The M5 East Green Link should be necesasrily included in the delivery of WestConnex

The M5 East Green Link

Jump straight to making your submission M5 East Green Link

Sydney’s latest “big road” project, WestConnex, has been heavily criticised by anyone making an effort to investigate the project’s transport, social or financial justifications. Robust rebuttals have been presented by resident groups (eg, Alexandria Residents Action Group), transport academics (eg, Sydney University’s Transport Research Analyst, Chris Standen and Prof. Peter Newman of Curtin University) and senior politicians (see below). Further, it’s also difficult to find any rigorous analysis that supports the project.

Almost as if in anticipation of this, the State Government has again chosen to reduce the public’s opportunity to scrutinise the project by releasing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) over the Christmas/holiday period – a clearing time for unsavoury government announcements such as council amalgamations, introduction of the Greater Sydney Commission (which will have no accountability to the State) and the retraction of Opal Card benefits. (During the same holiday period last year, the Government released for public comment, the CBD Capacity Improvement Plan which it used to legitimise the removal of footpaths, cycleways and trees to make way for more traffic lanes within the CBD.)

It seems there is very little evidence to justify WestConnex, and the huge and ever increasing cost – currently blown out to $17 billion (from its $10 billion base cost) – must necessarily come at the expense of better public transport and other vital public services such as health and education.

 

For the community at large, the disbenefits of Westconnex will include:

  • introducing congestion and even gridlock to the local road network. The EIS states that Euston Rd, Alexandria will newly accommodate 61,000 cars/day – more than 10 times its current volume. The EIS also has ignored the significant increase in traffic demand that will ensue from development projects such as Green Square (approx 60,000 residents), Ashmore Estate, Southern Employment Lands (Alexandria), Waterloo Estate (30,000 residents), Central to Eveleigh (almost 60,000 residents and 25,000 workers) and the Bays Precinct urban renewal project;
  • reversing the trend to reduce on-site car parking within new developments (eg, World Square and Central Park) by significantly increasing the demand for parking;
  • killing off the vibrancy (walkability, attractiveness, outdoor dining, viable commerce) of “high streets” such as King St, Newtown which runs between the WestConnex portal at St Peters and the CBD. Duncan Gay has indicated in Parliament that King St would likely become a clearway (where existing kerbside parking lanes are converted into travel lanes) to create the necessary traffic capacity to accommodate WestConnex. (If ever you’ve witnessed the 10am-8pm gridlock on King St on a Saturday, you’d easily understand that there is no way that King St could remain one-lane in each direction once WestConnex traffic volumes are added);
  • air and noise pollution impacts;
  • loss of a section of Sydney Park green space (350 trees are slated to be removed);

WestConnex does not even link to the Airport or Port Botany which were the primary targets used to justify the new motorway.

 

WestConnex will impact riders and walkers specifically by:

  • increasing traffic and leading to fast “rat-running” on local road cycling links, reducing rider safety;
  • markedly reducing crossing access (“Level of Service” for riders) at intersections as green time will need to be maximised for motor vehicles. For example, consider how long its takes Bourke St riders to cross Gardeners Rd during peak hour;
  • increasing precinct “impermeability” (more big waits at big roads);
  • increasing pressure on councils to open up local roads, including cul-de-sacs to relieve traffic stress;
  • further eroding opportunities for high-quality active transport links as roads and intersections are widened to accommodate more vehicle lanes;
  • further embedding car dependency on Sydney.

 

Essentially, WestConnex will not work because of “Induced Demand” [this video explains the phenomenon] whereby even new, additional traffic lanes become congested within 1-3 years. This is not “merely something that happens overseas”, Sydney’s M2, M4 and M5 Motorways and in particular, the Harbour Tunnel have reliably illustrated this pattern. So long as driving remains the more attractive travel option, there is no limit to the number of new driving trips available to take up the new road capacity. Induced Demand. It’s a reliable outcome. WestConnex will not be exempt.

