I managed to score an HD for this essay. It’s an interesting topic. Hope you enjoy!

Legacy (2015) argues that, ‘Participation under a neo-liberal political regime severely limits the democratic reach of participatory and deliberative planning.’ Conversely, profound processes of ‘deliberation’ come with risks for achieving action in confronting the challenges of urban governance. Using appropriate examples of strategic planning, consider the conflict between public input, community interests and effective outcomes in practice, and discuss the theoretical tensions this can present.

Maginn et al. (2016, p. 137) state that strategic plans in Australia ‘are more like glossy place promotion brochures’ and that there is ‘little evidence that metropolitan strategies have had direct or tangible effects on development outcomes.’ This appears to be an apt characterisation as strategic plans are often pushed aside the moment a governing party pursues a new idea or is voted out of office. Much of this, as Legacy (2015) argues, is due to the failure of the neo-liberal governance model to facilitate a long-lived strategic plan. Instead, governments are left to the whim of economic markets that do not operate predictably over long periods. In this essay, the tension between the neo-liberal governance model and deliberative/communicative planning will be discussed. The essay will begin with a recount of the rise of communicative planning ideals in response to predominate modernist practices that had fallen out of favour. The discussion will then move to the intrusion of the neo-liberal paradigm and how its clash with deliberative processes can see public backlash and electoral shift. Before concluding, the essay will discuss means of incorporating deliberative processes within the making of strategic plans whilst also permitting a firm economic grounding.

Rise of Communicative Planning

Our understanding of the purpose of town planning has shifted greatly over the past 150 years. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Scott (1998, p. 87-102) argues that Western societies took a ‘high modernist’ turn in the governing and structuring of society. This reformation saw the rise of a supposedly scientific and technical approach to planning in which cities, towns, regions, and their customs and practices were cut down to their simplest elements that could be easily controlled and manipulated by the state. It was a time when policymakers turned to new philosophies under the belief that former societal practices were regressive and inefficient. For planning, this meant that the former organic development of settlements was to be abandoned and must be replaced with master planning by technical theorists such as the well-known Le Corbusier and Robert Moses. Much of this restructuring of town planning was held back by world wars, however, post-war reconstruction saw immense governmental intervention and stimulus into the growth of settlements and regions. Taylor (1998, p. 8) argues that town planning, especially in Britain, was practiced as an extension of architecture in the post-war period. Sticking to the technical approach, this architectural focus would divide settlements into land uses and enforce strict built form controls. The practice gave minimal consideration to full societal concerns, though it was undertaken under the premise of improving living conditions, but the naivety of planners as to the intricate needs of a society likely resulted in the structural enforcement of inequity. Planning would function in this way for a number of decades before localised opposition saw planning reform.

Taylor (1998, p. 75-91) argues that the rise of communicative planning through the post-modernist reformation of the 1970s was a recognition that planning is a ‘political process’. ‘Political’, in this sense, is not used negatively. Rather, the political process allows the community and stakeholders to deliberate, debate, and even vote on proposed planning initiatives. Mees (2010, p. 99-100) recounts the freeway revolts that occurred in Toronto and Melbourne during the 1970s. In both cases, policymakers had designed a road-based transportation system through the modernist technical approach to planning. The designs would require the forced acquisition of private property and see the construction of large highways through the middle of communities. The Melbourne example from the 1970s was the proposed Eastern Freeway extension through Melbourne’s inner north. Community groups were successful in their campaign to oppose the road, but the freeway never left the masterplan, as will be discussed later. Sager (2009) defines a communicative planner as someone who ‘facilitates discussion and attempts to involve even marginalised interests’. The communicative planner should strive to look beyond the basic economics of a proposal and enable full societal concerns to be heard in the planning process. In many respects, this communicative process offers greater value for the strategic arm of planning especially in Victoria where the statutory arm is still conducted using the technical, modernist approach as discussed above. Nevertheless, as the statutory framework is developed through a strategic foundation, there is high potential for the communicative approach to have far reaching impacts in the planning framework. However, the post-modernist reformation occurred alongside a broader economic restructure of governmental systems, which has come to cause great tension between societal and economic interests.

Neo-Liberal Intrusion

Healey (2006, p. 14) explains that, at the same time as the practice of planning was being reformed through the 1970s, the prevailing economic structure within Western societies was also reforming. This included a shift from the ‘demand-stimulation strategies’, as promoted by John Maynard Keynes following the Great Depression, to a greater focus on economic ‘supply’. Healey goes on to explain that this ‘neo-liberal’ turn concerned itself with reducing regulatory burdens placed upon private business and winding back government involvement in the everyday running of the economy. The impacts of this governmental restructure were felt heavily in the United Kingdom and the United States through the 1980s as both nations were ruled by conservative administrations. The impact would be less so in Australia, however, Victoria saw large-scale privatisations through the 1990s via the Kennett Government and the election of the Howard Government in 1996 saw the neo-liberal ideology rolled out nationally. Today, the neo-liberal ideology is deeply ingrained in global markets. Governments are restrained in their ability to enact policies that increase regulatory oversight, nor are they able to readily source funding for initiatives that struggle to demonstrate their economic return. The concern here for planning is that the new communicative/postmodernist framework, with its emphasis on considering all societal concerns beyond those with a direct economic link, is that it can be difficult to justify strategic plans that do not consider economic performance first a foremost. Further, a continued financial squeeze has seen governments intentionally limiting the reach of communicative planning practices with the aim of artificially manufacturing economic confidence for private enterprise employed to implement state projects.

