In new report for the NSW State Government Nick Greiner debunks the myth that new rail links are necessary and economic. According to the AFR, Greiner says
The finding challenges the O’Farrell government’s commitment to its costliest election promise, the $8.5 billion North West Rail Link from Chatswood on Sydney’s north shore to the Hills District in the north west.
Concerning the proposal to construct a downtown light rail Greiner says
“Light rail down George Street does not work remotely well as a mass-transit activity. It will not go very fast, it will not take a lot of people – it can’t.
“To do something that runs the risk of gridlocking … the CBD more than it already is is a huge risk and you should not go there lightly.”
Wendell Cox of Demographia shows there is no let up in the long decline of public transport in spite of massive expenditures on urban rail networks. Its share of the US journey to work fell from 6.4 per cent to under 5 per cent in the thirty years from 1980. Major transit developments did not stop the share halving in Atlanta, Dallas and St Louis. Nor did it even the most extravagant expenditures on light rail stop major falls in transit’s share in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
Cars are basic to modern cities’ liveability because modern cities have highly dispersed destinations. Sixty years ago cities were radially focused with work, shopping and leisure trips tending to move to the city centre. Today, even the most efficient public transport struggles to serve the nine-tenths of trips that don’t radiate to the city centre. As a result, trains, trams and buses account for only 10 per cent of our trips.
Cycling features prominently in government transport plans though it represents only 0.6 per cent of trips and, unlike cars, pays no direct costs for the pathways created for it.
Road capacity needs to keep pace with users’ needs. The consumer/taxpayer is demonstrating a willingness to finance more and better roads, including within urban areas, with their outlays in fuel excise, licence fees and tolls, outlays that far exceed the expenditures.
Aside from the fact that motorists already overpay for roads, the problem with a congestion tax is the government monopoly over roads. This gives governments an incentive to skimp on new building in order to increase its revenues.
Hopefully, the Greiner report will pre-empt a move to copy the massive and wasteful expenditures on light rail that is being seen in California where an ability to recognise trends and consumer needs has been undermined by a political correctness that is leading to state bankruptcy