Brisbane that the WBTNI was originally expected to identify..

 

 

Email to Ursula Heger

Driving out congestion .... really? (Email sent 17/9/09)

Ursula Heger
Courier Mail

Re: 'Driving out congestion lane by lane', Courier Mail, 12-13/9/09

Your article (which appears to be based on claims by the Brisbane City Council) argued that building more roads will aid reducing congestion in SE Queensland. As in my earlier email (23/2/09), I should like to submit that this argument is probably nonsense. This is because (for reasons argued in more detail below):

  • 'adding lanes' has traditionally proven to be a futile way of reducing traffic congestion;
  • SE Queensland will almost certainly need to reduce reliance on roads as the core of its future transport system; and
  • the more billions of dollars that are poured into futile 'extra lanes', the less funding can be available to develop a future-oriented transport system for the region.

The real problem is that the community is not aware of the strategic issues, so politicians have little option but to waste taxpayer's money on projects that are superficially constructive but are probably of limited long term benefit.

John Craig


DETAILED ARGUMENT

The Problem with 'Adding Lanes'

Any competent transport or urban planner will be aware of the classic obstacle to reducing congestion by building more roads / freeways.

In brief: Creating more road space has always been found to generate more traffic which fills it. In the short term more road space affects drivers' route choices and shifts travel from public transport, while in the longer term it generates more traffic by altering the community's choices about residential / industrial / commercial locations (eg see Increasing lanes, traffic: mass transit proposals will ease congestion, while expanding freeways will put more drivers on the road - which refers to US experience; and Myth: Freeways relieve traffic congestion - which refers to Melbourne's experience), Furthermore a recent study in Melbourne reportedly disproved claims that travel time savings resulted from the construction of freeways (see Freeways no magic time-saving bullet)

It is for this reason that options which do not mainly rely on 'adding more lanes' have often been seen to be superior. This might include, for example:

  • congestion charges - which have long been advocated for SE Queensland by the RACQ;
  • the state government's attempt, through its regional plan, to increase urban densities in SE Queensland so that public transport becomes a more feasible option.

The Likely Need to Reduce Reliance on Roads

However the situation is now more complex because it is increasingly likely that roads can't be the core of SE Queensland's future transport system. For example:

  • higher oil / fuel prices (which the global peak oil event is likely to further escalate) have apparently already started reducing overall traffic volumes (in SE Queensland as elsewhere) and increasing community expectations about improving public transport;
  • for environmental reasons an 'urban footprint' has been fixed under the SE Queensland's regional plan to reduce urban sprawl - and this also prevents access to the cheap rights-of-way needed for an effective freeway system to be developed in SE Queensland (see The Monster, in Brisbane's Transport Monster). Tunnel freeways have been proposed as an option, but there are fabulously costly relative to their potential transport contribution (eg see Airport Link: An Example of the Monster and Tunnel Freeways: Where is the Strategic Insight?)

As governments have limited resources, spending huge amounts on 'adding more lanes' in a futile attempt to ease traffic congestion, will necessarily reduce the funds available for developing the mass transit systems that the community is likely to have to rely on in future.

Public Awareness to Block Political Foolishness

In another recent article Craig Johnstone validly argued that there has been no public debate about the increasing housing densities that 'planners' have introduced into the SE Queensland regional plan. It was also noted that increased densities undermine features of the region which make living here most attractive ('Planning a build up', Courier Mail, 12-13/9/09).

There is little doubt that there has been no adequate debate, and thus limited public awareness, about urban development and transport planning in SE Queensland.

The region is afflicted by a long-developing urban sprawl (which planners are belatedly trying to contain) that makes the development of an effective future-oriented transport system almost impossible. And in the absence of community understanding of the problems, politicians are still trying to find 'quick fix' congestion solutions of dubious strategic value (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster).

It is understood that the state government has finally initiated a process (the Connecting SEQ 2031 Project) to try to sort out the complex issues involved in deciding what sort of transport arrangements will best suit SE Queensland (see Integrated Regional Transport Plan for SE Queensland: A Case for Increased Public and Business Awareness and Participation). In relation to that effort, the latter document suggests: (a) the desirability of increasing community awareness and participation - a process that journalists might aid; and (b) the probable need to reconsider the SEQ Regional Plan in the light of possible effects of 'peak oil' on location decisions, rather than merely taking it as given as appeared to be intended.

Email to Marissa Calligerous +

Tunnel Freeways: Where is the Strategic Insight? - Email sent 5/9/09

Ms Marissa Calligerous
Brisbane Times

Re: 'Northern Link to go ahead', BrisbaneTimes, 4/9/09

Might I suggest that there is a need for further investigation of this matter. The announcement that your article referred to about the Brisbane City Council's intention to itself finance the Northern Link Tunnel raises more questions than it answers about strategic directions for transport system development in SE Queensland.

For example, it might be worth further investigating and reporting on:

  • what tolls might need to be charged to recoup the investment in such as tunnel - as very simple estimates suggests that such charges might be prohibitive unless reduced by: (a) complex financial engineering - which was the intention for the Airport Link tunnel but now seems impractical; and / or (b) huge government subsidies - which needless-to-say have an opportunity cost in terms of preventing other possible transport system developments that might have been funded; [see also speculations about required tolls and a funding black hole for the project below - added later]
  • the effectiveness of the proposed Northern Link tunnel - given that it would connect the Western Freeway to the Inner City Bypass presumably with an intention of reducing congestion on the Western Freeway associated with a current bottleneck at the Toowong roundabout. Will the tunnel really reduce Western Freeway congestion in the short term given that the Inner City Bypass tends to be congested at peak hour? What is the long term implications of the fact that a great deal of Brisbane's future growth is expected to take place at the outer end of the Western Freeway (and thus presumably escalate traffic on that route)?
  • the relationship between the Northern Link Tunnel and tho two other freeway tunnels that have been suggested as possibly joining to the Western Freeway at Toowong, namely (a) another TransApex tunnel connected to Brisbane's eastern suburbs; and (b) a major north-bound tunnel which was suggested by the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI' Option 3). The latter link (equivalent to the Gateway Motorway to Brisbane's east) appears to be vital (though also probably prohibitively expensive) given the huge north-south traffic demand to Brisbane's west which was revealed by the WBTNI, and the state government's decision not to built a Brisbane west bypass outside the existing urban footprint;
  • whether the adoption of an constrained urban footprint under the SE Queensland regional plan makes strategic shift to an emphasis to mass transit vital as the basis for future transport system development in the region - so that ongoing freeway developments are possibly a waste of scarce resources. Freeway-based transport systems seem only viable where there is access to relatively cheap greenfield rights-of-way, a feature which is necessarily associated with the urban sprawl that the regional plan aims to prevent;
  • what effect the coming global peak-oil event will have in terms of necessary changes to transport systems in SE Queensland. A group of leading firms in the UK has recently noted with alarm that (a) this event might occur in 2013; and (b) there has apparently been no serious planning for the consequences. Whilst the implications are not clear there is a real possibility that in SE Queensland this might require a major shift away from historic transport patterns;
  • what, if any, progress has been made by the State Government's Connection SEQ 2031 project, which was apparently intended to address such issues.

Go for it!

John Craig


Additional Information

In relation to the Northern Link tunnel proposal it was later reported that:

  •  the GFC forced the rejection of a PPP model because private firms were unwilling to take on the project's traffic risk, and that the Queensland Treasurer approved the provision of a $1.7bn QTC loan to the Brisbane City Council to undertake the project [1]; 
  • the approx $1.8bn project might result in a 20 minute time saving on what is currently a 30 minute trip for an estimated 34,000 vehicles / day - with a $4-5 (as yet undecided) toll [1, 2]

The latter permitted rough estimates to be made regarding the funding needed for the project.

A Funding Black Hole for Brisbane Ratepayers?

A rough guess-timate suggested that to recover costs, the toll for the Northern Link tunnel might need to be about $11 per trip (assuming capital cost of $1.8bn; 34,000 vehicles use the tunnel each day; a 50 year amortization period; a modest 6% interest rate; and that recurrent costs are 20% of annual capital costs).   If tolls of $4.50 can be charged, this suggests an annual revenue shortfall of about $81m - and thus that about $1.35bn of the project's capital costs could not be serviced. Clearly, if the federal government provides a $500m subsidy, this shortfall would be reduced to $850m.  Further reduction in the shortfall, which would otherwise have to be funded by Brisbane ratepayers, depends on a steady rise in future traffic volumes - an outcome which is not assured for reasons suggested below.

It may be that this project makes sense, but (because of this huge potentially-unrecoverable cost and the project's uncertain contribution to SE Queensland's future transport system) more work seems to be needed to justify it.

Moreover, responses obtained as a result of circulating the above email indicate that:

  • the EIS for the Northern Link Tunnel has not yet been approved by the state government, so that announcing a firm decision to proceed with it is premature [personal communication];
  • a submission in relation to that EIS raised concerns about: (a) the expected effect of peak oil on reducing traffic; (b) evidence of declining traffic volumes both world-wide and in SE Queensland as a consequence of high fuel prices; (c) the inconsistency of these facts with the projected rapid increase in traffic volumes that have been assumed by the project's promoters; and (d) the failure of the EIS to seriously consider this issue - though the project promoters were specifically directed to do so by the state government [1];
  • there are indications of: (a) an apparent (and essentially fraudulent) tendency in analysis of toll road projects to base traffic forecasts on the volumes required to justify the investment, rather than on fundamental criteria of likely demand; and (b) a history of actual toll road traffic volumes being much lower than those forecast [1];
  • there are doubts about the claims of travel time savings associated with the construction of freeways, based on experience in Melbourne [1];
  • answers to the questions outlined above could be obtained from published reports, according to an email of 15/9/09 from the office of Margaret de Wit (Pullenvale Ward Councillor)

As the result of an initiative by Councillor Margaret de Wit, a response to the issues raised above was ultimately arranged from the Brisbane City Council's Chairman of Infrastructure. This is reproduced below together with [preliminary] comments on the responses - and feedback from the Association for the Study of Peak oil which was critical of the response.

Email of 25/9/09 from Margaret de Wit, Councillor for Pullenvale Ward

Thank you for your emails of 18 September 2009 regarding traffic congestion. I have now received a response from the Chairman of Infrastructure.

Chairman Quirk's office has provided the following statement:

"TOLLS

Concerns about the financial engineering of Airport Link are noted. However it is important to point out that the Airport Link project (now under the control of the State Government) is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) operating under a Build, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT) model.

Following discussions with the State Government it has been decided that the Northern Link project will instead be procured under traditional arrangements. That is, Council will finance the project itself with the assistance of the Federal Government who will be contributing $500m towards the project. This contribution will allow the tolls to be kept at an affordable level.

Estimates above suggest that a much greater subsidy (ie anything up to $1.35bn) could be needed to make this project viable with suggested levels of tolls.

The actual subsidy needed presumably depends on projections of future growth in traffic volumes which in turn depends on assumptions about the implications of the 'peak oil' event - an outcome which Councillor Quirk appears to believe is less significant (see below) than that ascribed to it by the state government's Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy (WBTNS)

EFFECTIVENESS

The strategic aim of the Northern Link project is to fill the missing link in our motorway network. By linking the Western Freeway with the ICB the project would create a motorway standard alternative to Coronation Drive and Milton Road, including the Toowong roundabout.

The WBTNS also suggests that the Northern Link tunnel will substantially reduce traffic volumes on both Coronation Drive and Milton Road. However this will only be possible if large traffic volumes use the Northern Link tunnel - which seems unlikely given the proposed tolls. During off-peak periods there will be much reduced incentive for drivers to pay tolls (because congestion is limited). Moreover during peak periods northbound traffic will have a lesser incentive to use the tunnel because it feeds on the frequently-congested-at-peak-hour Inner City Bypass.

In terms of making such investments truly viable as alternative routes, the RACQ's views about the use of congestion charges within the transport network generally (rather than tolls on the facilities onto which it is hoped to attract more traffic) would seem more logical.

Moreover the general question about whether adding more road-space actually reduces congestion remains.

Maps showing the route of the project are available in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and this may aid in the understanding of the strategic aims of the project. The EIS is available for download at www.northernlinkeis.com.au.

The comment that there will be significant population growth at the western end of the Western Freeway is essentially correct. It also needs to be pointed out that significant employment growth will be occurring at the Australian Trade Coast (near Brisbane Airport). Making sure adequate east-west links exist in our transport network is therefore critical. Milton Road And Coronation Drive are unable to cater for this demand and that’s why Northern Link is so important.

It seems like foolishness by someone to plan on generating significant future employment on the opposite side of the city to where the most rapid future growth in residential population is expected.

RELATIONSHIP

Northern Link has been designed to allow for the future construction of the East-West Link as well as the State Government’s plans for widening of the Western Freeway and WBNTI Option 3.

Good

STRATEGIC SHIFT

Although the State Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan does indicate higher population densities in some areas, as has been previously stated, the significant population growth (and expansion of the urban footprint) will be happening west of Brisbane. More information on the expansion of the urban footprint west of Brisbane is available from the State Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan documents.

Failure to invest in the road infrastructure to cater for this growth will place significant pressure on our existing road network, including Milton Road and Coronation Drive and significantly impact on the liveability in places like Milton, Auchenflower and Toowong. Northern Link is expected to take up to 1,100 trucks of surface roads every day and alone will improve the amenity for residents in these suburbs.

Undoubtedly infrastructure is needed. The question is what type is most appropriate. The WBTNS has suggested a strong emphasis on shifting towards public and active transport in Brisbane's western suburbs. It is not clear that this is yet reflected in relation to transport for major urban growth plans to the south west of Brisbane which clearly affect traffic forecasts for the proposed tunnel.

PEAK-OIL

Peak- oil is an assumption that the amount of oil produced will peak at a certain point and then decline over the following decades. It is this slow rate of decline that will enable alternative fuel sources to replace oil.

The problem with any decline in oil production is that the price elasticity of demand for oil-based fuels is low - so any failure to meet demand (or expectation of such a future event) can result in a huge escalation in prices. Naturally this encourages efforts to reduce consumption (including a shift in transport modes and in urban location; as well the production of alternatives).

The question is what price is likely for large-scale petrol-equivalent fuels in future. This needs analysis, and does not yet seem to have received adequate attention. A submission to Infrastructure Australia by ASPO drew attention to a US study for mitigating the impact of peak oil which suggested (for example) that: (a) huge costs would be involved; and (b) programs to develop alternatives would need to start about 20 years in advance to avoid massive disruption

[See also ASPO comments on Cr Quirk's argument below]

We’ve already seen enormous sales growth in hybrid vehicles and plug-in hybrids or straight electric vehicles will soon be available on Australian roads. Alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel cells are also under intense study.

Having said that, it is expected that the mode share of public transport will increase over time. Northern Link will become a very important part of the public transport network as it will cater for express bus services and cross-city services. Current forecasting indicates that almost 2,000 buses per day will be using Northern Link by 2026.

CONNECTING SEQ 2031

As this is not a Brisbane City Council plan, directing enquiries to the State Government is recommended."

Surely, if the Connecting 2031 project is seeking to coordinate planning for transport system developments in SEQ, those involved in that project must have had some communication with those planning for the Northern Link tunnel

My office is not resourced to carry out the detailed research you are seeking.

I trust this information is of assistance to you. If you require assistance regarding any other Council matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Margaret de Wit
Councillor for Pullenvale Ward


Comments subsequently provided by Stuart McCarthy (Queensland Coordinator for ASPO) were critical of one aspect of Cr Quirk's argument

"1) The planning assumptions for Australia Trade Coast that underpin (in part) TransApex (Airport Link, Northern Link etc) were flawed and continue to be invalidated by observed data. For example plans to expand Brisbane Airport were predicated on assumptions of perpetual growth in patronage of something like 6% p/a, however aircraft movements (aircraft arrivals and departures) have not exceeded 2000-01 highs, even before the onset of the global recession is considered (see ... graph, based on BTRE data). The business case for the New Parallel Runway was predicated on the perpetual growth assumption, however the project has been cancelled.

2) Re ...comments: "Peak oil is an assumption that the amount of oil produced will peak at a certain point and then decline over the following decades." More of an 'observation' now than an 'assumption'. World oil production remained essentially flat from 2005-2008, despite record prices and new investment in exploration and production. Australian oil production peaked almost a decade ago, with official forecasts indicating that we will be approximately 2/3 dependent on imports by the time Northern Link is scheduled for completion.

3) ... and: "It is this slow rate of decline that will enable alternative fuel sources to replace oil." There is no evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, techno-economic modelling by the CSIRO Future Fuels Forum (2008) and the Garnaut Review (2008) indicates that alternative fuels and propulsion systems will not provide a major component of the road transport fleet for at least two decades even under optimistic economic assumptions. CSIRO found that a near term peak in world oil production would likely result in a 40% decline in motor vehicle traffic. Council's 2007 commissioned study, the Climate Change and Energy Taskforce report, found that (p. 24) "no ‘magical’ solutions will arrive to permit a smooth transition to, for example, alternative fuels."

4) ... and: "We’ve already seen enormous sales growth in hybrid vehicles and plug-in hybrids or straight electric vehicles will soon be available on Australian roads." Again, there is no evidence to support this claim. See for example the article in the Weekend Australian by motoring editor Philip King ("Assault of the Batteries", Inquirer, p. 3, print edition), debunking the myths about the take up of hybrid and electric vehicles. King: "...[hybrid and electric vehicles] are unlikely to exceed 5 per cent of the [new car] market by 2020, with sales at 5000 to 10,000 a year from 2015. Most of the vehicles on our roads in 2020 will look like the ones we're driving now."

5) ... and: "Alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel cells are also under intense study." Prospects for finding intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe are also under intense scrutiny, but Brisbane City Council is not spending billions of dollars on the assumption that aliens will be colonising Brisbane by 2020.

Email to Transport and Main Roads

Email sent 17/6/09

Ms Belinda Spina,
Kenmore Bypass Planning Team,
Department of Transport and Main Roads

 Environmental Approvals Report for a Possible Freeway Link Through Kenmore

Thank you for you advice about the release of the Environmental Approvals Report (EAR) for what you referred to as the 'Kenmore Bypass Planning Study'.

Unfortunately I am unable to locate that document, as following your directions results in a list of 587 documents with the document in question nowhere in sight. Might I suggest that providing a precise URL would save community stakeholders a lot of aggravation.

However I note that the Project Update 6 you circulated implies that only a narrow set of factors have been considered by the study team in producing the EAR. The most important 'environmental' question is whether developing a freeway link through Kenmore actually makes sense in terms of SE Queensland's future transportation needs (eg see Selling a Lemon: The Kenmore Bypass). Yet it seems from the Project Update note that the EAR has not yet addressed that fundamental question.

Thus the EAR might need to be revised to do so. I presume that the regional relevance of a freeway link through Kenmore will be dealt with under the 'Connecting SEQ 2031' project which Queensland Transport (via Ms Belinda Cheesman) advised about on March 4, 2009.

John Craig


Email received 17/6/09

From: Belinda.A.Spina@mainroads.qld.gov.au
On Behalf Of kenmorebypass@mainroads.qld.gov.au
Sent: Wednesday, 17 June 2009 9:49 AM
Subject: Kenmore Bypass Planning Study - Release of Environmental Approvals Report

Dear Kenmore Bypass Stakeholder

The final draft of the Environmental Approvals Report (EAR) for the Kenmore Bypass Planning Study has been released for community information. You can view the EAR on the Department of Transport and Main Roads website www.transportandmainroads.qld.gov.au (search Kenmore Bypass).

The community is invited to provide their comments to the project team until 30 June 2009.

Please see attached Project Update #6 for further information. For further information contact the project team on 1800 422 638 or email kenmorebypass@mainroads.qld.gov.au

Regards The Kenmore Bypass Planning Study team (See attached file: Project Update 6 - June 2009.pdf)

Email circulated widely

Email circulated widely on 12/6/09

Adjusting Queensland to Peak Oil

There seems to have been something of a breakthrough in the 'peak oil' debate.

CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates) have long opposed the 'peak oil' concept - ie that, as consumption of oil has exhausted about 50% of the world's resources, extraction of oil to meet growth in demand (above current global levels of about 85m barrel / day) must become significantly more difficult and expensive.

Now CERA has suggested that 'peak oil' has occurred because oil demand has started declining as a result of increasing prices (see Peak oil = peak demand?). The difference is partly one of semantics - because supply constraints relative to rising demand contributed to the large oil price rises before the current recession.

Furthermore:  it appears that APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) expects that (supply driven) peak oil will occur in 3 years [1].  [notes added later]

However the basic fact of this shift is very significant - and will become so even more in the post-global-financial-crisis world, because:

Firstly declining oil demand reflects a shift away from motor vehicle usage - a shift which was apparently reflected in most recent Queensland transport data (as it was elsewhere). Needless to say this has major implications for transport infrastructure (eg in terms of the viability of toll roads whose commercial benefits apparently depend critically on long term growth in traffic volumes). Moreover informal advice about a 'Connecting SEQ 2031 Project' has suggested that the state government is still trying to work out what sort of transport system to develop in SE Queensland - though, at the same time, it is committing taxpayers to huge investments in transport infrastructure based on completing an expensive freeway system whose relevance in future is now uncertain.

Secondly the 'peak oil' phenomenon also has major possible future implications for commercially viable patterns of urban and property development, as well as for the location and organisation of major industries in Queensland.

Finally Queensland has a large resource base that might be relevant to oil-substitute technologies and industries. A report to the state government (Oil Vulnerability Strategy for Queensland) suggested that Queensland's response to declining global oil supplies and escalating prices could include fuel efficiency and fuel switching (eg to compressed natural gas and gas to liquids).

Adjusting to the 'peak oil' environment involves both business opportunities and public policy issues. Techniques for avoiding political complications in managing issues that have complex implications for both business and government were suggested in Developing a Regional Industry Cluster, and some variation of these might usefully be considered.

John Craig

Email to Chris Hale +

Email sent 15/3/09

Chris Hale,
Centre for Transport Strategy,
University of Queensland

RE: "Time to reassess land use", (Courier Mail, 13/3/09)

There is little doubt about the validity of your argument in this article (ie that continued car-based, ex-urban or outer-urban settlement should no longer be the main response to population growth in SE Queensland).

Your article referred to various factors which are likely to drive change. However, while lifestyle factors are significant in the shift in people's preferences, I submit that the real decider is likely to be increases in future fuel costs.

Thus there would be much to be gained by having a reasonable guess-timate of likely future fuel prices in the post-global-peak-oil era - as this would give both the public and government decision makers a real feel for the imperative for change. An estimate that I saw some years ago (but can no longer locate) was that prices of substitute fuels might be 5 times those for oil-based vehicle fuels - and if this were so driving a car might cost more than half the total income of average households. I suggested the need to identify and publish the likely international price of substitute vehicle fuels in a recent email concerning a state government planning process to identify future transport system for SE Queensland.

I note also that:

  • the latter transport planning process is apparently to take as given the SE Queensland regional plan that was formulated some years ago before the need for changes such as your article mentioned became so apparent;
  • while your article paid most attention to residential land use changes in Brisbane, changes would also probably be required in relation to commercial and industrial land use, and have impacts throughout the whole state.

John Craig


Feedback: In response to the above one observer drew attention to the CSIRO's "Fuel for Thought" report which was publicised in "Peak oil: Petrol to Reach $8 a litre" (Sydney Morning Herald, 11/7/08). This suggested a 40% cut in travel and the need for development of new fuels would result from the peaking of global oil production.  Attention was also drawn to an analysis which suggested that Sydney would need to shift $1bn pa from the $23bn spent each year on cars towards public transport in order to have a world class public transport system by 2040 [1]

Observation: The 'Fuel for Thought' report did not present any realistic view of what the price of petrol-equivalent fuels might become once alternative fuel technologies have been developed and become the dominant influence on global fuel prices. It appeared to present only an estimate of the transitional impact a shift from petrol at $1+ per litre to unspecified substitutes at about the same $1+ per litre on various assumptions about the rate of oil depletion and the rate of development of substitutes. However, as oil incorporates a huge 'subsidy' from geological history in terms of its convenience and energy density, it seems likely that the sustainable price of substitutes would be be significantly (eg 3-8 times) greater and clearly have an impact on sensible land usage.

Email to Queensland Transport

Email sent 5/3/09

Ms Belinda Cheesman,
Departmental Liaison Unit,
Queensland Transport

Integrated Regional Transport Plan for SE Queensland: A Case for Increased Public and Business Awareness and Participation

Than you for your advice about the 'Connecting SEQ 2031' project in response to my email of 23/2/09 (Do "Credit Downgrades + Massive Spending on Doubtful Transport Infrastructure = Good Policy"?).

A Welcome but Difficult Project

I note that this joint Queensland Transport / Department of Main Roads (DMR) project:

  • is to complement the SEQ Regional Plan;
  • will seek to identify transport options that meet challenges such as: reducing greenhouse gas emissions; oil supply / price constraints; lifestyle and economic impacts; and higher construction costs;
  • recognises the inadequacy of simply providing more roads, especially when taking account of oil depletion;
  • is likely to suggest some toll roads;
  • will seek a transport system to suit the region's future needs.