Legacy (2015) refers to the strict economic remit of the neo-liberal ideology as a ‘post-political’ environment for planning. This environment can see, especially for large or costly government proposals, public participation actively prevented or the process constructed in such a manner that public opinion is not given the ability to sway the final outcome. As discussed, preventing public participation in the planning process is theorised to provide greater economic confidence for private contractors, however, governments also create or restructure their own departments to see them operate in the manner of a private agency beyond the reach of regular public oversight. Sager (2009) refers to this as the ‘depoliticising [of] decisions by making them a matter of operational management’. He goes on to say that this results in ‘social and political issues [being] reduced to technical and procedural matters’. This premise at the core of the neo-liberal ideology unwittingly forces planning to return to its modernist foundations where the whims of theorists are forced upon society and the public is seen as a mere element to be manipulated and controlled. Planners, therefore, are forced to contend between the ideals of communicative planning, with its core intended to uphold the interests of all society, and that of the neo-liberal governance model, which allows consideration into areas only that provide a strong economic link. As with the freeway revolts of the 1970s, this means that the public must turn to extra-process activism in order to amend or overturn governmental decisions. For Melbourne, it was precisely this that occurred in opposition to the re-proposed Eastern Freeway extension (East West Link) and likely saw a government fall as a result.

Erosion of Participation

The East West Link, as recounted by Legacy (2015), was a proposed set of twin road tunnels connecting the Eastern Freeway from Hoddle Street in Clifton Hill to the City Link Tollway in Parkville. The road differed from the 1970s proposal, which was planned to be an open-cut trench through the inner suburbs of Melbourne rather than a tunnel. However, the proposed tunnels still saw strong opposition from residents and transport planning academics. The core of the resident opposition was that the Baillieu/Napthine Liberal Government (which proposed the road) did not announce the project as one of their initiatives prior to winning government. Indeed, Legacy (2015) contends that the Baillieu/Napthine Government was elected on the promise of enabling long-awaited public transport projects. The Liberal Government’s Public Transport and Roads Minister Terry Mulder even announced prior to and following winning government that, ‘We went to the election to say that we had no plans for the tunnel. And that is our policy’ (Millar & Dowling 2013). Further to resident opposition, transport academics opposed the proposal on the long-established theory that urban road projects do not alleviate the traffic problems that they are intended to solve. Rather, they act to worsen the problem (Speck 2018, p. 64). The Baillieu/Napthine Government actively moved to reduce the ability of the public to be involved in the planning process, even changing the law to do so, and rushed other required statutory approvals in order to sign construction contracts prior to the 2014 election. Opposition groups were forced to mobilise outside the planning process through activism that saw large media interest. The campaign was so strong that the opposition Labor Party promised to abandon construction of the tunnels should they win government.

The Baillieu/Napthine Government was voted out of office in 2014 to make way for the Andrews Labor Government. The new Andrews Government moved to cancel the East West Link contracts despite an enormous cost in compensation arranged in secret between the contractors and the former government (Legacy 2015). It seemed from this point that the neo-liberal governmental structure would be reformed in Victoria, particularly for planning, as the Andrews Government appeared willing to uphold community concerns. However, Legacy notes that the former government had amended the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 resulting in the erosion of public participation in major projects. Moving into the initiatives of the Andrews Government, it is clear that this amendment is continuing to be used in such a manner to prevent public participation, particularly in transport matters. Recent deliberative initiatives (too recent to be the subject of peer reviewed academic analysis), such as the proposed North East Link, have been labelled a ‘show trial’ by affected residents as Government contractors begin work despite a continuing planning process (Lucas 2019). The devolution of government departments to that of agencies conducted in the manner of a private business can also be seen under the new government. New agencies have been established for the handling of level crossing removals, the construction of various freeways, the expansion of suburban roads, and for the building of railway infrastructure. For all these projects, the Government has not permitted the public to discuss the underlying problems intended to be solved. Instead, public participation is reduced to that of deciding minor matters, such as relating to building facades and colours.

Enhancing Communicative Processes

In returning to the argument by Legacy (2015) that, ‘Participation under a neo-liberal governance regime severely limits the democratic reach of participatory and deliberative planning’, and the challenges that ‘deliberation’ pose for governments operating under the neo-liberal model, it is important to consider whether the best interests for both parties, public and government, are being met through the current system. It may be argued that the current model is failing both parties with the public dissatisfied by planning processes and government facing backlash at the ballot box, as can be seen from the Baillieu/Napthine Government’s election loss. No party truly wins in these circumstances, not even the public, who managed to see the East West Link abandoned, as they are still not given the opportunity to discuss the underlying problems that strategic plans aimed to remedy. Sager (2009) argues that government must move away from its sole commitment to economic performance as the measure for good government. He goes on to quote Denhardt and Denhardt (2015, p. 1) who state that, ‘Government [should not] be run like a business, it should be run like a democracy.’ For Sager, an important step in this reformation is for government to recognise that individual members of the public (which he refers to as ‘citizens’) have needs that cannot be met through the sole characterisation of individuals as ‘consumers’. However, Taylor (1998, p. 130-154) notes that we cannot ignore the neo-liberal paradigm so long as we continue to operate within its framework. With this, new planning processes must be considered that aim to meet both societal and economic demands.

