Glenhuntly and Truganini road track and overhead upgrade
Construction of new platform stops on St Kilda Rd - 11 June to early August 2015
Tram routes changed, abolished in shake-up to ease congestion
Moonee Ponds tram upgrade project
New accessible tram stop for Route 1 & 8 passengers
Toorak Terminus tram upgrade project
Record tram performance in 2014
May 2015 performance results
Your new Jolimont/MCG tram stop
Yesterday the state Auditor-General reported on the accessibility of Melbourne's tram network. The findings were not rosy. It found that just 15 per cent of trips delivered a low floor tram to a level access stop. And that the Department of Transport had no finalised strategy or funded plan to fix it. SignificanceAccess issues remain with trains and buses but they are generally less severe than with trams. What does this mean for our network as a whole? Comparisons from the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network Maps give an idea. The map on the left shows all modes operating every 15 minutes or better on weekdays. The map on the right is train and bus only. Removing the trams reduces the amount of frequent service by approximately two-thirds within about 10km of the Melbourne CBD. On weekends the reduction would be even more, probably close to 90%. Another way to look at it is that annual tram patronage is close to 200 million trips, only a little below trains and over 1.5 times buses Melbourne-wide. So trams do a lot of the heavy lifting in the CBD and inner ring. A non-accessible tram network means that public transport is less accessible generally in the areas where patronage tends to be highest. All up, VAGO found that only 11 of 23 tram routes deployed low floor trams, with Route 96 being the nearest to fully compliant for stops and vehicles. Waits for a low floor tram on routes with mixed high and low floor trams can be up to 15 minutes on a typical day and as much as an hour on a bad day (see Page 34 of report).
Then there are the people who would like to travel but can't due to inaccessible trams. VAGO cites statistics like 17 per cent of people living with a disability. If that number was proportional for Melbourne, that would be close to a million people, with the number growing due to population increase and ageing. 53 per cent of people with a disability work and 40 per cent of people with a disabilty use public transport. Hence poor tram accessibility could be an issue with regards to people getting to work. There are also issues with crowding, exacerbated by misguided policies such as the 'Free' Tram Zone. TargetsLegislated targets for tram accessibility exist. Trams need to be compliant by the end of 2032 with a target for stops by the end of 2022. The auditor found that the 2022 target won't be met. There is also a risk of the 2032 target not being met. 38 percent of the tram fleet are low floor. 27 per cent of tram stops are level access. However low floor trams service many stops that are not level access. And there are some level access stops on routes that do not employ low floor trams. Since both requirements must be met for a service to be accessible the proportion is lower, at 15 per cent of trips overall. The pace that stops are being upgraded to accessible standards is slow and slowing. 1215 stops remain to be done. The average delivery trend is 21 stops per year. If we maintained the current pace it will not be until 2066 when it is all done, with potential time-savings if stops are merged. The Department of Transport is currently working on a strategy to upgrade these stops. Completion of it is expected in July 2021. However the existence of a strategy is no guarantee of funding from government. Current government priorities are with major road and heavy rail projects, with little for trams or service upgrades (on any mode). The last time there was a fast roll-out of accessible stops was in the 2007 - 2008 period. 2007 saw nearly 120 stops upgraded and 2008 nearly 60. Numbers have never been this high before or since. Typical recent state budgets (eg 2017-8, 2018-9) have only funded one tram stop upgrade each. A typical stop costs between $2 and 4 million to upgrade. Wholesale upgrades would be in the hundreds of millions at least (see page 35). Similar issues exist with the procurement of trams with the audit finding that nearly double the number of trams as can be delivered is required to meet 2032's deadline for rolling stock. VAGO found that matters were complicated by DoT not knowing whether 'low floor' trams were DSAPT (Disability Standards Australian Public Transport) compliant. No tram purchases have been funded since 2019. Also higher than expected patronage has meant that older trams have been retained with a larger fleet than planned.
Barriers to a faster roll-outThe biggest would have to be government funding priorities. Much like bus services, there was a period of stupor then sluggish growth in the 1990s and the first part of the 2000s. Then a big surge during the Brumby era of 2007 and 2008 (funding via Vicroads under 'Think Tram'). That proved short-lived. When the trains collapsed under surging patronage resources were suddenly transferred to rail. The long lead time of this did not save the Brumby government, which lost the 2010 election. The financially parsimonious Baillieu and Napthine governments continued on with the previous momentum of adding train services but, while it reformed bus networks, did not greatly increase service kilometres overall. Trams pretty much stayed static. The current Andrews government ramped up road and rail infrastructure but left service levels and smaller projects like tram stop upgrades in the doldrums, as the VAGO report has demonstrated. In the case of stops there are also local considerations. This is because trams often run in mixed traffic on busy streets that are often lined with shops, many of which are struggling. Retailers are often wary about 'losing' car parking space, even though in some cases it's their own cars that are taking space that could be for customers. However they can be blind to the opportunities presented by passing trams, which greatly improves their business's exposure. Shop owners would instead be better off objecting to window wrap advertising on trams, which reduces the ability of passengers to see out. Then there are sometimes competing aims for traffic, cycling and walking access on, near and across tram corridors. Local politics on this can sometimes be fierce, as seen by debates over clearways and parking in inner suburbs. Other benefitsImproving tram accessibility, if managed well, doesn't just benefit those with a mobility impairment. It also benefits fully mobile people who can more easily wheel their pram or take their child onto a tram. Along with tourists carrying luggage. Also important is tram travel speeds. Most of our tram system operates in mixed traffic. As traffic increases trams get slower. That's worse for the efficiency of trams as a transport mode. And it means that more trams are needed to maintain a given frequency. The VAGO report identified this as a challenge to making our fleet fully accessible as it means that more older high floor trams need to be kept for longer. If planned well accessible stops create the impetus to be putting more of our tram network on its own right of way, or at least with separation from other traffic. The gains from that could equal or exceed those from the improved accessibility alone. Legal risksVAGO reported that legislative requirement are currently not being met. Operators such as Yarra Trams have had temporary exemptions from the Human Rights Commission in relation to the non-accessibility of its services. VAGO found that the most recent one expired on 30 September 2020. This could increase risk of legal action. Some historical material on this is below: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/applicatoni-temporary-exemption-melbourne-trams
Recent reports from various Australian operators (including Yarra Trams) on their progress is below:
ConclusionThe VAGO report illustrates the size of the challenge posed in making our tram network accessible, especially against other competing transport priorities. The Department of Transport has accepted all recommendations. Action on them depends on the extent to which the state government considers tram accessibility important and funds a major acceleration of the program. In the meantime VAGO will be investigating integrated transport planning. This, report, probably out some time next year, also promises to be of great interest. PS: An index to all Useful Networks is here.Melbourne on Transit bookshopFavourably reviewed books about transport and cities. Purchases via these links support this blog and its independent reporting (at no extra cost to you).
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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