This initiative is to be applauded, as it seems to address significant and long-standing concerns.

However it's outcomes could also be as controversial as efforts to develop plans to drought-proof SE Queensland. Thus I should like to submit for consideration that there would be benefits in ensuring general public awareness as early as possible of the goals of the project and acceptance of the criteria that are to be applied (ie of the policy basis for the project).

Promoting Participation to Increase Peak Oil Mitigation Efforts

The benefits of this can be illustrated by the peak oil concerns that were mentioned in my earlier email. I recently became aware of the existence of a report to the State Government (Oil Vulnerability Strategy for Queensland) which sought to address that issue. That report suggested that this state's primary response to declining global oil supplies and escalating prices should involve fuel efficiency and fuel switching (eg to compressed natural gas and gas to liquids). This proposal, while useful, was inadequate because the price of fuels is going to be set in global markets - so that, even if enough gas-based fuels can be produced locally, they are only going to be available at (presumably very high) international prices. Moreover it will be the price that determines the community / economic response (eg to demand a shift in transport infrastructure from roads to public transport). Yet the key agencies that the report suggested that the EPA work with in developing a response did not include either Queensland Transport or DMR.

The same risk of excluding key stakeholders (ie business and the community generally) potentially applies in relation to the 'Connecting SEQ 2031' project.

In practice the effect of the global peak oil event is likely to be an escalation in the price of fuels (whether derived from conventional oil or from substitutes). It might for example lead to fuel prices equivalent to petrol / diesel prices that would apply with oil at $US150 per barrel (or $US300 or $US500 or $US1000). Changes in travel behaviour and in location choices for residences and businesses were observed both in Brisbane and elsewhere when fuel prices were based on oil at (about) $150 / barrel - and such effects could be significantly greater in 10 years time (especially if reducing greenhouse emissions really proves necessary). Business and the general community need to be engaged in the Connecting SEQ 2031 project at least to the extent of knowing what reasonable assumptions might be made about future fuel prices so that they can: (a) understand the motives of the strategic changes envisaged by this project; and (b) base their own decisions about location and transport options on reasonable assumptions that accord with official assumptions. Such grass-roots awareness from Day 1 would go a long way towards supporting whatever medium-long term strategic changes the project concludes are necessary. For example, future property developments could be more consistent with the project's goals if business is aware of what is being assumed.

Putting such assumptions into the public domain would also help Queensland Transport and DMR refine them on the basis of feedback received.

Refining and Promoting Support for Other Project Goals

There are other assumptions related to the project for which community understanding and support might be valuable. For example:

  • the fact that the project is to recognise cost and financial constraints in relation to suggesting projects is highly desirable. In this respect, there is a need for public recognition that future funding levels are likely to be constrained relative to those that have been available in recent years because:
    • recent capital and recurrent spending levels by the Queensland Government have involved 'pressing the pedal to the metal' by drawing fully upon revenues available at the top of an unprecedented and presumably unrepeatable economic boom (see About the 2005-06 Budget);
    • the Global Financial Crisis is likely to have adverse long term effects on the economy and government revenues (eg consider parallel with Australia's Future Tax System: The Cost of the Financial Crisis and the Opportunity to Fix Government); and
    • a sense of realism is needed in relation to traffic projections for toll roads. Funding has been sought from investors on the basis of aggressively leveraged financial models that required strong future traffic growth (eg consider the case of the Airport Link Tunnel), even though available data called such 'blue skies' assumptions into question (see Airport Link: An Example of the Monster). The latter also noted that in Queensland Transport Facts - May 2008, projections were made of a resumption in past rates of traffic growth for no obviously justifiable reason;
  • while it is appropriate for the project to work within the framework of the SEQ Regional Plan, it should be accepted that the Connecting SEQ Project might reach conclusions which suggest grounds for adjusting that Plan (eg because, as noted above, much higher fuel prices [eg equivalent to petrol at (say) $5-10 per litre] will presumably affect the nature of sensible residential and industrial location options within the region);

Thank you very much for advice about the Connecting SEQ 2031 project. I wish Queensland Transport and DMR every success.

John Craig


Email received 4/3/09 in response to critical observations of 23/2/09

MP2189: STRETTON Do "Credit Downgrades + Massive Spending on Doubtful Transport Infrastructure = Good Policy"?

Please find response from Queensland Transport:

In a joint initiative, Queensland Transport and the Department of Main Roads are progressing work on a new regional transport plan titled Connecting SEQ 2031: An Integrated Regional Transport Plan for South East Queensland (Connecting SEQ 2031). Connecting SEQ 2031 is being designed to complement the South East Queensland Regional Plan.

The Connecting SEQ 2031 project will provide a 22-year regional transport plan that serves the long term needs of the people in the region and address challenges for the transport system including:

  • the need to reduce emissions to respond to climate change;
  • dwindling supply and the increasing price of oil;
  • impact on the region's quality of life and economic growth; and
  • increasing costs to provide transport infrastructure and services.

As part of developing the Connecting SEQ 2031 project, future capital investment will be investigated with particular regard to the future needs of moving people and goods in the region. Initial investigations indicate that it is not feasible to rely on the provision of more roads for private vehicles to cater for future growth in the transport task, especially when taking into account issues of oil depletion.

Transport infrastructure and other initiatives are still required to complete networks, and would come at a cost which presently is wholly or predominantly carried by the government. Some proposed road projects are likely to involve the payment of tolls by road users which has the effect of influencing travel behaviour changes.

It is anticipated that the Connecting SEQ 2031 project will encourage more efficient freight movements, public transport, walking and cycling initiatives to deliver a transport system to suit the future needs of the region.

Contact officer Nicole Johnson
Manager Transport Strategy
Queensland Transport

Kind regards

Belinda Cheesman

DLO - Departmental Liaison Unit
Phone: 07 3237 1111 | Fax: 07 3306 7055 | Email: DLO@transport.qld.gov.au
QUEENSLAND TRANSPORT| Corporate Division | Executive and Ministerial Services Branch

Email to journalists

Email sent 23/2/09

Bruce McMahon and Ursula Hegar
c/- Courier Mail

Do "Credit Downgrades + Massive Spending on Doubtful Transport Infrastructure = Good Policy"?

I noted your article in the Courier Mail ('Massive Operation to unclog arteries', which suggested that the $16bn now committed by governments to tunnels, bridges, fly-overs, wider motorways, 40km of new snarl-busting roads and dedicated busways will transform Brisbane into a 21st century metropolis over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately I have to submit for your consideration that:

  • some of the proposed infrastructure makes no economic sense. Tunnels seem to cost about $500-750m / km and to require unrealistic tolls of $2-3 / vehicle / km, unless supported by large government subsidies or naive private investors;
  • there are fundamental defects in the freeway-oriented philosophy underpinning the whole proposed transport system (in term of apparent incompatibility with the SE Queensland regional plan and the likely future global constraints on oil supplies). If it actually were to proceed it would equip Brisbane in 10 years with a mid 20th century transport system which by then is likely to be quite different to what the community requires and voters expect;
  • Queensland has limited capital to spend on transport infrastructure (even less following recent downgrading of the state government's credit rating), and it should be being invested with more regard to future needs than to current political photo opportunities.

Reasons for these suggestions are outlined in Brisbane's Transportation Monster, and this may be of interest.

John Craig

To Save our Kenmore Group

Email sent 17/2/09

The Convenor
Save our Kenmore Group

The Infamous 'Kenmore Bypass': Is it a Preserved Transport Corridor? Is the Transport Planning Process a Shambles?

I was fascinated to learn from your recent circular of the debate in state Parliament on 10 February 2009 about whether the route of the (so called) Kenmore Bypass had been preserved.

What Sort of Route was Preserved?

Dr Bruce Flegg said that this was a pre-existing transport corridor which the community should have the right to use. Mr Ronan Lee pointed out that the land that had actually been preserved was only a fraction of that required for the project that now seemed to be envisaged. And the Deputy Premier (Hon Mr Paul Lucas) noted that the route had been marked on a map - so that people should have understood that a bypass was planned.

What a shambles. Though the route may not always have been marked on maps (as your circular noted), it is a fact that a 30m-wide route was preserved in the 1960s for a sub-arterial feeder route. Nearby residents should have no reasonable grounds for complaints if such a local road (something like 17 Mile Rocks Road) were developed within the bounds of the land then acquired by Main Roads Department.

The Bigger Picture?

However it is equally clear that someone in the state government now secretly envisages something much grander - ie a major arterial road that would be part of SE Queensland's future freeway system. Joining at the western end of the 'Kenmore Bypass' is the preserved route for the Moggill Pocket Arterial which would bring north and east bound Warrego Highway traffic through the Western Suburbs and onto the Centenary Highway / Western Freeway - an existing arterial that, to cope with Warrego Highway traffic and major urban growth to Brisbane's south west, would have to be be upgraded to (say) 8 lanes and extended north from Toowong (perhaps along Route 20) as the main Brisbane-west bypass route.

The Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation gave the game away by initially presenting a diagram showing traffic demand in its study area. This revealed a large flow from the west and north circling around the Brisbane Forest Park (ie through the Western Suburbs and along the Western Freeway). The diagram was quickly removed from the WBTNI's web-site as it showed clearly the case for a bypass route to the west of suburban Brisbane, which the state government wanted to rule out on the grounds of a 'lack of demand' and incompatibility with the urban footprint established by its regional plan.

A Planning Shambles

The shambles continues in that the planning process for the 'Kenmore Bypass' has not revealed anything about this bigger picture in order to get community support by pretending that it just involves a local traffic congestion issue. However by doing this the planners failed: (a) to study problems with the 'Bypass' in its regional context (see 'Selling a Lemon: the Kenmore Bypass'); or (b) to work out that the secret 'bigger picture' that this link is supposed to be part of does not make any sense (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster).

The whole 'lets build freeways everywhere' approach to solving the transport challenge resulting from SE Queensland's rapid growth is also a 'lemon', because: (a) the adoption of an urban footprint under the regional plan prevents the urban sprawl which is vital to getting cheap rights of way for freeways; and (b) rapidly rising oil / petrol prices (which must resume following the current recession and the global peak oil event) had since about 2003 apparently started reducing motor vehicle usage in Brisbane (in terms of total vehicle km travelled) - presumably as citizens shift to favour public transport (op cit).

Quality Government?

Your recent circular suggested that citizens have a RIGHT to decent political representation - and implied that this is currently not available. I disagree. Citizens get the quality of political representation and government that they are prepared to work for. And it is my experience over many years that Queenslanders are not prepared to put in the effort to support their political system - but expect that government will magically be a source of goodies. We currently get the poor quality of government that we deserve - see also CPDS Comments in Is our System of Government in Queensland Working?.

John Craig

To Sarah Vogler, journalist

Email sent 29/1/09

Sarah Vogler
Sunday Mail

Traffic jams are likely to be fixed - but not by building more roads

Your article ('Traffic jams will only get worse', Sunday Mail, 25/1/06) drew attention to a list of major road-works that are underway in and around Brisbane - and the likely disruption of traffic flows that will result.

While road-work will undoubtedly increase traffic congestion temporally, there are now indications that traffic congestion is likely to ease itself in the medium-long term without anywhere near as much spending on road-works as is currently envisaged.

A major state government sponsored survey of transport activity in Queensland showed that, in terms of vehicle-kilometres, motor vehicle usage in Brisbane had been declining after 2003-04 at about 7% pa - presumably as a consequence of very high petrol prices (see outline of some points from that survey which was produced in May 2008 but not yet made public - perhaps because of its implications for the credibility of the state government's strategic plans for the region's infrastructure)

In an earlier email (Is 'paving roads with gold' the best transport strategy for Brisbane?, 18/1/09) I drew attention to indications that investing billions of dollars in upgrading / building roads may not be an effective way to ease Brisbane's transport woes (see outline or reasoning in Project Qld on the Wrong Track?).

The new data now casts even more doubt on the viability of the super-expensive tunnel options that are envisaged as completing gaps in Brisbane's freeway network. If the Airport Link project is representative, those projects involve initially charging tolls that cover only a fraction of capital costs - and relying on borrowing to pay distributions for many years and on long term growth in traffic volumes to eventually allow capital costs to be repaid (see Airport Link: An Example of the Monster?).

Global oil supplies are constrained and, when then the recession eases and demand again approaches available supply, oil prices will resume their upward spiral. Alternative energy technologies for vehicles will also be expensive. Thus the traffic growth needed to make multi-billion dollar toll roads viable under the traditional toll-road funding model may simply not happen. Demand for public transportation is likely to increase instead, thus allowing traffic congestion to ease of its own accord.

John Craig

To Mark Ludlow, journalist

Email sent 15/1/09

Mark Ludlow
Australian Financial Review

Project Qld on the Wrong Track?

Your recent article ('Project Qld on track, says Bligh', Financial Review, 12/1/09) mentioned the Queensland Government's determination to push ahead with infrastructure spending despite the economic slowdown and budgetary problems. The scrapping of private sector projects was seen to make public spending even more important.

This argument is valid in terms of countering a potential recession.

However there is a real possibility that that Queensland could be on the wrong 'track' in terms of urban transport infrastructure. Huge amounts are being devoted to building a freeway system in SE Queensland - a system which may never be able to be completed satisfactorily and which may be incompatible with future needs. This point is developed in Brisbane's Transportation Monster. Key points are that:

  • defining an 'urban footprint' in SE Queensland has limited access to the cheap rights of way that a freeway-based urban transport system requires;
  • the tunnel freeway options that are expected to fill inner-city gaps in Brisbane's freeway network are unaffordable. Construction costs are about $500-$750m / km and this translates into usage costs of about $2-$3 per vehicle / km - which no one would pay. The BrisConnections share disaster shows that complex financial engineering to transfer these costs to the distant future is no longer plausible. Toll roads in Sydney and Melbourne are facing traffic volumes far below projections;
  • the global peak oil event is looming, and will probably require radical permanent changes to urban design and transport systems - because a steady increase in the prices of oil-based fuel after the peak (and the apparent lack of low-priced alternatives) is likely to induce a steady decline in the use of motor vehicles and a rapidly growing demand for public transportation.

Rather than assuring Queenslanders that they are 'spending money', the State Government needs to assure taxpayers that their money is being spent on infrastructure that makes sense. The Government has limited capital to invest, and investing billions in freeway systems may no longer make sense.

John Craig

To Save our Kenmore Group

Email sent 7/11/08

The Convenor
Save our Kenmore Group

Selling a 'Lemon': the Kenmore Bypass

According to a survey conducted some years ago the Datsun 120Y (and not the Leyland P76 as many assume) was Australia's worst 'lemon'. That car was described as 'ugly, cramped, uncomfortable, having no performance or handling to speak of and .. (being) quite durable - which meant that the damn thing hung around forever'.

The (so called) Kenmore Bypass is the "Datsun 120Y" of Queensland's transport planning scene.

To sell a 'lemon', a wise car salesman will polish it up to make it look great, and make sure that the 'mugs' never find out what it is really like. This seems to have been the goal of the Kenmore Bypass Planning Study.

Considering the 'Lemon' (below) outlines why the "Datsun 120Y" of Queensland's transport planning seems 'cramped, uncomfortable, having no performance or handling to speak of '. I suggest that your group should publicise these facts. Those responsible for the government Study seem determined to cover them up.

John Craig


Considering the 'Lemon' of Queensland's Transport Planning

Some of the points made below are illustrated by a supporting diagram which is accessible on the Internet.

The (so called) Kenmore Bypass (ie a narrow right of way suitable for a local feeder road) is the "Datsun 120Y" of Queensland's transport planning scene. It was acquired by the Department of Main Roads (DMR) decades ago, and left in the garage - though DMR went on to buy a 'trailer' that might be attached to the "120Y" (ie allow the Kenmore Bypass to be the start of a Moggill Pocket Arterial that would divert north and east bound traffic from the Warrego Highway from Toowoomba through the western suburbs and onto the Centenary Highway).

Pressured about local traffic problems in Kenmore, the State Government noticed that the "Datsun 120Y' has never been used and told DMR to spruce it up and try to find someone to buy it.

After working on this for a couple of years, DMR recently produced a glossy brochure (Kenmore Bypass Planning Study: Newsletter 2) to make the Government's "'Datsun 120Y" look good. The brochure mentioned such niceties as: flora and fauna; air quality; noise; soil and geology; visual impact; water quality; cultural heritage; hydrology and hydraulics; and social issues. Feedback was then sought in relation to potential mug-buyers' views about: a cycle overpass; details of an interchange; the natural environment, neighbourhood design; bypass design; walking; and cycling.

However, despite these attempts to tart it up, the "'Datsun 120Y"' apparently remains 'cramped, uncomfortable and having no performance or handling to speak of''. Moreover, in tarting up its "120Y" for sale - apparently at a massive cost, the State Government doesn't seem to believe that DMR should consider its defects.

Traffic investigations by DMR compared the "Datsun 120Y" with an older model (Moggill Road - which can be called a "Leyland P76" for convenience). That comparison of whether the so-far-unused "120Y' might be better than the worn-out "P76" was purely in terms of local considerations (such as the effect on small segments of Moggill Road and the Centenary highway and on roads in Kenmore). Those (alleged) 'traffic investigations' were completely inadequate.

The only way to meaningfully assess the performance of the "Datsun 120Y" model is in relation to its regional impact and in comparison with more modern models (say a "Toyota Prius Hybrid" - representing a serious regional public transport system) not whether it might be better locally than a used "Leyland P76". For example,

  • the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway (onto which the "Datsun 120Y" model would divert an extra tens of thousands of vehicles per day) is already likely to be the most congested road in Brisbane because of other proposals to connect 2 or 3 freeways at Toowong and to locate a large part of SE Queensland's future urban development at its outer end. It is not good enough merely to assert (as Newsletter 2 does) that studies by someone else would result in sufficient upgrading of the Centenary Highway (now apparently being viewed as a 'Motorway') and the Toowong roundabout. The issues involved in doing this are complex, and it is quite likely that effective upgrades don't exist (see email to Social Impact Assessment Team). In the absence of effective upgrades to the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway and Toowong roundabout, which at best could not be put in place for 10-20 years, traffic on the new "Datsun 120Y" model would crawl along just as it does on the used "Leyland P76" model;
  • the possibility of adding a 'trailer' to the "Datsun 120Y" (ie diverting north and east bound traffic from the Warrego Highway onto the Centenary Highway via a Moggill Pocket Arterial) clearly raises the stakes as far as further congesting the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway is concerned - and could not be ignored in any serious study of the first stage (ie the "Datsun 120Y"). It also highlights the probability (which has not been mentioned in studying the "120Y model") that Warrego Highway traffic 'rat running' along Mt Crosby Road and through the western suburbs to avoid Ipswich Road congestion is:
    • a significant factor in the existing local congestion in Kenmore, which gave rise to naive local pressure to consider tarting up the "120Y" model; and
    • likely to generate even more 'rat running' if the "Datsun 120Y" can be sold, so that those who bought it would find to the horror that they have no choice but to buy the Government's 'trailer' to go with the "120Y' that they thought was all they needed;
  • it is unlikely that a tarted-up "Datsun 120Y" (which would apparently cost several hundreds of million dollars even before adding its 'trailer') would be compatible with the sort of transport system that Brisbane requires in future. It is a model in the 'freeway' range, and this seems unlikely to suit SE Queensland's future need mainly for models in the 'public transport' range because (for reasons outlined in Brisbane's Transportation Monster):
    • the adoption of an urban footprint for land use planning in SE Queensland has prevented the urban sprawl which was vital if affordable routes were to be found to complete Brisbane's freeway network; and
    • the global peak oil event is very likely to occur in the next decade and require a fundamental change to past assumptions about transport systems - and very painful / costly transitions for motor-vehicle-dependent regions such as SE Queensland;
  • there are limited resources available for developing SE Queensland's transport systems - and spending huge sums on out-of-date options (such as the "Datsun 120Y" seems to be - with or without its 'trailer') will obviously reduce the resources available for more modern (eg "Toyota Prius Hybrid" like) models;
  • the best short-term / local-traffic option might be to renovate the "Leyland P76" so that a viable route to the city which is distinct from the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway becomes available.

However those charged with tarting-up the Government's "Datsun 120Y" model have apparently not been allowed to offer any more sensible, modern or attractive models. DMR's Newsletter 2 openly stated that one of the key principles underlying the investigation has been to make use of a preserved road reserve. Such a principle should not override questions about whether doing so makes sense from a regional and future-needs perspective. That newsletter also noted that alternatives had been suggested outside their terms of reference, and that all DMR's Study team could do was refer them to someone else.

Moreover the Study may well have a hidden agenda - namely the State Government's fear that DMR might also have to write off the 'trailer' that it acquired (while hoping that no one in Kenmore noticed what was going on) to add to its "Datsun 120Y". That add-on is unavoidable if the mugs buy the "120Y" but is not shown on publicly-available diagrams illustrating the latter (see Newsletter 2). Citizens examining similar diagrams in a western suburbs' shopping centre seemed unaware that the possibility even existed - though it would undoubtedly influence the reaction of many if it was made clear to them.

DMR's Kenmore Bypass Planning Study is a devious and technically sub-standard attempt to sell a probable 'lemon' to the Queensland public, and is being undertaken in an environment for traffic planning in Brisbane as a whole that seems equally chaotic and unrealistic. As it has been conducted, the Study has been a waste of time and taxpayer's money.

To Kenmore Bypass Social Impact Assessment Team

Email sent 15/10/08

Kenmore Bypass SIA Team
University of Queensland

Kenmore Bypass Social Impact Assessment: Comments on the Chaotic Context

I noted that you are undertaking a survey of the social impacts of the (so called) Kenmore Bypass. While such an assessment is a worthwhile goal, it should be recognised that the Main Roads Department's (MRD) investigation of this option may be purely an academic exercise because the viability of that option depends on transport plans for Brisbane as a whole which seem to lack credibility and realism.

Some basic defects in the overall transport planning regime are outlined in Brisbane's Transportation Monster on my website. This refers (for example) to: (a) problems in financing super-expensive tunnel options which are being considered for completing the freeway network that the Kenmore Bypass would feed into; (b) potential conflicts of interest in the planning process; (c) the incompatibility between a freeway network and regional plans which have fixed an 'urban footprint' for south-east Queensland; and (d) potential erosion of traffic volumes by the global 'peak oil' event which seems likely to occur during the next decade.

The problem can also be illustrated by the numerous apparently poorly-connected and very expensive plans that are being developed for transport infrastructure components by the federal government, various state agencies and the Brisbane City Council. For example:

  • the federal government is asking a central committee to identify infrastructure projects that it should fund - though reliable assessments of such options can not be made so far from the coal face (see Infrastructure Magic?);
  • the State Government's Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI) has proposed an overall plan for sub-regional transport infrastructure. However:
    • its proposals feature connection of inner-city gaps in Brisbane's freeway network through tunnels together with mainly outer-city public transport improvements. Unfortunately the tunnel-freeway options seem to be too costly to be viable (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster);
    • the WBTNI's options for bypass routes to the west of Brisbane's major suburbs were rejected by the state government even before consultations were held - nominally because of low projected usage and high cost. It went unstated that increasing north-south traffic congestion through west-side suburbs would be the consequence, and that this might give a presumably-privately-funded tunnel-freeway (WBTNI's Option 3) greater prospect of financial viability;
    • WBTNI's proposals contained no mention of the $14bn inner-city public transport option (involving an underground rail network) that another arm of the state government subsequently produced - and which gained State Government endorsement in the hope of attracting federal funding;
  • MRD is investigating the 'Kenmore Bypass' supposedly as a stand-alone project despite:
    • the relationship between traffic congestion on Moggill Road and the traffic flows into Brisbane and to the north from the Warrego Highway - which flows are presumably the reason that the WBTNI revealed proposals for Stage 2 of the the 'Kenmore Bypass' (ie the Moggill Pocket Arterial);
    • the adverse impact on the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway of diverting Moggill Road traffic onto it along such a 'bypass' - which is considered further below;
  • the Brisbane City Council (BCC) has its own strategy based on the Lord Mayor's TransApex program - an outline of which was presented in a recent newsletter Getting on with the job of easing traffic congestion (Living in Brisbane newsletter, Spring 08). That newsletter referred to: (a) construction progress on a toll tunnel under the Brisbane River between Bowen Hills and Woolloongabba; (b) expectations that construction will soon start on the State Government's Airport Link tunnel; (c) seeking comments on a Northern Link tunnel from the Western Freeway to the Inner City Bypass and (d) other TransApex projects. However:
    • the state government's Airport Link project that joins to the BCC's proposed routes appears most unlikely to proceed (and similar funding problems could afflict other tunnel-freeway proposals) because:
      • it involves complex financing-engineering which expects that return to investors be funded for decades by borrowings - a model that seems unlikely to be viable in a post credit-crisis environment and which has been abandoned by many other private infrastructure promoters;
      • shares in BrisConnections, the consortium proposing to develop this project, have collapsed;
      • various banks which have committed debt funding for the project are facing rescue operations in Europe; and
      • reforms of the global financial system that are currently being developed in the face of an unprecedented crisis will not allow ongoing easy access to credit - as this led to the asset bubble whose bursting caused the financial crisis;
    • two TransApex tunnels are shown linking to the Western Freeway at Toowong, and it was: (a) suggested that one of these would reduce travel times by several minutes; and (b) implied that the Western Freeway would be able to cope with the traffic the tunnels would generate. This arrangement is highly suspect because:
      • the WBTNI investigations envisage a third tunnel freeway which the BCC has not mentioned. The latter (WBTNI's Option 3) would run north from Toowong under Brisbane's Western suburbs to provide a north-south Brisbane by-pass equivalent to the Gateway Motorway to the east of the city. In the absence of an outer western Brisbane by-pass route (which, as noted above, has been ruled out by the state government for published reasons which appeared flimsy) this Option would seem essential, even though very expensive;
      • the Western Freeway is already overloaded at peak hours - and expecting it to cope with traffic from 3 tunnel freeways (each presumably of 4 lanes) is unrealistic. Widening to something like an eight lane road would be needed, and this seems physically impractical;
      • the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway must further overloaded over the next 20 years by state government regional plans which envisage concentrating future urban growth at its outer end;
      • Added later: A media report suggested that the State Government has been secretly evaluating the possibility of adding  4 HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes to the Western Freeway. No such proposal had been included in the Government's 2008 SE Queensland Infrastructure plan (Houghton D., 'Western Freeway toll plan 'secret'', Courier Mail, 24/10/08);
  • it is nonsense to contemplate diverting Moggill Road traffic onto the Western Freeway (which is what the Kenmore Bypass would do) without systematically considering all of the pressures on that Freeway. Moreover it would almost certainly make more sense to upgrade Moggill Road in such a way as to maintain its integrity as a major route which is separate from the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway.

