Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ABC Off the Rails

Sadly, the engineering practicalities relating to transport proposals never seem to be considered by commentators. Wendell Cox writes as follows:

ABC’s Background Briefing ran a story on Sunday (14 December) decrying the continued delay in expanding Sydney’s rail system. Regrettably, it was typical of a policy environment that appears to understand neither cities nor urban transport.

The story provided virtually no balance and certainly no perspective. To read it you would get the impression that everyone works in downtown Sydney. It isn’t even close to that. All of downtown Sydney, Haymarket and North Sydney accounts for less than 20 percent of employment in the Sydney area. This means that 80 percent of the commuters work elsewhere. There is virtually nothing that a rail system can do to get these people to work, because not enough of the employment outside the central business district is within walking distance of rail stations, and most trips would require a transfer downtown. That would not be changed by adding a metro in any of Sydney’s corridors. The government appears to have stumbled into wise policy as a result of the exorbitant cost of these systems.

Transport systems need to be chosen based upon their cost effectiveness in achieving public objectives. As regards the economic growth and affluence of the Sydney area or any other area, minimizing travel time does that best. Thus, projects should be chosen on such factors as the cost per reduced delay hour. Regrettably, in Sydney and many other urban areas in the developed world, such considerations take a back seat to romantic affection for rail systems and hefty political donations from those who build the systems and those who anticipated that building them will substantially increase their property values.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An important point you seem to miss is that increased density will shift employment into those areas.