Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Public Transport Guidelines for Development: why they're needed

I briefly mentioned that the draft was available for comment a few days ago. Any doubt as to their importance was scotched yesterday afternoon when I rode bus Route 840. This route goes from Berwick to Berwick via half the known universe and takes an hour to do so.

On leaving Berwick Station I passed underdeveloped land near the station, brand new new housing estates, a few large shopping centres, some slightly older housing estates and vacant land.

There were a few swings and bumps (due to roundabouts) and circuitous running due to poor street layouts. Many school children were dropped off but few passengers were picked up. Even if the buses were more frequent (current off-peak service is hourly) travel would still have been indirect and excruciatingly slow.

Suburbs like Berwick and Narre Warren are why the guidelines are needed. They are full of neat houses, nice parks, views and even the odd lake. However traffic on surrounding roads is terrible and public transport even worse. With the way these subdivisions have been planned, with circuitous internal streets unsuited to direct bus routes, fences backing onto main roads creating poor passive surveillance for cyclists, and pedestrians considered second class it is hard to see how non-car transport modes can be effective and efficient, either now or in the future.

I hope these Guidelines will help the planning of future suburbs. Note that they're still in draft form and submissions close next Monday, so read it and put one in. I thought that there is more to it than just bus stops and roundabouts, and give a list of pointers in my submission (pdf 120k).

Russ over on Civil Pandemonium also has a few words to say.

To conclude, it's one thing for there to be a bus in a street near you. It's quite another for it to provide efficient and effective transport that people other than schoolkids and oldies will want to use. Planning suburbs for a choice of effective transport modes is the first step to attracting people to public transport. It's not the be all and all (factors such as service planning and integration are also crucial) but if done properly it would give new suburbs a good start that places such as Narre Warren and Berwick have been denied.

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