A potential means of solving the deadlock between societal and economic needs is to pursue strategic plans that have both a communicative and economic basis. With this, both the public and private contractors can have confidence that proposed plans and initiatives will not be thrown out on a whim by new governments. In an examination of four different planning styles, Innes and Gruber (2005) found that ‘collaboration’ provided the best outcomes ‘where diversity and interdependence interests are high’. This suggests that strategic plans must be undertaken through a communicative process if they are to remain relevant in the political cycle and maintain public support. Incorporating economic return into plans derived from a communicative process, rather than merely relaying economic initiatives to a passive public, is an approach that every government should consider if they care for their own longevity. A further means for this process may even include the ability for the public to vote on larger initiatives, as Mees (2010, p. 129-145) recounts for the experience of Zurich in the 1960s and 70s. As in much of the world, governing authorities in Zurich had pursued a road-based transportation system, however, local laws required expensive initiatives, such as highway construction, to be put to public vote. The public defeated the road-based proposal in favour of greater investment in public transport. Mees goes on to recount the success of the of the Zurich transport system into the 21st century with the example demonstrating that deliberative processes do have the potential to provide economic confidence and prosperity.

Summary

It is likely, as Legacy (2015) contends, that the neo-liberal governance model has resulted the limiting of deliberative planning processes. Neo-liberal governance puts economic interests at the core of planning decisions and gives little consideration to wider societal concerns. This is in contrast to the ideals of communicative planning, which rose in recognition that planning must be understood as a political process unlike the modernist application of planning practiced from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The neo-liberal model, despite its preference with current governments, fails to adequately serve both the public and the government. Public participation is reduced and communities are not permitted to discuss the underlying cause of the problems they face. Governments, meanwhile, risk electoral backlash, as we saw with the East West Link, should they drive the neo-liberal ideology to its logical end. However, it may be possible to reactivate communicative processes within a tight economic remit provided that consensus can be reached on the deliberative process. Strategies developed with a collaborative approach have been shown to provide greater outcomes and receive greater governmental and community respect. These processes are also shown to provide the economic confidence required within the neo-liberal paradigm.

 

References

Denhardt, J & Denhardt, B 2015, The New Public Service: Serving, Not Steering, 4th edn, Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, London & New York.

Healey, P 2006, Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies, 2nd edn, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire & New York.

Innes, J and Gruber, J 2005, ‘Planning Styles in Conflict: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 71, No. 2, pp. 177-188.

Legacy, C 2015, ‘Transforming transport planning in the postpolitical era’, Urban Studies, Vol. 53, No. 14, pp. 3108-3124.

Lucas, C 2019, ‘North East Link hearings branded a ‘show trial’ as early works start’, The Age, 27 October, viewed 30 October 2019, <https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/north-east-link-hearings-branded-a-show-trial-as-early-works-start-20191025-p534c5.html&gt;

Maginn, P, Goodman, R, Gurran, N, & Ruming, K 2017, ‘What’s so strategic about Australian metropolitan plans and planning reform?’, in L Albrechts, A Balducci, & J Hillier (eds), Situated Practices of Strategic Planning: An international perspective, Routledge: Taylor &

Francis Group, London & New York, pp. 135-157.
Mees, P 2010, Transport for Suburbia. Beyond the Automobile Age, Earthscan, London.

Millar, R & Dowling, J 2013, ‘East-west rationale to stay secret’, The Age, 25 August, viewed 25 October 2019, <https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/east-west-rationale-to-stay-secret-20130824-2sis1.html&gt;

Sager, T 2009, ‘Planners’ Role: Torn between Dialogical Ideals and Neo-liberal Realities’, European Planning Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 65-84.

Scott, J 1998, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Speck, J 2018, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, Island Press, USA.

Taylor, N 1998, Urban Planning Theory since 1945, Sage Publications, London.

A 5.3-million-dollar bicycle bridge on the Federation Trail near Yarraville will close on Monday 16 July, 2018, to make way for the Andrews Government’s destructive West Gate Tunnel elevated tollway.

FedTrailBridge

The bicycle bridge, which provides the only safe route from Melbourne’s industrial west towards the Maribyrnong River Trail, was opened in 2014 before any whisper of the new tollway was known to the public.

The new road will widen the West Gate Freeway to 12 lanes, with some of those lanes taking the place of the new bicycle path. A realigned path connecting with the new bridge will not be open until 2022.

So what are your alternatives?

The first option is the route identified by the West Gate Tunnel project.

Official detour

This is the most direct detour, but the route through the West Gate Freeway interchange with Millers Road would be enough to deter even a determined bicyclist from ever travelling that way again.

The official detour also dumps bicyclists at the (soon to be) former city end of the Federation Trail. The trail is incomplete and bicyclists must find their own way once they have crossed the (soon to be closed) bridge, so it does not make sense to dump users of the trail in the middle of nowhere rather than provide a route to connect with the Maribyrnong River Trail.

Detour via Richards Court Overpass

FedTrailRichards

This detour (see here) utilises an overpass between Richards Court and Rosala Avenue. The map I have provided also guides users of this route towards the Maribyrning River Trail rather than dumping trail users at the end of an incomplete path.