There seems to be no effective working relationship between the groups planning various elements of transport infrastructure - even though the viability of each depends on such collaboration. In fact there seem to be quite different perceptions of what sort of transport system is required. Competing groups seem to include: (a) the federal government seeking to exert its financial muscle [and compensate for the inefficiency that state governments exhibit as a result of its financial muscle]; (b) the Main Roads Department seeking the development of a traditional-motor-vehicle based transport system; (c) the Transport Department seeking a greater emphasis on public and active transport - some of whose network ideas are being advanced by the WBTNI; and (d) the Brisbane City Council who simply want to 'do something'.

The fact that different groups are planning infrastructure in apparent isolation and without taking account of such interactions must unfortunately render efforts to ease traffic congestion futile and probably counterproductive.

Moreover the global peak oil event is likely to occur in the next (say) ten years and this could significantly change the transport picture (eg it is not impossible after this event that fuel prices will continue to increase just sufficiently to force a steady reduction in fuel usage - and also in traffic volumes). While this is uncertain, no cohesive analysis seems to have been conducted, though the viability of proposed infrastructure depends critically on the outcome.

All of the above implies that your Kenmore Bypass Social Impact Assessment is being undertaken in relation to a road option which is being investigated in a chaotic and unrealistic environment.

As you will be aware, public administration in Queensland has proven dysfunctional in relation to many functions over the years (eg see Improving Public Sector Performance in Queensland). To achieve more realistic and cohesive outcomes arguably requires renewal of government machinery - perhaps along the lines speculated in Queensland's Next Successful Premier - to overcome the effects of badly advised and managed 'fiddling' with that machinery over the past couple of decades.

John Craig

To Dr Bruce Flegg - 9/7/08

Email sent 9/7/08

Dr Bruce Flegg, MP
Member for Moggill and
Shadow Treasurer

Without Serious Plans for Roads, Buses Can't be Brisbane's Public Transport Solution

Further to my earlier suggestion about the need for Parliamentary debate on Brisbane's transport, I noted that your recent comment (reproduced below) on the 'Kenmore Bypass' option for improving transport in Brisbane's western suburbs suggested (amongst other things) that:

  • the bypass option is largely about public transport - because bus services on Moggill Road can't be upgraded unless traffic is diverted from that route;
  • even so, buses are probably not a sufficient public transport solution;
  • the decision about this is matter not yours, but will be taken by government engineers and Main Roads officials.

However bus services are not only an inadequate option for enhancing public transport in the western suburbs - which was all your comments discussed. The same problem applies to Brisbane as a whole.

Buses depend on adequate roads, and no viable options are currently being considered by the State Government for developing the road network (see Brisbane's Transportation Monster). The Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI) envisages enhancing the network by constructing various freeways through tunnels to connect gaps in the city's arterial roads. The development of such routes (eg WBTNI's Option 3, a Towong to Everton park tunnel / freeway) is apparently expected to reduce surface level congestion and thus allow better public transport and bicycle options.

However such tunnel freeway routes are unlikely to be financially viable, as can be seen from the dubious arrangements envisaged for the (presumably typical) Airport Link tunnel (see Airport Link: An Example). Thus the assumption that freeway tunnels can reduce congestion sufficiently to allow quality bus services is probably invalid.

In brief: Financing for the Airport Link apparently involves: (a) initial toll revenue that would cover only about one quarter of costs; (b) funding the balance for about 25 years through ever increasing debt; and (c) expecting that the combined effect of inflation and growth in traffic volumes eventually allows accumulated debt to be repaid.

This aggressive financial engineering seems excessively risky for investors because: (a) the global credit crunch may make it impossible in future to continue increasing debt to cover operating deficits; and (b) the global 'peak oil' event will occur during the project lifetime and perhaps reverse growth in traffic volumes.

While media commentators have reasonably suggested that the effect of high oil prices should have been analysed (rather than merely mentioned) in evaluating the Airport Link option, the Opposition needs also to ask the Government why such an analysis was not required before the project was approved, as the Coordinator General has apparently required that oil availability / price be considered in the environmental impact study for the Northern Link tunnel.

Finally, in relation to the Kenmore Bypass option, I must again highlight its inadequacy as a solution to transport problems in Brisbane's Western suburbs (eg because of the adverse effect of diverting Moggill Road traffic onto the Western Freeway, and the likely inability of such a bypass to actually reduce traffic congestion on Moggill Road given the effect of Warrego Highway traffic 'rat running' through the western suburbs to avoid Ipswich Road).

Your conclusion that decisions about specific elements of infrastructure are complex and require technical skills is undoubtedly valid. However, everything can't be left to officials, and there are important policy issues that your colleague, the Opposition transport spokesman, should be encouraged to question the present Government about.

John Craig


Email from Dr Bruce Flegg, 4/7/08

Submissions Closed – The Next Step

Our community has endured years of neglect of our steadily worsening transport problems and it has taken this long fight just to get the Government to commit to studying what can be done.

I think that many people have lost sight of the fact that no decision has been made in relation to the Kenmore Bypass, it is just a study and community consultation into what potentially could be done.

The study is the first time in many years that the State Government have even looked into fixing some of the long neglected traffic problems in our community. I think that examining possible solutions to the chaos and asking people what they think can only be a good thing, and I support it.

If indeed the study and consultation finds that a bypass of Kenmore is not a practical solution to the problem or that the level of community support is not strong enough, it will not proceed.

As I have said before, it is ultimately not my decision to make, but I do want something done to fix local transport. At the end of the day it is Government engineers and Main Roads departmental officials who will determine whether proposals, such as the Kenmore bypass, have sufficient merit to have additional study and consultation put into them.

I am in no doubt whatsoever that the Government, particularly in its current financial situation, is in no hurry to lavish large sums of money on the Western Suburbs of Brisbane. What I do know is that something needs to be done about the chaos and I fear that some of the tactics being used will simply give the Government an excuse to continue to further ignore and neglect local transport.

Public Transport

The Kenmore Bypass is largely about improving public transport.

Our current road corridor through Kenmore lacks the capacity for any fast, dedicated public transport.

The Government study has made it clear only increasing road capacity will allow that extra capacity to be used for the provision of better, more reliable dedicated public transport. Additional lanes added building a bypass will allow a public transport/ transit lane to be created.

I vigorously advocated the construction of the community’s first two Park and Rides over the last couple of the years and will continue to call for improvements to public transport in our area. Read more below about Park and Rides in our area.

Not all trips are suitable to undertake on public transport, but for those that can feasibly be completed on public transport we need fast, reliable, safe and comfortable services.

The State Government’s long-term infrastructure plan, has no provision locally for rail or light rail - it stipulates that public transport planning for our area, as well as much of Brisbane, is for bus transport.

I believe that rail and light rail should be examined as long-term public transport solutions for our area.

If we want to improve public transport under present arrangements, that means improving dedicated bus infrastructure. This requires more road capacity.

The bypass study is also about cycling.

Locally, we have some of the highest rates of cycle use in Brisbane, yet we still have no safe connection between our community and the growing bikeway network within Brisbane.

Specifically, the study is examining the construction of a bikeway connecting the Western Freeway bikeway to Kenmore. This would provide a sound alternative for some people to using their car and would also significantly enhance the lifestyle of many local people.

At the end of the day, there are three outcomes that I want to see from this process:

1. An effective solution to the long neglected and unacceptable traffic conditions that plague our local community.

2. Greatly upgraded public transport that will offer a genuine alternative for local residents. I want to see this area have dedicated public transport infrastructure to provide a reliable link to the major destinations in Brisbane, especially schools and universities.

3. A safe cycle connection between our area and Brisbane’s growing cycle network.

[balance deleted]

Dr. Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill

Conclusion


Email received 29/4/08

Northern Link

Thank you for your comments on the proposed Northern Link project. Please see below my responses to your feedback/questions.

1 Since we received your email, the Coordinator-General has released the final Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Northern Link EIS. Section 2.2 of the ToR specifies that the EIS should take into account:

"the sensitivity of [traffic] modelling assumptions to large changes in global oil availability and oil price vulnerability over the life of the project are to be assessed for the construction and operational changes. This assessment should document assumptions and provide estimates for the impact of fuel price changes on:

  • travel behaviour in the study areas, including possible modal shift changes to public transport and non-motorised transport.
  • traffic volumes using the project; and
  • the commercial viability of the project over its life."

2.1 We have a team of experienced traffic engineers and modellers working on how the project would impact on traffic within the study corridor, its surround suburbs and the wider Brisbane road network. We anticipate that we'll be able to provide detail on predicted traffic volumes and transport connections in late May, with the findings of the traffic impact assessment to be available in June.

2.2 The preliminary concept alignment was chosen because it follows favourable geology for tunnelling and allows better connectivity to the Western Freeway and Inner City Bypass. Our engineering team are currently developing and assessing options for how the project could connect to the surface road network at Kelvin Grove Rd, Kelvin Grove, and Frederick Street, Toowong. We anticipate that we'll be able to provide more information on these connections in late May.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Laura

Consultation Team
NORTHERN LINK EIS
Ph: 1800 692 333

For further information, visit our website www.northernlinkeis.com.au


Email sent 16/4/08

Northern Link Consultation Team
Brisbane City Council

Northern Link

I should like to provide some feedback in relation to an April 2008 newsletter which I have received in relation to this proposal. In particular:

  • in developing the business case, a key question needs to be the implications of a potential global 'peak oil' event. Some suggestions about the reasons for this, and speculations about the practical consequences, are on my web-site - in relation to suggestions to the WBTNI team that an alternative 'peak oil' scenario needs to be considered (see Debating Regional Transport Proposals);
  • the route of the proposed tunnel looks very odd from my point of view (ie connecting the Western Freeway with the Inner City Bypass).
    • Firstly, while I use the Western Freeway on average once per day in each direction, I would not have occasion to use the tunnel very often. Undoubtedly traffic studies will show that this does not apply to everyone, but it implies the need to ensure that alternative non-tunnel routes are very accessible at each end of the tunnel;
    • Secondly, it is my understanding that all major roads at either end of the tunnel tend to be heavily congested at peak hour. There needs to be some certainty in developing this proposal that the tunnel would relieve, rather than compounding, that congestion. This is, of course a function of the further development of connections along the Western Freeway, Inner City Bypass, Hale Street and Kelvin Grove Road etc

John Craig

To DMR - 31/5/08

Email sent 31/5/08

Mr Stuart Lutton,
Program Manager,
Kenmore Bypass Planning,
Metropolitan District,
Department of Main Roads.

Context to Kenmore Bypass Proposal

Further to my email of 23/4/08, I should like to submit for your consideration on the basis of some new information that:

  • the Kenmore bypass proposal can not really resolve problems of congestion on Moggill Road, because of features of the regional transport network;
  • options for upgrading Moggill Road are a better alternative - so as to maintain the integrity of that route separate from the already-overloaded Western Freeway;
  • from a regional viewpoint it seems critical to avoid adding further traffic to the Western Freeway, because options currently under investigation through WBTNI to improve traffic flow on that Freeway and allow it to be upgraded (ie WBTNI's Options 3, 4 5) are most unlikely to be viable;
  • a substantial transformation of the character of Brisbane's transportation system (rather than simply an expansion of traditional types of infrastructure) is probably required because of: (a) SE Queensland's regional plan; and (b) the likely impact of the global 'peak oil' event.

These points are elaborated further below.

John Craig


Detailed Comments

Upgrading Moggill Road?

In my earlier email I sought information concerning DMR's preliminary report on the Kenmore Bypass option, with particular reference to the way in which the regional transport network and alternatives involving upgrades to maintain the integrity of Moggill Road had been dealt with in that report.

As that email had suggested these points are important because of:

  • the relationship between the bypass option and the Western Freeway. Existing congestion on that Freeway would (a) severely impede traffic flow on any bypass route and (b) be compounded by the (say) 25,000 vehicles per day expected to use any such bypass; and
  • the probability that current congestion on Moggill Road is significantly affected by regional, rather than merely local residential, traffic (eg by Warrego Highway traffic seeking to bypass Ipswich Road). If this is the case, then both any bypass route and Moggill Road would seem likely to quickly gain sufficient 'rat running' traffic to ensure a continued level of congestion roughly equivalent to that on Ipswich Road. This would then make it vital to develop the full Moggill Arterial route (WBTNI's Option 17), which would attract much more traffic and further compound congestion on the Western Freeway.

I do not appear to have received any response to my request for such information.

However I note from press reports and from advice from the state member for Moggill (Dr Bruce Flegg) that your Department is investigating options for upgrading Moggill Road as an alternative to diverting it onto the Western Freeway. Such efforts are to be commended, though as noted below much more is needed.

Upgrading the Western Freeway?

Since sending my earlier email, I have attempted a preliminary assessment of the options for upgrading Brisbane's transport system that are included in the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI). The results are presented in Brisbane's Transportation Monster. The key point in relation to your Kenmore bypass investigation is that it would require an upgrade of the Western Freeway that is unlikely to be viable (for reasons suggested below). And the massive upgrading which would be necessary if WBTNI's Option 17 were implemented would be even less feasible.

In simple terms WBTNI's suggested options involve: (a) development of a system of freeways through tunnels which would bridge gaps in Brisbane's major road network; and (b) some enhancement of public transport. The problem (which is considered in more detail in the above document) is that:

  • the SE Queensland regional strategy seeks to limit urban sprawl, and this makes it impossible to find routes for freeways that are not extremely expensive relative to the traffic volumes likely to use them (as the tunnel freeway links would be);
  • it seems to be intended that the tunnel freeway links be funded through public private partnerships, and my estimate of the costs and traffic volumes suggests a need for tolls which are much (eg 4 times) greater than those which promoters are mentioning. This strongly suggests that aggressive financial engineering techniques are being used which rely on large future increases in traffic volumes and tolls to compensate for revenue deficits in the early years;
  • the global 'peak oil' event seems to be approach (though it is probably not here yet). After this event, traffic volumes will not increase at historical rates (as the TransApex studies of the feasibility of various tunnel options appeared to assume that they would). In fact traffic volumes could well start to decrease. Indicators of a shift away from motor vehicle usage because of high oil prices are already emerging, and though alternative vehicle technologies exist they are also likely to be expensive and will require large infrastructure investments that have not yet even been planned. Thus the tunnel freeway options that are being currently considered (including those which are intended to free up traffic flow on the Western Freeway) are most unlikely to be constructed - because their financial viability critically depends on rapid traffic growth.

Transforming Brisbane's Transport System?

Because of these problems there is a need to seek a fundamentally different approach to transportation in Brisbane to that which has traditionally been used. What this might require is speculated in Brisbane's Transportation Monster

To Dr Bruce Flegg - 28/5/00

Email sent 28/5/08

Dr Bruce Flegg MP,
Member for Moggill

Brisbane's Transport Options: The Debate that is Needed in Parliament

I noted your recent observations about whether traffic in the western suburbs should be reduced by upgrading Moggill Road or by developing a new route, and the urgency of making submissions on this matter.

While this question needs to be considered, there are bigger issues concerning the overall strategy and proposed options for resolving Brisbane's transport woes that need even earlier attention by Queensland's Parliament. My reasons for suggesting this are outlined in Brisbane's Transportation Monster.

The current process is looming as yet another of this state's infrastructure disasters.

For example, your notes on local road issues highlighted the fact that: (a) the public is being allowed little time for comments on complex options for major roads in the western suburbs; and (b) you have only very recently gained FOI access to information about Main Roads Department's planning which significantly altered your understanding of what that Department has been considering. Other critically concerned parties don't even have your access to such information, and so have no real basis for offering meaningful comments. My impression is that there are a lot of people groping around in an information fog who are desperately trying to find their ticket to get on a train that is just about to leave the station and leave them behind. Many could be very discontent when they discover the implications of dubious options that seem to be being forced upon the community.

The state government has asked for public comment on an apparently flawed series of transport routes. The tunnel freeway options seem impossibly expensive (eg the recently approved Airport Link involves a financial gamble, and others face similar challenges). By limiting urban sprawl the SE Queensland regional plan makes it impossible to find viable rights of way for major roads. Freeway options funded by very high tolls require significant ongoing surface-level congestion. The potential effect of high fuel costs on transport and urban form (some existing indicators of which were outlined in Macken D. 'How cars drive property prices', Financial Review, 24-25/5/08) have apparently been assumed to be irrelevant in determining the overall character of the future transport system. There are potential conflicts of interest (eg between promoters and investors in private infrastructure; in relation to the decision to rule out an outer suburban Brisbane west bypass). There is no transparency about decisions like the latter (eg cost estimates for various alternatives, the assumptions built into transport models are undisclosed). Transport models may distort estimates of future traffic volumes by not taking account of the discouraging effect of high tolls on privately funded infrastructure.

The local road options in the western suburbs that you have focussed on are merely a corollary of prevailing 30-40 year old assumptions about Brisbane's transport systems that may well not be appropriate to Queensland's future needs. Transformation of transport systems (rather than merely an expansion on out-dated assumptions) needs top level consideration - before (not after) deciding the details of projects that should be undertaken.

John Craig

To WBTNI 28/5/08

Email sent 28-5-08

Mr Norm Case,
ConnectWest Consortium
Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation

Thank you very much for WBTNI's detailed and obviously well-considered response to my email 'Super-expensive Freeways can't Solve Brisbane's Traffic Congestion' (22/4/08). As I interpreted it, the basic points Michelle made on your behalf were that:

  • the WBTNI study is based on the pattern of development specified by the SE Queensland regional plan;
  • current patterns of behaviour are assumed to persist, though sensitivity to possible changes (eg the impact of 500% increases in fuel prices) will be considered;
  • western bypass options were ruled out on the basis of low traffic volumes, probable high cost (though costs were not actually estimated) and incompatibility with SE Queensland regional plan by encouraging urban sprawl;
  • Option 3 (a Towong to Everton Park tunnel) would complete an orbital link west of the city, take long distance freight and private vehicles off the suburban network and provide alternative access to the Australia TradeCoast via Stafford Road, separate private and public transport, allow urban revitalization and protect heritage;
  • the synergistic effect of combining various options is important, and needs to be considered;
  • the WBTNI is considering both public and private transport options - and is giving particular emphasis to: public transport; making better use of existing infrastructure (rather than developing new routes); and active transport.

The latter goals are to be applauded. However in other respects I must unfortunately suggest that some of the assumptions WBTNI is being obliged to work with may be incorrect. For example:

  • current patterns of behaviour are unlikely to persist in the face of large increases in fuel costs - though this is a very complex question (eg because of unknowns such as: when the global peak oil event will occur; the impact of speculative bubbles on oil prices; and the effect of alternate transport technologies). Indicators of changes in behaviour already exist (eg see Macken D. 'How cars drive property prices', Financial Review, 24-25/5/08). Though the implications are unclear there is probably a pressing need not just for sensitivity analysis in relation to individual projects but for the development of a complete set of transport options to suit a scenario in which the effect of permanently very high fuel prices might be to (a) stabilize or slowly reverse the currently projected increases in traffic volumes and (b) force changes in urban forms and logistic systems;
  • its is not clear that western bypass options were validly ruled out. The cost of the alternative inner-suburban bypass (Option 3 +) will be very high, and require potentially prohibitive tolls (and significant ongoing surface level congestion) if realistically priced. Facts about costs need to be publicly released so that the community is not simply presented with an apparently benign set of benefits of (say) Option 3. Also the fact that some route costs were not estimated suggests that transport modelling has not taken into account the effect of high tolls on the distribution of traffic on alternative routes. If so this could significantly over-estimate the likely traffic on the Option 3 (inner-suburban tunnel) route, and under-estimate that on a possible Option 2 (an outer-suburban bypass);
  • the whole framework of road options which has been submitted for public comment as a result of the WBTNI process seems incompatible with the SE Queensland regional plan. The latter seeks to limit urban sprawl, and thus: (a) apparently makes it impossible to find genuinely financially viable rights of way to complete gaps in Brisbane's freeway network; and (b) probably forces a fundamental transformation of the city's transport systems;
  • the synergistic effect of some of the proposed options that were mentioned (ie Options 3, 4 and 5 potentially connected to the Western Freeway at Toowong) would be to convert the Western Freeway from being the victim of limited capacity on connecting roads into the source of congestion on such roads - unless it were upgraded to something like the standard of the SE Freeway.

More detailed accounts of various points outlined above are in Brisbane's Transportation Monster on my web-site.

John Craig

To MRD - 23/4/08

Email sent 23/4/08

Mr Stuart Lutton,
Program Manager,
Kenmore Bypass Planning,
Metropolitan District,
Department of Main Roads

Kenmore Sub-arterial Bypass Proposal

The Minister for Main Roads has advised me that you are the officer managing studies of the (so called) Kenmore bypass option, and that he has passed on some of my earlier comments (see Solving the Problem on Moggill Road, and a follow up exchange with Dr Flegg MLA). In essence my comments suggested that

  • there was no point in considering the Kenmore bypass proposal because of features of the regional transport network eg: (a) such a route would simply divert Moggill Road traffic onto the already congested Western Freeway; and (b) 'rat running' through the Western suburbs to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road by traffic from outside the area would ensure that congestion on Moggill Road (and on any bypass) would remain similar to that on Ipswich Road;
  • upgrading Moggill Road on essentially its existing alignment (to maintain its integrity as a route separate from the Western Freeway for which a variety of options seem to be available) would probably be a superior option from a regional perspective.

I would greatly value a copy of the recently completed preliminary report on the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass option, and / or details of how both the regional transport network and alternatives involving upgrading Moggill Road itself were analysed in that process. In is understood that 25,000 vehicles per day would be envisaged as using the bypass, and it would seem that adding this volume to the Western Freeway would create huge difficulties unless / until the latter was upgraded - given that only a small percentage of Moggill Road traffic currently seems to use the Western Freeway. Moreover given that the WBTNI team has suggested Option 17 as a major arterial to stream Warrego Highway traffic through the western suburbs, there can be no doubt that such traffic is already a major factor in the congestion on Moggill Road (the current equivalent of 'Option 17') and would be likely to escalate if additional road capacity becomes available and Ipswich Road remains congested.

As you will be aware a Kenmore bypass option was first proposed about 40 years ago as part of the Wilbur Smith transport study, which envisaged a short (3 km) sub-arterial feeder route from the then-sparsely-settled western suburbs. Coincidentally, working on the wrap-up of that study was one of the first Public Service jobs I had.

Very recently that sub-arterial feeder route has undergone a radical transformation into what would effectively be Stage 1 of a proposal (WBTNI's Option 17) for a 19 km 'Moggill Pocket Sub-Arterial' which would connect the Warrego Highway to an inner suburban north-south city bypass (ie via an upgraded Western Freeway, and various tunnels - such as Option 3 north from Toowong). Though I understand that only part of Option 17 is in your planning terms of reference, I should like to draw your attention to the probability that the overall strategy reflected in the options on which public comment has been sought through WBTNI is seriously defective (see Super-expensive Freeways can't Solve Brisbane's Traffic Congestion). The ConnectWest Consortium probably need to start again to find a more creative set of options

Thus not only is the Kenmore bypass route no longer of any real relevance for the use for which it was originally preserved (as noted above), but its role as a 'leg in the door' for Option 17 is suspect because the package of options of which Option 17 is a part may well be counter-productive to reducing Brisbane's traffic congestion.

