It’s almost too easy to poke fun at the idiotic idea of spending billions of dollars to build an underground metro from Central to Rozelle – that corridor is well served for public transport, the money could be better spent on heavy rail to places that have little to no public transport, the proposal uses up valuable underground space, etc.
Now there’s a new reason – barely anyone will use it, according to the government’s own forecast. It will run at about 15% capacity when it opens, and more than a decade later (!) will barely make it past 25% capacity. And this is in peak hour!
Notice how I said “when it opens”, not “if it opens”? That’s because the worse this proposal turns out to be, the more afraid I am that this will be the one major infrastructure project that will actually get finished by the NSW government. After all, good proposals die almost as soon as they are spawned, so it stands to reason that possibly the worst idea ever will make it to completion.
I read a defence of the low patronage forecasts in Letters to the Editor the next day, saying that no transport could expect to be full on day one, and that its presence will create its own demand. I could tell before I got to the name that it wasn’t someone in the Transport Department, because they would have been hugely hypocritical – the sole semi-reasonable argument given against building the north-west heavy rail line is a possible lack of passengers.
Except the north-west heavy rail line would create its own demand – the mere promise it would be built sparked an increase in people moving to the corridor decades ago. It’s also mostly spacious, single-storey suburbia out that way, with plenty of room for higher-density housing, so the capacity to increase passenger numbers is quite high.
The Balmain and Pyrmont peninsulas, on the other hand, are chockers. Pyrmont is putting up the last tower in Jackson’s Landing right now, and Balmain/Rozelle/Lilyfield, while not having any major high-rises, are crammed with medium-density housing and have much higher restrictions on building due to heritage regulations. The only demand for public transport in these areas is what is already there.
And lastly, did the letter-writer not think that government forecasters would be able to account for stimulated demand in their models? I don’t know what assumptions about demographics and petrol prices, and so on, were made. But I’m pretty sure they would have at least attempted to predict additional demand, and they still got a ludicrously low number.
CBD metro = epic fail.