For note, this route interacts with the West Gate Freeway via the overpass. Work on the freeway expansion may limit access at times. Also, this route utilises Blackshaws Road, which is not the most comfortable for bicycling, but the road is quieter than some of the busy trucking routes in the west.

Detour via Kororoit Creek Trail

FedTrailKororoit

This detour (see here) utilises the (incomplete) Kororoit Creek Trail from the Federation Trail to Blackshaws Road. The map I have provided also guides users of this route towards the Maribyrning River Trail rather than dumping trail users at the end of an incomplete path.

For note, this route interacts with the West Gate Freeway via an underpass along the Kororoit Creek Trail. Work on the freeway expansion may limit access at times. Also, this route utilises Blackshaws Road, which is not the most comfortable for bicycling, but the road is quieter than some of the busy trucking routes in the west.

Detour via Point Cook

FedTrailPointCook

This detour (see here) abandons the Federation Trail entirely and provides a route for those who want to cycle all the way from Werribee or Hoppers Crossing to the Maribyrnong River Trail. The route utilises a combination of roads and trails, including the Bay Trail through Altona. At 27.5 kilometres, it really could be quite a fun ride.

For note, this route utilises roads that have wide paths along the side, specifically Sneydes Road. These paths appear to be intended for shared use, however, few are actually signed that way. So I leave it up to you to choose whether to ride on the wide path or on the road.

Final thought

The West Gate Tunnel will actually complete the Federation Trail at the city end, so bicyclists will benefit eventually, however, it is still disappointing that so little foresight is applied to infrastructure planning in Victoria.

It is also disappointing that safe bicycle infrastructure is so often only provided alongside roadway expansion projects rather than as standalone initiatives aimed at promoting bicycling. This also means that cycleways are often only built beside new bypass roads, which is not where a commuter bicyclist is likely to want to ride. Homes are not on the bypass, neither are the shops, schools, employment. They are in town, with the people, and that is where a commuter bicyclist is likely to want to travel.

This post has been updated to reflect that the four-year-old bicycle bridge will not be demolished. Instead the path leading to it will be demolished and a new path connecting to the bridge will not be open until 2022.

As part of the Melbourne Metro Rail tunnel project, Moray Street in South Melbourne is being partially upgraded for bicyclists in compensation for closures on St Kilda Road, which runs parallel, due to the construction of the new Anzac Station.

The bicycle upgrades to Moray Street include physically separated bicycle lanes, wider painted bicycle lanes, and the installation of pedestrian and bicyclist priority features to the existing roundabouts at Coventry Street and Dorcas Street.

Moray Street and Dorcas Street

The new roundabouts include ‘wombat’ crossings (raised zebra crossings) that are fairly common on roundabouts in busy pedestrian areas. The difference with these wombat crossings is the bicycle lanes added on the roundabout side.

This positioning of the bicycle lanes is inspired by design from the Netherlands (video below), however, it is likely that simply adding a bike lane to the wombat crossings, rather than providing greater pedestrian and bicyclist separation, is due to a perceived need to provide infrastructure that motorists would find familiar.

What I like

Road User Hierarchy

The first feature to like of the new roundabouts is that they enforce the vulnerable road user hierarchy. That is, pedestrians are given priority over bicyclists and motorists, bicyclists are given priority over motorists. All road design, at least in city, suburban, and town areas, should attempt to enforce priority in this way.

Secondly, this general design is the only way that roundabouts can be incorporated into bicycle friendly corridors. One of the major reasons people do not ride a bicycle on the road is due to the lack of safe infrastructure. A new bicyclist is unlikely to willingly choose a route that forces them to merge with busy motor traffic, such as at roundabouts.

Thirdly, and personally, I like that I can just ride through these roundabouts rather than needing to constantly gauge traffic, merge, and stop in front of motorists who like to inch their cars forward, closer and closer. Of course, an individual should not sail blindly through these new roundabouts, but the pressure is greatly reduced.

What can be improved

These are the first attempt at bicycle priority roundabouts in Melbourne (and maybe Australia), so there is going to be room for improvement and the first suggestion I would make in that regard is greater pedestrian and bicyclist separation.

No pedestrian and bicyclist separation

These bicycle lanes have been placed on the footway on the corners of the intersection. You will see from the Netherlands video above that the bicycle lanes have been physically separated from pedestrians by raised traffic islands and kerbs. On Moray Street, possibly due to space constraints and the need for the bicycle lanes to be at the same height as the footpath to access the wombat crossings, the design easily allows for a pedestrian to wander onto the green paint.

Pedestrians cannot be blamed for wandering into the bicycle lanes, though, as this is a new design and there is literally nothing to stop them. With future roundabouts, a barrier between the bicycle lane and the footway should be included. This barrier could be planter boxes, seating, or other dual-purpose feature.

Harsh kerb ramp

The second improvement I would suggest is gentler kerb ramps on the bicycle lane. Harsh kerbs are, unfortunately, a continuing feature of bicycle infrastructure. It is unclear why gentler designs are not the first consideration. Harsh bumps are a bane to new bicyclists who are likely to have a sore bottom and, in this case, the kerbs may even cause confusion as the painted bicycle lanes leading towards the roundabout do not force a bicyclist onto the green strip.

