More Things that are not Why New York’s Construction Costs are High
The most annoying person I regularly deal with on social media is Walkable Princeton/YIMBY Princeton, a biology professor at Rutgers who constantly criticizes my writings on comparative construction costs, and usually raises good points. Dealing with zombie arguments (China, anything Elon Musk says, etc.) is so much easier. A few days ago, he put up a post summarizing 20 potential reasons why subway construction costs in New York (and in the US in general) are high. He’s also repeatedly made a separate argument on social media, not mentioned in the post, expressing skepticism that the construction cost differences are real, rather than just statistical artifacts.
In this post, I am going to purposely not talk about the two biggest criticisms – the claim about the statistical differences, and the argument from local expertise (points #7 and #8 in his post). Those require dedicated posts, and the argument from local expertise should really be tackled in two separate posts, one about project size (comparing cities that build long subway lines with ones that build many short subway extensions) and one about the undisputed negative correlation between construction costs and the extent of construction across cities. I will deal with this in the next few weeks or months, depending on publishing schedules elsewhere. In this post I’m instead going to deal with the weaker criticisms.
The first five points made in the post come from arguments I discussed here, saying that they are not real reasons why US construction costs are high. The sixth point concerns project size. Since the seventh and eighth point will be a dedicated post, I will start with the ninth point.
Of note, many of the explanations offered are serious and relevant, just not to the specific problem of high construction costs of urban rail. They are relevant to some construction costs problems for high-speed rail, and operating costs, and rolling stock procurement costs. But the explanation for expensive urban tunneling is most likely elsewhere. Only one point below, #13, begins to address that specific issue, and even it seems to me to be at most a partial explanation.
9. ‘Buy America’ provisions – Regulations requiring transit agencies to purchase equipment built in the US may drive up costs, as overseas manufacturers have to build a factory in the US to produce the needed kit. Other nations buy transit equipment more regularly, so have ready access to an efficient supply chain.
Buy America provisions indeed raise American costs for small orders – but only for rolling stock. Dedicated factories, often built in-state for added protectionism, make trains for $3-5 million per car (for example, compare Muni Metro’s $4 million/car order for 23-meter cars with Strasbourg’s $4 million/car order for 45-meter cars). Only the biggest orders, such as those for the New York City Subway, the LIRR, and Metro-North, have enough scale to control costs.
However, this is not an issue for infrastructure construction. The bulk of the cost of civil infrastructure is not specialized machinery, which American cities import anyway (the tunnel-boring machine for the 7 extension was made in Germany). It’s local labor and materials, and less specialized machinery for digging earthworks for stations.
10. Bad attitude – Call it a ‘New York state of mind’ – MTA old dogs may prefer to see a project fail than to be proven wrong or see praise go to an agency rival. Not clear that New Yorkers have a worse attitude than people from other big cities, but certainly worth considering.
11. Chaotic political environment – Transit projects must be agreed by too many agencies and personalities, some of whom may have conflicting priorities. For example, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t seem to get on with Mayor Bill DiBlasio, and the less said about Governor Christie the better. Personality clashes and inter-state squabbling at the Port Authority board have frustrated long-term planning. Donald Trump controls federal funds that may be needed to fund new transit projects.
These are really the same criticism: agency turf battles. Those can make cities build the wrong project, or overbuild a tunnel in order to avoid sharing facilities with another agency. The bulk of the construction costs of high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor, and a large fraction of those of California HSR, come from this. Readers who are familiar with debates about California HSR will know about the Altamont vs. Pacheco Pass controversy and about avoidable tunnels like Millbrae.
However, this isn’t really what’s happening in urban subways. The Gateway project has unnecessary scope like Penn Station South, but even the bare tunnel is estimated at $11 billion.
12. Lack of stable long-term funding – Long-term funding for transit projects is uncertain, and even part-built projects can be canceled at any moment (see Governor Christie, ARC tunnels). New York has a long track record of abandoning transit projects, and the Second Avenue Subway project took nearly 100 years to do.
Midway cancellations are really a symptom of high costs rather than a cause. At cancellation, ARC was projected to cost $10-13 billion, up from $3 billion in the major investment study from 2003. This is not unique to the United States: high costs and construction impact for Stuttgart 21 led to widespread opposition to the project from within Stuttgart, leading to the election of Germany’s first Green-led state government; the Green Party opposed Stuttgart 21 and proposed a cheaper, lower-impact project without tunneling. It did not cancel the project, but put it up to referendum, which failed – the majority of state voters, and even of Stuttgart voters, wanted the project to keep going. Going to a second referendum on canceling a project, rather than canceling it by executive fiat as in New Jersey, is not unique to Germany: in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush put a second referendum on the ballot in 2004, successfully killing high-speed rail.
13. Project bloat – Planners may over-do transit infrastructure, for example by hiring a superstar architect like Santiago Calatrava to design the Port Authority PATH station instead of ‘Joe Goodenough’. Cavernous two-level stations in the new Second Avenue Subway stations may not contribute substantially to function, and drive costs up a lot.
This is indeed a serious problem! New York has been overbuilding stations since the 1930s, when the IND subways had full-length mezzanines. I encourage the New York-based readers to compare the size of the stations on the IND, such as West 4th Street or 145th Street on the A/B/C/D, and that of the stations on the IRT and BMT, such as Union Square. The Calatrava-designed PATH terminal was massively expensive more recently, and Second Avenue Subway is expensive in part because of the large stations.
And yet. Even relatively utilitarian American projects aren’t always cheap – again, the bare Gateway tunnel. Moreover, some of the project bloat is not really about overdesign, but about wrong political choices. Second Avenue Subway had no cut-and-cover construction except at 96th Street to stage the tunnel boring. Second Avenue is wide and the entire line could be built cut-and-cover. Cut-and-cover is highly disruptive to street merchants, but a hybrid solution, with cut-and-cover stations and bored tunnels between them, is possible and widespread in several low- and medium-cost cities, such as Madrid and Copenhagen. But even the stations were bored, which limited surface disruption at each station to a few cross streets, but made construction take much longer; the corner of 72nd and 2nd was unpleasant to walk around for most of the duration of the ten-year project.
14. Fire safety regulations – Modern standards for smoke clearance and emergency evacuation may require larger two-level stations that appear bloated.
15. Environmental regulations – Disruption to fragile ecosystems may not be as tolerated in the New York area as in some other countries, driving up costs.
16. ADA standards – Transit stations in New York must comply with federal accessibility requirements, meaning many elevators that drive up costs.
These issues exist throughout the developed world. New subways are step-free even in cities that make no effort to retrofit the rest of the system for wheelchair accessibility, such as Paris. We also know how much it costs to add elevators to stations, and it is a rounding error: during construction, making five more Crossrail stations accessible costs £19 million. Even retrofitting an old subway station for accessibility after construction is $25-40 million in the US (source: article about New York, interview with an accessibility planner in Boston). And as for environmental regulations, I doubt there are endangered species on the Upper East Side under Second Avenue.
17. Americans don’t care about transit – Other nations may take pride in their fancy rail systems, but we’ve got aircraft carriers and don’t care if the subway looks pretty worn.
18. High levels of sprawl – Whereas NYC is dense at the core, the surrounding metro area is not very dense. The Los Angeles metro area is in fact denser than the New York metro area. Low housing density, especially in the areas where rich folks live, makes transit less efficient and undermines public support for expensive transit investments.
Suburban drivers may not want to spend money on subways, but that should not make subways more expensive to build. It should reduce cost per rider, in the sense of lowering the maximum cost per rider that the political system is willing to build; but the effect on cost per km should be neutral.
19. Corruption – Is the Mob siphoning off loads of the money that is supposed to go to build transit??
It probably is. And yet, corruption levels in Italy are far higher than in the United States, and yet costs are pretty low. Corruption levels in Spain and South Korea aren’t especially low. And Singapore, renowned for its clean government (below the level of the prime minister, at least, but he doesn’t decide on subway alignments), is a serious contender for most expensive subway outside the United States.
20. Terrible leadership – Ronnie Hakim, the current MTA Director, is supposedly seen as incompetent by many of her staff. Joe Lhota, the MTA Chair, doesn’t even work full-time at the job. The Port Authority Board is stuffed with Chris Christie stooges, some of whom may know nothing about transit.
Hakim is incompetent and I have sources within the MTA who are exasperated with her indifference to one of the most fundamental goals of rapid transit (namely, being rapid). Much like explanation #9, there is a serious problem here, but it doesn’t affect tunneling costs. It affects operating costs, which appear to be higher in New York than in any other city participating in CoMET (see PDF-p. 7 here: the highest-cost system on the right is in fact New York). But it is not about tunneling. Unlike Hakim, long-time MTA Capital Construction chief Michael Horodinceanu is not hated by the junior and mid-level planners who leak to the press, and unlike Lhota, he works the job full-time worked the job full-time until retiring earlier this year.
The city on the right in that CoMET chart is not New York. According to CoMET numbers, NYCT is middle of the pack in operating costs.
