Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do you want from tonight's meeting?

With the extension of the deadline for submissions, tonight's public meeting on Darebin's Tram Route 86 Corridor project stands some chance of getting the consultation back on track. So, what do you want to see come out of the meeting? Feel free to leave a comment, but here are a few thoughts to get things started.

While most people would agree that faster, more efficient and accessible public transport is an urgent priority given climate change, a good idea badly executed helps no-one.

I'm hoping tonight's meeting will especially address the impact on those affected by the closure of the splitter island (see also Nick Hurle's map) near the intersection of High and Westgarth Streets, the implications of the likely loss of parking for local businesses, and the integration of cycling paths in the proposals. There is also the effect on existing transport, with the service lane bus stop set to disappear under both the current options.

In particular, as they will ultimately vote on the proposal, I would like to see each of our Rucker Ward Councillors - Trent McCarthy, Diana Asmar, and Steven Tsitas - briefly share with us their views on each of these issues. It isn't too much to ask where they stand individually, and how they think they can contribute to a resolution. Trent McCarthy moved the motion to have the submissions deadline extended, and that is a welcome start to a better outcome, but let's get into the details.

In line with Councillor McCarthy's motion, I'd also like to hear at the meeting just what further 'roundtable discussions' will take place with community members and other stakeholders to work through these issues. The discussions must include the people most affected by the proposals - service lane residents, business owners, public transport users who are elderly or living with a disability, and residents who can contribute in other ways - for example, by offering specialist knowledge on transport, traffic management and the environment.

Referring back to a point raised at the Thursday 12 March meeting at the Jika Jika Community Centre, Council should also offer its view on doing specific research on the Westgarth strip to identify just how customers arrive to do their shopping. If that research showed, like the Northcote study, that far more people arrived by alternatives to car travel than the business owners had believed, it might go some way to reassuring businesses about the loss of car-parking spaces. If the results showed a heavier reliance on cars than Council claims, it would surely strengthen the case to explore options to preserve parking.

Either way, the parking solution will be a mix of approaches - research, looking for alternative parking provision, minimising the loss of spaces, and offering incentives to change the transport mix to encourage people to get here by foot, bike, tram, bus or train. While Council is far better resourced to call on expertise, it also needs to encourage and listen to community ideas that might help.

One idea might be for shops to be allowed to sell individual tickets at the bulk discount rate with each purchase. Could incentives be offered for patrons in the strip who arrive by sustainable transport, or in full cars, instead of each person arriving individually and taking up a separate parking space? Do the tram stops have to be 33 metres long? Is there any prospect of shorter but more frequent trams that need shorter stops and take away fewer parking spaces?

Finally, it is interesting to note that by far the greatest impact on parking in Westgarth will be the loss of spaces on Ruckers Hill. This is claimed as necessary to preserve a lane of traffic on each side of the dedicated north- and south-bound tram tracks. If we stopped seeing High Street as both a (clogged) car artery and a major public transport route, it might be possible to retain some parking on Ruckers Hill - local traffic and parking should pose a much smaller impediment to trams even if they share the tracks.

It is, of course, a reality that existing traffic has to go somewhere, and not simply be unfairly diverted onto other roads where other residents will have to deal with the associated problems. This only goes to emphasise the need for a systemic focus on public transport that meets the needs of commuters who, for lack of a good public transport system, drive their cars along our roads.

What do you think?

See all posts on the Tram Route 86 Corridor Project


  1. I have created a map that outlines the issues associated with the proposed slip lane.

    The map clearly shows the areas affected and potential for traffic congestion to worsen. It demonstrates the impact on cyclists, bus users and the residents of High Street, Westgarth Street and Merri Pde.
    In the plan, residents living in Merri Pde and the High Street service lane are being asked to experience a huge increase in traffic noise and volumes. Merri Pde is a residential two-way street that is being earmarked as the preferred diversion of northbound corridor traffic. All Merri Pde residents need to be aware that your street is likely to carry a huge amount of increased traffic. I also fully expect that further development of the street will be planned in the future including widening and provision of heavy vehicles by way of raising the height of the Epping Line train bridge.

  2. I talked with Professor Rob Adams AM, Director of Design, Melbourne City Council, on Fri 13 March. His team has won 90 awards for their contributions to urban design, including several major Melbourne landmarks. He had 3 observations to make on Darebin's proposals.

    1) The use of slip lanes for through transport is a no-no. He has actually been taking them OUT in central Melbourne, converting them to mixed uses including some access but also greenstrips, wider paving, cafe seating, etc. He thought the use of the Westgarth High St slip road was inappropriate - heavy traffic should stay where it belongs - on the main carriageway.

    2) He sketched out how he would approach how bikes could pass through tramstops. The basic idea is to have a raised road area, which cars and bikes may pass over, leading to a platform. And my thoughts: An example from Danks Rd, Pt Philip, is shown here
    Another approach, road width permitting, is to have a bike lane next to the pavement, the tram stop beyond, then cars sharing. Good compliant trams stops did exist in Copenhagen until trams were removed in 1972, and there are some decent shots on the web of other cities. Bicycle Victoria has also considered the issue, if you search on their website, coming up with a range of solutions.

    3) He also stressed that Westgarth is a 'special case' of an inner urban village with high local patronage of businesses, but significant traffic in from further afield. He stressed that negatively messing with its clientele and its mix of uses would not be advisable - particularly if Cinema and restaurant customers were affected by parking changes (he is no fan of cars, but very keen on ways to maintain the ambiance of the streetscape and to keep things viable, including higher urban density).

    Since Professor Adams visits Westgarth himself, it was interesting to hear these ideas from an acknowledged leader on urban design.


Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.