This brings me to my third area for improvement. A new user approaching these roundabouts from a bicycle lane that is not physically separated from motor traffic may merge with traffic through the roundabouts as they are unaccustomed to being guided to the left. The kerb ramps add to this confusion as they may appear to be intended for accessible access to the footway, especially when joining Moray Street as pictured below. Protected lanes that physically guide bicyclists onto the bicycle lane around the roundabouts should be included in future projects.

Bicyclists are not clearly directed to onto the green strip

Further thoughts

Design that allows a person to choose to ride a bicycle rather than drive a car is design that is good for bicycling and motoring. It frees space in the motor lane as a person who does not need their car is given the choice to leave it at home. It also improves individual health and happiness, aides the economy, and encourages new bicycling which drives authorities to provide greater infrastructure.

With those points it is disappointing to see certain media already fuelling division by stoking community misunderstanding of the benefits of initiatives that allow a person to choose not to drive.

It is also disappointing that we have a supposedly progressive Government that is determined to run the state as though it is the 1980s. All around us Daniel Andrews is pushing ahead projects that will entrench car dependency and, in doing so, make traffic congestion worse. He scrapped bicycle improvements to St Kilda Road, ceased PTV’s incremental improvements to train timetables almost immediately upon taking office, is pressing ahead with construction of the most destructive road Melbourne will have ever seen, has shown that he is not against destroying suburban centres with enormous trenches, and has thrown out consideration of restricting vehicle use in Melbourne’s CBD despite the extreme inefficiencies the city currently suffers by the free use of motor vehicles on its congested streets.

But I have wandered off topic. These new roundabouts are a good start and I look forward to seeing them rolled out at other suitable locations.

University case study of the failed Camberwell Railway Station Redevelopment.

The Age

What is the case about?

The Camberwell Station redevelopment was a proposal, many years in the making, to build three and nine storey towers beside and above the 1918 Camberwell Railway Station which services the Camberwell Junction shopping strip on Burke Road and surrounding residential areas (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). The development had been in planning since before 2002 by the State Government owned Victorian Rail Track Corporation (VicTrack) which owns the railway station and adjoining land. The development would have seen a mix of lower level business with residential above, but faced criticism from residents, the Boroondara Council and from high profile individuals, including actor Geoffrey Rush, as the development would have been much taller than other structures along the shopping strip, which generally sees buildings of only two storeys, and would have almost totally blocked the view of the railway station from Burke Road. The dispute came to a head in 2009 with a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that ruled in the favour of VicTrack and their chosen developer, but with a requirement that some design alterations be made. However, the development was shelved in 2012 following the election of a conservative Government two years earlier (Carey, 2012).

What are the substantive issues in the dispute?

The substantive issues came down to differing policy at the state and local government levels. Policy of the state would like to “facilitate residential and commercial development in existing activity centres with good access to public transport” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). This is consistent with a global governmental push for high density urban living along high capacity transport corridors as cities become evermore populated. In 2010 the then Labor State Government made moves to amend planning schemes to encourage “high-rise corridors” along railway, tram and bus routes, moves that were opposed by the Liberal-National opposition who believed that the policy would lead to “unliveable” conditions (Johnston, 2010).

Camberwell’s Boroondara Council and Boroondara Residents Action Group (BRAG) appear to have agreed with this sentiment and had further worries about neighbourhood character in the “leafy east”. The opponents of the nine-storey station development proposed an alternative development which would have seen a low level structure, consistent with the height of existing Burke Road buildings, and only on the southern side of the site (BRAG, 2009). Whether or not such a development would be cost-effective is unknown, especially considering the cost of railway works including the removal of train stabling and accommodating those trains elsewhere.

(This answer should have made reference to “substantive issues” as set out in Planning Australia by Thompson and Maginn).

What are the planning issues?

At the zoning level, the proposed development was not in breach of planning law as agreed by VCAT. The railway station was zoned as a Public Use Zone (PUZ) and was adjoined by areas zoned Business as well as Burke Road which was a category one main road (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). VCAT made note of seemingly conflicting Council planning schemes. The proposed development had been in the planning since at least 2002 and would have been relying on an old 1993 structure plan which came to clash with a new plan released by Council in 2008. The 1993 plan appeared visionary for its time as it pre-dates the Melbourne 2030 strategy, which called for major development in “Principal Activity Centres”, as it encouraged “significant development” at the Camberwell Railway Station site. The new 2008 plan encouraged “low scale” development at the station (Camberwell Junction Structure Plan, 2008, p. 8) but was released the year after the developers had applied to Council for a planning permit. As demonstrated, this new Council plan clashed with State Government strategies that aimed “to create a more sustainable urban form for metropolitan Melbourne” which would see development of a “high level of intensity and scale” in activity centres, close to public transport (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009).

How has the planning system been applied here?

VCAT made many notes encouraging a balance between state and local government policy frameworks, but ultimately resolved the conflict by attempting to satisfy planning scheme “clause 11.01” that states, “It is the State Government’s expectation that planning and responsible authorities will endeavour to integrate the range of policies relevant to the issues to be determined and balance conflicting objectives in favour of net community benefit and sustainable development…” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). “Net community benefit” and “sustainable development” are the key planning issues for the site at Camberwell Junction. The 2002 Melbourne 2030 plan listed the shopping strip as one of Melbourne’s 25 “Principal Activity Centres” and as such is an area where “concentration of new development” is encouraged (Department of Infrastructure, 2002, p. 33). That, coupled with the 1993 structure plan, made it clear that the proposed development at the Camberwell Railway Station should go ahead. The main limitation of this process was community consultation. Planning applications are judged according to planning law and policy and, where the developer fails to provide adequate consultation, planning assessors can be overrun with complaints that are irrelevant to their main purpose.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the planning system to resolve these disputes?