It’s a city in the Americas and the operating costs match what the National Transit Database says New York’s subway operating costs are.
I’ll add another reason why I think subway construction per km is so expensive in New York, station spacing. Underground stations are the most expensive part of any subway construction these days, at half a billion per station, the cost of tunnelling and steel rail combined can sometimes cost less than all the stations combined. I can’t answer for why commuter rail tunnels are so expensive but I suspect that huge underground terminals are part of it, the cost of construction underground stations is steep. The fewer stations there are or the shorter that station platform is (Platform length comparison is important if you’re comparing NY subway cost to light metros like Copenhagen), the less the new subway will cost because the cost of digging and installation of station infrastructure, like platforms or air conditioning, will be reduced.
SAS station spacing is 750m between 96th and 86th and just over 1km between 86th and 72nd. Compare this to the Paris Metro expansion Grand Paris Express, it’s 200km with only 68 stations, works out to station spacing of just under 3km. London Crossrail has 22km of tunnels and 8 new underground stations, working out station spacing of also slightly under 3km in the tunnelled section but the platforms here are super long and there are passageways to the tube in Central London so there’s extra cost in building stations there. London Jubilee Line extension has 11 stations in 16 km, that’s spacing of 1.5km.
Of course, station spacing isn’t the only problem in terms of cost but it is a significant one. Considering how expensive stations are, you can’t simply compare overseas projects to New York in terms of cost per km without controlling for station spacing or platform length. That doesn’t excuse the outrageously expensive cost of New York subway construction but it does explain a big part of it.
most places in the world a tram or bus has enough capacity for what the local subway tracks are serving in New York.
Note that Grand Paris Express lines are mainly in the outskirts and suburbs of Paris; not in the city center.
A lot of places in the world do indeed use trams or buses to do the job NY local track subways do but their trams or buses are a lot efficient than anything in NYC, including the SBS. Having surface transport is also a lot easier if you’re only travelling a short distance, it’s a massive inconvenience to go down and come back up to the surface instead of just hopping on and hopping off. A good example would be Hong Kong between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.
Paris suburbs aren’t really suburbs at all compared to New York, they’re more like the boroughs of New York, especially within the Petite Couronne. It is not the city centre but not the suburbs as an American would imagine it. For the Grand Paris Express, only Line 18 goes a long way outside of the Petite Couronne.
In response to #20: Ronnie Hakim is a lawyer; she began her career at the MTA in construction law, and her specialty is risk management. She is not a strong numbers person, unlike the transit engineers pushing for better headway reliability, or the transit planners pushing for better on-time performance. Because she’s a lawyer who doesn’t truly speak numbers, there’s a communications gap between her and the engineers, which causes friction in that relationship; because she’s a lawyer who tends to raise legal objections, she’s disliked by the planners who want to hear “yes” and not “no”. She also personally has a rather easy-to-read personality which is distant and not particularly friendly, and not a people person, which puts her even further away from the mid-level and junior staff who are not in her inner circle. On the other hand, she does have a sharp intellect that grasps concepts and problems quickly, and she is very competent operationally and in managing operational change.
On the other hand, Michael Horodniceanu is a power-centric construction engineer who likely came into conflict with Ronnie Hakim when she was a junior construction lawyer willing to stand up to him. It’s possible that Michael Horodniceanu was the one who blocked Ronnie Hakim’s ascent up the MTA corporate ladder, causing her career detour to New Jersey where she was regarded as one of a few Chris Christie stooges who was actually competent.
I’m disappointed that my favourite culprit is not on any of these lists of what accounts for the sometimes ridiculously high costs. While several are on the edge of the issue, eg. #10 & #11 (bad attitude & political environment), #12 (lack of long-term funding) and #20 (terrible leadership) none of these are really it. It is a fundamental political difference between the Anglosphere and the rest of the world: the more extreme version of neo-conservative economics. The superficial aspects are their dislike of public transit and the small government mantra for preference for private funding and ownership of infrastructure. Their dishonest dislike of government debt (while they overspend on defence) means they like PPPs despite their poor record (and obviously higher long-term costs of commercial finance; no one can borrow as cheaply as sovereign governments). In turn this introduces a bias in chosen projects and long delay in public transit projects; Australia shows an extreme example where over almost two decades the big cities have mostly built expensive road-tunnels with toll periods of 40 to 50 years; a whole series of these have gone bust (taking government subsidies & investors money). Another prime example is the Thatcherite 12-year delay in building HS1, the link from Dover to London of the HSR servicing Eurostar, which was on the back of Thatcher personally cancelling British Rail’s HSR research (the APT whose IP was sold off to the Italians and ended up in Pendolino). Not to mention the half-century delays in building CrossRail and HS2 etc.
More fundamentally it is the dismantling of expertise inside government in choosing, designing and managing such infrastructure projects. Or neutering it. Everything is outsourced so how can anyone have any confidence in all the masses of paperwork justifying these multiplying costs? I’m quite sure this doesn’t happen in European or those Asian countries that build excellent infrastructure. The very premise underlying political decisions are biased, for example by the dubious assumptions behind cost-benefit analyses that favour one project over another, because they are always outsourced to the very organisations and people who are part of the private sector/industry concerned. If there are any problems then an enquiry or “forensic audit” is also outsourced to the same usual suspects–and thus worthless. There is systematic abuse of “commercial in confidence” to hide critical facts. (The use of this get-out-of-jail-free card should be made illegal in all projects involving government funding.)
Another notorious case in Australia revealed the emperor’s clothes. This was Melbourne’s East-West Link (EWL) a very expensive road-tunnel that had a terrible cost-benefit analysis despite being commissioned by the conservative government supporters. The government refused to release it but it was leaked. This government rejected all advice and rushed ahead to authorise the road (whose cost blew out to >$20bn) in the weeks prior to an election that all knew they would lose and which the Labor opposition (soon to be government) said they would rescind, and which opinion polls had supported (because the alternative project was the Melbourne Metro long-delayed attempt to free up the shared-tracks of the metro loop in the CBD). So the project was stopped by the incoming government as promised, but in those few weeks more than one billion flowed into the private sector contractors. No one can say where all this money went, except that not a bit of it went into any actual physical work on building, or even preparing, the road! As even a Murdoch reporter wrote of this debacle:
It took months before the $550m turned out to be “more than $1bn” so that reveals a big part of the problematic nature of such big projects. If there is to be any audit of this scam, it will almost certainly be done by the likes of KPMG etc. (in a project of this size it is impossible to find an accountancy or financial firm not involved).
My point is, to adopt that great leader Donald Trump or is it the Brexiteers: We need to get our country back. That is, we need to bring much of this (control, management, assessment, CBAs, audits) back inside government with long-term public servants (“lifers”) with appropriate expertise and no conflicts of interest (and, hah, another Trumpism: blocked from leaving to work for the private sector in the same area they worked in in the public service, thus the need for “lifers”). The systematic perverting and undermining of the public service is also another aim of neo-conservatives and came out in the report into the EWL fiasco:
I forgot to include this from Matthew Yglesias on the issue of government undermined from within:
Whenever there is such gross asymmetry between one side (the side that is paying, ie. government, us) and the side that finds finances, builds and then profits (sometimes with 50 year schemes) there can be no surprise in the outcome. It is exactly what neo-conservatives want (a government small enough to drown in a bathtub) and in the Anglosphere have largely achieved.
Dratit. Messed up formatting in my last comment: The last para beginning “Whenever” are my words not Yglesias.
Speaking of the Melbourne Metro and kind of related to this topic on construction cost, I would like to raise the point that the Melbourne Metro is expensive, way too expensive. At AUD 10.9 billion for 9km of tunnel, that’s AUD 1.21 billion per km. Compared that to Sydney Metro City and South West Tunnel at the upper estimate of AUD 12.5 billion for 15.5km of tunnel, that’s AUD 806 million per km. Sydney’s one is also getting fully driverless trains and the 12.5 billion cost also includes money for upgrading the Bankstown Line commuter rail to rapid transit. Melbourne’s 10.9 billion cost does not include driverless trains and the government is spending any extra AUD 1.6 billion to upgrade the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line. Sydney also has more new stations, particularly in the densest areas of Sydney and North Sydney CBD, where construction is bound to be more expensive. Sydney also has a very expensive underwater bit under Sydney Harbour and will require as special TBM for that part, Melbourne only has the narrow and shallow Yarra River and Moonee Ponds Creek to cross, Melbourne’s waterways don’t need a special TBM to cross the river and it doesn’t have have a station at South Yarra for interchange.
Just to make it clear to other readers:
Sydney Metro = 633 USD per km (includes money for upgrades of existing lines and arguably the more complex project)
Melbourne Metro = 943 USD per km (yet somehow doesn’t include money for upgrades of existing connecting lines)
Given how much of a joke Melbourne Metro is costing, I do wish that East-West Stage One was built, if not the other stages, money has already been spent on it and gives the government something to open which they investigate why the hell Melbourne Metro is so bloody expensive compared to Sydney Metro. I have no confidence in the left-wing “Labor” government bringing value for money for taxpayers in terms of Melbourne Metro, in contrast, the conservative “Liberal” government is doing a much better job in terms of value for money for big public rail projects. I usually agree with the left side of politics, but god, the Labor government really botched this one up although their hands were kind of tied but they still could have made the best of the situation. Now, Melbourne’s paid lots of money for a mythical road and only new train line in 2026. Sydney’s getting a new train line in 2019 (Metro North West), 2024 (Metro City and South West) and another one by the “late 2020s” (Metro West) along with new roads. Go figure!