My recent comments to the ConnectWest Consortium have also pointed out that the Main Roads Department's history of the preservation of the route of the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass (which your Department is now describing as part of the grand-sounding Moggill Pocket Arterial Road / Moggill-Warrego Highway Connection) gives a seriously misleading impression of the extent to which the local community could reasonably have been expected to have been aware of what now seems to be envisaged as a major arterial road that might possibly adversely affect them.

John Craig

To WBTNI - 22/4/08

Email sent 22/4/08

Mr Norm Case,
ConnectWest Consortium

Super-expensive Freeways can't Solve Brisbane's Traffic Congestion

On 11 April you requested comments on the WBTNI's transport network improvements map. Further to my response of 15 April (which sought advice on how detailed information about technical aspects of the WBTNI might be obtained), I would now like to:

  • suggest that the broad strategy for overcoming traffic congestion in Brisbane's west reflected in WBTNI's options map seems seriously inadequate; and
  • offer a comment of the past general lack of community awareness of the implications of Option 17.

The Core Strategy Won't Solve Brisbane's Problem

The WBTNI's proposed set of traffic improvements basically represents a 'more freeways' solution in the main areas of traffic congestion, combined with new public transport corridors in less central areas. This is simply incompatible with the tight 'footprint' on urban development that has been imposed under the State Government's South-east Queensland regional plan.

By trying to combine a freeway-based transport solution with urban consolidation, the WBTNI team has come up with a proposal that amounts to increasing congestion dramatically in Brisbane's inner suburbs in order to force motorists to use those freeways - whose capital costs and tolls would be huge because they involve tunnels. For example, a reasonable guess-timate of the toll on the envisaged 10km tunnel north from Toowong (Option 3) is $20-$30 per trip (assuming the capital cost would be $8bn, the rate of return 10% and traffic volume 100,000 vehicles per day).

Few would pay this except in the face of the massive surface road congestion which could be maintained by ruling out options that might relieve inner-suburban congestion (eg a Brisbane west bypass via Option 2) in order to prevent urban sprawl. A 'freeway solution' to traffic congestion is only feasible if the urban sprawl with which it is traditionally associated is permitted.

The options that the Brisbane community is being asked to consider imply massive ongoing congestion and high tolls. In Sydney there was a public outcry when the state government funnelled roads towards a tunnel which imposed high tolls. The same is likely in Brisbane when the public starts to appreciate the (so far undisclosed) implications of the options that have been proposed. The WBTNI team needs to go back to the drawing board to seek more creative options.

The basic message here is that the State Government's regional plan, which is designed to limit urban sprawl, probably demands a fundamental shift to a strategy for reducing traffic congestion in which public-transport is the core focus, rather than a peripheral add-on. This applies even under the WBTNI's 'business-as-usual' scenario, while under a 'peak-oil' scenario (such as that referred to in an email of 3/4/08) the need to do something radically different to past practices would be even greater. The fact that such a shift in strategic focus means that traffic congestion problems can't be significantly reduced for a long time, does not make proposals for super-expensive freeways any more likely to be viable - no matter how many political brownie-points may be gained from from the naive for saying that 'we can fix it'.

The present government needs to look back into into history as political fixes have for decades been progressively 'pulling the wings off' Queensland's capacity to competently develop infrastructure (see Defects in Infrastructure Planning and Delivery in Queensland and Structural Incompetence and SE Queensland's Water Crisis). Until the institutional capacity to plan and develop infrastructure competently is rebuilt, such problems must recur indefinitely.

A Comment on Option 17

I should also like to draw to your attention that communities potentially affected by Option 17 (what WBTNI has described as the Moggill Pocket Sub-Arterial Corridor, and which the Main Roads Department refers to as the anything-but-sub Moggill Pocket Arterial Road / Moggill-Warrego Highway Connection) have had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that any such major arterial road might affect them as they have purchased nearby properties in recent decades .

As you will be aware part of that route, the so-called Kenmore sub-arterial bypass, was originally suggested in the 1960s by the Wilbur Smith transportation plan for Brisbane. This envisaged a 3km feeder route (roughly equivalent to 17 Mile Rocks Road) for local western suburbs traffic as an alternative to Moggill Road. There was no suggestion about a route for getting Warrego Highway traffic through to the city and north. The implementation of such a local bypass was successfully opposed about 20 years ago, and as a stand-alone project the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass has long since passed its use-by date because all it would do is divert traffic onto an already congested Western Freeway (noting that most Moggill Road traffic does not currently use the Western Freeway), while traffic 'rat-running' through the western suburbs to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road (which is presumably part of the traffic flow motivating the WBTNI's current suggestion about Option 17 as a major arterial) would ensure that congestion on both Moggill Road and the bypass continued to roughly match that on Ipswich Road (see Solving the Problem on Moggill Road, and a follow up exchange with Dr Flegg MLA).

While the Main Roads Department has apparently preserved a continuation of the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass route through Moggill, few in the community can be expected to have been aware of this. For example:

  • despite living in the Kenmore area for 25 years and taking a general interest in 'the road' the present writer did not see any map which portrayed the Option 17 route - which clearly implies a much more disruptive beast than a 'sub-arterial' feeder route - until WMTNI published its Option 17 map in mid 2008;
  • the route preserved for the Kenmore sub-arterial bypass is only 30m wide in one section (with many homes immediately adjacent on both sides), and thus was clearly only suitable for a relatively minor road;
  • a 2004 UBD Refidex gave no indication of any road proposal along the route now nominated for Option 17;
  • a contact who conducted research into Main Roads Department data stated that he found a map which showed a possible 'Moggill Pocket Arterial' in 2006. However even in 2006 citizens who did not specifically seek out such information would have been quite unaware of what a 'Moggill Pocket Arterial' might be, or have any reason to suspect that it might have any relationship with the older (and by-then clearly out-dated) Kenmore sub-arterial bypass.

John Craig


Reply received 13/5/08

Thank you for your continued interest in the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation. Community feedback is an important part of our investigation process, it helps shape analysis and inform reports. Your comments have been included in our database and will be reported to the investigation team.

Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation is a strategic study focussed on the investigation of regionally significant transport links and travel patterns across western Brisbane. It is developing a transport network strategy for western Brisbane for 2026 and beyond.

The study is based on the preferred pattern of development contained in the South East Queensland Regional Plan, which directs land use patterns and policies, and is intended to ensure that the region grows and changes in a sustainable way over the next 20 years. For example, the South East Queensland Regional Plan identifies that there will be significant growth in Caboolture, Pine Rivers and in the Ipswich region which will have a major impact on the transport network of western Brisbane.

Based on the South East Queensland Regional Plan, the population of south-east Queensland will grow by more than one million by 2026. It is also expected that the number of vehicles on south-east Queensland roads will increase by 30 - 40% over the next 20 years if the current trends continue. Even with increased investment in public transport infrastructure, private car use is expected to remain high.

The transport model (as with any predictive tool) has been developed using existing data which is based on current behaviours, and it is appropriate that assumptions for the future be based on those same behaviours. Future changes in areas such as technology, social behaviours and economic activity would result in changes to travel behaviour and demand. Sensitivity testing will involve varying the assumptions within the model to account for possible future changes in conditions such as user behaviour, vehicle technology and fuel prices. The model outputs will be compared to gauge the shifts in demand and required response.

For example, a key assumption of the study is that fuel prices will remain high but will not eliminate the passenger car or change user behaviour. Sensitivity testing will test the impact of variations in this key assumption to account for possible future changes in fuel pricing (by up to 500%). The results of sensitivity testing will inform the development and assessment of strategies and ensure that the outcome will be appropriate for a range of possible future conditions.

The western bypass options have been ruled out by the government primarily because of low projected traffic volumes. No specific routes had been investigated so it is not possible to provide a cost estimate. However whatever the route Option 2 could have followed, it would have been around 40 – 50km long and would require significant lengths of tunnel for topographic and environmental reasons. It would provide little relief to congestion in western Brisbane and would be incompatible with the Regional Plan as it would encourage urban sprawl beyond the 2026 urban footprint.

The possible road tunnel from Toowong to Everton Park (refer Option 3) is being considered as it could complete an orbital link west of the city centre, take long distance freight and private vehicles off the suburban network and provide alternative access to the Australia TradeCoast via Stafford Road. It could also provide a total transport solution as private vehicles can travel in the tunnel, and public and active transport can travel on the surface. This could allow for urban revitalisation of the surrounding community (on the surface) and would protect heritage and character places, such as the Toowong Cemetery.

While each option may improve transport in its local area, it is the way that options are combined that helps to meet long-term demand. For example, if the Toowong to Everton Park corridor (refer Option 3) were constructed in combination with the Darra to Toowong corridor (refer Option 7) and the Toowong to Kelvin Grove corridor (refer Option 4), congestion would be reduced along existing roads such as the Western Freeway, Milton Road and Coronation Drive. The Toowong roundabout would be eliminated which would remove a major bottleneck on the Western Freeway.

Another example to consider is the Toowong to Everton Park corridor (refer Option 3) in combination with the Everton Park to Kedron corridor (refer Option 6) and the North West Transport Corridor (refer Option 15) as this would complete a motorway ring road and north-south link for longer distance traffic to the west of Brisbane. This combination would reduce traffic along Wardell Street by 30 - 40%, which would support connectivity between the western suburbs. It would also significantly reduce traffic on Gympie Road, which could enable the proposed Northern Busway (refer Option 12) to be constructed within the existing Gympie Road corridor.

The investigation will provide a report to the state government with recommendations on a preferred regional transport network development strategy for the western Brisbane study area for the next 20 and more years. The report will include consideration of the priority and affordability of the recommendations.

Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation is a multi-modal study with a major focus on public transport. There are seven public transport corridor options to improve bus and rail services, with three of the road-based options providing opportunities for public transport corridor options. With all options, there would be opportunities to develop walk and cycle infrastructure.

A key principle of the study is to make better use of existing infrastructure before investing in new corridors and rail is considered to be the backbone of the transport network given its ability to move large numbers of people and reduce traffic on roads. The rail improvement options (refer Options 13 and 14) would enable significant improvements to rail services across the whole Brisbane rail network and Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation is investigating a ‘Turn Up and Go’ strategy with no need for timetables in peak periods.

In terms of active transport, there are numerous pedestrian and cycle options being considered to support the use of active transport and public transport at key centres and to link residential areas to education, employment, shopping and recreational facilities. These possible options include off road walking and cycling links and river crossings for recreational and commuter-based trips.

No decision has been made as to whether any of these corridor options or combinations are required at this time. If a corridor option is required, further work on its social, environmental, engineering, and economic feasibility including government affordability and funding sources would need to be undertaken along with further community consultation.

Your comments regarding Option 17 – Moggill Pocket Sub-Arterial Corridor, have been forwarded to Main Roads for consideration.

We will continue to keep you updated as the investigation progresses. Our investigation will be conducting community consultation activities throughout this year. We invite you to visit public displays or provide your feedback via our website www.wbtni.net.au or our enquiry line 1800 636 896.

Thanks again for your interest.

Kind regards

Michelle
Community Engagement Officer
Western Brisbane Transport Network

To Paul Williams - 18/4/08

Email sent 18/4/08

Paul Williams
Courier Mail

Brisbane's Traffic Congestion: Dealing with the Big Issues First

In a recent article ('First mates look like third raters', Courier Mail, 12/4/08) you suggested that the State Government's performance in releasing its $17m study of Brisbane's traffic congestion in the premier's absence was poor, and that (beyond deciding not to build a Brisbane west bypass) the Government did not seem to know what to do.

There is little doubt that the way this issue is being addressed is not impressive. While 'n' possible transport options were nominated as suitable for public consultation, at least two strategic issues that probably need closer attention before focussing on specific options were finessed and presented as a fait accompli. In particular:

  • many options on which community comment is allowed appear to be potentially inappropriate if (as seems possible) the global 'peak oil' event is currently under way or imminent. Failure to develop options that would be appropriate under that alternative scenario (which has been seriously raised by other arms of the state government) seems to reflect a lack of effective coordination;
  • the logic of rejecting the development of a bypass route west of Brisbane, rather than through west-side suburbs, has been presented only superficially. This vagueness would seem to be undesirable given that the 'through the suburbs' option is likely to be associated with an $8-10bn tunnel (and probably others) that will impose massive toll costs on users - though not on the State Government directly.

The Need for an Alternative Urban Scenario and Clarity about Brisbane West Bypass Options argues these suggestions in more detail.

John Craig

To WBTNI - 15/4/08

Email sent 15/4/08

Mr Norm Case
ConnectWest Consortium

More on: The Need for an Alternative Urban Scenario and Clarity about Brisbane West Bypass Options

Thanks for your advice about the additional information available on the WBTNI web-site.

Unfortunately I must point out that it seems much too superficial in relation to the issues raised in my email of 3/4/08, In particular:

Alternative Urban Scenario: There is nothing in the information available on the WBTNI web-site that helps anyone to assess what the implications for transport networks in western Brisbane would be if (as seems plausible) the global 'peak oil' event is actually happening. For example, the assumptions that have been used in projecting future traffic volumes don't seem to be stated. In practice the implications of an alternative ('peak oil') scenario would probably involve:

  • an annual decline in future traffic volumes (rather than the annual increase that is presumably assumed under the 'business as usual' scenario) as oil prices increased fast enough to ensure that global oil demand declines to match global supply (with some difference related to presumed increases in efficiency and the development of alternative energy technologies);
  • significant adjustments in urban form to adapt to declining traffic volumes.

Transparency: In relation to the argument about the inadequacy of Options 1 and 2 only broad brush projections of traffic volumes are given and no information is provided about preliminary cost estimates. Thus the decision which is critical to the overall thrust of the ongoing WBTNI investigation is anything but transparent. Traffic volumes on Options 1 and 2 will depend on assumptions made about the rest of the network - and a wide variety of 'answers' could potentially be obtained by varying those assumption. The actual assumptions that are the basis of the stated low volumes on the Brisbane west bypass options do not seem to be publicly accessible. Similarly, without preliminary cost estimates, it is impossible to judge the validity of claims that those routes are too expensive. Given the potential for conflicts of interest that seems to exist (see my email to SOS Kenmore of 8/4/08), there is a need for much greater transparency in relation to this question.

I would appreciate advice about whether, and if so how, more detailed information about such fundamental technical issues is to be made publicly available.

John Craig


Email from WBTNI Information 11/4/08

Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation update

As referred to by Acting Premier Paul Lucas in the media release 3 April 2008, detailed information on transport network improvement options is now available on the our website coinciding with commencement of public displays.

We have also attached a copy of the investigation’s transport network improvement options map. For a higher res version please visit our website www.wbtni.net.au. Whilst the media has focused on roads and tunnels this map - and the supporting options information sheets on the website - explain the integrated transport approach to the investigation.

More information can be viewed at http://www.wbtni.net.au/index.php?mod=Dynamic&id=8.

If you have any questions about this Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation please phone the investigation team on 1800 636 896.

Norm Case
Project Manager
ConnectWest Consortium

To Dr Bruce Flegg NP, 10/4/08

Email sent 10/4/08

Dr Bruce Flegg,
MP Member for Moggill

Roads Through Brisbane's Western Suburbs

Your April newsletter, of which relevant segments are reproduced below, celebrated the Queensland Government's rejection of a Brisbane west bypass and criticised its alternative - the (so called) Moggill Pocket Sub-arterial option. Unfortunately your newsletter gives a too-localized perspective on what is at least a regional transport problem.

The existence of a major north-south traffic flow to the west of Brisbane city is a function of SE Queensland's growth. This requires a either major route west of Brisbane or alternatives through Brisbane's west-side suburbs - the latter being the Government's current preference. People wanting to go surfing on the Sunshine Coast are not (despite suggestions in your newsletter) the main potential users of a Brisbane west bypass.

Moreover, if there is no north-south route west of Brisbane, then traffic from the west headed north (and traffic from the north headed west) is likely to rat-run through Moggill.

That traffic already passes through Moggill, and is presumably the main cause (rather than local people's journey to work as your newsletter suggested) of congestion on Moggill Road. In the functional sense of allowing Warrego Highway traffic to go east and north while avoiding Ipswich Road, a 'Moggill Pocket sub-arterial' already exists - it is just that it is currently called 'Moggill Road'. Your campaign against a Brisbane west bypass and your advocacy of trying to relieve 'local' traffic congestion on Moggill Road by developing the (so called) Kenmore sub-arterial road reserve (part of the Moggill Pocket sub-arterial) was in effect an advocacy of the development of the full route from the perspective of those concerned with the regional transport challenge.

Your April newsletter continued to advocate developing the Kenmore sub-arterial road reserve as the solution to congestion on Moggill Road. As I have previously argued [1, 2, 3], there is no value in doing this:

  • such a route would divert Moggill Road traffic onto the already-heavily-loaded Western Freeway, and would presumably be unacceptable from a regional viewpoint unless / until the latter can be upgraded;
  • regional traffic would ensure that congestion on that route and on Moggill Road remained roughly equivalent to that on Ipswich Road.

Your newsletter also suggested upgrading the Western Freeway by the addition of one bus lane. This does not reflect a proper appreciation of the scale of redevelopment of the Western Freeway that would be required if there is no Brisbane west bypass route. That Freeway might have to interface with three (each presumably 4-lane) tunnels at Toowong, while also coping with the impact of the (say) 200,000 additional residents who would locate in Brisbane's south-west over the next 20 years under the State Government's regional plan. The Western Freeway would presumably need to be upgraded to 8 lanes (at the very least), while the Centenary Highway would need to be (at least) 6 lanes.

I submit that there is a need to re-evaluate the arguments presented in your April newsletter, and the following is suggested as an alternative;

  • the State Government should be asked to re-consider the option of a Brisbane west bypass. This route could presumably be developed as a sunken road between earth embankments with limited local impact. At the very least full public disclosure of the logic of rejecting this option should be sought (because of the potential conflicts of interest involved as suggested in my email of 8/4/08 to Save our Suburbs - Kenmore);
  • the Main Roads Department should be urged to consider further the possibility of upgrading Moggill Road more-or-less on its existing alignment, so as to maintain its integrity as a route which is separate from the Western Freeway (eg along the lines outlined in my email of 25/2/08);
  • it should be suggested to the State Government that the WBTNI needs to evaluate an alternative urban development scenario that might arise in a 'peak oil' environment (see my email of 3/4/08). If, as seems possible, a global peak oil event is occurring (and if alternative technologies for passenger vehicles are slow to be introduced or very expensive) then traffic congestion could be a total non-issue in 10-15 years, and many of the business-as-usual transport proposals that the State Government is currently proposing to investigate could prove to be expensive white elephants while the community struggles to cope with a new reality.

I would be interested in your response to these suggestions.

John Craig


Email received 9/4/08

Road Update Newsletter

I urge you to read my attached roads update newsletter – Click Here.

There have been some significant developments including the abandoning of the Western Brisbane Bypass and the announcement of a crazy State Government study into linking the Warrego interstate truck route directly to the Western Freeway. These are significant issues and I will keep you updated.

Dr. Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill


Applicable material copied from the April Moggill Monitor

" WESTERN BRISBANE BYPASS DEAD AND BURIED

Our community deserves a pat on the back!

Rightfully the State Government backed down on its move to carve up our residential areas and our irreplaceable environment by constructing a gateway motorway-style freeway through this area.

Our local community rallied to show the government this was a mistake.

I have spent a number of years ensuring that the Government were left in no doubt local residents would fight this proposal right down to the wire.

I have also invested considerable energy to ensure that the Government understood this was not simply a case of “not in my backyard” but that such a road was ill-conceived and would not address our serious traffic problems.

The gridlock that has been inflicted on local motorists during the prolonged morning and afternoon peak hours is predominately an issue of people commuting to parts of Brisbane.

Whilst no doubt a road linking Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast would produce some convenience, the traffic problem we confront is not people going to the Sunshine Coast to surf, it is people commuting for their jobs, their schools and their appointments within the inner areas of Brisbane.

I am delighted the Western Brisbane Bypass has now been abandoned.

For years local residents have had to live with uncertainty whilst the Government considered this option.

It affected property prices and it affected people’s decisions about their homes.

Residents of the Gap have greeted the decision with the same enthusiasm.

What we have environmentally in the local area and in particular Brisbane Forest Park has been described to me as “a treasure”. If it is allowed to be destroyed it can never be brought back.

I congratulate active local residents who have played a major role in this campaign and this win to protect our local area. In particular Tamar and David McCullough and all associated with Western Brisbane Bypass Action Group, and James Jarvis and Andrew O’Hara from the Moggill Community Association. Other community groups including REPA – led by John Bristow and Jenny Hacker and others also fought hard to achieve this outcome.

If there is one thing I have learnt in this job it is that to get the best outcomes for the local area, being an active local MP is not enough, I need strong community support.

That’s what happened.

A fantastic outcome for the local area!

WARREGO HIGHWAY TO WESTERN FREEWAY A FARCE

As widely reported in the media the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI), after dismissing the Western Brisbane Bypass, are considering a road along land owned by the Main Roads Department linking the Warrego Highway and the Western Freeway.

This would be a ridiculous road to consider building.

We have just been through years of debate about the Goodna bypass and the Ipswich Motorway and the need to re-route heavy trucks from central Brisbane onto the Logan Motorway.

Such a road would link the Warrego, a major interstate truck route direct to inner Brisbane (Western Freeway and Milton Road).

These roads are already choked to death and adding more and heavier traffic would make matters worse, not better.

The $17 million State Government WBTNI is rapidly wasting taxpayer money looking at ill-conceived proposals instead of actually fixing the roads and public transport in Western Brisbane.

There are numerous important proposals for the WBTNI to urgently consider:

  • The Northern Link Tunnel at the Toowong Roundabout needs to be brought forward.
  • We need an additional inbound lane for public transport on the Western Freeway
  • Indooroopilly buses don’t meet trains. This needs to be addressed.
  • There are no “Park and Rides” to speak of in the area
  • In fact public transport is anything but user friendly.

In all my discussions with Government, no-one, has ever suggested this is a good idea nor indicated any interest in building it.

It is folly!

I have written to the WBTNI asking the consideration be dropped immediately

KENMORE BYPASS UPDATE

Whilst it has yet to be announced publicly, I understand that the Government will shortly take a further step forward in considering a Kenmore Bypass.

Myself and local residents have been conducting a vigorous campaign to have the traffic chaos (ie Moggill Road every morning and afternoon) addressed, albeit belatedly, by the State Government.

I hope the Government has listened to our pleas in the Parliament, the media and to them directly and will shortly announce the additional funding of a detailed feasibility (the small study that has been done to date is only a pre-feasibility) Part of that funding, should include a community consultation (everyone for or against has a right to a say).

These are necessary steps before a commitment can be obtained from the Government to construct a bypass of Kenmore.

I respect the fact that a number of local residents have an objection to building a Kenmore Bypass. Land has been set aside for decades as a transport corridor for the benefit of all our community. Our community has a perfect right to examine its use. If it doesn’t stack up, like the Western Brisbane Bypass, it won’t proceed. However, there are two important differences between a Kenmore Bypass and a Western Brisbane Bypass.

First - there is a transport corridor set aside decades ago that appears on searches and everyone knows about.

Second – unlike a Western Brisbane Bypass a Kenmore Bypass does address the local transport bottleneck.

I also note that in thousands of responses I received to my survey 95% of local residents supported a bypass of Kenmore.

THE DEBATE ON A KENMORE BYPASS SHOULD BE AN HONEST ONE

I respect the rights of local residents and I strongly support the Government conducting a full community consultation so that all residents have an opportunity to have a say, but I condemn scare tactics and dishonest information being circulated in opposition to the proposal.

On Council polling day leaflets were circulated and a petition collected that was clearly designed to frighten and mislead local residents.

The leaflet showed a new road being built all the way from Moggill through Pullenvale to the Western Freeway. THIS IS FALSE.

At no stage will I support anything other than examination of the short 3.3 kilometre road linking Moggill Road to the Western Freeway. NO other part of the local road reserve is being considered in association with this particular study.

Opposition from people living near the road reserve is understandable and should be respected. But I am not prepared to see local residents subjected to misleading scare campaigns in order to attempt “whipping up” opposition.

Our community has a right to look at this proposal.

I encourage a debate by all means, but make it an honest one. "

To SOS - Kenmore 8/4/08

Email sent 8/4/08

Mr Grant Muller
Save our Suburbs - Kenmore

Transparency of Government Decision concerning Brisbane West Bypass

In relation to your email (reproduced below) expressing concern about the (so called) Moggill Pocket Sub-arterial, I should like to draw the attention of the Save our Suburbs - Kenmore (SOS) group to a request which I recently made to the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI) for access to the detailed technical information that was the basis of the state government's decision to exclude the possibility of outer-suburban Brisbane west bypass options.

This is significant because there could be conflicts of interest involved in considering whether to run such a major north-south route through, or around, Brisbane's western suburbs.

The decision to favour an inner-suburban route (ie Options 3, 7 and 15 which bypass the Brisbane's city centre 'through' its west-side suburbs) is relevant to SOS Kenmore because this is the only reason for considering the ironically-named Moggill Pocket Sub-arterial route (Option 17). With an outer-suburban bypass (which the WBTNI reportedly excluded on the basis of a so-far vague reference to low traffic volumes), the Moggill Pocket Sub-arterial option would be irrelevant.