For the Camberwell Railway Station redevelopment the planning system was effective in solving the core planning dispute, that being differing policy at state and local government levels, but it fails to provide the community with an opportunity to express their thoughts on the design of the development itself rather than whether the development is in breach of planning law and policy. The community consultation “burden” falls onto the developer who really should be required to provide a constructive level of community involvement for a development in place of high community significance. Allowing the community to have their say will result in the best outcome as participants can feel as though they have been included in the design process and can take a piece of joint pride in the result. Failure to allow this may lead to community resentment and possible political interference where the project is not bipartisan.

In 2013, around three years after the election of a conservative State Government, a raft of new residential zones were brought into effect (Peterson, 2014). Boroondara Council moved to apply the most restrictive zone in the new suite to a huge area under its authority. The measure restricted developments to eight metres high and allowed councils to determine minimum lot sizes. While this did not apply to the Camberwell Railway Station site, it can be seen as a possible retaliation against developments like that proposed for Camberwell Junction and demonstrates the importance of bringing the community with you in the development process.

References

BRAG. (2009, January 31). Camberwell Station BRAG Plan vs Govt Plan [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFfwQJLqJ9s

Carey, A. (2012, October 3). Camberwell station development shelved. The Age. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/camberwell-station-development-shelved-20121003-26yls.html

City of Boroondara. (2008). Camberwell Junction Structure Plan – Adopted by Council 27 October 2008. Retrieved from https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2017-05/Camberwell-Junction-Structure-Plan.pdf

CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors 2009 VCAT 1078

Department of Infrastructure. (2002). Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Growth: October 2002. Retrieved from https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/20466/Melbourne-2030-Planning-for-sustainable-growth-text-only-version.pdf

Johnston, M. (2010, June 22). New laws promote high rise corridors. Herald Sun. Retrieved from http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/new-laws-promote-high-rise-corridors/news-story/28d558817353a8f40ae002cdeb534e79?sv=32539b83cc57eedc1318ed89e24737da

Peterson, C. (2014, February 18). NEW RESIDENTIAL ZONES – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MELBOURNE [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://urban.melbourne/planning/2014/02/18/new-residential-zones-what-does-this-mean-for-melbourne

Could you find your way if you were given a piece of paper with a line on it and a little north symbol? Public Transport Victoria and Yarra Trams think you can.

Coming on the 1st of May, Melbourne’s new tram ‘map’ sans wayfinding:

New tram map

This is a cropped section of the south east.

Tell me, using the new map, at what two streets do the route 6 and the route 78 intersect?

The old map can tell you that:

Old Tram Map

Tell me, what two tram routes run on Dandenong Road?

New tram map

The old map can tell you that.

Tell me, what’s the name of the big trunk that most of the tram routes in this section branch off?

New tram map

The old map can tell you that.

You probably take my point, the map is about as map-like as spaghetti on the floor, but why? Was the graphic designer given free rein, allowed to make a work of art rather than something that’s actually useful to the public?

I made contact with Yarra Trams to tell them that their new map is useless and received a reply of the same.

Thank you for contacting Yarra Trams regarding the new network map.

Yarra Trams appreciates the time you have taken to provide us with your feedback.

The new map is part of a suite of new information that will be released in the lead up to the network and timetable changes on 1 May 2017. For further updates please visit www.ptv.vic.gov.au.

All feedback is recorded and considered in future network information updates.”

Looks like I’m going to have to travel the trams with a fine-point black marker from the 1st of May. Anyone want to come with me?

Postscript: The new map has been altered today to include some extra street names in the route descriptions, but not on the map itself.

 

A little project I have decided to undertake is to map Melbourne’s connected bicycle network. It will take a very long time to map out to the suburbs, but from the little I have mapped so far it is already possible to see gaps in the bicycle network.

The map codes bicycle routes with three colours:

  • Green for shared user paths
  • Yellow for bicycle friendly streets (mostly with bike lanes)
  • Blue for back streets (no bike lanes, but few cars)

The colour coding is not rock solid. Toggle satellite view to see street names.

See the map here or below and pop back every now and then as I keep mapping.

A major gap already visible is Spencer Street on the western edge of Melbourne’s CBD. Another is Southbank and South Melbourne as well as Lorimer Street in Fishermans Bend.

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Bendigo express at Castlemaine

Update: I sent this post to Public Transport Victoria who forwarded it to V/Line. This is their response: 

Thank you for your feedback regarding Bendigo timetabling. Your suggestion was sent to our Timetable and Planning Department for consideration.

We have consulted with Metro trains and I can advise that most of the services listed will be able to be moved to a later departure time from Southern Cross and maintain their current Metro pathway i.e. reduce the overall journey time in the Metro area from our next timetable change due in August 2017.

Exciting! I will look forward to seeing how it pans out in August.