Anyway, I don’t wish to focus on politics here so I’ll leave my comments on politics at that. Would like to know what you think about construction costs though.
*which should be while.
Comparison of construction costs from Alon’s earlier post. https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/
Also, since Alon mentioned Singapore as having high construction costs, let’s look at the new Thomson East Coast Line. The first part of the line from Woodlands North to Gardens by the Bay is SGD 18 billion for 30km. That works out to SGD 600 million per km or 440 million USD per km.
The PPP conversion rate is supposedly 1:1. I’m not sure how correct that is, but my one datapoint (tenure-track professor wages) supports this: NUS supposedly pays S$100,000 a year at start, but without pension benefits, which I imagine roughly washes out with Canadian universities’ C$100,000 and US universities’ $80,000-ish (these unis are roughly comparable in prestige).
I don’t disagree about the craziness in the costs of different projects. It only reinforces what this article is about. I don’t know enough about the Melbourne Metro project except that it involves the central loop that encircles the CBD but which has the unfortunate legacy of many routes and trains sharing track. It has long needed separation and disentangling, and such work is usually complex, especially to maintain existing services, and thus expensive. It is why successive governments have procrastinated on doing it–for decades, and of course why its cost keeps escalating (the real visible opportunity cost, in Australia this is in tens of billions if not 100bn). The same is true for many projects including NYC subway & regional commuter rail that he writes of.
But I don’t agree with your characterisation of “left wing Labor” governments as my point was that all Anglosphere governments have been neo-liberal in persuasion for the past almost 4 decades. It is also incorrect to characterise prioritising public transit over roads as “left wing”. It is merely sensible urban planning for large cities, especially those like Melbourne & Sydney with projected populations of 8+ million later this century. Transport planners before and during the disastrous Victorian conservative government (confusingly for everyone else, called “Liberals”) recommended Melbourne Metro above EWL, which again just shows how in the Anglosphere such advice is buried or blatantly ignored. Sorting out Melbourne’s public transit is vastly more important and relevant than just building another bloody road, especially as its much-revered tram network is actually less and less functional in a big city (it likes to boast of its trams but they have the slowest average speed of any tram network in the world–because of road congestion of course). You’ve also neglected to compare the cost of the road project versus the Metro project: the auditor of the EWL debacle reported that its real cost was likely to be $22+ billion, approximately double the “expensive” Metro.
Incidentally Sydney’s NW and SW Metro projects were long planned by Labor governments, even as they were over-building road tunnels, and still are: Sydney’s WestConnex road tunnel is heading towards $40bn and with the addition of NorthConnex it will exceed $60bn–which no urban planner expects can possibly solve, or even relieve, Sydney’s atrocious road congestion (in all likelihood it will make it worse–hence the perpetual need to keep adding to it, like NorthConnex to shift the congestion that will be created at WestConnex’s northern end to even further north.) The reason why the NSW conservatives are going ahead with the Metros is that the need had become overwhelming so they didn’t stop them (but they did order–again against all expert advice and provoking resignation of several transit public servants–the reduction in size of the tunnels so they could not take the same duplex train sets the rest of Sydney uses; this was to exclude unions and to semi-privatise these new lines, probably to completely privatise them later if they get the chance).
“this was to exclude unions”
Well, it’s true that unions (a left wing priority) are a major drag on the construction and operation of transit.
If you would accept this, then I would accept the rest of your argument.
Anyone who makes statements like that doesn’t deserve the quality of life and liberty in most of the developed world. They appear to be ignorant of the role of organised labour in improving working people’s lives out of the misery and exploitation common only a century or so ago.
They should also try living in a country in which unions are banned.
Of course if you are American then you are partly regressed back to that situation. And it shows. Have you forgotten the old maxim that goes (approx.) “those who don’t learn their history will continue to repeat its errors”.
But then I’m Australian which was founded by the oppressed underclass troublemakers shipped out by the British. This included the Tolpuddle Martyrs (the first proto-unionists) who had the effrontery to demand improved working conditions and the right to organize, all strictly illegal at the time. Later that century saw the first labour unions in the world formed in Australia and then the first Labor government in the world (a state government). We were the first to have the 8 hour working day, women’s vote, secret ballot voting in elections, holiday pay etc.
By contrast America was founded by a bunch of religious fundamentalists so nutty that they first moved from Britain to Holland where the Calvinists didn’t appreciate them any better and they made their way to the new world (luckily your side, not ours).
Do you want to take it all the way back to the founding fathers–a bunch of privileged rich white men who owned hundreds of ahem, non-union workers they didn’t pay at all!
So, in answer to your question, that would be a very firm no. And good luck to trying to run a civilised society without organised labour or the fruit of their historic work. Never mind transit systems, you’d be lucky to have any kind of stable society.
So your priority is left-wing politics, not transit.
Hmm, which city won the best-in-world city transport award? Could it be those awful socialists?
Yes, yes, that is an unfair comparison because it is only comparing those pampered (2.2 million) Parisians inside the Peripherique. But that is what Grand Paris Express is all about, to bring similar service to those banlieusardes.
Of course France also wins best healthcare system in the world too. Something the USA is in absolutely no danger of ever coming close …. unless Eric is a Trumpiste?
Just a point on the reduction in tunnel size to accommodate metro trains instead of double deckers in Sydney, while this decision was controversial at the time, I think the decision to have rapid transit has really made the project better. The new metro trains are faster and the new metro line has more capacity (although at the expense of seats), that capacity will be needed as the population grows to 8 million. Having rapid transit going out to the outskirts of Sydney is problematic and it still is but I think ultimately the benefits of the metro outweigh the benefits of a double decker line and as I said in an earlier comment, Paris Metro Line 18 also goes to the outskirts.
The metro wasn’t actually the conservative government’s idea, it was Labor’s. The conservatives thought that Labor was unpopular so the metro was unpopular so they campaigned on a double decker north west line before they were convinced of the benefits of a metro by the same bureaucrats that convinced Labor and then adopted it as their policy. Some bureaucrats weren’t happy about this so they resigned and I have to say that was a good thing, they were stubborn and really held transport planning back and refused to adopt what other places in the world were doing, a bit like New York. The new public transport plans, while not without their flaws, are stronger, better and bolder than ever.
As for privatisation, the new metro line will be operated by the MTR and the infrastructure is public. I don’t see it ever being fully privatised, the government is not expecting the line to be profitable. But the government is expecting the driverless metro line to have a much higher farebox recovery than the existing network, the money saved from the higher farebox recovery can be used to invest in new metro lines instead of having to pay drivers to operate trains. A big win for Sydney I say.
Untangled, you claim to not want to bring in politics but that is precisely what you have done at every turn. And in this post you are repeating patently false LNP (conservatives) spin that every bit of evidence refutes. I’ll just deal with the most egregious misleading claims.
The new trains are not faster and the actually carry fewer passengers than modern duplex trains (why do you think duplex trains exist?) and, more importantly, they allow for more seated pax than standing, which is an important issue for such long suburban lines. Here is the timeline of decisions (Barry O’F, conservative leader became the state Premier), as set out by Michael Stove
Then there are a series of reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s top newspaper, by Jacob Saulwick, their specialist transport reporter:
Here is another expert (who works in government railways so posting anonymously because of feared retribution):
As to the truth about these competing claims, here is the independent ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission, like the BBC or US-PBS) which ran them thru their Fact Check unit (which has subsequently been closed down by the conservative federal government!):
The other counter-factual to this controversy is that the conservatives have refused to release “expert” reports they claim favour their implementation, despite all the experts who have testified, including some who have thus been forced to resign from the relevant government department (confirming my original proposition that this Anglosphere problem with infrastructure begins with neo-liberal undermining of historic independent public service advice).
As to your remarks about these “driverless trains” providing greater efficiency etc, this was always part of the original design and has nothing to do with the choice between single versus duplex an: the RER line A in Paris is also driverless, has platform-aligned doors and in its most recent upgrade (its fourth iteration since it opened in 1977) and was specifically re-designed using their 5 decades of experience, to facilitate the most efficient and safe boarding/deboarding of pax (they reduced the number and position of doors to three per carriage; RER-A first went duplex in 1997). RER-A is capable of more than 60 000 passengers per hour in the morning peak on each track. Sacem, its new signalling system, is able to achieve 2 min headways and actually achieves 27 trains an hour at peak times; it currently carries 300m pax p.a. (more than the entire Australian rail network!). This is why London’s cross-city line follows the RER model (which likewise spans 120km from distant eastern suburbs to distant western suburbs while being underground within central London; most likely a model for Sydney’s new Metros). Incidentally Sydney converted its fleet to duplex in 1964 based on Paris duplex trains (what I believe morphed into RER-C; certainly there is strong deja vu when an Australian uses those trains in Paris; unlike RER-A or -B, the C line has not been updated for a long time so it is very reminiscent of Sydney!).