Other points to note about the inner-suburban route are that:

  • it seems on the surface much less logical than an outer-suburban bypass - because of the resulting greater concentration / congestion of north-south traffic flows in Brisbane's west-side suburbs; however
  • by concentrating / congesting traffic, it potentially increases the profitability (at community but not direct government expense) of private investments which might be made in the development of tolled components - especially Option 3 (a 10 km / $8bn tunnel). The latter would require very high tolls, and would be much less commercially viable unless traffic is funnelled into it by excluding an outer-suburban western bypass alternative. The problem with an outer-suburban bypass option from might not have been low traffic volumes on the bypass, but that it would result in lesser traffic volumes through such a tunnel.

'Guess-timate' added later: Assuming that such a tunnel cost $5.7bn (based on parallels with the $3.8bn 6.7km Airport Link project); attracted average traffic volumes over the life of the project of 100,000 vehicles per day (just less than that on the SE Freeway); incurred operational costs that were 20% of ongoing capital costs; and required a rate of return of 9% per annum, then tolls would need to average about $17 per trip over the life of the project. Very few people would seem likely to be willing to pay such a toll unless surface level traffic congestion were intense.

The fact that many elements of infrastructure which are still being considered as solutions to congestion on Brisbane's west could be undertaken by public private partnerships (PPPs) must raise concerns about possible conflicts between the interests of the community and those of prospective private infrastructure financiers.

Why? Firstly the Government and / or the ConnectWest Consortium undertaking the WBTNI may feel they have to give priority to potential investor's interests given the constraints that have emerged on State infrastructure funding (eg see Public Finance and Queensland's Budgets).

Secondly, there is always a risk of conflict of interest where public sector decision makers can seek future careers in private firms who might benefit from their decisions. It can be noted that the regional planning process for SE Queensland involved a public announcement that a decision would soon be made on which land could (and which land could not) be developed in the region, a process which seemed to the present writer at the time to be either naive or designed to encourage corrupt inducements (see Difficulties in Preparing a Regional Plan). Even though there is no potential 'deal maker' directly involved, the WBTNI process is unfortunately open to being viewed in a similar light because of the huge profits potentially available to those who arrange infrastructure PPPs.

Note added later: Firms interested in PPP options will undoubtedly be following the WBTNI process closely. And the likely fees available for arranging (say) an $8+bn tunnel would presumably amount to several hundreds of millions of dollars, more than sufficient to create moral hazard for potential deal makers (and public officials) who might profit from favourable government decisions.

Thirdly, where PPPs are used for providing infrastructure, it can be hard to ensure sufficient technical skills in the public sector to properly assess proposals in the community interest (see About Public-Private Partnerships, 2002). Concerns have often been expressed in the US (eg in relation to its military-industrial complex where private firms are extensively involved in partnership with government) that the firms involved can control the agenda in their own commercial interests because they have the best information about technical possibilities. And Japan has been described as a 'construction state' because of the huge influence that infrastructure firms have over the political process.

Finally other recent analyses have commented on the pervasiveness of conflicts of interest between infrastructure fund managers and investors because of the massive fees that accrue to those who arrange such deals under the PPP model most widely used to date (see 'Infrastructure Funds: Managing, Financing and Accounting: In Whose Interests?', Riskmetrics Group ,April 2008).

Thus it is suggested that SOS - Kenmore should also press for the logic of the state government's decision in relation to a Brisbane west bypass to be made publicly transparent and for a clear demonstration that the decision to exclude the possibility of an outer-suburban Brisbane west bypass was in the community interest, rather than based on anyone's assumptions about the commercial interests of potential private investors in infrastructure projects.

Regards

John Craig


Email from Save our Suburbs - Kenmore 8/4/08

Attached Article from Page 1 Courier Mail re Main Road from Centenary Highway to Warrego Highway

Today the Courier Mail has run a front page story highlighting the proposed link from the Centenary Highway through our area to the Warrego Highway. Now is the opportunity to extend the community support from outside our area to the Pullenvale, Moggill, Bellbowrie area.

Can you continue to convey your thoughts against cutting our suburbs in half to: mainroads@ministerial.qld.gov.au and encourage others you know to do the same ? We will also be starting our campaign outside of the Kenmore area and will need help from you all to drop leaflets in other areas affected by this proposed road.

We need real solutions to traffic congestion, not more of it, congesting the already congested Moggill Roads and Western Freeway.

Thank you for all your help and support to date.

regards

Grant Muller
Save our Suburbs - Kenmore

Dress-circle suburbs cut in half

Robert MacDonald
April 08, 2008
12:00am

A NEW cross-river link cutting through Brisbane's dress-circle western suburbs is being considered as part of the State Government's traffic plan.

The proposed 19km road would run from the Warrego Highway at Ipswich to the Western Freeway at Kenmore, crossing the Brisbane River at Karalee.

Residents in the western suburbs were relieved last week when acting Premier Paul Lucas ruled out a bypass to the west of Mt Coot-tha, linking Brookfield and The Gap as part of the Government's long-term solution to west and northwest Brisbane's traffic woes.

See a map of the area from the Western Bypass Action Group

However, the Government has quietly included a possible major road along the "Moggill Pocket sub-arterial corridor" – reserved by government in the 1970s – in its new package of potential future major road and transport projects released for public consultation.

Mr Lucas said no decision would be taken on the projects until probably the end of this year.

State Member for Moggill Bruce Flegg last night said he opposed the proposed new link, which would run through the middle of his electorate.

Dr Flegg said he had recently met the State Government and had not heard anyone argue that it was a good idea.

"I think anyone who thinks this will never happen is a fool. You can never say never," he said.

He said the new road would "without doubt" bring more traffic on to the Western Freeway and Moggill Rd.

Federal member for Ryan Michael Johnson also criticised the proposal. He has previously opposed suggestions of a new bridge at the Moggill ferry and said there would also be "overwhelming opposition to the new alternative".

In its latest published material on the proposal, the Government specifically said it "could be an alternative river crossing to relieve Ipswich Motorway and Centenary Motorway south of the river".

But the publication said that any proposed use of the undeveloped preserved transport corridor "could only proceed if the Government's environmental impact management requirements are met".

Alternatively, you can copy and paste this link into your browser: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23503113-952,00.html

To WBTNI - 3/4/08

Email sent 3/4/08

Mr Norm Case,
Project Manager,
ConnectWest Consortium

The Need for an Alternative Urban Scenario and Clarity about Brisbane West Bypass Options

In relation to your request of 3/4/08 for comments on the transport network options that could be considered for Western Brisbane, I should like to suggest that:

  • assumptions imposed on your investigation (ie those related to a limited practical impact of 'peak oil') could unfortunately render its conclusions unrealistic; and
  • it is anything but clear why the inner-suburban Brisbane west bypass options are the only ones now being considered.

An Alternative Urban Scenario

In an earlier email of 29/1/08 I commented on issues WBTNI needs to consider and, in a follow-up email of 31/1/08, I further emphasised that the peak oil issue probably needed more attention that it is being given in development of transport networks in SE Queensland. I note also that:

  • there are some indications that a global peak oil event may already have occurred (eg in a speech to Parliament on 13/3/08, Ms Rachel Nolan MP (Member for Ipswich) noted that (a) oil prices are at unprecedented levels (b) global oil production of 85.5 million barrels in November 2006 has not been surpassed in any subsequent month; and (c) some analysts argue that global production is likely to continue declining);
  • experience during the oil crisis of the 1970s shows that the price elasticity of demand for oil products is very low - so that huge price increases can occur when demand exceeds available supply;
  • one observer has recently suggested (plausibly though by no means certainly) that energy generally prices might increase by a factor of 5-10 over the next decade because of 'peak oil' and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Robertson J., etal 'Shock prediction on power prices', Courier Mail, 1/4/08)

While it may be that conventional or alternative transport energy technologies continue to be available at lower prices, this needs to be investigated rather than assumed - because a 5-10 fold increase in petrol prices would make motor vehicle use prohibitively expensive for most families and require massive changes in SEQ's transport systems and urban patterns.

Thus the Terms of Reference for your investigation (which require assuming that 'peak oil' implies high energy prices, but no significant transport changes) may be being invalidated by changing circumstances.

The US National Intelligence Council later suggested that oil alternatives would be available for transportation by 2025. While this might be correct (though the NIC's apparent endorsement of bio-fuels seems suspect), unless the energy storage alternatives suggested allow cheap motor vehicle usage they will not seriously alter the effects of the 'peak oil' event in terms of probably requiring changes to basic assumptions about transportation systems (Added November 2008).

The following account suggests that for various reasons (of which transport costs, including congestion, are only one) traditional suburban patterns of city development may in future tend to be displaced because of community preference for new 'urban' patterns (ie high-density walkable multifunctional centres within cities connected by mass transit).

Social and physical disorder is rising in US suburbia. In one starter-home area, 81 of 132 homes are in foreclosure and have often been vandalised / occupied by squatters. There is gang activity, increased burglaries and robberies. These problems are attributed to sub-prime crisis, but started earlier. There has been a structural shift in the way people want to work and live - and this is shifting problem areas from the cities to suburban areas. Arthur Nelson (Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech) forecasts 25m surplus large lot (ie > 1/6 acre) homes (40% of US total) by 2025. After 60 years of shifting to suburban living, trend is back to urban lifestyles. Low density suburbs may become future slums. Post WWII suburban shift (by families, retail and jobs) left behind inner city poor real estate. By late 1970s those seeking safety and good schools had to go to suburbs. Now urban culture is renewed, and people are disillusioned with suburban sprawl and stupor. Over the last decade, cities have gentrified while sprawl continued. Now most people live in suburbs where they are isolated - and urban life has become more culturally appealing. Now urban real estate commands a large price premium. This applies not only in city centres but in suburban towns with walkable urban centres. Walkable urban neighbourhoods, even if small, are proving very attractive - especially if well served by rapid transit. Builders and developers are noticing this, and starting to provide for urban living. Lifestyle centres (walkable developments that creating an urban feel) are springing up - and replacing suburban malls. 1/3 of homeowners would prefer such areas (though this now only accounts for 5-10% of available housing)., while only 1/3 prefer traditional suburban arrangements (ie large lots and driving). Demographics (ie reduced numbers of families with children) are also working against car-based suburban living., as is increases in petrol and heating costs. Suburban advantages of better schools and safer neighbourhoods are also being lost. Over the next 20 years, builders and developers are likely to provide millions of new smaller dwellings in an around traditional and new urban areas. Single homes on the metropolitan fringes are likely to be sold at low prices and eventually converted to apartments. Not all suburbs will suffer this fate. Those with best prospects will be those with rail access or an urban core (Leinberger ., 'Fringe dwellers', Financial review, 20-24/3/08).

Elements of a similar shift can already be seen in Brisbane, in that central city property prices continue to escalate while those in outer suburbs decline. A shift away from traditional patterns of suburban sprawl is the basis of the state government's SEQ Regional Plan - but if the global 'peak oil' event is history or imminent the Regional Plan may prove far too conservative.

I would thus urge WBTNI to seek state government approval to also investigate a scenario involving new 'urban' patterns of land use (eg similar to those which the above article sees as emerging in the US), and identify transport network options to suit. If the 'peak oil' event has actually occurred (or if it occurs in the next few years as many seem to expect), then the network solution to suit a 'new urban centres' scenario may be far more realistic than one that assumes a 'business as usual / mainly suburban scenario' heavily reliant on private vehicles.

Note added later: Some speculations about the practical implications of such an alternative scenario are included elsewhere

Clarifying the Cost Effectiveness of Western Bypass Options

In relation to the specific network options that have been proposed under the 'business as usual' scenario, I note that:

  • the cost of the city-bypass tunnels options (Options 3 and 4) seems likely to be huge - about $10bn in 2008 $s at (I understand) something like $750,000 / metre;
  • a massive upgrade of the Western Freeway / Centenary Highway (Option 7) would be needed to interface with the three proposed tunnels (Options 3, 4 and 5). As it currently exist that 4-lane road is already overloaded at peak hours and inadequate as a key link in any inner-suburban Brisbane west bypass route.

Given the (probable) costs of the inner-suburban Brisbane west bypass option (ie via Options 3, 4, 7 and 15), it is difficult to see why the most obvious outer-suburban business-as-usual option (ie Option 2 west of Mt Cootha) has been ruled out. Surely its cost would be a fraction of the inner-suburban options, and it would be quite easy to encourage higher usage than the 25,000 vehicles / day that has reportedly been estimated for 2026.

I would appreciate advice about where to obtain the preliminary cost / usage estimates for these alternative business-as-usual routes. This information will undoubtedly have been produced as the basis for the state government's so-far-behind-closed-doors decision to rule out Options 1 and 2.

John Craig


Email received 3/4/08

Dear all,

There was a press release today announcing the next phase of the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation project and release of a map showing transport network improvement options that the community have been asked to comment on.

Attached is a copy of the press release and a link to the project website where you can view the map.

If you require any information on the project, please visit our website www.wbtni.net.au or phone the investigation team on 1800 636 896. Thank you for your cooperation.

Norm Case
Project Manager
ConnectWest Consortium

From Bruce Flegg - 5/3/08

Email received 5/3/08

Reducing Traffic Congestion in Brisbane's Western Suburbs

Thank you very much and I appreciate the time you have taken to write to us.

I note your points although I am not in agreement on all of them.

The issue of the Western Freeway is a separate issue to that of the bottleneck at Kenmore and I understand that proposals are at an advanced stage of consideration for the Western Freeway in particular the Northern Link tunnel but of course dealing with the Western Freewy would not assist us with the problem on Moggill Road.

There is currently no other alternative at all to Moggill Road. This has even at times created serious issues for emergency service vehicles if there is any sort of accident that closes access through Moggill Road off.

I note your suggestions in relation to other possible types of transport infrastructure.

The issue before us at the moment is that the Government already own a road corridor and it is this road corridor that they are examine the possibility of utilising. No study has been done to my knowledge into the other options you raise although they would come under the gamut of the WBTNI.

Rejecting the alternative route offered by the possibity of the Kenmore Bypass would in fact leave us with nothing as there is no other major initiative aimed at relieving Moggill Road under consideration or on which any study information has been obtained.

I strongly support your emphasis on improved cycle infrastructure in the local area and I specifically requested this matter be considered as part of the terms of reference of the WBTNI.

Conditions on Moggill Road have degenerated to a level that no community should be asked to tolerate. Residents from the Bellbowrie/Moggill area regularly take in excess of two hours to reach their destinations in Brisbane, residents of Mt Crosby frequently take an hour and quarter just to get to Kenmore.

I have hundreds of horror stories about how this unacceptable situation has impacted the lives of people locally. It is intolerable and that is why I am strongly urging the Government to take it seriously and do something about it.

As you rightly raise there are a range of other initiatives which should be considered for inclusion.

Yours faithfully

Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill


Reply to the above emailed 5/3/08

Dr Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill

Thanks for your email of 5/3/08. I noted your views (eg that the Western Freeway is a separate issue to Moggill Road), but must respectfully disagree.

There is no way that Moggill Road's problems or potential solutions to them are unrelated to major regional roads such as the Western Freeway. The option that is being considered, as I understand it, would divert umpteen thousand vehicles per day from Moggill Road onto that Freeway. The latter is already congested at peak hours and will presumably become much more so in future because of proposed developments (urban growth / tunnels) at its ends. It is likewise probably simplistic to suggest that there is no alternative to diverting Moggill Road traffic onto the Western Freeway. Upgrading Ipswich Road and the development of a Brisbane west bypass would have a major effect, if (as seems likely) Moggill Road's peak hour traffic is significantly influenced by 'rat running' to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road. Moreover, as also indicated in my email of 25/2/08 there may be 'Kenmore bypass' options that would maintain the integrity of Moggill Road.

Diversion of Moggill Road onto the Western Freeway would seem irresponsible from a regional viewpoint, and of no benefit to those who travel on that Road because:

  • congestion would spill back from the Western Freeway; and
  • traffic volumes would increase (ie more 'rat running'), so that congestion through the western suburbs remains roughly equivalent to that on Ipswich Road.

I note your suggestion that the Department of Main Roads has only been investigating the diversion of Moggill Road traffic along the (so called) Kenmore bypass route which it owns. Hopefully, in doing this, the Department has analysed the regional transport context and consequences, as otherwise any conclusions it reached would be professionally dubious - and probably at odds with Government policy generally.

SE Queensland has a significant transport problem partly because the first Wilbur Smith transportation plan in the 1960s considered only roads / freeways, and when public transport was addressed years later Brisbane's resulting sprawl tended to make viable public transport hard to arrange (see further comments on long term deficiencies in transport planning).

My understanding is that the current State Government's goal is to take a more comprehensive and integrated approach - and this seems particularly sensible in an environment where a global 'peak oil' event could be imminent and force a fundamental rethink of transport strategies generally. For example the Government's SE Queensland Regional Plan includes increasing urban densities so that public transport becomes more viable. More specifically, the Government has provided extensive funding to the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation to (hopefully competently) develop proposals for regional transport network solutions.

Proposing a 'road' in isolation, without considering the whole regional transport context and / or consequences, would seem to be a formula for running into trouble in cabinet. I hope that the Department of Main Roads has not been enticed down that path.

Regards

John Craig

To Local Bulletin - 1/3/08

Email sent 1/3/08

Ms Colleen Goldman
c/- Editor
Local Bulletin - Brisbane West

A Long and Winding Road

I noted your March 2008 article on the lengthy process of trying to sort out transport problems in the western suburbs.

In relation to this I should like to draw your attention to another version of the same debate on my web-site (see Debating Regional Transport Proposals). This started in 2001 with an outline of:

  • the manifest inadequacies of transport planning in Brisbane generally; and
  • a suggested alternative use for the old Kenmore sub-arterial road reserve (because it was obviously no longer relevant to overcoming traffic problems in the Western suburbs).

Unfortunately it is likely that the community is being led up the garden path by Dr Flegg's campaign to promote the latter option (see Reducing Traffic Congestion in the Western Suburbs). His survey of public opinion is a case of getting a silly answer when one asks a silly question. It is impossible to separate traffic congestion on Moggill Road (and the viability of any solution to that congestion) from congestion on surrounding regional roads. Thus a network analysis (of the type hopefully being done by WBTNI) is the only way to identify options that have any prospect of success.

My speculation about what is (probably) required for a solution to Moggill Road congestion is in Solving the Problem of Moggill Road?. The last thing that is needed is add Moggill Road traffic to the existing peak hour congestion on the Western Freeway - especially as that congestion is certain to increase substantially in future if (a) the State Government's plans to concentrate future regional growth in Brisbane's south-west are effective and (b) the Brisbane City Council's proposal for a Northern Link Tunnel proceeds.

Regards

John Craig

To Dr Bruce Flegg - 25/2/08

Email sent 25/2/08

Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA
Member for Moggill

Solving the Problem of Moggill Road?

Thanks for your further advice about Moggill Road congestion, and possible action.      I should like to put forward a suggestion for your consideration in discussions with the State Government.

I noted that 94% of respondents to a survey you conducted indicated that they believed that the (so called) Kenmore bypass should be developed to relieve pressure on Moggill Road (Robinson G. 'Green light likely for Kenmore Bypass', Brisbanetimes 19/2/08). Unfortunately, as I have already argued, opinions expressed about the relevance of such an option by persons who have not considered the regional transport context are likely to be meaningless.

Long Term Solution

I suggest that the long term solution to Moggill Road congestion might be to:

  • upgrade Ipswich Road - a need which has already been clearly identified and widely discussed;
  • develop a Brisbane-west bypass route - which is on the agenda of of the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation;
  • significantly improve public transport - particularly in relation to school buses as the journey to school seems to contribute to peak hour congestion;
  • upgrade Moggill Road while maintaining its integrity as a major route separate from the Western Freeway. Professional opinion about how this might be achieved should be relied upon. However in eliminating the most critical 'tight spot' between Kenmore Road and Brookfield Road junctions consideration might be given to:
    • restricting access to and from Moggill Road at its junction with Kenmore Road sufficiently to allow the traffic lights to be removed. This would force most Kenmore Road traffic onto Marshall Lane whose junction with Kenmore Road is not subject to such tight space restrictions;
    • development of an elevated roadway (on piers) or a tunnel or which would allow Moggill Road to continue more-or-less straight ahead from its junction with Kenmore Road, Though I have not examined this in detail it seems that such a route might mainly follow existing local roadways and the boundary of the Kenmore State School;
    • development of an elevated road (on piers) along the existing route of Moggill Road from its junction with Kenmore Road to allow through traffic to be separated from local traffic.

The development of major regional roads (ie Ipswich Road and a Brisbane west bypass) are critical parts of any long term solution for Moggill Road because:

  • it seems likely that peak hour congestion on Moggill Road results mainly from 'rat running' to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road; and
  • the high level of congestion on Ipswich Road reflects the lack of an adequate Brisbane west bypass route.

Keeping Moggill Road traffic off the Western Freeway as much as possible is also likely to be critical to any long term solution - because that freeway is already overloaded at peak hour, and seems likely to become vastly more so as a consequence of the State Government's region land use plans.

Short Term Solution

Unfortunately there may be no easy short term solution to problems on Moggill Road - other than:

  • local traffic management measures. Restricting access to and from Moggill Road at its junction with Kenmore Road to allow the traffic lights to be removed might be added to the options being considered;
  • identification of situations where school buses might be viable.

The development of the (so called) Kenmore bypass would not not only be incompatible with what is probably required for a long term regional solution, but would also be unlikely to reduce traffic congestion in the short term because:

  • it would dramatically increase peak hour congestion on the Western Freeway - thus creating a choke point which rendered itself ineffective; and
  • traffic congestion through the Western suburbs is likely to be a by-product of congestion on Ipswich Road. No matter how much road capacity is created through the western suburbs (short of an eight lane freeway), congestion will probably build up on it to more-or-less match that on Ipswich Road.

Good luck with your further efforts to resolve this problem.

Regards

John Craig


Email from Bruce Flegg - 22/2/08

Update on Moggill Road

A BIG THANK YOU

I thank all local residents and road users for the forbearance and politeness which they have displayed despite intolerable conditions on our roads.

All road users are intensely frustrated and simply attempting to get about their business as best they can.

I especially thank the many thousands of local families who have replied to my ‘plea for help’ and responded to my survey on Moggill Road.

If you have not yet done so can I urge you to visit www.moggill.net  and complete the simple survey online.

Regardless of whether you are ‘for or against’ a Kenmore Bypass your reply is important and greatly valued. The overwhelming response has already allowed me to go to Government and demonstrate our community demands something be done about this appalling and deteriorating situation.

ROADWORKS – UPDATE

I met with the project supervisor for the current Moggill Road roadworks and he has informed me that the expected completion of all actual roadwork is now June 2008 (formerly May). The delayed completion date is, I am told, solely due to days lost because of rain. This is allowed for within the contractors agreed contract conditions.

Efforts will be made to prepare sections of road that most affect traffic flows as soon as possible. Contractors have heeded calls to avoid truck movements and potential disruption to traffic during morning peak hours. It is a tricky project because roadworks where possible are also generally not conducted very late at night because of the proximity to homes.

This project was first committed and budgeted over a decade ago. The enormous increase in traffic over that decade means that disruption is far greater than it ought to have been.

POLICING

As you are no doubt aware a trial of policing the intersection of Pullenvale Road and Moggill Road to assist the flow of traffic on Moggill Road has been conducted. Department of Main Roads requested and paid the cost of providing the police presence. Fortunately, I was able to notify many local families and lessen the disruption that may have resulted from this change. I was able to do this because so many local residents have registered their views on Moggill Road with me. It is much appreciated and helped significantly under the current intolerable conditions.

I have passed on the enormous amount of policing feedback you have given to Department of Main Roads and the police. Although because of the cost and tying up of resources, police will not continue to be present on a daily basis, periodic control will continue. This will signal to motorists that police and Main Roads want through traffic to remain on Moggill Road.

Whilst the majority of feedback in relation to the policing trial has been strongly positive I want to emphasize the real problem here is that dramatic growth in population and traffic movements has left Moggill Road an inadequate road.

It cannot cope with current traffic conditions and will only deteriorate further unless some action is taken. Policing and other control measures are only fiddling around the edges of a problem that needs greater action.

MEETING WITH ROADS MINISTER

I met with the new Main Roads Minister as I have done at times with the former Minister over the past four years, to urge that something be done about Moggill Road as a matter of urgency.

With your support I was able to go armed with the opinions of thousands of residents. I was able to leave the government in absolutely no doubt this community demands something be done. As well as being well heard, I received a commitment that some additional funds would be advanced in this year’s budget to move ahead further from the small study project that has recently been completed. The new funds will be used for some more detailed study of a Kenmore Bypass and in particular to pay for the required community consultation process.

This is a necessary step in moving forward toward a solution. Whilst this is still only one more tiny step (it’s a bit like pulling teeth) it is at least another small step in the right direction and I am grateful for that much at least. I attach a speech I gave to the Queensland Parliament last Thursday. I want to leave them in no doubt just how serious this issue is for all who live in this area. Click here

 I thank you for the co-operation, courtesy and above all the support that you have shown. This is a matter I have pushed since I was elected and I will continue to do so as loudly and as often as possible until the government meets its responsibility to provide workable transport infrastructure for local people.