 

For myriad reasons, world cities are hastily moving away from car-centric transport (witness London’s Congestion Charge or Milan’s recent exclusion of cars from its centre.) There is evidence that “peak car” use has been reached (“Millenials” are not even getting their car licences), and future demand may be much less than motorway proponents say. Efforts to combat Global Warming must include a shift away from excessive reliance on private road transport based on fossil fuels.

Shadow Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has put the motorway in the bin (despite originally supporting it) by calling on the Auditor General to investigate the project’s lack of business case and lack of transparency.

Even the Government’s media champion, 2GB has denounced the project:

“Whoever came up with putting one of the [Westconnex] exit points at Sydney Park (St Peters) must have rocks in their head”
Alan Jones Show (Chris Smith sitting in), 2GB

 

The NSW Government is well aware of the project’s deficiencies. It has calculated that the wider population of Sydney either doesn’t care, or more likely, is unaware of Westconnex. Basically, the Government’s judgment is that the “leftie latte sippers” can’t compel enough of this dis-engaged population to de-rail the project or create unmanageable political damage.

And on it goes… A hugely unneeded project that will be foisted onto the public without any real consultation, justification or scrutiny: no business case, no genuine planning, no authentic consultation and a distinct lack of creativity in devising the (any) “Big Spend” project the NSW Government desperately craves. (Westconnex is merely a device to funnel public money to vested interests. The ongoing absence of Sydney Motorways in a project of such financial and social significance to NSW is alarming.)

 

So, in this uninspiring climate, what’s to be done?

Our view is that this EIS process is deeply flawed, and in any case, disingenuous. We therefore don’t feel justified asking supporters supporters to further analyse the project (as normally we would, and as often leads to great outcomes such as the creation of the Sydney Airport Cycling Forum).

Our approach this time is to simply call on WestConnex to make good on its obligation to provide a high-quality, coherent active transport link along the corridor of any new road project. Enter…

 

The M5 East Green Link

Even the “Bicycle” mapping function with GoogleMaps (not renowned for capturing all cycling links) clearly illustrates the high-value opportunity for a key strategic cycling link between Bexley Station and the Airport via Wolli Creek – the same corridor tracked by the eastern end of the Westconnex project.

Passing almost exclusively through the Wolli Creek Valley, this M5 East Green Link would be easy to construct, provide a high quality walking and cycling corridor away from traffic, and the steep grades of the local streets. It would also secure the preservation of the valley by bringing many, many more people into enjoy this wonderful green belt.

In fact just such a cycleway was approved when the original M5 was first approved, but was never constructed.

 

2016-01-26 - Missing Cycling Link (no legend) 2

 

Check out this short animation that also calls for the M5 East Green Link.

 

The M5 East Green Link would bring the following benefits:

  • Provide a high-quality, low stress, and largely off-road “veloway” connecting south-western Sydney and the CBD, via the airport;
  • Introduce cycling as a viable transport alternative for Sydney Airport’s 29,000 staff, a large proportion of whom are shift workers that have no meaningful transport choice when ending shifts;
  • Activate the economic return on cycling ($1.43 economic benefit per km ridden);
  • Allow people to ride and walk safely, wholly away from the road system;
  • Create road capacity and better Level of Service at intersections for vehicles (fewer people crossing intersections);
  • Improved safety outcomes for all road, and in particular, vulnerable road users;
  • Further insulate the Wolli Creek Valley against intrusion by traffic and development by increasing public awareness, use and care of the valley park;
  • Offset the traffic, social and pollution impacts of the WestConnex project;
  • Link with the existing M5 Cycleway;
  • Cater for demand from the housing and commercial developments at Wolli Ck Station precinct.

What You can DO About It

Make a submission online at (the bottom of) the Department of Planning’s WestConnex approval website by no later than midnight on Friday 29 January 2016. Even just a few lines is fine.

In your submission, clearly:

  1. State whether you support or oppose the WestConnex project;
  2. Call for the M5 East Green Link (a high-quality cycling and walking link connecting Bexley North Train station to Sydney Airport) to be funded and delivered as part of the Westconnex project;
  3. Outline what you see as the benefits of the M5 East Green Link (see above);
  4. Personalise your submission.  Add your own angles.

 

Go.

 

 

 

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