I used to assume that when a V/Line train slowed to a crawl behind a stopping Metro train it was because the Metro train was late. Surely our professional timetablers would not intentionally run the fast train right behind the slow train? But I was wrong, it is the timetable’s fault.

There are seven trains from Melbourne to Bendigo between 9 pm and 4 pm. They are all an hour apart and they all depart from Southern Cross at the 14th minute of their hour. They do not all arrive at the end of the Metro network, Sunbury, at the same time, however.

This is the timetable as of the 29th of January, 2017 (services run left to right instead of top to bottom):

Southern Cross Footscray Sunshine Sunbury
To Sunbury 09:03 09:11 09:20 09:48
To Bendigo 09:14 09:21 09:26* 09:52
To Sunbury 09:15 09:23 09:32 10:00
To Watergardens 10:02 10:10 10:19
To Bendigo 10:14 10:21 10:26* 10:48
To Sunbury 10:22 10:30 10:39 11:07
To Sunbury 11:02 11:10 11:19 11:47
To Bendigo 11:14 11:21 11:26* 11:51
To Watergardens 11:22 11:30 11:39
To Watergardens 12:02 12:10 12:19
To Epsom 12:14 12:21 12:26* 12:48
To Sunbury 12:22 12:30 12:39 13:07
To Sunbury 13:10 13:19 13:47
To Eaglehawk 13:14 13:21 13:26* 13:51
To Watergardens 13:30 13:39
To Watergardens 14:10 14:19
To Epsom 14:14 14:21 14:26* 14:47
To Sunbury 14:30 14:39 15:07
To Sunbury 15:10 15:19 15:47
To Echuca 15:14 15:21 15:26* 15:53
To Sunbury 15:31 15:40 16:08
*Does not stop

In bold you can see that Bendigo trains (Bendigo, Eaglehawk, Echuca and Epsom) are just seven minutes behind stopping Metro trains from Sunshine towards Sunbury, which is where V/Line and Metro must share tracks. During this time of day Metro trains on the Sunbury line run every 20 minutes. That is 20 minutes of ‘space’ to drop in the express Bendigo train. So why are Bendigo trains just seven minutes behind Metro trains when they could be up to 19 minutes behind?

I do not know, but I decided to see what the timetable would look like if Bendigo trains were further behind stopping Sunbury trains. I decided not to give them the whole 19 minutes because that would offer no room for delay, instead I gave them 16 minutes. A Sunbury (or Watergardens) train would depart Sunshine at the 19th minute of the hour, as they do, the Bendigo train would pass through Sunshine at the 35th minute and the following Sunbury line train would depart Sunshine at the 39th minute, as they do.

To calculate how long it would take a Bendigo line train to run express from Sunshine to Sunbury I calculated the time from the speed and distance. That would be 11 kilometres at 80 kilometres per hour between Sunshine and Watergardens, which came to nine minutes rounded up, and 15 kilometres at 130 kilometres per hour between Watergardens and Sunbury, which came to seven minutes rounded up. 16 minutes overall.

Adding 16 minutes to the 35th minute of the hour comes to the 51st minute of the hour which just happens to be precisely the time two of the seven Bendigo trains arrive at Sunbury and very close or better than the other five. So you could depart all, but one, of the seven Bendigo line trains from Southern Cross nine minutes later, at the 23rd minute of the hour, instead of the 14th with no loss to the arrival time, but give passengers nine extra minutes to complete their business in Melbourne and provide what would feel like a much speedier trip.

This is how that would look:

Southern Cross Footscray Sunshine Sunbury
To Sunbury 09:03 09:11 09:20 09:48
To Bendigo 09:14 09:21 09:26* 09:52
To Sunbury 09:15 09:23 09:32 10:00
To Watergardens 10:02 10:10 10:19
To Bendigo 10:23 10:30 10:35* 10:51
To Sunbury 10:22 10:30 10:39 11:07
To Sunbury 11:02 11:10 11:19 11:47
To Bendigo 11:23 11:30 11:35* 11:51
To Watergardens 11:22 11:30 11:39
To Watergardens 12:02 12:10 12:19
To Epsom 12:23 12:30 12:35* 12:51
To Sunbury 12:22 12:30 12:39 13:07
To Sunbury 13:10 13:19 13:47
To Eaglehawk 13:23 13:30 13:35* 13:51
To Watergardens 13:30 13:39
To Watergardens 14:10 14:19
To Epsom 14:23 14:30 14:25* 14:51
To Sunbury 14:30 14:39 15:07
To Sunbury 15:10 15:19 15:47
To Echuca 15:23 15:30 15:35* 15:51
To Sunbury 15:31 15:40 16:08
*Does not stop

The 09:14 is trapped between two close stopping trains so it has to remain where it is.

Now we get to the disappointing bit, but do not let yourself down just yet. We cannot just move around Bendigo trains because they have to share the line with other V/Line Regional Rail Link trains, which would have to be altered too, BUT, I checked, there are no conflicts, even in the other direction at Sunshine where trains have to cross paths, there are no conflicts. I admit that the 13:20 train to Warrnambool would be a little close to the 13:23 to Bendigo, maybe they could be switched around, but even without it is still a quicker trip.

There is nothing to stop these simple alterations from improving our lives right now, except V/Line, Metro Trains, Public Transport Victoria and the State Government.

Have a good day.

