Thursday, 9 June 2016


The o-bahn extension along Hackney Road is starting to take shape. I took these pictures a couple of months ago:

This shows recent progress near the bridge over Linear Park:

Eventually (if the plans are correct), this space will be taken by a new bridge alongside the road bridge. Once complete, you'll be able to ride from North Adelaide toward North Terrace on a separate path and then join my pilot city cycle path network :-)

The extension is costing about $160m and is already causing complaints. This guy, who deserves his own post on APILN, made it on to the news.

It should be remembered that this extension is costing less than one fifth of one part of the North-South motorway that's being built - just when we're told that driverless cars will soon revolutionise the way we get around and lead to a situation where most of us probably won't even need to own a car. One of them will be shared between a bunch of us.

Another complaint I occasionally here relates to the o-bahn itself. It's not used anywhere else so we should get rid of it and put a tram track down there instead. That's an argument but it's a very expensive solution to a problem that does not really exist. The o-bahn single-handedly carries more passengers than each of Adelaide's suburban railway lines (or so I'm told). Its already existing park and ride stations are bursting at the seams.

I may be wrong but its success seems to come from its speed and frequency rather than the type of technology it is. It also has the added flexibility of being able to serve surrounding suburbs before buses join the o-bahn itself.

Brisbane has something similar with its network of busways and everyone knows about Transmilenio in Bogota, Colombia. Those systems are not guided busways but are networks where buses have their own right of way along with dedicated stations.

I mention that because of the plans being discussed at the moment to build an innner suburbs tram network called AdeLINK. Once completed, it will have lines running along Prospect Road, Unley Road, the Parade, Henley Beach Road and a conversion or shared running along the Outer Harbor line to Port Adelaide and Semaphore.

It's all very wonderful - but very expensive. Because a Federal election is imminent, the Federal member is promising to chuck lots of other people's money at the idea, but it's still not enough to finish even one line so you have to wonder about the chances of the idea surviving beyond one electoral cycle.

There is a blogpost by Jarrett Walker of Human Transit fame where he described waiting at a tram stop outside Heidelberg station in Germany. Several lines stopped there, each with a two digit number. There was information about where each route went, and an electronic display showing when the next one was coming. However, when the service arrived, it turned out to be a bus. Inside, it had a low-floor, high windows, goodseating, and the type of information systems you find on trams and good buses. In other words, unless you were a public transport nerd, you might not even notice the difference.

This is the point I think. Trams don't suddenly attract masses of new riders simply because of their technology. But a clear, high-frequency service does. More than that, a clear high-frequency network with easy changes can attract more riders.

Canberra is going through a similar debate. A tram network is planned that will ultimately cover a lot of the city. Just looking at the map you can see it would be very expensive. The political cycle tells you that unless there is energetic bipartisan support for it, theh chances of it being finished are low. Further, there has already been some criticism of its business case.

The other side have come up with an alternative (and likely much cheaper) bus rapid transit plan. It includes buses that can carry bikes (or should I say - a bike).

I'm no expert and could not say which is best (indeed, which is best depends on the questions you ask) but I can't help thinking that the tram network is a wonderful idea but very expensive and it will take a long time to finish. A change of Government would probably put it on hold until its proponents are re-elected. Even then, there's no guarantee.

The idea of upgraded and high-frequency public transport routes that have their own dedicated right of way (or some other form of priority) is brilliant. That is what will enable people to choose public transport for more journeys. The technology is secondary. Once you have the dedicated right of way, rails don't necessarily really add a great deal.

There are some great examples of buses achieving the same outcome but at a fraction of the cost such as Brisbane, Almere, Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

Also, if you're really that keen on trams, you can buy buses that look like them:

 And if you're really keen, here's a driver's view of the right of way.

The agreement I think is about the need for high capacity, high frequency public transport with, so far as is possible, its own right of way. Trams can achieve that but so can other vehicles. If you start with something cheaper but just as effective, you can afford more of the network more quickly. Plus, if these things are going to be sharing space with lines of cars (which is likely), I think I might prefer a bus that can manoeuvre past obstacles.

As part of the o-bahn extension, there is a new shared (please no) cycling and walking path along Hackney Road. It includes a new bridge alongside existing road bridge. It's a clever move because that will provide a safe route all the way from North Terrace into North Adelaide using the new path and the service streets along Mann Terrace (great minds think alike).