EMAIL REPLIES

I am attempting to personally reply to the hundreds and hundreds of people who have emailed me to discuss aspects of this problem. Whilst I have replied to many there continues to be some hundreds that I will work through. I appreciate your patience if my reply appears to be delayed.

Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill


Email sent 25/2/08

Hon Mr Warren Pitt,
Minister for Main Roads and Local Government

Solving the Problem of Moggill Road

I have been informed that, as a result of representations by Dr Bruce Flegg MLA, your Department is to conduct further investigations (including community consultation) about Kenmore bypass options (see copy of email from Dr Flegg of 22/2/08).

I should therefore like, through your office, to draw the attention of relevant Departmental staff to some suggestions about this that are on a web-site that I have established, Debating Regional Transport Proposals. Specifically this involves an email, Solving the Problem of Moggill Road, that I forwarded to Dr Flegg today.

Regards

John Craig

Emailed Comments

Email received 14/3/08

Kenmore Bypass discussion

I have read with interest your efforts with regard to the proposed Kenmore Bypass and fully support your opposition to this proposal. I must admit my personal involvement in this issue - the proposed road would go straight past my fence. Nonetheless, this does not seem to be any more a case of NIMBY than that proposed by Mr Flegg who wants to put a road past my fence to ease his traffic concerns, but is strenuously opposed to any bridge over the river that may ease traffic concerns from Ipswich and further west. So, since both arguments have elements of self interest, lets get on a look at some of the issues.

My main objection to the Kenmore bypass is the short-term knee-jerk reaction aspect of it. Mr Flegg has been trumpeting the number of 20 000 vehicles entering Kenmore each day and suggests that the Kenmore bypass would solve this problem. But if you spend any time at the Western Freeway on-ramp at Moggill Rd you will see that more than 90% of the traffic continues along Moggill Road rather than entering the freeway. This means that the vast majority of the vehicles that have struggled with traffic through Kenmore eschew the 'solution' when it is presented. Adding a bypass would reduce the congestion along Moggill road because it would add an extra thee kilometres of linear car park, but the total travel time to Brisbane would not be effected. Any funds spent on the Kenmore bypass would therefore likely be wasted, and would further delay measures that may actually achieve something.

In place of the Kenmore road reserve being used for a road, I would support a rail line through this area.

In the short term I think an attack on the school run should be considered. The traffic flow at OLR is appalling - I have attached a couple of diagrams showing how this could be improved. These are based on traffic flow used at my children's last school, Holy Spirit in Nichols ACT. The key to the traffic flow is teacher supervised unloading and loading of children. This is necessary to keep things moving (and to keep the mothers in line). It would be an extra imposition on the school, but the school is currently imposing heavily on the community by not managing the traffic flow.

I am not certain how the state school manages its traffic flow, but I suspect that traffic flow could be improved by installing two pedestrian bridges: one to replace the pedestrian crossing on Moggill road between Merlin Tce and Princeton Streets and the second over the roundabout to Kenmore village. These bridges would allow the carparks at the shopping centres to be used for pick-up and drop-off of children. The concerns of the owners should be allayed by the increase in patronage due to reduced congestion.

I am keenly interested in this issue and will watch your site closely. If I can help with your campaign please let me know.

Regards

Craig Phasey


Email received 16/2/08

Thank you for sending me information re Moggill Road.

Transport infrastructure in the south-west area of Brisbane is of concern to me, particularly as I live in Middle Park and the suburbs of Centenary are divided by the Centenary Highway which like Moggill Road were not planned for future expansion and government decision makers have been met with objections in areas where there has been planning for future traffic demands. Although it may be said that this planning has not taken into account environmental aspects and other concerns these issues should be resolved before they get to the point of no where to go. I believe it is important to look further into the future and try to find solutions.

Personally. I am in favour of the concept of the Moggill Pocket Sub Arterial / Moggill-Warrego Highway Connection Road particularly in some areas where this has been shown as a future road. One of the reasons being that it may ease some of the congestion on the Centenary Highway through our suburbs. However, I travel to Brookfield most Saturday mornings and sometimes to Cubberla Creek on Monday mornings ....  so I can understand why there would be objections to the plans as currently proposed. Although I also travel from the western side of Centenary Highway to the eastern side ....  and use the highway. Ideally provision should be made for local traffic not to need to use the highway which should be primarily used by through traffic which will continue to increase, particularly from areas such as Springfield.

I do like the plans you have for cycling and walking tracks through the Kenmore area and hope that some compromises can be made to satisfy the majority of users within our community. An idea I have proposed is to develop a bigger bus interchange on Centenary Highway at Fig Tree Pocket and co-ordinate bus timetables such as 428 from Centenary, 427 and 432 from Kenmore and Chapel Hill to provide a direct link to the University of Queensland at St Lucia without necessarily stopping at Indooroopilly. As far as I know there is no direct bus link from Centenary to UQ and bus connections at Indooroopilly are not good whereas Kenmore and Chapel Hill do have a direct bus link to UQ. However, my ... usually travels by car to UQ and if he does travel by bus likes to stop at Indooroopilly.

I am intending to go to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre sometime between 25 February and 1 March when there will be a public display of the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation, I am particularly interested to know what may be planned for the by-pass highway shown as #3 on Map 16 as I believe this may take a lot of through traffic away from built up areas if planned well by experts in this field in consultation with local communities.

Ruth Carmichael
To Dr Bruce Flegg - 8/2/08

Email to Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA - 8/2/08

Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA

'Rat Runs' through the Western Suburbs

It is very appropriate to raise the issue of 'rat running' because it seems likely that peak hour traffic congestion on Moggill Rd is partly a product of a 'rat run' to avoid congestion on Ipswich Rd by (Toowoomba and west) to (Brisbane City and north) traffic. If this is so then just as the 'rat run' on Pullenvale Rd can't be solved without reducing congestion on Moggill Rd (as your email suggested), so congestion on Moggill Rd can't be reduced without dealing with problems on Ipswich Rd (which presumably requires amongst other things the creation of a Brisbane western bypass route).

As I have previously submitted one can't identify a credible 'solution' to local traffic congestion without a full analysis of the whole regional transport network.

I am starting to put information about the complexity of this issue onto my web-site (see Debating Regional Transport Proposals).

Regards

John Craig


Email from Dr Bruce Flegg, 8/2/08

Dear Mr Craig,

Important Notice: Pullenvale Road Traffic Control

With the traffic chaos surrounding Moggill Road, a serious problem has arisen with rat-running along Pullenvale Road.

Frustrated motorists are understandably doing anything they can to get around the kilometres of delayed traffic that plague Moggill Road every morning.

However, it is creating a serious problem, particularly in relation to traffic safety around the Pullenvale State School. There are considerable problems at the intersection of Pullenvale Road where traffic attempts to re-enter Moggill Road.

Local residents of Pullenvale Road are also being severely and adversely affected.

We have contacted Project Management for the Moggill roadworks, the Brisbane City Council, the Police and the Main Roads Department to seek a solution for a problem that is causing great distress to many people.

Brisbane City Council who control Pullenvale Road advise that although they could post signs calling for local traffic only, the road is a designated thoroughfare, meaning that a sign would be advisory only.

Project Management have avoided interruptions to traffic flow during the morning peak as best they can. I am issuing an appeal to motorists not to use Pullenvale Road unless they must.

From Monday morning police will, for a trial period, control the intersection of Pullenvale Road and Moggill Road 630am to 9 am. The situation has become serious and, as such, requires action.

This is likely to result in significant delays to motorists using Pullenvale Road.

Other solutions such as controlling Pullenvale Road in the vicinity of Pullenvale School have also been considered.

The trial controlling Pullenvale Road and Moggill Road intersection will be conducted for two weeks and then be reassessed.

In trying to deal with this issue the point has repeatedly been raised that the current traffic congestion is not only a result of roadworks but a reflection of the fact that Moggill Road is above its capacity.

Longer term we are faced with living with these sort of delays and problems permanently and they can be expected to deteriorate unless major transport infrastructure is improved in the local area.

I urge local residents, who have not yet had their say about the Kenmore bypass to visit www.moggill.net.

As a result of my harping, the State Government have completed a preliminary study into the use of the bypass and it is due for release in the near future.

It is vital that local residents support me in demanding that something be done in relation to Moggill Road.

Dr. Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill

To WBTNI - 31/1/08

Email to Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation - 31/1/08

Manager
WBTNI

Peak Oil and the Western Brisbane Transport Network

Further to my comments of 29/1/08 on issues raised in your latest Newsletter, I should like to draw you attention to a submission that I have become aware of concerning the implications of Peak Oil issues for the development of a major transport link in the study area.

This involves work by ASPO Australia's Brisbane coordinator specifically concerning the proposed Northern Link Tunnel.

My understanding is that there have been two schools of thought regarding the Peak Oil hypothesis - namely the view that this is occurring (more or less) now (ASPO's view), and the other that it will occur in (say) 2030 or later (eg see 'We won't run out says IEA', Australian, 24-5/9/05; Howarth I 'There's oil galore, says BP's global head', Financial Review, 19/6/06). If the latter view is correct, the Peak Oil issue is of less immediate significance.

However recently I have been made aware that the latter school of thought seems to be 'throwing in the towel' - largely because of growing problems in accessing oil resources (eg see Klare M 'A new energy pessimism emerges'; and Guy R 'The sum of oil fears', Financial Review, 17-18/11/07).

If so, then the arguments being presented by ASPO need to be seriously considered in the development of transport networks in SE Queensland.

Regards

John Craig


Email response to the above from ASPO's Brisbane Coordinator - 31/1/08

John,

Re: Peak Oil and the Western Brisbane Transport Network

Thanks for your email. Just a few of things to add and/or clarify.

The IEA view reflected in the 2005 article in The Australian is long outdated; the agency is now referring to a "supply crunch" in 2012 at the convergence of rising demand, peaking production and declining 'spare' capacity. This is addressed explicitly on pp. 6-9 of my submission.

Others who have 'thrown in the towel' (so to speak) recently include:

Basically the last bastion of denial among the multinational oil companies that we call 'big oil' (but in reality now control only about 15% of the world's oil reserves anyway) is ExxonMobil.

You will probably not find a senior oil executive in Australia today who is prepared to go on the public record attempting to debunk the imminence of the peak in world oil production. If you can, I would be happy to debate them in public.

The issue of "growing problems in accessing oil resources" is now irrelevant. Peak oil is about the fundamental geological constraints of a finite resource. Even in a environment unconstrained by politics, environment, weather or money it takes many years to bring new discoveries into production (see Skrebowski's 'Megaprojects Review' cited in my submission). The best that could be achieved now would be to slightly arrest the rate of decline. There are basically no remaining credible studies with a peak beyond circa 2015.

The date of the peak is now largely irrelevant, particularly for oil importers such as Australia. Based on the current ABARE demand forecast and the current Geoscience Australia P50 production forecast we will need to import approximately 2/3 of our oil by 2015. World oil exports are already declining; with the most likely decline rate of approximately 6% per year being established within several years. We will be bidding for this oil against other OECD countries such as the US, Japan and EU. If demand is 'inelastic' then at some point it will 'break' after serious price spikes.

The situation will now be largely determined by oil shocks triggered by geopolitics and extreme weather events. Due to inaction on the part of a succession of state and federal governments we are totally unprepared for these shocks. For example we do not hold the 90-day petroleum reserve mandated by the IEA/OECD.

Henceforth, any organisation (public or private) that produces a transport study which knowingly excludes the impact of peak oil is very irresponsible. With this in mind, I was surprised to read today the following assumptions (among others) on the WBTNI webpage (http://wbtni.net.au/images/uploaded/pdf_files/Assumptions__Constraints.pdf):

  • economic and employment activity will continue in accordance with current trends
  • land use and development will proceed as per government forecasts
  • fuel prices will remain high [Australian fuel prices are today among the lowest in the OECD!] but affordable
  • the ’peak oil’ phenomenon will result in sustained high fuel prices, but will not eliminate the passenger car [nobody to my knowledge is arguing this anyway] or change user behaviour
  • the cost of travel (e.g. fares, fuel prices and parking charges) will remain relatively constant in real terms

Make of these assumptions what you will. Personally I consider these to be seriously flawed. By the time the WBTNI is being implemented oil prices will most likely be several times higher than they currently are, and the physical availability of oil in this country will probably be declining by approximately 5% per annum, even before the impact of increasingly likely oil shocks is taken into consideration.

Stuart McCarthy
Brisbane Coordinator
Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO-Australia)
http://www.aspo-australia.org.au


General Notes on Peak Oil - Added later and ongoing

Official inquiries have identified the need for extensive mitigation efforts well in advance of the 'peak oil' event, but seem to have offered no or only superficial suggestions about the consequences if this were not achieved in time, or proved impossible. For example:

  • In 2005 the (so called) Hirsh report in the US (Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management) suggested that severe disruption was likely without massive mitigation efforts 1-2 decades in advance - where mitigation was envisaged as increasing fuel efficiency and developing alternatives;
  • In 2007 Australia's Senate published an inquiry into Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels. The latter simply suggested (in effect) that, in the absence of effective mitigation efforts, the consequences could be slower economic growth and more expensive transport.

As noted above, various indicators of an imminent 'peak oil' event were identified by ASPO.

It has also been suggested that the stagnation in global oil production merely reflects a lack of investment due to earlier over-supply and low prices, and that 'peak oil theorists' are considering the question too narrowly [1]. However, the same source also noted that: oil majors have presented deceptive data about reserves; and the costs of developing new fields is huge and political obstacles impede development in many areas. It identified new global production options amounting to 1-2 percent of existing global production in an environment in which production from existing major fields is starting to decline. Oil companies, it may be noted, have a vested interest in discouraging the adaptation to a post-peak-oil set of transport technologies and land-use patterns.

It is also reasonably argued that alternative vehicle technologies are being developed. Biofuels were first seen as the 'obvious' answer, but unexpected consequences (ie taking so much biomass that food shortages result) now make this less attractive. Currently plug-in hybrids might be considered to be the most promising alternative. The latter involves electric powered motors that are charged from electricity supplies overnight supplemented by oil-based fuels if long distances are driven. The problem is:

  • there are infrastructure challenges in developing the huge additional electricity generation capacity required - eg accessing the water required for power stations and coping with the presumably greater GHG emissions associated with such technologies (nting also suggestions that electric vehicles could produce higher greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime than conventional vehicles, because of the energy used in making their batteries [1] )
  • many years would be required to develop the required infrastructure, and planning has not yet apparently been started (and can't start until issues related to GHG emission management are resolved);
  • hybrid technologies are likely (because they involve use of lower quality energy sources) to be much more costly than oil-based technologies.

In October 2009, it was suggested that new technologies for accessing 'tight gas' in shale and methane beds could dramatically improve the global energy position [1]. However others suggested [personal communications] that: 

  • environmental consequences and the energy intensity of production were of concern ;
  • gas will be important in future, but is unlikely to compensate for declining oil production. A year ago, Canada's tar sands were seen as the new 'Saudi Arabia', but no longer [1].

In March 2009, it was argued that economic growth was likely to decouple from oil consumption as oil intensity was declining at 2% pa in response to higher prices [1]

In April 2010, an official US military entity (US Joint Forces Command) forecast a likely decline in oil production below demand (with significant dislocation of economic growth) after 2012 [1]

In June 2010, the disastrous oil spill associated with BP's deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in suggestions that a shift from reliance on oil had become an urgent necessity.

Outline: BP has invested little in alternative energy projects - despite its 'Beyond Petroleum' name change which implied recognition of the need to move beyond fossil fuels. This is because prospects for any particular technology are too uncertain and financially risky. US President may or may not be right in predicting that oil spill will change energy outlook forever. However it is no longer possible to claim that oil prospecting is less financial risky than other technologies. Oil spill will result in more rapid shift from fossil fuel dependence than any other process. This might seem likely to direct addition $1tr annually from western democracies to Middle Eastern regimes some of whom support terrorism. However ending US oil exploration would have reverse effect. Instead of spending $100bn pa on oil exploration, it would be spent on developing alternative technologies - and lead oil states to realize that they only have (say) 30 years to sell as much oil as possible. (Kaletsky A. 'Addiction to oil is the real crime', Australian, 17/6/10)

In July 2010 Lloyd's warned of dire consequences for businesses of 'peak oil' because of the potential for supply disruption.

In September 2010, a military focused study from Germany suggested that very significant geo-political consequences could arise from the 'peak oil' event (eg breakdown in market economies, interruption to food supplies. political instability).

In October 2010, a US environmental scientist went much further in the same direction by suggesting that that systemic consequences of 'peak oil' could have a compounding effect and trigger a collapse in human civilization (see Morrigan T., Peak Energy, Climate Change and the Collapse of Global Civilization: The Current Peak Oil Crisis)[Comment: This thought-provoking hypothesis hinges on the assumption that the widespread use of oil-derived fuels throughout economy means that peak-oil could disrupt the production of other forms of energy - and lead to a peaking of energy usage generally, and thus to economic stagnation which could interact with current financial instabilities leading to an unmanageable crisis. While not entirely impossible, this outcome seems implausible]  

Key points: This hypothesis drew on David Korowicz's Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production – An Outline Review.  The latter (which builds on an only-slightly-exaggerated recognition of the dependence of modern economies on energy consumption) referred to: the adverse effect of increased costs on the economy; the dependence of credit markets on unlimited growth and thus on unlimited energy - which implies that they must collapse if the economy contracts; the potential for disrupting global supply chains and world trade; the potential cascading effect of serious infrastructure failures anywhere; the dependence of food production on fossil fuels;  'peak oil' triggering a peaking of other sources of energy (because of oil's importance in producing other energy forms); growing awareness of peak oil leading to collapse of financial assets; and the inability of societies to manage systemic collapses. In addition to Korowiez's points it suggested that: peak oil manifesting as increased oil prices, and resulting in large wealth transfers to oil producers; localised economies needing to be redeveloped; mass migrations; resource rich nations being targets of wars for energy / food / water / material resources; challenges to traditional values and institutions; challenges and changes to political boundaries; and at least 20 years will be required for adaptation.

In May 2011, arguments of potential catastrophe were again presented by David Korowicz based on the view that 'peak oil' would pose a constraint on economic growth that would be impossible to overcome and the simultaneous risks of 'peak food' (as expressed by FAO) and the existence of credit booms which could only be sustained if growth continued [1

A revised IEA report was seen to have argued that:

  •  oil demand is likely to exceed supply when industrial production grows strongly after GFC, and in the meantime accessing new oil supplies is becoming more expensive [1];
  • prices are unlikely to increase significantly before late in the next decade. Oil efficiency is increasing (with 3% pa savings). This contrasts markedly with IEA's 2009 view which perceived spare capacity disappearing in 2013. This has changed because of revolutions in global gas industry [1]

In April 2011, public attention was drawn to the fact that the 'peak oil' event was increasingly viewed by international energy authorities as a current phenomenon, rather than one likely in 20 years (eg see Manning P. Peak oil: it's closer than you think, BrisbaneTimes, 30/4/11). The latter noted (reasonable) arguments that global oil production had peaked in (say) 2006 – and that global demand was likely to exceed supply in (say) 2013, resulting in a price shock.

In May 2011, it was argued by an urban planner hat the development of alternative transport technologies (eg hybrid cars, robotic vehicles) and adjustment by citizens (eg smaller vehicles, relocation, better travel planning, telecommuting) mean that radical solutions to 'peak oil' (such as enforced urban densification and heavy public transport investment) are inappropriate  [1]

In July 2011, reports concerning the development of techniques for extracting 'shale gas' implied that this would significantly alter the prospects for energy supplies (eg see Shale Gas and US National Security, James A Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University). However other sources were not so optimistic (eg Shale Gas Estimates Perhaps Optimistic, 2009, A Shale gas boom?, 2009 and  Shale Gas: Not a ‘Game Changer’ After All, 2011).  The problems are suggested to be that:

  • shale gas is much more expensive that conventional natural gas sources, and so does not address the fundamental challenge of the end of cheap liquid fuel sources; and
  • gas in shale is under high pressure which creates fissures through shale and once gas starts to be tapped the gaps in shale close up and gas no longer flows. Thus the decline rate (ie loss in production over 1 year) is about 60% and it is difficult to recover the high costs of drilling for shale gas. Other sources however suggest much lower decline rates.

CPDS Comment: If the 'peak oil is imminent' scenario proves correct (noting that another major recession could change this picture), then the effect could be something like the oil shocks of the 1970s (which corresponded to the peak of US oil production). However this time the problem would be global (ie there would be no external capacity to increase production of oil and fossil-fuel-based oil substitutes in the way OPEC was able to do in the 1970s).

Though fuel efficiency is steadily rising, large increases in fuel costs could occur if available supplies fall below the growth in actual after-efficiency-gains demand (because oil demand is quite inelastic in the short-medium term – ie people keep using it even if the price goes up) and this would affect most areas of economy. CSIRO did an estimate of effect of global oil peak at one stage and this seemed to suggest that fuel prices would rise from $1+ per litre of petrol to something like $8 per litre of petrol equivalent – before coming down again as substitutes were developed and people adjust (eg by changing where they live and how they get around).

The situation requires attention to questions such as:

  • the availability of alternatives and the cost of such alternatives and of increasing fuel efficiency;
  • the time required to implement alternatives on a significant scale (eg a decade – to deal with what might turn out to be an almost immediate problem);
  • whether it might prove impossible to create alternatives / savings sufficient to: (a) avoid disruption to local transport systems, as well as to international trade and transport; and (b) encourage significant changes in urban / regional location decisions (or perhaps even make major cities less viable logistically).  If such disruptions proved unavoidable, then the cost of adapting to 'peak oil' could be raised one or two orders of magnitude.

However little has been done in terms of developing substitutes, making adjustments or even analysing the problem - perhaps because it is easier to assume that the problem will just go away.  For example,

  • some observers note the difficulty of the challenge but assume that it will be solved - because other energy source transitions in the past have been handled successfully (eg Vivoda V., 'Going up: peak oil wolf is scratching at the door', The Conversation, 6/5/11).
  • Brisbane City Council's Chairman of Infrastructure argued (in effect) that the 'peak oil' issue is not significant because the slow decline in oil production will enable alternatives to emerge and also noted the development of hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles as well as study of alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Other observers note that authorities are starting to wake up to the issue, but needed to have done so decades ago if the challenge were to be successfully addressed (eg Parkinson G., 'How close is peak oil?', ClimateSpectator, 29/4/11);
  • a report on an Oil Vulnerability Strategy for Queensland assumed that the challenge can be met by increasing efficiency and the use of (locally-available) natural gas (ie via CNG and gas to liquids). However this does not seem to consider that there would be a multi-year delay in implementing such alternatives, and the price (which is the main issue in determining the repercussions) will be that set in international markets to reflect the global demand / supply balance (not the local balance);
  • an analysis of transport networks in western Brisbane suggested that large (say 500%) increases in fuel costs would have limited practical impact (though this might translate into family cost increases absorbing something like 20-30% of AWOTE incomes) - see above;
  • the regional / transport strategy for western Brisbane that the Queensland Government ultimately adopted took 'peak oil' into account to some extent (eg by assuming that traffic volumes will not grow fast because of increasing travel costs and there will be large increases in public transport demand, as well as increased urban densities to make that viable) - see link in Comments on Western Brisbane Transport Network Strategy. However:
    • that strategy seems mainly aspirational (and expensive). In practice transport system development in SE Queensland seems incompatible (eg to involve investments in expensive toll-roads whose viability depends depend on rapidly increasing traffic volumes, when this is not what is actually happening or likely to happen) - see Brisbane's Transportation Monster;
    • urban densification strategies have proven hard to put into practice, and solutions to problems of high housing costs have been seen to lie in the development of ex-urban centres which might not be viable (see Will Three New Cities Solve SE Queensland's Urban and Transport Challenges?);
    • similar provisions are not being made in other regions or in relation to inter-regional transport;

In early 2012 it was argued that the development of shale gas meant that the peak oil case was now out of date. Higher oil prices and the existence of 2tr  barrels of shale oil in US (8 times Saudi Arabia's reserves) has led to a new oil rush. Extraction costs $12-95 per barrel. Australia's reserves are relatively smaller. Shale gas will reverse dependence on unstable middle east for energy, and allow coal to be replaced by cleaner gas. [1].