The Paris (and French) intra-city (Metro, RER & tramways) and inter-city (SNCF including TGVs) networks are run by the equivalent of statutory authorities (ie. quasi-independent of government) and are among the very best in the world. They don’t privatise or outsource management. We, on the other hand, follow the clearly failed UK model of both underfunding, long-delaying necessary upgrades and new lines and then try to quasi-privatise them; just as London has given fat contracts to HK’s MTR to run the Overland lines and London-CrossRail we always blindly follow the Brits lead …. possibly into transit hell. Certainly into leaching public monies and public interest into the for-profit private (and foreign!) sector! Oh, and from plen of precedent we all know many of these plcans wll end p as handsmel ewaded cnslans f hese same cmpanes.
This is no way to design a coherent integrated city-wide rail network. On this wider issue (integration and best interests of travellers) I give final word again to Michael Stove:
But I thank you Untangled for bringing this up whole sorry mess which so graphically illustrates my point of how neo-conservative thinking and government (including by Labor over the past 3 decades) has undermined the normal government functions that delivers such important infrastructure. Unlike Alon, I don’t concentrate so much on costs (though I accept his point that these high Anglosphere costs obviously limits what gets built) but rather on process. I believe the high costs flow from the former.
Groan. From transit hell to keyboard hell. The qwerty line of my keyboard has an intermittent fault resulting in:
Which was meant to be:
I could add that conservative premier Barry O’Farrell was forced to resign over a $3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage that was given to him as a gift (ie. bribe, yeah our pollies are cheap!) which he had repeatedly emphatically denied but then was caught out with incontrovertible evidence. His replacement as premier lasted barely more than a year and now the new boy’s (a merchant banker who has gone back to a $2m pa job in banking!) replacement is Gladys Berejiklian, the then transport minister who gave us this bastardised NW Metro. Years before in the last run of “successful” (well, stable) NSW state government, it was Labor Premier Bob Carr under whose reign all those expensive toll-tunnels were built. When he finally resigned from politics he literally walked from the premier’s office into the board room of Macquarie Bank who happens to be the major financer/builder/owner of those tunnels and also owner of the privatised monopoly of Sydney KSA airport. Between Carr (2010?) and Berejiklian there have been 5 (of 7) premiers who have resigned in disgrace, often removed by their own party. And Gladys has only served about two years so far ….
Reminiscent of Tammany Hall days? Except this is a cross-party bi-partisan clustef**k, and Tammany nominally served the poor and immigrants, and got much done. Our modern version is bipartisan in serving the big end of town in a model that has delivered increasingly dysfunctional Melbourne and Sydney. (In Melbourne the same things happened with 5 premiers in the same timespan.)
No doubt politics is dysfunctional but amidst all this, things are still being achieved and that’s something quite amazing. You can’t say the same about Washington grid lock or Albany.
Albany has managed to finagle enough money to have trains that run faster then they did in the heyday of trains. Not a stunning accomplishment but better than most states have managed.
Not much is being done, especially in the context of half a century of almost nothing being done (other than build hyper-expensive toll-roads, that in case you missed it, have not relieved congestion). The fact that Washington and Albany may be grid locked is rather my original point: look around the Anglosphere and it is a uniting theme. Only very recently (like 5 years) has the UK finally begun to try to catch up on post-war inertia and 40 years of Thatcherism (including the Thatcher-lite years of Blair’s Nu-Labour), and even then it is mostly in London, and they still haven’t sorted out the awful sequelae of neo-liberal train privatisation.
It’s why I tend to look at Paris and France as a model. I could look at Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul or Shanghai etc but the Anglosphere instantly dismisses those as an Asian model not appropriate to we Euro-types! Of course they dismiss the European “socialist” model too but with no underlying logic or even economic rationale.
BTW, Albany may be dysfunctional but of course at least NYC has a terrific legacy metro (subway) system which, given its neglect over half a century, shows just how robust such mass transit systems are. It may be straining as it ages and as the city continues to grow but it is unimaginable as a city of almost 9m without it Now imagine Sydney without anything comparable when it becomes 8m. Of course no imagination required, just visit LA or those US SunBelt cities. Perhaps the biggest learning example is LA which is busy (re)building its Metro system at great expense and at painfully slow pace. In fact at just this moment I have opened a delivery that has Mark Pendegrast’s book “City on the Verge; Atlanta and the fight for America’s urban future”. It documents how this worst-of-the-worst SunBelt city of car-dependent sprawl and endless growth is facing a tipping point. Here is his opening paragraph:
At least in spirit, if not quite detail, you could almost substitute “Sydney” for Atlanta. For the inter-racial problems substitute our inter-generational war as genX-Y-Z find themselves priced out of housing and finally falling out of love with the great Australian suburban dream of that quarter-acre block etc. (now only for sale 50km away and driving-everywhere lifestyle; Australia, too, is like the US in that the number of younger people with a driver’s license is decreasing quickly yet we have a poor public transit system to cope). In Atlanta the white suburbs fight the extension of MARTA to their area because they don’t want to encourage .. inter-racial mobility. In Sydney’s eastern and northern beaches they resist extension of Sydney’s Metro to stop those pesky Westies (the mixed hoi polloi from Western Sydney) invading “their” precious perfect beaches (of course stratospheric property prices keep them residing in Western Sydney). They fought successfully so that the Bondi line stops at Bondi Junction which is actually 2.5 km from Bondi! NorthConnex is an outrageously expensive road tunnel for the uber-exclusive northern beaches but they don’t want a Metro.
Incidentally, fyi Alon, NorthConnex is the proposed extension of WestConnex that would take the traffic from the northern end of WC (that otherwise gets dumped just west of the CBD) across the harbour in a new crossing and then NE to the northern beaches (all strictly millionaire territory; well actually multi-millionaire since the average house price for all of Sydney recently passed $1m, dog knows how many millions you need to buy a house in this area). This is the tunnel that Chinese bidders have proposed a bigger diameter tunnel to effectively get a twofer, ie. bigger enough for two levels, one for traffic and one for rail. What’s the bet this conservative government (whose leaders and most powerful constituents live in the far northern beaches or “upper-north-shore”) will reject that sensible proposal on who knows what specious grounds?
I hear your Atlanta and raise you…. FLORIDA. The state with *seven* cities with the top *seven* pedestrian fatality rates (Florida cities also take 10th and 11th places). Not one city in the state has anything approximating mass transit. None of them are walkable. All of them have destroyed environments and highways blasted through them.
Unlike Atlanta…. they have no chance. Florida’s going to sink under the waves. The inexorable decline has already started and it should be abandoned. The refugees from Florida are probably going to end up in Altanta, which will change it.
Wow, I really got your head spinning there hey. How mad are you? Also, a few facts about RER A, it’s not driverless, it’s has ATO but it isn’t fully driverless. Secondly, RER A is struggling to reach 27 tph every day, most of the time, it gets less than that. Also, Crossrail uses longitudinal metro-style seating with a few traverse seating, just like Sydney Metro. You could argue for network integration but within the Grand Paris Express metro project, there is a mix of different technologies that are incompatible with other lines. As for faster, let’s look at the existing Bankstown Line that will be converted, the existing double decker line takes 36 minutes from Bankstown to Central, once it’s converted to Sydney Metro, it’ll be 28 minutes, same corridor and an 8 minute saving.
This line travels through the corridor of the highest job concentration in Sydney so there’s lots of passenger turnover, so lots of passengers getting on and on everywhere, the existing double decker line struggles to handle this because of stairway and doorway congestion. A metro with more doors and no stairs is better equipped to handle this turnover once the City and South West part is built, which means faster trains and better reliability. The Paris RER suffers from quite a lot of stairway congestion in the peaks, even with 3 doors. As for seats, again there is high turnover from this line, so if someone doesn’t get a seat at Cherrybrook, they will get one at Mac Park or Epping when a whole bunch of people get off. This line isn’t for the strict purpose for CBD commuting which is why metro is appropriate here, in fact, considering how much people will get on or off at Mac Park, I would treat that station as the CBD station if I had to.
The situation at Chatswood is only temporary and there may be some pain there. I stand by my comments that the metro project delivers the best long-term outcome for Sydney, especially on this corridor. The only thing double decker supporters do is bleat on about RER, RER, RER, RER and occasionally privatization like it’s only thing in the world that matters, I’m sorry but the world of public transport doesn’t revolve around London’s “transit hell” or Paris RER or privatization.