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I popped over to Caroline Springs Station on the Ballarat line to see the how the project was going before its opening on the 29th of January next year. The station has been a long time coming and has been faced with more than its fair share of issues all of which has resulted one great big mess.

The station

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Construction of half the station was completed months ago. The original design, which is the design showcased on the PTV website, was a single platform on a single line section of track. It was never going to work and when the Regional Rail Link opened and forced the Ballarat line to operate at or beyond capacity, someone at V/Line probably had a little spasm in the Minister’s office and secured costs for duplication of the line to Melton.

With that the station was expanded. The platform that had already been built was widened to become an island platform and the track on the new side is under construction.

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The station will have a set of points at both ends as seen above and below. Hopefully this will allow trains to turn back in both directions during disruptions. The new station will be a very easy place to run train replacement coaches to and from with it being next to the Western Freeway.

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Vehicle access

The station is in a paddock out of town so you can expect most users to come either by private car or bus. An issue that was evident well before actual construction of the station was announced was the roundabout at Christies Road and the Western Freeway off ramp. During the evening peak the off ramp is jam packed with motorists coming home from Melbourne. They sit through the roundabout and prevent any road user from the south (from the new station) from entering.

But it seems this issue may have been addressed with the addition of a signalised pedestrian crossing at the end of the off ramp with the inclusion of a vehicle sensor on Christies Road. I assume the sensor would activate the pedestrian crossing after a time to stop off ramp traffic and allow station traffic to enter the roundabout.

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Foot and cycling access

This could almost be a footnote, coming to this station on foot or by bike would be quite intimidating. First, it is about four kilometres from the town centre to the station.

Second, the shared path is terrible. It is dirty and very close to the road and the hurrying motorists and the truck after truck after truck going to and coming from the Boral Quarry would put off even the most determined walker or cyclist.

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There is also a shared path heading south from the station to no where, but it had to be cut into to make room for the turning lane. The road was built for the station. Wonderful planning.

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But there is no need to worry, I was probably the only path user this month.

Accessing Melbourne Airport by public transport from Melbourne’s west is a pain. It really should not be difficult since the airport is actually in Melbourne’s (north-) west, but there is no easy bus from western transport hubs, not even from Sunshine which services a Metro rail corridor and two (potentially three) V/Line country rail routes.

For decades now the community has been calling for a train to the airport but, probably due to a whole range of factors, it is yet to be built. However, if it were to be built it would most likely run via Sunshine as seen in Public Transport Victoria’s Network Development Plan.

airport-rail-ndp

There is no reason why the potential rail route could not be serviced right now by a direct and frequent bus, at least one every 20 minutes. It could run directly north from Sunshine Station using McIntyre Road, the Western Ring Road and the new Airport Drive extension. The route is about 16 kilometres long according to Google Maps and would take 20 to 30 minutes depending on traffic and passenger loading.

airport-bus

The route need not be express and could also service locals in Sunshine North and airport workers stationed near Airport and Melrose drives. It would also work best as a myki ticketed service so users would not be discouraged by a requirement for multiple tickets transferring between train and bus.

The bus would provide reasonably easy access to the Airport from Bendigo, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Woodend and Gisborne in the state’s north-west, but only if trains on the Bendigo Line stop at Sunshine which none currently do. The bus would also provide access from Ballarat, Ballan, Bacchus Marsh and Melton heading directly west, as well as, and probably most usefully, the suburbs of Geelong as well as Lara and Tarniet in the south-west.

Everyone travelling from these places would otherwise need to travel all the way into Melbourne and use the costly Sky Bus service, use often inconvenient once-a-day airport shuttle busses from their local town or get a friend or family member to drive them to the airport.

If you think this is a good idea let your member of state parliament know and contact PTV, too.

This post continues this earlier post.

It is with great regret that I abandon the Linux ship. I have returned to Windows following a week or so of piling issues faced by my ThinkPad E460, from the graphics processor to the SD card slot and the power management.

This was my total list off issues by the end:

  • Limited to no AMD graphics support in Mint 18
  • Constant crashing in Mint 18
  • No support for WiFi out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • No support for the SD card slot out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • Updated kernel in Mint 17.3 supported WiFi and SD slot but lost AMD graphics controls
  • Updated kernel preventing sleep and/or waking from sleep
  • Woeful power management, battery lasting no more than two and half hours

While I did manage to get everything working, aside from ideal power management, at no point did everything work at the same time. I am not the type of person who can live with a problem that is not currently causing an issue, everything must be ready to work straight away and I think it was that, ultimately, that sent me back to Windows.

The disappointing thing is that I am fairly sure that Mint 18, the latest release based on Ubuntu 16.04, would offer much greater support for my hardware, but its lack of support for AMD has turned me away.

It needs to be said that Windows 10 is far from ideal, also. While everything works at the same time, and my current expected battery life is eight hours, it is a resource hog and horribly controlling. The memory usage right now is two and a half gigabytes while the same usage on Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce would be much less, somewhere around 500 megabytes.

I have ‘uninstalled’ Get Office and Get Skype three times now, but they keep coming back. There is no way to disable Cortana in the latest update, 21 programmes were allowed to run in the background by default and there are so many privacy settings, it would be great to have one option to switch everything off.

In a few years, if support for AMD has been developed, I will return this laptop to Linux. And, despite my opening sentence, I will continue to experiment with Linux on my desktop computer.