This view was then disputed [1] on the basis that: (a) while shale gas permits an increase in US 'oil' production, this will peak in 2020 at levels much below the earlier peak in 1970; (b) huge numbers of wells need to be drilled, as decline rates are large, and each well produces very little oil; (c) declining US oil dependency mainly reflects demand falls; and (d) economically recoverable reserves (eg 24bn barrels) are much less than the 2tr barrels of 'resources' that has been quoted. Further complexities were also noted [1]

In late 2012 it was simultaneously being asserted that:

  • unconventional shale oil through 'fracking' is anything but revolutionary and fraught with problems because the the very high (eg 60%) decline rate and the very high cost of of oil produced that way (which thus does not end the peak oil problem - as the latter concerns the loss of access to cheap oil not of all oil [1] snf
  • the rapidly increasing estimates of shale oil resources have quashed to peak oil debate [Macdonald Smith A., 'Shale gale redraws global energy map', AFR, 17/11/12];

In July 2013 it was noted that there were simultaneous claims that both the 'peak oil' problem had been solved, and that the 'fracking' solution would not solve the underlying high fuel cost problem and would only have a temporary effect [1]

In November 2013 the IEA argued that the US's ability to make a long term difference to the availability of oil through fracking was in doubt - because of the uncertain longevity of the fields. Decline rates are very high and drillers need to keep moving.. The US's oil dominance may last only 4 years [1, 2]

In early 2014 it was noted that:

  •  US prospects of achieving energy independence through shale oil would be much harder that it had seemed. It costs $1.50 for drilling for every $1 earned. Shale output drops very rapidly. 25000 new well are needed each years to maintain 1m barrels / year of oil production. Getting oil now takes more energy, efforts and cost. Cheap credit and high oil prices are vital to maintaining increased US oil output [1]
  • an experienced petroleum geologist believed that shale gas production in the US is declining, and the shale oil production is not likely to increase much longer. Costs are significantly greater than have been estimated in suggesting that shale gas / oil prospects are 'commercial. The effect will be much higher prices in the US and no prospect that US production will provide a significant additional share of global production. [1]

 

To Dr Bruce Flegg - 31/1/08

Email to Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA - 31/1/08

Dear Dr Flegg

Reducing Traffic Congestion in Brisbane's Western Suburbs

I should like to summarise my view of the case for a 'transport network' approach to solving problems of traffic congestion in Brisbane's western suburbs. Unfortunately the particular Kenmore bypass option that you have advocated seems simplistic and inadequate. For example:

  • there are probably alternatives to roads. Peak hour traffic congestion on Moggill Road is vastly reduced during school holidays - which suggests that the journey to school is a significant part of the problem. The development of a school bus system arguably needs to be considered as a possible part of a solution;
  • the Kenmore bypass option you are advocating would divert a considerable amount of Moggill Road traffic onto the Western Freeway which is already overloaded at peak hours, and can be guaranteed to come under ever increasing traffic pressure because of the state government's commitment to Brisbane's western corridor as the main focus of SE Queensland's growth. That growth strategy will place (say) 200,000 more people at one end of the Western Freeway over the next 20 years. From a transport network viewpoint there is more to be gained by maintaining the integrity of Moggill Road as a separate route;
  • it may be possible to bypass central Kenmore while maintaining the integrity of Moggill Rd as an alternative to the Western Freeway - eg by an underpass / flyover starting at the Moggill Road / Kenmore Rd junction. This alternative might well even be cheaper than the option you have advocated;
  • the road link that you are proposing would probably encourage a vast amount of inter-city traffic to pass through the Western suburbs - because it would provide a convenient 'rat run' to avoid congestion on Ipswich Road for Toowoomba-Brisbane traffic. The extent of this can only be revealed by a regional network analysis;
  • the Brisbane City Council has proposed a walking / cycling route (ie part of its envisaged Greenway network) along the route you have advocated - and this particular link seems to be a critical part of a longer route. A Greenway is not incompatible with development of a road along that route as well - but road planning could not be undertaken in isolation.

With respect I submit that the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation is more likely to develop a satisfactory solution to traffic congestion in Brisbane's western suburbs than the investigation of one particular road link that you have prodded the Main Roads Department to undertake.

Regards

John Craig


Email from Dr Bruce Flegg, MLA, 30/1/08

Please click here to read the January edition of my new 2008 newsletter - The Moggill Monitor.

This edition features important information about the proposed Kenmore Bypass as well as other road issues in the Western Suburbs.

I am in the process of updating my email lists - I would ask you to click here and re-subscribe to my newsletter.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2008!

Dr. Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill

To WBTNI - 29/1/08
Email to Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation - 29/1/08

Manager
WBTNI

What does WBTNI Need to Consider: A Response

Further to my Terms of Reference submission of 1/7/07, I should like to provide responses to a couple of the issues raised in your February 2008 newsletter.

Boosting active transport

  • active transport networks should be developed that respond to current demand - ie where people are likely to walk / cycle now. If this were done, then a culture will evolve that places more value on active transport, allowing networks to be expanded. Developing networks too far in advance of demand (eg as cycle-way along Centenary Highway was) is likely to have a negative effect by creating an impression of under-use;
  • active transport is most likely to be used over short distances. Increasing this requires land use flexibility which enables shopping / school / work destinations to be enhanced close to where people live - and people to live more-and-more near those destinations.

Improving road transport

  • there seems to be a major reduction in peak hour traffic congestion in school holidays - which suggests that the journey to school by car is a significant factor in peak hour traffic. If the journey to school could be arranged increasingly by dedicated buses, the need for road upgrading might be reduced and the congestion facing public transport might be reduced.
  • in a number of places it seems that road bottlenecks might be reduced by building elevated roadways that pass through developed urban facilities (without requiring the resumption / development of new right of ways)

Enhancing public transport

  • primary emphasis needs to be given to increasing the demand for public transport, rather than to increasing the supply. The latter should be developed mainly in response to demand in order to increase its financial viability. Real demand for public transport can presumably be boosted by altering its price / speed / convenience / comfort relative to alternative modes. Market surveys could be one way to discover what changes would make most difference for public transport as well as for active transport.

Finally, I note that there seems to be no mention in your newsletter of technological change as it might affect transport operations. While I have no expertise in this area, it does seem that there is considerable global interest in new transport technologies on account of both 'peak oil' and climate change expectations. Commissioning an input to the study team by a person who is up to speed on the possible implications of likely changes in transport technologies over the next 20 tears would seem to be constructive.

Regards

John Craig


Email response to the above - 13/2/08

RE: What does WBTNI Need to Consider: A Response

Thank you for your well structured and well informed input. Your comments have been included in our database and will be reported to the investigation team and will help to shape analysis and form reports.

All of the key points you raised are included in our assessment framework criteria. The assessment framework provides a way for the investigation team to measure different strategies against each other.

In particular, the issue of peak oil is considered as part of this study as well as the impact of technological change.

We will continue to keep you updated as the investigation progresses. Our investigation will be conducting community consultation activities throughout this year. We invite you to visit public displays or provide your feedback via our website or 1800 enquiry line.

I have attached a copy of our assessment framework fact sheet which will provide you with a more detailed overview of this aspect of the study. More fact sheets are available on the investigation website (www.wbtni.net.au).

Thanks again for your feedback, will help us plan for a more efficient, reliable and faster transport network.

Community Engagement Officer
Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation


Email to which the submission was a response

 

Dear Community Member

 

Please find enclosed an electronic copy of the newsletter from the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation. 

 

This second edition provides an update on progress and reinforces the importance of community feedback.

 

It also details the locations of our public displays at key shopping centres and libraries within the study area. These events provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the investigation’s assessment framework and provide feedback on all aspects of the investigation.

 

If you have any questions about this Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation please phone Michelle O'Leary on 07 3328 7448.

 

 

Regards

Norm Case

Project Manager

ConnectWest Consortium

From WBTNI - 11/10/07

Email from WBTNI, 11/10/07

Hello from the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation team,

You are registered on our Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation database to enable us to provide you with updates on the Investigation.

The Terms of Reference for the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation has now been finalised and are posted for viewing on the investigation’s website: http://www.wbtni.net.au

The key changes to the Terms of Reference include a greater emphasis on public transport infrastructure improvements and community consultation.

We encourage your continued feedback through our various contact channels, emails, the enquiry hotline and the investigation website.

If you have any questions or would like further information please contact the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation team via this email or on the enquiry line, 1800 636 896.

If you believe you have received this incorrectly or do not wish to receive any further updates on the investigation please contact us on the above details.

Kind regards,

Norm Case
Project Manager
ConnectWest Consortium

To Bruce Flegg - 9/8/07

Email to Dr Bruce Flegg, 9/8/07

Thanks for info. Your submission looks sound. However it is not quite right to suggest that the Kenmore bypass proposal would simply duplicate Moggill Road. It would do much more than this - it would (in effect) divert Moggill Road traffic onto the already overloaded Western Freeway (and thus be quite counter-productive).

My own submission about the terms of reference for the WBTNI is attached.

Regards

John Craig


Email from Dr Bruce Flegg, 27/7/07 to which the above was a response

Dear Mr Craig,

Important Information - Western Brisbane Bypass

I have enclosed for you a copy of my submission on the Terms of Reference to the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI). Click here to read my submission.

This is a study of the site for a Western Brisbane Bypass.

I strongly believe that the ‘inner’ option west of Mt Coot-tha through Brookfield, The Gap and Brisbane Forest Park should not to be included in the Terms of Reference.

There is no road corridor for a major highway through these densely populated residential areas, where tens of thousands of people have made their home.

Clearly, the opportunity to build a completely new highway, that would resemble the Gateway Motorway, has been lost.

I fought for 12 months to have the Govt include at least one other option – that through the Brisbane Valley.

I am pleased that this has now been included.

The Terms of Reference do not address many of the very serious transport deficiencies in the western suburbs.

I have urged them to specifically address the gridlocked Western Freeway and the woeful lack of public transport in the Western Suburbs.

There should be real thought given to innovative ideas, such as light rail, within the Western Suburbs.

I also suggested that consideration be given to improving the length and connectivity of local bikeways, as well as the High Street bottleneck when passing through Toowong to Coronation Drive.

I encourage residents to comment on the Terms of Reference, please visit www.moggill.net and tell me what you think.

If you have any further inquiries, comments or suggestions do not hesitate to contact my electorate office on 3378 8020 or email Moggill@parliament.qld.gov.au.

Dr Bruce Flegg MP
Member for Moggill

To  WBTNI - 1/7/07

Email to Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation 1/7/07

Manager
WBTNI

Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation - Terms of Reference and Strategic Issues

The WBTNI is a highly desirable initiative.

In recent years I have had some involvement in development of a proposal for a regionally significant walking / cycling trail (see Brisbane West Trail Proposal). This has clearly revealed the difficulties of dealing with any individual element of potential infrastructure in the absence of a credible network-level plan (eg see comments on the inadequacy of proposing one specific road as a solution to traffic congestion in the Kenmore area without considering the transport network as a whole).

In relation to the WBTNI's terms of reference, I submit for consideration by the investigation team that:

  • identification of the transport requirements to achieve the SE Queensland Regional Plan should be in the terms of reference. The Plan is mentioned as a background consideration in Section 2.2 of the Draft Project Overview, but not mentioned in the terms of reference, Major themes of that Plan include: strong growth Brisbane's western corridor; and increasing urban densities (presumably in order to make public transport more viable). However it will not be sufficient to passively consider (in effect) 'if those growth patterns are met, what does it mean for the western Brisbane transport network?'. Both those aspirations of the SE Queensland Regional Plan face natural obstacles that won't be overcome without the development of a transport network that pro-actively targets them. Moreover, only if those Plan aspirations are achieved, will they become major determinants of transport demand in the study region;
  • there should be a specific requirement to consider the relationship between the western Brisbane transport network and that of the broader SE Queensland region - so that the western Brisbane proposals 'fit' well into an integrated system. It might be assumed that this would be automatic - but this might not be so. There are principles of good urban design for a city as a whole - and their implications need to be a specific focus in developing a sub-regional plan. For example, principles to be considered might include:
    • the important role that public transport must play in a truly big city - such as Brisbane is likely to become in the next 50-100 years;
    • provision for high-speed intercity transport - which might be required in future decades to pass through the study region;
    • the development of ring roads to reduce CBD congestion - which is relevant to the western by-pass question, but is not only relevant in that respect;
    • diversity in transport routes - as concentrated major facilities such as the South East Motorway can be as much a problem as a solution;
  • as well as considering the Brisbane City Council's Transapex proposals, there is a need to formally consider the Council's draft CityShape strategy [see updated version] . In particular, it is noted that this includes provision for an extensive network of 'Greenways' that seem to constitute a version of the regional cycling and walking infrastructure that WBTNI is required to propose;
  • there is a need to develop an indicative implementation plan as a final stage in the WBTNI project. This might involve asking the agencies responsible for implementation and funding of the plan (if it were approved) for collective suggestions about implementation. Many strategic plans remain as reports that gather dust, and the best prospects for reducing that risk is to obtain feedback about practical implications of the proposal from those potentially responsible for implementation.

Regards

John Craig

To Brisbane City Council - 17/6/07

Email to Neighbourhood Planning BCC 17/6/07

Draft City Shape Implementation Strategy - Greenways

I refer to the CityShape proposal for establishing a comprehensive system of Greenways throughout the city and to suggestions for a Brisbane West Trail that I had forwarded to the Council's planning group some years ago. Details of that proposal are on my web-site (see Brisbane West Trail).

I have strained my eyes studying the maps for Transport (Map 6) and Sport, Recreation and Parks (Map 8) which show a network of Greenways, and concluded that they might include the core elements of my Brisbane West Trail proposal. However, as the maps are not detailed, I am unable to be certain.

Thus I would appreciate information about how more detailed information about the Greenway proposal as it applies in Brisbane's Western Suburbs may be obtained. Moreover, if the Greenway proposal does not currently incorporate the Brisbane West Trail proposal, I would commend the latter for consideration.

Regards

John Craig


PS: a detailed map of the CityShape Greenway proposal affecting the Kenmore area was later obtained from Council, and an extract is available which shows a Greenway running along the southern side of the road reserve

From Chamber of Commerce 26/9/06

Email from Kenmore Chamber of Commerce 26/9/06 

Western Brisbane Transport Study - Solutions to the Kenmore District Transport "Problem".

Further to our (Kenmore Chamber of Commerce) recent presentation by Eddie Peters from Dept of Main Roads, a web address has been set up to facilitate community sharing of ideas, options, alternatives that might help address our transport issues.

This web address is and will be apolitical. It will not be pushing any particular agenda or solution.

However, I must say, I think I hear near universal agreement that better public transport solutions is a critical component of the over all solution.

But we need the weight of the best ideas to rise to the top.

If you would like to use or share in use of this resource, you are welcome. Please contribute your ideas and/or add web site links that will be useful in helping others find the best answers. Likewise, if you have (or are aware of)

  • EXPERTS who can help with this problem
  • Discussion of how other cities around the world have solved this sort of problem. The discussion needs to remain focused on the facts - and good hard logic and reasoning.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Western_Brisbane_Transport_Study/

Best regards

Bruce Baker

In summary, based on our initial research, "the problem" seems to be able to be characterised as follows:

As a result of the rapid population growth over the last 10 years, we have roads operating at around capacity, as can be seen by the the traffic jams that regularly commence for example at 7:00am adjacent to Fairview Retirement Community on Moggill Rd midway between Bellbowrie and Kenmore. Morning peak hour on the Western Freeway is usually a grinding crawl and traffic along much of Moggill road can be very slow. The problem is set to be compounded by continued rapid growth in population over the next 20 years according to the SE Qld Plan with the area covered by Brisbane City Council's projected to grow by 22% with the Ipswich-Springfield area is projected to grow by 79%. Of course, population from Ipswich-Springfield feed through our area to compound traffic congestion around Kenmore. So the key question is 'Will an adequate transport infrastructure and services be in place to deal with this growth?' A key bottleneck is the round-about at the end of Western Freeway, where a congested high capacity-freeway delivers traffic onto a lower capacity Milton Road, yet the earliest solution to this planning bottleneck under consideration is Brisbane City Council's Northern Link which cannot be completed before 2016. What happens in the mean time? Department of Main Roads is busily planning upgrades to Moggill Road to help alleviate the problem, but there are many limitations to expanding the capacity of Moggill Rd in sections for example from Kenmore Rd through to Marshall Lane because of the narrowness of the transport corridor. So there clearly is a question about whether the possible increase in capacity along Moggill Rd will be enough given the rapid population growth.

To answer these sorts of questions, we need to work with the experts. Very clearly we are dealing with a very large and very complex expensive problem. If we learn from the experience of other large cities around the world, the solution will have some combination of the following elements

  • Infrastructure - more infrastructure and better use of the existing infrastructure.
  • Changes in attitude eg preparedness to live in higher density so as to support world-class public transport.
  • Changes in behaviour eg congestion taxes to create a disincentive to travel at peak hour or into the city.

We need all the best ideas our community can come up with. We must be proactive in dealing with this traffic congestion and transport problem because the costs to our community in failing to do are very high. A Courier Mail article on 9th September 2006 said 'The cost of traffic congestion in Brisbane was expected to rise from $2.6billion a year to $9.3billion a year within a decade'. How much of that increase in cost will be borne by people and businesses in our area?

To Chamber of Commerce - 19/9/06

Email to Kenmore Chamber of Commerce 19/9/06

Bruce Baker

Comments on Proposed Discussion on Traffic Congestion & Transport Problems in Kenmore & District - 21st September 2006

Thanks for copy of your discussion paper.

In response I submit that the ONLY path to a solution is through something like the Western Brisbane Transport Study proposal. It is of no value to develop specific project proposals except in the context of a total systems analysis - for reasons that were mentioned in my earlier email and are also outlined on my website.

The key questions seem to me to be:

  • are the terms of reference of the Western Brisbane Transport Study broad enough? The western suburbs' transport problem can't sensibly be divorced from (a) the SE Queensland Regional Plan's intent to locate hundreds of thousand's more people at the end of the Western Freeway and Lord Mayor's proposal for inner city tunnels etc both of which will presumably dramatically increase Western freeway traffic and congestion (b) proposals to upgrade Ipswich Road and develop a Brisbane West bypass (c) the long term need to develop more effective public transport systems across SE Queensland as a whole; and (d) future land use planning for the subregion;
  • are those who are to undertake the proposed Western Brisbane Transport Study competent to do so? This is not assured, given the manifest dysfunctional state of public administration in Queensland;

Regards

John Craig

Department of Main Roads' suggestions to Chamber of Commerce  - 16/9/06

Email from Kenmore Chamber of Commerce - 16/9/06

Please find attached further information about - Kenmore Chamber of Commerce discussion on Traffic Congestion & Transport problems in Kenmore & District  - 21st September 2006

Further information about this meeting can be found at 
http://www.kenmorechamber.com/

Do you have a solution to this problem? Do you or your association have a contribution to make to help solve this big & growing problem for our community?

Regards
Bruce Baker
Executive member, Kenmore Chamber of Commerce


PS: The issues raised by Main Roads Department speaker during Chamber's breakfast meeting on 21/9/08 can be found on its web-site from which the following was extracted:

"The following key points were raised from the infrastructure breakfast:

  • As a result of the rapid population growth over the last 10 years, roads are operating close to capacity, as experienced by the traffic congestion that regularly commences from 7am, adjacent to Fairview Retirement Community on Moggill Rd (midway between Bellbowrie and Kenmore).
  • The traffic volume of morning peak-hour along the Western Freeway and Moggill Road.
  • The problem will escalate by continued rapid growth in the Brisbane population over the next 20 years according to the SE Qld Plan:
    • The BCC's area is projected to grow by 22%.
    • The Ipswich-Springfield area is projected to grow by 79%.
    • The population from Ipswich-Springfield will feed through our area to compound traffic congestion around Kenmore.
  • Department of Main Roads is busily planning upgrades to Moggill Road to help alleviate the problem. However, there are structural limitations and a debate whether the capacity increase will be sufficient given the rapid population growth.
  • The district is dealing with a large, complex and expensive problem. If we learn from the experience of other large cities around the world, the solution will have some combinations of the following elements:
    • Review of existing infrastructure and additional measures.
    • Changes in attitude e.g. preparedness to live in higher density so as to support world-class public transport.
    • Changes in behaviour e.g. congestion taxes to create a disincentive to travel at peak hour or into the city.

A Courier Mail article on 9th September 2006 reported 'The cost of traffic congestion in Brisbane was expected to rise from $2.6 billion a year to $9.3 billion a year within a decade'.  "

To Chamber of Commerce - 23/8/06

To Kenmore Chamber of Commerce 23/8/06

Kenmore traffic congestion etc

Thanks for explanation of what you are up to. My 'expertise' such as it is, involves a background as a civil engineer, considerable involvement in government and a modest study of transport issues as part of a postgraduate qualification (but no practical experience in the area).

From what I can see the Kenmore bypass option is simply not viable because (for example) it diverts traffic onto the overloaded Western Freeway and only a 30m wide alignment was reserved - which was OK for the sub-arterial feeder intended in the 1960s but would (probably) be too narrow for a road that would make any significant difference now..

The problem on the Western Freeway can't be solved by the Northlink concept (if approved) because all this would do is attract more traffic onto the Western Freeway - at the outer end of which the state government envisages having about 200,000 more people living in 20 years time under the (dubious) SEQ regional plan. As I understand it the Lord Mayor's Transapex scheme actually involves two tunnels connected to the inner end of the Western Freeway. This would mean that instead of Milton Road being a bottleneck at the inner end of the Western Freeway, the Western Freeway (with only four lanes) would itself become the bottleneck at the outer end of a total of (presumably) 8 lanes on the two tunnels.

As I envisage it, a solution for Kenmore has to include:

  • serious upgrading of Moggill Road so that it is a viable route in its own right - including action to eliminate choke points eg by:
    • preventing entry to Moggil Road from Kenmore Road (and elimination of those traffic lights) and allow freer traffic flow; or
    • construction of an elevated (or less likely underground) section straight from the Moggill / Kenmore Road intersection to Moggill Road adjacent to the Kenmore Anglican Church (a total of around 1.5km). [Elevated roads on pylons are common in some countries but not used significantly in Australia. They are more expensive per kilometre but perhaps this would achieve the desired effect of eliminating the Kenmore choke points more cheaply than alternatives];
  • development of a Brisbane west bypass route to reduce traffc volumes heading towards the city - possibly involving a 'sunken' route between earth embankments in sensitive sections to minimize environmental dislocation and noise nuisance; and
  • better public transport - which as Brisbane becomes a big city needs to become THE main means that people get around.

But what this would mean can't be determined in detail without a comprehensive evaluation of the whole subregional transport situation .

I suggest that a first step might be to find out what transport planning work is already being done by relevant authorities in relation to the district, and who is responsible for doing and coordinating this - because unless any proposals addresses the problem in a way that makes sense to those organisations nothing much will happen.

Part of the difficulty is likely to be that there is (probably) no one who can capably address such issues. The machinery for regional planning that has been set up is not viable in my view (see SE Queensland Regional Plan and Infrastructure Plan ) and state / local transport authorities are hamstrung by:

  • the politicised and centralised machinery in the state government which now makes it virtually impossible to do anything competently (see Better Leadership of Queensland is Impossible without Administrative Renewal); and
  • the dependence on federal funding which makes it hard for states to take serious responsibility for anything; and
  • the growing ambition of the federal government to call all of the transport shots because (a) it has most taxing power and (b) the states are ineffectual.

Good luck

John Craig

To Chamber of Commerce - 21/8/06

Email 21/8/06

President
Kenmore Chamber of Commerce

Kenmore Bypass proposal

It has been drawn to my attention that the Chamber is seeking urgent feedback in relation to the Kenmore Bypass proposal.

While I am not sure what approach the Chamber is taking to this matter, I should like to submit for your consideration that:

  • while there is a serious peak-hour traffic problem in the vicinity of Kenmore, the "bypass" proposal that was envisaged in the 1960s has long since passed its use-by date. This point is explored in The Old Kenmore Sub-Arterial Road Reserve which suggests amongst other things that (a) such a bypass would have the effect of diverting Moggill Road traffic onto the Western Freeway which is likely to be the most overloaded road in SE Queensland because of the emphasis on growth in the SW corridor that the state government favours (b) any solution to the Kenmore bottleneck can only be found in the context of a general regional transport plan;
  • there is a potentially valuable regional asset that could be created utilizing the land that was reserved for the Kenmore Sub-Arterial Bypass - namely the creation of a Brisbane West Trail by linking the road reserve, numerous parks along two major creeks and the Brisbane Forest Park. This proposal was developed several years ago, and may need to be to be revised in the light of recent developments.