Untangled, that is some tangled bunch of nitpicking you are into. What exactly have you proven, or disproven of my claims. I’d have to say none. The RER-A is an overwhelming success in being able to handle a fantastically huge pax load, obviously especially at peak times (when that 27 tph is needed). It generates complaints but that is merely a reflection of being a victim of its success. And are you really saying that CrossRail was not modelled on RER-A, are you? explicitly modelled on Paris’ RER-A
Quite, no argument except: you mean like RER-A serves the La Defense business district which is the biggest such business district in all of Europe (including London which is spread between two districts)? It brings in 180,000 workers every day. But also no accident RER-A also links to the historic business district between Auber and Chatelet-les-Halles, just like NW Metro was designed (but won’t for years due to these changes) the U. Macquarie district to Sydney CBD.
Seriously? You think the Paris planners didn’t go thru endless planning iterations and experiments to ensure they got the best solution to these issues? The 4th iteration (in 40 years) of RER-A trains reduced the doors from 4 per carriage to 3 from these studies. There is no evidence for your statement and you are simply repeating the LNP spin on this and ignoring all the experts opinion–much of it documented as I laid out. (Having said that, it is unlikely Sydney trains will have to cope with Paris-scale crowds anytime soon so this is not the major point, but rather it is part of the pointless and political motivated changes from duplex to single, and that forever fixes the wrong non-solution.) There was no gain by the changes that Berejiklian forced on the plan against all the experts (unless you can cite some; good luck), and you are just buying into the rhetoric for whatever reasons you won’t even admit. (The lowering of the tunnel height by 3cm is very reminiscent of Robert Moses–perhaps apocryphal–lowering of the bridge clearances on his Parkways to make it impossible for the city public transit to use them.) Yet you clearly acknowledge that it was all about politics and control. I am fairly bi-partisan on these issues because Labor has only a marginally better record. I did a piece that was unfriendly to Bob Carr as premier, even though I quite liked him as our national minister of foreign affairs:
As to your comments on Paris’ mixture of RER, Metro etc in the Paris Grand Express plans, of course, as each is designed for a particular purpose (“fit for purpose” in modern jargon). The RER is designed to move larger numbers, more comfortably (ie. more seated) over longer distances at higher speeds/lower transit times from the outlying areas. The Metro, for the two new circumferential (orbital) routes, is designed to serve more local population centres (at more closely-spaced stops) and to act as feeders to the radial RER (and some Metro). The tramways are all orbital for this purpose. Indeed Alon has written about this, specifically referencing Paris, on this blog:
Also by others here:
Finally your comment:
This is pretty strange as even the current government’s plans of the future show the Metros proceeding thru the CBD and out the other side, performing exactly the roles of RER and Crossrail. Sydney currently has 42% of Paris-Ile de France population but sprawled over almost identical area (12,367.7 km2) and so needs the likes of the RER and a coherent plan like Paris Grand Express even more than Paris does. Especially as it will soon enough be ≈70% of the population of Paris–but must squeeze into the same footprint (because it has run out of geography–ocean, harbours & bays, mountains and national parks hem it in on all sides) so it better learn from those cities that have already gone thru the learning exercise.
Nitpicking? I was just addressing some of your points. For example, I said that the metro would be faster and you disputed that and then I offered the Bankstown Line example of an 8 minute time saving comparing the exact same corridor to metro vs DD performance, not an insignificant time saving there mind you. I’ll try and address some of your points here though.
Firstly, you said that I thought that Crossrail was not modelled on RER A, incorrect, I just pointed out that Crossrail uses metro-style seating in contrast to RER A.
Secondly, yes, RER A does serve a lot of people at La Defense and that no other centre in Europe can compare, however, RER trains do have 3 doors and are quite long, 225 metres I believe. However, even with 3 doors, the stairway is still a bit of a problem, mainly because, like Sydney, only one person can go up or down at a time.
Thirdly, the new three door MI09 trains have wider doors than the old four door ones. You also said that there is no evidence about my statement saying that the doors and staircase is a problem. I’ll address doors first, it’s pretty obvious here that more doors mean more space to allow more passengers on and off the carriage at a time, so more doors or wider doors reduce door congestion and dwell time, a very well known fact in public transport. The other point about the staircase being an issue, there’s not much info on this but back in the 1980s when the Tangara was being designed, Comeng did an experiment and found that the staircase was a huge bottleneck. I would advise you look to have a look at this video of the experiment which highlights the staircase problem, look particularly at 1:28 and onwards. Do watch the whole video though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otTJfKcmF-s The video highlights that “double-width” staircases will alleviate some of the staircase congestion (as opposed to the “single width” staircases) but the problem is that the “double-width” staircase train was never built. Both the new Waratah trains or MI09 RER trains feature “single-width” staircases. Even with a “double-width” staircase, I think it would still be less efficient in moving passengers around the carriage compared to single decker trains. On to your point about there being no gain for the metro plan, as I explained earlier, the benefits are reduced travel time, less stairway and doorway congestion (which I’ve just explained) and much much cheaper operating costs which free up financial resources for new projects, I don’t need an expert to tell me that. The only problem is fewer seats but I can live with that.
Fourthly, your point about trains being “fit for purpose”, as I explained earlier the metro corridor is well suited to rapid transit, the high turnover along the route (which really begins all the way back at Norwest but Mac Park is the first really big turnover spot) means that longer distance commuters who may not initially get a seat will find one eventually down the line when a whole bunch of people alight at major centres. It worth noting that most of the Grand Paris Express really fills a job that would normally be done by RER or Transilien, yet Greater Paris went with Metro here, despite their wealth of knowledge on how to operate double decker RER or Transilien trains.
Finally, your last paragraph. I don’t dispute anything there but I would add that metro is my preferred expansion method. That doesn’t mean that double deckers don’t have their place, but I would reserve it for lines where trains run express instead of stopping at every station.
Now, if you could give me an RER style double decker with “double-width” staircases (which doesn’t exist yet), I would be happy to reconsider, but for now, Sydney Metro is better. Another point about the metro is that the trains have superior climbing ability so the new metro stations aren’t as deep as their double decker counterpart. Castle Hill, for example, is only 25 meters below ground but I remember reading that it would be 37 meters underground if it was double decker in a document when Labor was in government, I can’t find it now, the conservative government must have purged it. More customer friendly having it less deep and cheaper to build.
So, you agree that your first point was pure nitpicking, ie. irrelevant to the issue 🙂
On your second “point”, err, yes, RER trains are very long. That’s, you know, part of the “high capacity” bit, and of course why CrossRail copied it, except for the duplex part. I have predicted that they may come to regret that because it has been predicted that the Elizabeth Line will vey quickly reach near-capacity at peak times. Though the CrossRail tunnels are able to take duplex trains of RER size. I suspect they may be upgrading sooner than predicted.
Your second point appears to be the same, ie. the claim that boarding and deboarding is problematic on the 3-door RER-As. I think part, perhaps a big part, of this is cultural. In Paris (and for that matter Japan and most other transit systems) they expect the passengers to behave expeditiously while one of the frustrating things about the British system, both Underground and regional trains is how a slow passenger can hold up trains; the driver or conductor is watching and doesn’t close the doors promptly. Elsewhere it is up to you to get yourself ready to board or disembark the train. The doors close promptly and pretty definitively–as the warning rabbit decals show, don’t get your fingers or other anatomy in the way of that sliding door. They give notice of upcoming stations and those on the upper deck are supposed to get themselves down and ready to leave. I mean it is logical and the only way to run things as far as I am concerned. Passengers learn this stuff quickly but London Underground seems like your grandma is running the show. You can’t design a high-capacity mega-city transit system for the slowest people. They can easily catch the next train if they wish to dawdle.
I also have always preferred the seating arrangements in Paris Metro and RER trains. And the sensible fold-down seats (strapontin) in the area next to the doors (so you can sit down up to a certain density of pax).
In any case, again I find your long arguments on this point rather strange. I mean there is simply no doubting that RER-A carries more pax than any other commuter line in the world (at least outside Asia)–far more than any line in London or NYC. (As is true for Paris second busiest line, Metro#1 at 240m pax pa.) So I kind of wonder what your arguments are really about? Unless you deny this fact?
Seriously? There was 3-4 cm difference and I don’t believe there were any other major changes of the sort you suggest—it’s not credible. The reason RER and CrossRail (and probably Sydney NW Metro) are deep because they are being put into big cities with already a ton of other stuff (existing Metro, utilities, building foundations etc) so these new big tunnels go under it all. It does add to the cost because the stations are big (wide & long) and deep, but then there are fewer of them.
Again, you are missing the point: these lines will never be able to take duplex trains (though feasibly I suppose a special train set could be made to squeeze in?) or share trains on the rest of the network. Everyone knows why the conservatives made this change and it had absolutely nothing to do with technical demands but was entirely political.