Regards

John Craig


From Kenmore Chamber of Commerce 21/8/06

Let me clarify for you what Kenmore Chamber of Commerce is doing:

  • We had a breakfast meeting last Thursday morning, during which some brainstorming occurred about issues that the Chamber could get involved in to assist the local community. At the table which I was chairing, it was identified that there was one major problem identified - was the traffic congestion and transport problems that have grown dramatically over the last 10 years in our area. So we are seeing here the very beginning of a focus on this problem by Kenmore Chamber of Commerce.
  • We are very pleased that we have received a lot of input and feedback over the last few days.
  • Currently have had no feedback to say there there was NO problem. Everyone seems to acknowledge that that Kenmore & Districts DOES have a major traffic congestion and transport problem.
  • We need our governments at both state and local levels to help us solve this problem.
  • This is a major and complex problem - and we have not yet seen from any source, a total and all-encompassing solution to each dimension of this problem.
  • However, by the level of feedback we have been getting, this is a major issue in the community - a very hot topic.
    • Of the plans that do exist that we are currently aware of
      • Kenmore bypass seems to offer a solution to the massive increase in through-traffic through Kenmore, but in isolation the Kenmore bypass would simply dump even more traffic on an overloaded Western Freeway
      • The only solution that we are aware of to the overloaded Western Freeway, is the Northlink component of the Brisbane City Council's TransApex plan, which we understand has not yet received state government support.
    • If other plans exist, we would be pleased to hear about them.
    • Public transport of course, should be part of the solution as well. We would like to hear ideas on how best public transport could be used to be an important part of the solution.
  • What has Kenmore Chamber of Commerce decided so far?
    • Kenmore Chamber of Commerce has decided nothing on the traffic congestion and transport problem.
    • Kenmore Chamber of Commerce is currently conducting a poll of Chamber members as to their views on the Kenmore bypass and Northlink. We will tally the result of that poll before further decisions are made by the Chamber.
    • We are looking for solutions to the community's problems - we do not claim to have a total solution to this complex problem. Clearly though if no action occurs, the traffic congestion and transport problems will simply get worse.
    • While the Chamber considers its opinion, we undoubtedly will seek the views of both sides of politics on what their solutions are to solve our traffic congestion and transport problem. It is important that Chamber learns what each party feels is the solution and when they would the implement the solution.
    • However, we also want to hear from anyone else who might like to offer solutions to these problems.
  • The State Election campaign does create the opportunity to give visibility to our local traffic congestion and transport problem.
  • In this state election it may be that the most that can be achieved is to raise the profile of the problem - i.e. we have a traffic congestion and transport problem in Kenmore & Districts.
  • Beyond the state election, I believe we need to be searching for some passionate resources that can help put together a more complete case - or a more complete integrated traffic and transport strategy for the area - I am sure we will find that there are some traffic engineers, academics and others living in our local community who have already studied this problem and/or others like it - who might be able to help. And maybe the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce can play, is to be a focal & coordinating point.
  • We appreciate your input into this discussion.

If you feel that you can lend expertise to help us, as a community to solve this problem, please advise what expertise you can assist with. My apologies for providing a generic response to your email at this time - because we have been flooded with interest. I think it will be useful if a forum can be created where a range of views can be expressed - and where hopefully we can start taking some steps towards solving our community problems. Please note that it has also come to our attention that a letter drop on the Kenmore bypass has been circulated by some person or persons - and that some people have interpreted this letter drop as coming from Kenmore Chamber of Commerce. From what we can establish, this letter drop has come from some other source promoting some other agenda. We are investigating. Thanks for your input and best regards

Bruce Baker

About Sub-arterial Road Reserve (2001)

2001 Comment on Kenmore Sub-Arterial Road Reserve
[in the context of problems in managing SE
Queensland's Regional Architecture and Transport Systems]

History

In the mid 1960s a transportation plan for Brisbane was prepared by the US consultants, Wilbur Smith. As part of this plan, a sub-arterial feeder into the Western Freeway - a feeder equivalent to 17 Mile Rocks Rd - was suggested for Kenmore.

A road reserve (which was too narrow in places for a significant arterial road) was arranged for this feeder. And, though the project has never proceeded due to the lack of priority attached to it, Main Roads has kept the proposal on its books and has been proceeding (very slowly) to acquire further land with a view apparently, at some indefinite future time, to carrying out this part of the Wilbur Smith Transportation plan.

This appears to reflect a  lack of effective machinery for intelligently reviewing the matter - as there are serious problems both with this sub-arterial proposal and with the assumptions about Brisbane's transportation arrangements generally of which it was a part. In working for government the author has observed how, in such circumstances, projects can take on a life of their own and be treated permanently as a mechanical job without any real consideration being given to whether they make sense.

Some clarity of thinking about the overall situation would now be highly desirable.

Reconsidering the Old Kenmore Sub-Arterial Reserve

This relic of the 35 year old Wilbur Smith plan needs to be re-considered, because:

  • there is a probable higher and better use of the Old Kenmore Sub-arterial Reserve as part of a major regional recreational and environmental asset: a Brisbane West Trail;
  • much more time has passed than the planning horizon which the Wilbur Smith study considered. Thus the Western Suburbs have grown beyond the point where the traffic volumes that could be carried on the sub-arterial freeway-feeder for which land was reserved could make any useful contribution. Upgrading to a more major route would be difficult due to the narrow (30m) road reserve, and the much greater noise effect on nearby housing that would undoubtedly lead to community protest and a requirement for costly noise abatement measures;
  • the sub-arterial's goal of feeding traffic onto a freeway is almost certain to be inconsistent with any modern strategy for Brisbane's transport system that could be adopted (see below). In particular it makes no practical sense to concentrate Moggill Rd traffic onto the Western Freeway if this is already overloaded at peak hours due to the failure of efforts to extend that Freeway in beyond the Toowong Cemetery. This failed largely because Route 20 was not acceptable to the community as an inner-suburban city by-pass - due to reasonable objections to passing a major arterial through a closely settled area;
  • an outer-western Brisbane bye-pass appears to be needed to complement the Logan Motorway and the Gateway Motorway - and this will significantly change the transportation picture in Brisbane's western suburbs. It can be noted that:
    •  RACQ spokesmen have criticised the state government for not committing to a new western bypass to move traffic round rather than through the city. Completing the outer ring road system was seen to be vital. (Jones C. 'Road plan bypasses western link', Courier Mail,  21/11/01)
  • transport system alternatives could certainly be found if experts were asked for economical options consistent with completing the proposed Trial circuit between Cupperla and Moggill creeks. For example, upgrading Moggill Road, even including a short tunnel section to under-pass the tightest area, might be cheaper than 3km of new road which included several bridges and cuttings. 

The Failure of Planning for Brisbane's Transport System as a Whole

However it is not only the old Kenmore sub-arterial proposal that requires rethinking. The overall planning processes for Brisbane's transport system seem to be built on an insecure foundation. 

The only system- wide transportation plan to yet have any significant effect, the mid 1960s Wilbur Smith plan, envisaged a 'freeway' system for Brisbane roads and ignored public transportation.

The core philosophy of a 'freeway' approach to Brisbane's roads' system was poor because it encourages urban sprawl - firstly freeways themselves take up large land areas, and secondly they make it possible to travel large distances in a short time. 

Sprawl then: increases the cost of other infrastructure; is environmentally damaging (both in terms of absorbing ecological assets and in increasing fuel usage and air pollution - with the latter being a major concern for Brisbane because of its geography); and also results in low urban densities that do not permit public transportation to be economically viable. 

Moreover public transport was not even considered at all by the original Wilbur Smith plan - and, though an add-on public transport strategy was subsequently prepared, this took the existing assumptions about the road system (which tended to make public transport non-viable) as a given.

However Queensland has lacked machinery to develop intelligent alternatives to the inadequate and outdated core concepts that still underpin Brisbane's transport system.

In the early 1990s the SEQ 2001 process attempted to provide a basis for rationalising plans for the region - but its proposals lacked professional credibility as a whole (noting Professor Grigg's review of SEQ 2001), and it did not really attempt to address specific details.

Mechanisms for integrated planning were theoretically created by the Integrated Planning Act. However even this appears to be only a procedure for processing development applications. It has not (as yet) allowed intelligence to be applied to the integrated design of regional facilities. An independent review of the Act recently concluded that (amongst many other problems) the resources required for it to be effective were unavailable (King Counsel, No 17, Spring 2001).

There have been increasing concerns expressed about planning generally for SE Queensland, eg

SEQ is the fastest growing urban area in Australia. Freeway system services this growth and with Gateway as its centre has turned the region from Noosa to the Tweed into a 200km city. Unlike Sydney, Brisbane is not divided from north and south coasts by national parks. Developers compete for land with freeway access - because land is cheaper. Travel times (off peak) are good - for now. But freeways cut across landscape and encourage small hinterland towns to embrace suburban development. The costs of providing water supply, health facilities and affordable energy in such haphazard developments can be immense. There is a significant transport crisis. The extent of public transport trips has fallen from 11% in 1976 to 6% - with the region now highly dependent on car transport. - which makes it hard to introduce the state petrol tax needed to fund improved public transport. There will be strong population growth in the region - only a portion of whom can drive or afford a car. There is an urgent need for a mass transit system - that links major centres without having to cater for the sprawl - as this would make it uneconomic. Much more needs to be made of existing rail infrastructure. Few Brisbane shopping malls have rail access. The only large green space left (pine plantations) could be sold off for urban development. SE Qld is suffering from 4 decades of laissez-faire subdivision. There is a need for inspired regional planning - and environmental monitoring as suggested in SEQ 2021 report. But need real commitment from rate-hungry local authorities to hold back on subdivision approvals. The natural landscape that makes the region an attractive place to live must not be compromised. (Spearitt P. 'Strip city dangers', CM, 8/10/02)

Gary White, president of Planning Institute of Australia (Qld) is concerned that SE Queensland confronts the problem of a 250km long mega-city unless action is taken to preserve green belts. In Victoria Premier became involved in requiring local governments to solve Melbourne's similar problem. Regional planning was said to have to be chandelled by the Premier's Department. At present 18 separate departments deal with issues separately. President of Royal Australian Institute of Architects believes that more than better coordination can be achieved if state government takes hands-on approach to work with SEQROC - because each authority operates in limited area, and there is no one with holistic vision. The big picture contains problems such as: per capita infrastructure funding well below other States; no distinct green belts; local government pursuing development via rezoning, rather than through concentrated targeted infrastructure investment. Problems with urban sprawl have been warned about since Wilbur Smith study of 1974. Social costs of car usage have become crippling. Public reactions to discussion of increased densities is unfavourable (Smith W. 'Piecing it together', CM, 12/10/02)

Beattie Government has ignored its own planning legislation to fast-track many projects in SE Queensland. Ministerial call-ins were used to override normal consultation and planning 70 times. These powers were meant to be used for projects of state significance - but are used for minor projects to avoid paying infrastructure costs and to prevent consultation and rights of appeal. (Heywood L 'Ministers skirt planning laws over 70 times', CM, 13/11/02)

The prospect of an amorphous car-dependent suburbia across all of SE Queensland is very real. Part of the problem is that such changes are incremental, so it is hard to inspire a remedial response. In 1990 the Goss Government made a commitment to address problems in SEQ - including regional open space. In 1994 a commitment was made to a regional open space plan (ROSS) - but nothing has happened. And the state governments soft dealings with local authorities has resulted in a toothless Regional Framework for Growth Management - which is based on voluntary cooperative partnership. Regional planning is a state responsibility - and without monitoring and compliance it is a nonsense. Behind this facade is a ridiculously small regional planning unit in the Local Government Department with neither the means nor the will to oversee re-zonings. All current debates about regional transport solutions will be futile if conducted in isolation from the regional context. BCCs proposed tunnels will be cluttered with car-based commuters. Queensland has good trains, but as a low tax state can't afford to run them where they are needed. The airport Airtrain will never be a well patronized public service, if the state wont put any money in. Cheap and quick fixes (eg public private partnerships) will generate media coverage suggesting impressive activity - but eventually the image will become tarnished (Day P. 'One day well wake up in LA', CM, 14/12/02).

Air Emissions Inventory Report suggests that SEQ's air quality will continue to decline due to urban sprawl and traffic congestion (Heywood L 'Southeast's future hazy as smog levels rise', CM, 5/4/03)

In SEQ open space has been cleared for housing at a rate of 7500ha pa for the past decade. This reflects lack of publicly owned land in the region - and government indifference to need for open space (Johnstone C., 'Space invaders', CM, 7/6/03)

Urban flooding in Queensland will cause significant damage unless state government provides funds for for a legislative framework for floodplain management - according to DNR report (Thomas H 'Flood academics warn of risky urban practices', CM, 2/7/03)

The Regional Coordination Committee meets every few months to consider need for better infrastructure and services in SE Queensland. But ministers seldom attend, and the real local council agenda is seen by state as extracting funding from the state. While a stand-off continues growth continues unchecked. Issues such as loss of farmland, increasing travel times and use of private vehicles need attention. Government agencies need to be convinced to take regional planning seriously. The culture and tradition is that development precedes infrastructure. There is a mixture of smart and dumb growth - with no authorities able to control sprawl. (Johnstone C., 'Dumb expansion in the smart state', CM, 19/7/03)

The state government has said that management of regional landscape in SE Queensland is local authority responsibility - and that it will be incorporated into core business of a state agency. This confuses the issue. There is a strong imperative for planning regionally because of (a)  environmental and landscape issues such as catchments (b) social and economic planning - in relation to environmental impacts (c) provision of infrastructure which has a regional implication (d) safeguarding regional landscape. Planning involves a deliberate set of management actions designed to achieve an intention. It involves ranking priorities - and so provides opportunity for resolving disputes. As government is not organized regionally, so addressing regional issues requires a whole of government response - in conjunction with local authorities. Many regional issues do not have a specific focus in any government agency. Cooperation is required to achieve integration. Dysfunctional planning systems have adverse consequences (eg environmental; failure to guide towards desirable urban growth; low investor confidence). It is folly to suggest as government recently did that individual agencies have responsibility for managing the regional landscape. Without a planning authority, a cooperative approach is vital (Choy Darryl Low, 'Saving our common ground', CM, 29/7/03)

Increasingly obvious failures related to planning for open space in SE Queensland reflects a failure of the regional planning machinery which requires radical surgery. Under earlier legislation councils included strategic plans in their planning schemes and these had the force of law. Under IPA, planning schemes are simply tools for implementing the Integrated Development Assessment system. Strategic frameworks are merely part of the toolkit. With no effective legislative backing, community vision is overtaken by the vision of individual property owners. (Playford N. 'Act lacks teeth', CM, 1/8/03)

1m people will arrive in SE Queensland over the next 20 years. Planners believe that infrastructure is yet to catch up with suburbs sprawled across SE Queensland (eg public transport, police stations, ambulance and fire services are in few new suburbs). Yet SEQ 2001 was supposed to address the growth issues. The State Government says this taught important lessons - but local government walked away. Industry believes most state departments ignored SEQ2001 which lacked teeth, financial support and someone to drive it. Industry groups favour BCC's Urban Renewal Task Force. Another plan, SEQ 2021 is proposed. Urban Development Institute and Property Council have both expressed reservations. UDIA (Q) president Grant Dennis says industry believes that SEQ 2001 achieved nothing tangible. Now each local authority plans in isolation. With rapid population growth leadership in coordinating local authorities in urban growth, infrastructure, transport, open space, land supply etc is important. There is a now a team developing a vision - but UDIA believes there must be a leader / driver. PCA Planning and Development Committee chair Guy Gibson says SEQ2001 enabled shared understanding of regional issues to emerge. The problem was not planning and coordination - but institutional arrangements and funding for key infrastructure. For state government there was no direct link between regional plans and policies / programs of state agencies. There have always been long lags in providing services in SEQ. Minister for Local Government said that SEQ 2001 broke new ground in learning how to work together and plan regionally. (Sommerfield J. 'Pretending to plan', CM,  22/8/03)

In relation to transport specifically, recent attempts to develop integrated plans have clearly not yet been able to build agreement on a coherent new strategy. For example:

"Local Government leaders in SE Qld have rejected the State Government's strategy to beat traffic for the next seven years. (they) refused to 'sign off' on the transport action plan 2007 Vision, citing a $7bn black hole in funding. Brisbane's Lord Mayor .. slammed the document ... as 'rubbish'. 'It is not good enough because it does not deal with the reality' " (Heywood L., 'Mayors attack traffic funding shortfall', Courier Mail, 10/3/01).

'A new transport plan for SE Queensland failed to address important issues such as seamlessly integrating Brisbane's freeways ....' (Maynard N and Vale B. 'Experts slam weak links in road plan', Courier Mail, 4/4/01)

"Delays in building new river crossings in Brisbane are quickly pushing the city towards a traffic crisis. A major study ... found that 30 percent of motorists travelling into and out of the CBD simply wanted to get to the other side (50% during peak hour). (The Property Council of Australia strategy) calls on the State Government to abandon unrealistic public transport targets and focus on diverting cross town traffic from the CBD. ... Brisbane's rapidly expanding population and ad hoc approach to transport planning is a recipe for disaster. The study also attacks the projected $12bn to $14bn black hole in the Government's regional transport plan" (Heywood L. 'River crossing delays attacked', Courier Mail, 3/5/01)

"Brisbane's troubled integrated transport plan is causing tension between the State Government and the City Council. The $200m bid to link bus, train and ferry tickets across SE Queensland has been on the drawing board for 10 years but is at least two years from fruition. ... The slow progress of integrated transport in Brisbane was noted in a .. report released by the Property Council ... (it) said that despite gestures of cooperation between the state and the council there were significant problems in terms of integrated systems and planning .... the delays ... showed the difficulties involved in the two levels of government dealing with each other" (Heywood L., 'Integrated transport plan leads to division', Courier Mail, 4/5/01)

Parliament's Travelsafe Committee has found that public transport in SE Queensland is disconnected and  inadequate. 1/3 of residents have inadequate access to services - and many outlying areas have none. Those well serviced find the system unattractive because it would not taken them where they wanted to do, or at the right time. A lack of adequate planning by Queensland Transport was blamed - as well as funding shortfalls. Various policy options were suggested (Jones C. 'User-pays roads funding pushed', Courier Mail,  14/12/01)

The redevelopment of Coronation Drive is a civil engineering blunder. It changes in appearance on an almost daily basis, and if there is any grand construction timetable it is not obvious. The project has been under way for what seems like half a lifetime, and every time there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, another convoy of trucks arrives. It all seemed to be over until last December, when it was dug up again for new sewer lines. Now the City Council has announced plans to dig up five lanes for cables for roadway lights (Sweetman T. 'Coronation Drive, a right royal stuff-up',  CM, 10/5/02)

Brisbane's transport arteries are blocked - and no amount of surgery seems able to cure the problem. Despite opening of the inner-city bye-pass the position facing motorists who travel this way every day is becoming worse (Taylor C. 'In the slow lane', Sunday Mail,  12/5/02)

A report by the Queensland Green Party has judged Brisbane's public transport system the worst of any mainland capital city. Brisbane has Australia's highest fares and poorest level of service integration (Nason D. 'Beattie fails the transport test', A, 14/5/02)

Despite the political hype, Brisbane's transport system is grinding to a halt. Over the next 15 years there will be 450,000 more people in the metropolitan region - and traffic volumes are growing even faster. Over the past decade, Brisbane has had a 40% rise in greenhouse emissions. Despite decades of promises a smart card accepted on all SEQ transport is still 4 years away. The annual cost of congestion (now $40m) is expected to rise to $1.7bn by 2016. Options to improve the situation include: taking action rather than eternal planning studies; overcoming conflicts amongst authorities by a single planning / coordinating authority; building the Woollongabba to Bowen Hills tunnel - to get through-traffic out of the CBD; reinstating the popular monthly and weekly bus concessions; debating whether public transport should be funded by tolls on drivers entering the CBD; and building public-private partnerships. (Heywood L. 'End the road rage', Courier Mail,  19/12/01)

Fewer people in SE Queensland have access to public transport than 10 years ago. 37% do not have well served stop 400m from home - up from 4 in 1991 according to Queensland transport analysis. (Jones C. 'Public let down as transport access shrinks',  Courier Mail,  22/7/02)

Brisbane prides itself on being Australia's most livable city - but may not be in 10 years time. Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast will merge as a result of planning decisions over the past 20 years. This will involve 2m people in one of the lowest density urban areas in western world. The area is fastest growing in Australia - under the influence of a sunbelt mentality. Brisbane has the most expensive public transport in Australia, and arguably the most poorly integrated system. Brisbane's public transport is in meltdown mode. Queensland's Transport's response to the looming road transport crisis is too little, too late. Many studies are being done, but nothing comes out of them. Public transport investment is historically low. Suburban rail - seen elsewhere as the only way to get large numbers of people out of cars - has fared badly, with no allocations for additional tracks. Integrated ticketing has been in place everywhere but Brisbane for decades. The SE Busway might have been better built as an electric fast rail corridor (as in Perth). A railway line to Redcliffe was first approved in 1980 - but is still no closer to reality. Senior Queensland Transport advisers advocate more walking and cycling - but the past 20 years of planning decisions have made these modes increasingly irrelevant - because of scattered decentralized land uses. Town planning has been the major culprit - by providing for massive car parks at shopping centers. A railway line to Robina ended 1km short of the major commercial centre rather than under it. Queensland transport insists that there is no need for an overall Public Transport Authority - which virtually every other state capital has (Milne R 'Transport punctured, derailed and rudderless',  Courier Mail,  23/7/02)

Tollways have been endorsed as a solution to Brisbane's congestion problems - but they are not. Tollways and new roads merely transfer congestion to another point in the city (as the inner-city by-pass is now demonstrating). And as traffic increases on the Gold Coast Motorway, it could soon need to be duplicated. Tollways just make it easier for cars to get around. Brisbane is one of the 13 top car dependent cities in the world. Public transport spending is stagnant. Some formerly heavily car-dependent cities have reversed this status. Brisbane has the worse sprawl of Australia's major cities. An alternative to car use needs to be the basis of transport strategy (Milne R. 'Poor planning takes toll on city',  Courier Mail,  6/8/02)

Consulting planner Steven Ames says that SE Queensland needs to be planned for people not cars, and there is a danger that cities will lose their identity and merge into one amorphous mass in 20 years time. The best way to overcome this problem is higher densities, better public transport, parks and gardens and centralized shopping that encourages people to walk of take a bus (Green G 'At the crossroads',  Courier Mail,  10/9/02)

Brisbane's busses are dangerous and run down, according to a leaked report (Morley P 'Hell on wheels',  Sunday Mail,  12/9/02)

Mass congestion in Brisbane is sign of a fragile transport system. Decades of strong population growth have occurred in a growth management vacuum. There has been little attempt to impose a transport logic on SEQ - eg directing growth to busway lines and train lines. SEQ's problems reflects a gridlock of governance. There is no real regional transport system. There is a multiplicity of government and private operators with separate but overlapping areas of responsibility. Integrated transport planning can not occur in such a context - and all that occurs is traffic management. No one stops to consider how modes interact. Adding more roads creates temporary solutions, but creates ongoing public transport problems. Governance gridlock has prevented introduction of integrated ticketing. No one seems happy with what is happening - but there is no regional agency to address the problem. A regional transport commission is needed to do the job. (Gleeson B 'Travellers caught in government gridlock', Courier Mail, 7/4/03)

Brisbane does not have a traffic problem - its problem is in commuter transport. Anyone coming from a major city would laugh at traffic jams in Brisbane. Commuters are annoyed by having to go the long way around to get anywhere - due to the river and cars. The river is seen to require many more cross river crossings (tunnels now). But the real problem is the way cars are accommodated and public transport is not well developed (Nightingale J 'Tunnel vision wrong',  Courier Mail,  3/5/03)

A program to boost the growth of regional centres (so as to alter the pattern of transport flows) would be better for SE Queensland than large new roads projects (Gleeson B., 'Create a healthy flow to extremities', Courier Mail, 4/6/03)

Brisbane City Council plan has been criticized by many groups. It has been accused of ignoring proposals from RACQ research - which had favoured congestion charges.  Problems of funding the BCC plan have been highlighted (Wardill S and Heywood L 'Traffic scheme under fire', Courier Mail,  3/9/03)

SE Queensland needs long term and large scale planning for transport - involving a SE Transit Authority and substantially upgraded roads (Newman C 'WE must think big', Courier Mail, 3/9/03)

Given a lack of agreement even about what sort of transport system Brisbane should have, it is likely that much current investment in transportation infrastructure is being wasted.

Media inquiries to various experts about Brisbane's transport system have tended to confirm this, by suggesting that (O'malley B. 'Planners ponder gridlock', Courier Mail, 27/10/01):

  • Brisbane's morning traffic gridlock is now worse than in Sydney or Melbourne;
  • despite past initiatives by state and local authorities, the problem continues to worsen;
  • a piecemeal approach to planning (ie for bits and pieces of the transport system separately) is probably the main reason that initiatives are not improving the situation;
  • there is a limit to what can be achieved just by building new infrastructure;
  • an overall strategy is required which starts by considering whether it is better to (say): (a) build river tunnels and link up freeways to make inner and outer ring roads; or (b) build more work places in the suburbs; or (c) make public transport flexible; put tolls on roads; increase parking costs; and encouraged changed travel demand; or (d) stop building infrastructure and force people out of cars.

A broad policy framework is required before it is likely that individual transportation initiatives will have any hope of making a significant difference to our transport difficulties. And there is simply no choice about raising the priority given to environmental goals in such a policy framework relative to past practices - even though it will be very difficult politically to do so.

Give the Matter Intelligent Thought

No one should make a sudden decision to transform the Old Kenmore Sub-Arterial Reserve into part of a Brisbane West Trail independently of any concerns for the manifest traffic difficulties in Brisbane generally and the western suburbs in particular.

None-the-less this option (and others) need to be intelligently considered as part of a regional design process.

It is not acceptable to blindly adhere to a 35 year-old plan, which did not take account of alternative uses for the public assets involved or of current circumstances, just because machinery does not yet exist to develop a modern integrated concept for Brisbane's transport system.