Not really sure what that means. But the NW Metro is extending out about 50km into exurban Sydney, and no standard Metro (ie. light-rail) is going to serve that effectively. Instead it needs an RER-type service which is what NW-Metro is: speedy full-size trains, with fairly widely-spaced stations to enable quicker journeys. (And contrary to your comment, RER are much more powerful trains than feeble light-rail Metro. RER can do 120kmph and get up to speed quickly too.) Again, the planned orbital Metro in Paris Grand Express is not of this type, but is to link up major stations on the radial RER routes. Actually when you are inside Paris, if it is an option (depending on destination etc) you take the RER because it will traverse the city much, much quicker than the Metro (in Paris it is the most dense system in the world, which means stations on average 400m apart and thus many stops if you are going a long way across the city; eg. if you are at Nation heading to La Defense then Metro Line 1 has 19 stations while RER-A has only 5). This is why the Paris Metro doesn’t extend, and hasn’t been extended, much beyond the original termini–either inside Paris or just into the Petite Couronne. It would overload the trains and lengthen journeys too much (and probably require more trains to maintain service frequency etc.) My main line, #13, was extended deep into the southern suburbs, to Villejuif, in 1984 but the stops on this section were much further apart than inside Paris. I am pretty sure that will be the case for the long extension of Metro #14 (the first driverless, platform-aligned door metro in Paris).
In any case none of this has anything to do with our “preference” but how the system works best.
Standard Metro is not Light Rail, that is totally WRONG WRONG WRONG. If you’ve been thing that way the whole time, then you’re pretty much a brick wall. I won’t go on any further. I’m not nitpicking here, I would expect anyone who understands an iota about transport to know the difference between a metro, basically rapid transit and light rail.
Also the difference isn’t 3-4 cm, it’s more like 40 cm diameter difference. Go criticize me for nitpicking here, I’ve pretty much left this part of your argument alone but the difference is much bigger than you say it is. At 15km, quite a lot of extra rock.
Untangled, I think you have yourself tangled up by the confusion of Sydney Metro which is really suburban commuter train that happens to run underground in the CBD. But the term Metro comes from the Paris Metro (even if the very first subway system was the London Metropolitan line; my theory is that the French adopted that name but none of the history written on this implies that; a difference of course is that the London name referred to a single line while in Paris it referred to the system) and technically speaking it is “light rail”, certainly compared to RER which is heavy rail, or Transilien which is also heavy-rail. After all, the first Metros (other than London perhaps) were adaptations of trams/street-cars (today known as light-rail) to run underground. Electric trams first appeared in the 1880s, decades ahead of the Metro. The only real meaningful difference between light-rail and Metro is that one runs on its ROW while the other often shares street space (and so of course this means a different configuration eg. for boarding at street level). However there are city systems that confuse the two, such as Boston and San Francisco and others. But all the early “Metros” of London, NYC (and Budapest & Glasgow etc) were the equivalent of light-rail, adapted for underground.
I agree that the terminology has lost some meaning in that Metro is applied to any rapid transit system. Like the Washington Metro is (like Sydney) really suburban heavy rail except in the CBD. But look at San Francisco where BART (which is really like the Washington Metro, quite RER-like) is not called Metro compared to “Muni Metro” which is effectively light-rail (ie. tram on its own ROW if above ground most of its route and goes underground only in places).
Nothing wrong with using metro for rapid transit, as you said, Washington and BART (basically post-war systems) have the name metro. A lot of the newer rapid transit systems in the world use the name metro that when it goes for longer distances, Sydney and the Grand Paris Express is no different in that regard.
Speaking of the Grand Paris Express, I would like to nitpick on one other thing you said about it. You said that it was a feeder for the RER, this is incorrect, quite the opposite. The goal of the Grand Paris Express is to allow passengers commuting from suburb to suburb to bypass city centre to allow for more direct suburb to suburb journeys bypassing the radial RER. Basically, Grand Paris Express will be doing the job of mainly Transillen and to some extent the Tramways and RER in providing passengers faster suburb to suburb journeys. It is also designed to take pressure off the radial RER, so passengers don’t have to go to the city and back out again to get to other suburbs, not feed more passengers into it. That said, you could use it as a feeder but that’s not the primary goal. It’s primary goal to serve the suburbs, hence it’s really doing the job of Transillen but it’s a metro instead of double decker.
M15 and M16 are circumferential, but the M14 and M11 extensions are radial, and M17 is sort of radial. M18 is there to make the favored quarter feel better about itself. M14 and M11 have to be Metro and not RER, as extensions of existing lines. Now, you might ask, why did they extend M11, which has very short stop spacing and not great capacity? That’s a good question, which I don’t have an answer to. (M14 has longer platforms and wider stop spacing – if anything, the extension misses a key connection point to M2.)
The region seems to be neglecting the RER, even though there’s a very high-performance investment it could do – quadrupling the tunnel between Les Halles and Gare du Nord to give the RER B and D dedicated tracks. The RER B seems more crowded than the RER A to me, and the project wouldn’t have to include any stations; a cost estimate from last decade says it would be 700 million euros.
Or it could just be that all new lines are driverless, and if it’s driverless there’s no reason to tie it to mainline rail, and if it’s not tied to mainline rail it could be signed as Metro and not RER. The fares are integrated anyway if you have a monthly pass (and if you’re a suburban rider, you have a monthly pass, the discount over buying carnets is huge).
OK to those descriptions (which I put in my last post written before seeing your latest). As to:
Dunno but presumably it services fairly dense eastern-suburbs? Political counter-balance to those southern ones? Also it is not very long with only 3 new stations so looks like an “easy” infill? Possibly also because a tramway wouldn’t do the job (roads not appropriate, too busy etc?).
I didn’t understand you comment about connecting to M2 (it does?).
As to M14, we’ve covered this before. It connects to M15 (inner ring) and M18 (outer-ring) as well as Orly airport direct link. I think your criticisms of M18 are too hasty as this surely is a major planned growth corridor for the future with those typical French mega-ambitious plans such as the Saclay super-university and tech industry hub (yes, and residential for petite-bourgeoisie like you and me–or next-gen versions who will work there!). I approve of that kind of planning. It’s a bit like criticizing those subway lines that pushed out into cow pastures in Brooklyn and Queens (there ain’t no cows there anymore). There were hopes the new Saclay agglomeration would launch straight into the top (10 or 20 or 50?) but I see that it still is not listed (ie. not yet integrated into) the ARWU rankings (2017 released recenly), which still separately lists Paris-Sud (which is #242). (Ahem, I note that every one of the 4 universities I trained or worked at make the top 100.) On top of that (ambitious planning) is that the world of transport planning ain’t perfect and must fit into all sorts of constraints.
I don’t know anything about the tunnel to separate RER-B and D. Is it partly that it might be extremely tricky to get boring machines in to do the job? Aren’t they by definition too big to get in via the existing tunnels? Something they probably should have done back during the “big dig” in the 70s.
M11 connects to M2 already, but the M14 extension won’t. The Metro system has three places where two lines intersect without a transfer: M9/M12, M14/M5, M14/M9. The M14 extension adds M14/M2.
The proper place for a next-gen university is Jussieu, with the entirety of today’s structure demolished and replaced with something that doesn’t make me wish ISIS had an air force with long-range bombers.
Hah, maybe. I think I wrote something similar w.r.t. when they stripped the admin tower (straight outta Kafka if any building was) of its asbestos. I think the question as it gets older, becomes: is it so bad it’s good? One of Paris/France/World’s finest and large-scale examples of brutalism, surely? Includes probably the largest set of buildings up on pilotis anywhere! The other obvious point is that if it were ever to be demolished I doubt it would be replaced with university … They already moved Paris VII to Paris Rive Gauche. By my quick estimates it could be worth €2bn in real estate, maybe more given the location.
Reminds me, a (American) friend of mine in Paris (used to work at Jussieu) teaches a month-long course (biochemistry) for the Stanford-in-Paris classes (in Feb-March IIRC). They make him work hard for it (he seems to spend one or two months preparing, but I assume it is financially worth it (he’s retired on a CNRS pension …). Several of the ivy-league do this kind of thing in Paris. You could check it out. (I mean if urban planners or transport planners don’t study Paris what are they doing …?)
I’ll have to accept you on that since I can’t see it anywhere (well, I’m too lazy to search). But given that A has about 67% more ridership than B, that implies A runs 67% more trains? But surely not; I mean those duplex trains carry a lot more pax than A’s single deckers and the stories of crowding at peak times are legion? The fact that you consider B feels more crowded is presumably partly related to A being duplex? I see that line D has duplex trains and carries almost as many pax as B (at 190km D has double the catchment of B) which means that the shared tunnel is carrying more then A!
The RER A ran 30 tph peak, 24 reverse-peak, 18 off-peak when the numbers you have were collected (it now runs 15 tph off-peak). The RER B runs 20 peak, 12 off-peak. The RER D runs 12 peak, 8 off-peak through the shared tunnel, but it also runs 4 tph terminating at Gare de Lyon (and if it had a dedicated pathway it would probably also take over the remaining Transilien R trains, the way the RER C took over everything out of Austerlitz).
I think the RER B is more crowded in part because it’s single-level, but there are other issues in play:
– The RER B+D tunnel is highly-branched, counting all the RER D and B branches, so the lines are less reliable. Less reliable lines have more perceived crowding – if train intervals aren’t even, then perceived crowding grows. Imagine two lines running two trains, such that on one line both trains are at 75% capacity and on the other one is at 125% and one is at 25%; the latter has higher perceived crowding even though on average they’re the same.
– The RER B trains are single-level, but have no large vestibules for people to stand. The RER A was awful when it was still running single-levels for the same reason – those trains had narrow corridors between the 2+2 seats and not enough standing space.
– The RER B trains are 7% shorter.
– The RER B trains serve one CBD station (Les Halles – Gare du Nord is busier but isn’t anywhere near the CBD) whereas the RER A trains spread passengers out across several CBD stations (Les Halles, Auber, Etoile, La Defense), with heavy internal travel within that segment.
Good info on those RER trains. Whew, see what you mean about that tunnel. Amazed it can handle that number of tph and with switching every second train?
On seating etc. I don’t agree. And I would guess most (French) pax wouldn’t. I understand what technocrat transport planners prefer but I reckon the French have it right. I’m not convinced it makes such a difference to either capacity or egress (in fact with longitudinal arrangement, since you have to hang on to ceiling straps and don’t have solid seat handles, it is trickier–especially when crowded and if you are repositioning as the train is moving; especially for women, children & the aged). I think it is the same reason why we have a strong preference against a middle seat on a plane, who wants to be squeezed between two strangers? Everyone aims to get that seat up against the wall; sure you only bother on longer trips, otherwise one tends to stand in the vestibule. I don’t want any central-planning nazis removing that option 🙂
On the same topic, why do none of the Anglosphere metros use Strapontin fold-down seats? Planners just think we should stand always even when the train is not packed? In fact some modern buses do use them in the longitudinal positions in the front section because the are intended for wheelchairs and prams.
I don’t remember RER-B being as bad as you say. And it certainly has usable vestibules (just presumably not as capacious as RER-A; again I’ll have to accept your descriptions … to a degree …). At any rate I don’t think you’re going to get your wish anytime soon, as the latest redesigns and on M1, have kept the old layout more or less?
Does using a suburban metro to relieve a double decker system sound familiar to you now? Why yes, both Sydney and Paris is doing it.
My feeling is that Line 11 and 14 were extended to to help fill in the “missing link” between some of the lines. Line 11 extension will connect the circumferential 15 and 16 and Line 14 extension will connect with Line 15 and the dual-purpose circumferential-“feel better” Line 18.
On your comment about new the Paris Metro lines being driverless and not tied to mainlines, this is quite similar to Sydney.
I want to say that Lines 11 and 14 are good southeast-northwest and center-northeast lines, supplementing north-south and east-west lines. (Ridership per km on the Metro goes 1 = 4 > 14 > 2 > 6 > 11 > rest.) But the 14 is being extended as more north-south than anything, and the 11 is being extended going east and not northeast. I have crayon involving breaking the RER C to provide southeast-northwest and southwest-northeast rail, but it’s not going to happen, unfortunately.
Where did you read that the RER A struggles to run 27 tph at the peak? At least going by the schedule, it’s 30, and there aren’t a lot of cancellations (unlike on the RER B+D).
The internal staircases aren’t really a problem. The reason is that the upper and lower levels still have transverse seating, rather than longitudinal seating as in normal metros (even the Metro here has transverse seating). At the peak, most of the crowding is in the vestibules on the middle levels, where there is a lot of standing space.
An Australian forum of transport enthusiasts and occasionally professionals.
Another one which pretty much says the same thing.
This guy does seem to be a transport professional so I do think what he’s writing about holds weight.
Ooops, wrong link.
That is more or less true and is not inconsistent with what I wrote. Those orbital lines are designed with multiple goals including feeders to the major stations on radial RER so as to get banlieusians out of their cars (I’m ashamed to admit that I am not aware if any suburban RER stations have Park n Ride facilities? But anyway it is well known that you’ve got to stop people getting into their cars at all because most of them will then tend to drive all the way.) Tramways are all orbital.
And “Grand Paris Express” refers to all modes though Metro is most prominent (M4, M11 & M14 radial extensions; new M15 thru M18 orbitals) there are extensions to RER-E (& improvements to B, C & D) and extensions to T4 & T8. This also shows the sense in which I deploy the terms for the different types–though in some senses they are all “metro”, the nature and function of M15 etc in the plan are clear enough. The T tramways are light-rail on shared roads while M-metro is light-rail on their exclusive ROW (I don’t know how much is underground).
Re duplex trains, the same blogger source you cited also said:
He agrees that duplex makes sense on long runs such as Baulkham HIlls which is where the NW Metro is passing (unless I have my geography wrong?). Oh, and the strange comment on double-deck buses: has he ever been to London or Hong Kong (which has double-deck buses and trams; I always try to get the front seat on top for the panoramic views and slightly out of the crush). When London commissioned a completely new bus design during Boris’ reign, there was much gnashing of teeth over whether to remain with double-deckers. The new design is a double-decker (though not electric as Boris rashly promised; he also promised those open rear “porches” allowing people jump on and off as pax wished but of course that was squashed flat by OHS.)
It is he who is making a superficial “intuitive” judgement, and unfounded assumption, on this tricky issue. I mean why does he think the Paris planners went from earlier 4-door designs to 3-door in the most modern incarnation of RER-A? (And yes, somewhat wider doors). Incidentally, as mentioned earlier, those transverse seats are what I like about Paris transit. Of course the argument is that more people can be squeezed in (standing) with longitudinal seating but I am not totally convinced of that since the vestibule area is well-designed for that. And again, the numbers of pax on both metro and RER for Paris don’t lie, though that blogger continues to insist that despite RER-A carrying 300m pax he “knows” that a single-decker could outperform it!
The main reasons why most cities don’t adopt duplex trains (even as they get very crowded) is that they can’t physically fit them into their systems (tunnel & bridge clearances etc). And even for new lines “interoperability” is often a consideration. Of course neither was the case for Sydney NW-Metro; indeed they threw interoperability under the proverbial bus, which is why all the experts are so angry about this dumbest of decisions.
Incidentally you can play the game of searching on blogs for what opinions that reinforce your own while ignoring all the named experts who have gone on record claiming the opposite (as detailed in my earlier posts) but it is not convincing.
The RER A and RER B have almost the same annual ridership per peak hourly train. Don’t forget, the RER B shares tracks with the RER D. The RER B is more crowded, though.
Right, so you acknowledge that the metro expansion will fulfil the role the RER and Transillen would normally. RER E is indeed also being extended but that’s a separate project. The cost of that extension is not part of the metro expansion package.
You highlighted that the “blogger” wrote that the bus to Baulkham Hills is ideal for double decker. I can’t speak for that person too much but you are unfortunately bring very selective there and you conveniently ignoring the low turnover and express part of his comment. The express bus to Baulkham Hills is indeed low turnover.
However, the new metro line will be of a different nature stopping at every station along the line, yes every station, so it’s not express and there is also a high turnover across this line from Norwest to the CBD with lots of people getting on and off at various points. In other words, metro suits this line. Remember he also says that double decker buses and trains is suited to low turnover lines where there is one, single big spot to leave or disembark. In the new metro corridor, there will be various spots like this.
You mentioned that interoperability is often a consideration (although sometimes it doesn’t work out). The government under different parties absolutely also considered interoperability here but they decided against it, it was after all originally and double decker and plans also went back and forth. Considering that it was originally and it went back and forth as double decker, I can’t see how your managing to spin it as if it wasn’t considered, very desperate. Those experts may have resigned, but as I said earlier, I feel that they were more holding transport back rather than open to pushing for anything radical.
As for “blogger”, I never knew that forum posters were bloggers, I guess you learn something everyday. Also, that blogger I linked has worked in transport for decades.
Honestly, why are you even a “journalist” when you select you facts and ignore others?
No, I wrote that it performs multiple functions. I doubt it will cause a drop in RER ridership though perhaps might stabilize it. After all a lot of the people using the RER are going to the centre or across to the other side and this won’t change; and the number able to take a orbital route alternative will probably be matched by new transit pax drawn to the radial routes by these new feeders (ie. out of their cars).
As to Baulkham Hills, I wasn’t talking about bus. Obviously a bus service to an exurban sprawl suburb is hardly going to be popular or very effective, more likely a nightmare. It’s something like 45km from central Sydney and almost as far from anywhere else you’d actually want to go to! (as I say I am ignorant about this but vaguely recall it is part of the “Hills district” way out in the wilds of outer outer NW Sydney?). The point is that the NW Metro that will serve these distant areas is like the RER and people will certainly want to sit for the long trek … wherever.
At least you got those facts right. It was “government” (specifically politicians) who made that decision, not all the experts who recommended against it.
Well I am a scientist (biomedical researcher) with a side interest in other things which I write about and sometimes get published in the regular press (ie. not just online blogging). The thing is that I assess the credibility and source of stuff I read (as a scientist it is a learned and lifelong habit). Amongst those I have cited in these posts include Arup (you know, the built the Opera House amongst a hundred other incredible engineering feats), Michael Stove (former NSW trans employee & transport expert/blogger who chooses not to be anonymous), Jacob Saulwick (longtime transport journalist for the major Sydney serious newspaper), Professor Keith Still (Brit. transport expert & consultant), Howard Collins (head of Sydney Trains!!) and the ABC-FactCheck unit (yeah, I know, bunch of lefties you can safely ignore, amirite?). Oh and well-known urbanists Alon Levy and author Mark Pendergrast. Also Crikey’s transport writer (and former Fairfax journalist on transport for half a century) Ben Sandilands (he writes mostly on aviation but also on HSR and trains; he lived in Paris half a lifetime ago so I tend to take his views more seriously as he has that rare thing, great and wide experience). Of course I too have lived in Paris (and UK, and Tokyo and San Francisco etc).
Whereas you are relying upon one or two anonymous bloggers who cannot get basic facts correct, plus some conservative politicians who historically hate public transit (and even more, the people who work for them) (and some of these pollies have resigned due to ICAC inquiries!).
I think that we have worn out the welcome of our host, Alon.
For the record, I think that the Eastern US should retire the bilevels when possible and only procure single-level trains from now on. Bilevels are nice when in-vehicle capacity is more important than dwell times; this is really not the case in North America, with denser CBDs than what Paris has (the job density in the Paris CBD is on the order of 50,000/km^2, that of Midtown is 200,000/km^2), and constrained commuter rail station locations making it difficult to spread the load across many different stations. The big advantage of the RER A rolling stock is that it has wide vestibules for standees, which RATP should procure in its single-levels on the Metro too (and, FFS, join the advanced world and do longitudinal seating).
Yes, I think we have too. Bye bye, it was nice talking to you but I stand my comments and you’ll probably stick with yours. Unfortunately, only one side one and we all know which one it was, I’m looking forward to the opening. I have great respect for SMH and ABC but I can’t agree with them on the metro. For the record, here’s what Howard Collins has said about the matter, http://disq.us/p/13xxzyf
Again, bye bye.
*won, not one.
Since Alon here offered his view on single level vs bilevel trains and job density. I’ll leave this map of job density in Sydney here in case anyone wants to make up their own minds.
Another thing I would address though, that “blogger” I linked to isn’t exactly fully anonymous. I’ve already provided
a link earlier but here’s another one, http://www.busaustralia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=82902
Also, if you believe that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, why did you, for example, not question your source that the tunnel diameter was only 3-4 cm different compared to DD when any critical thinker will know that that number sounds so trivially low. Turns out my 40cm difference was wrong as well. The tunnel diameter of DD ECRL is 7.2m, Sydney Metro’s diameter is 6m, that’s a 120cm diameter difference. As far as I’m aware, you didn’t really “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, call me nitpicking here, but that statement is a very serious one to make and you really failed it.
In reply to: Alon Levy 2017/08/16 – 02:08
It strikes me you are not being consistent here. Since the duplex RER’s actually perform with just about the shortest headways one could desire (ok M1 has 85 seconds) how does your argument compute? And for all the difference in density of workers in those places, they still don’t approach the pax density delivered by RER-A (or M1) (unless those individual stations do?). So what do you gain by retiring bilevels?
You have the advantage over me by living in Paris right now, but I recall all the Paris transit, including RER-B and Metro have suitable vestibules and it serves them well; in fact it allows wider double doors for egress–while still allowing pax seating when not crowded (ie. via strapontin). I was looking at London’s Jubilee line (their most ‘modern’ line?) and their first trains didn’t have satisfactory performance because of the narrow doors; they eventually replaced them (new carriages built by Alstom, longitudinal seating only; but the Jubilee Line only runs 12 tph and then only at peak hours). Alon, does the transverse 2+1 seating (on M1 & M14 I believe) still irritate you?
Again, it seems to me that there is some peculiar Anglosphere abhorrence of duplex, going on here. Kind of the bungalow (Bill) phenomenon? Weird. Like we still have some evolutionary memory of falling out of trees (indeed we do have that, but mostly we allow our rational minds to over-ride it.) It must have been a lucky accident that in the early 60s (or late 50s) those planning the next-gen Sydney Metro trains visited Paris (and presumably the entire world of rapid transit, certainly London) and chose those duplex trains. I think Sydney today proves they were correct. It will be decades before we can pass judgement on NW-Metro.
I note the others, though of various configurations, in Chicago, Caltrain, Montreal (of course, they follow Paris they way we follow London; they get the better deal!).
You have just given a textbook example of nitpicking. How does it materially affect the argument whether it is 3-4cm, 40cm or whatever. Answer: it doesn’t. At all. The relevant feature is that it was made sufficiently smaller specifically to exclude the standard Sydney duplex trains, forever. Now, if I was writing something for formal publication I would have certainly verified it (or used the journalistic trick of being vague such as “small enough to exclude ….”) but in a quick blog I am just trying to avoid material errors. You also need to exercise some judgement on what is and is not important; for example your querying on the tph of RER-A or whatever (it is so high that even if you were correct did it really materially affect the argument? (again, no, you were just nitpicking and pointlessly and wrongly too)–and Alon convinced me otherwise and he looks at this stuff as part of his profession, and he happens to live in Paris).
And BTW, just remember that the politicians claimed it saved $200m in boring costs but the experts said that was more than lost by the non-standard platforms that would have to be modified. 6m seems small for a heavy-rail system! It is probably seriously constraining future options and might be additional reason why all those experts objected so much (but entirely speculation on my part; I am not interested in this particular feature to chase it down.)
As it happens I think I was remembering (from just having read it) the difference between the CrossRail tunnel (though I haven’t verified that… because it too isn’t material to this particular argument).
I agree, the size doesn’t matter, but you said that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, to which I say, you clearly haven’t and I was just pointing that out as an example. When you said that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, then clearly it is not unreasonable for me to point out those errors and call you out for it. If you did not intend to uphold to such a blanket statement on this blog, then you should not write it. Simple as that.
Also, I really don’t want to go into again, but your sources that come out against the Metro because of the arrangement at Chatswood (including Arup and cited by Micheal Stove) assumed that the Metro would run 8 cars every 5 minutes as it was originally, this has now changed 6 cars every 4 minutes, which will help spread the crowds coming out of the metro at Chatswood compared to the original plan (so it’ll be less than 40%), so the people who miss the first connecting DD train at Chatswood should now be reduced and there’ll be less pressure on the first connecting train. Just to make sure, your linked Micheal Stove comment on Crikey was on June 2014, the plan was changed on September 2014, so Arup and his comment is outdated by 3 months. Also, the ABC FactCheck assumed SD capacity was a converted existing line rather than a new corridor, as is being built. So I just want to point those two things out.
What does this change in the long run once the metro to the city opens? Nothing! So I still stand by the metro.
Also, your part about “seriously constraining future options”. While this may be true in the short-medium term, I would have to disagree in the longer term, I say just build a new tunnel, especially if it’s a faster express tunnel. As I explained earlier in another comment, underground stations, not the tunnels are the most expensive part of rail projects. If you need to make changes in the longer term, you’ll probably be doing it for extra capacity and a new tunnel does that best (a new express tunnel will help speed up trains and cheaper to build along with extra capacity) and you’ll want to avoid shutting down a line that’s been a part of the urban fabric for many decades just to convert it especially when you’re building so many new apartments in the north west corridor.
The tunnelling contract for the metro north west was only 1 billion, a fraction if the over 8 billion cost. That’s just my view on long term planning.
Also, before you comment on the Bankstown Line conversion shutdown. Do keep in mind that the Bankstown Line is a quiet line compared to others in Sydney, that doesn’t mean it won’t be disruptive but the Bankstown corridor is less dense today compared to the north west corridor of the future, the amount of new apartments being built there is insane. Bankstown corridor will also the same treatment, especially post metro.
That is precisely the argument all the experts made, and which I presented in one of my first posts, and have repeated in several posts since, including in the post you are replying to! A mere $200m difference (which was then lost on station platform changes). The whole point is to avoid building in inflexibility, especially when it doesn’t save any money. London CrossRail hasn’t, even though their first-gen trains will be single-deck. (But like almost everything else the Brits do in infrastructure post-war, they nickel-and-dime it so it ends up costing vastly more later, with meantime massive indirect costs due to poor performance. Look at HS1 for Eurostar (12 year delay), HS2, M25 (built 20 years too late and then inadequate so the next 40 years was a nightmare of road repairs and eventual adding an extra lane), half their entire motorway system was built with poor-quality “wrong type” of concrete such that by the 80s they were rebuilding half of the critical supports (concrete cancer). Another current example in Sydney is that the Chinese have proposed the next cross-harbour (car) tunnel (I forget but assume this is for NorthConnex?) should be the biggest tunnel they can currently bore because for the relatively small extra cost (they claimed only $100m but you know it doesn’t matter; it is an increment) it would be a dual-level (hah!) tunnel that would provide for two or more train tracks. As Alon says about that single tunnel between Gare du Nord and Chatelet-les-Halles, if only … (but the works they did build back then in the 70s was pretty incredible so I think we can cut them some slack).
So, you’re agreeing with me. It’s only taken about 10,000 words!
Montreal, for some time now, buys whatever NJTransit happens to be ordering up at the moment. Which is usually something from Bombardier.
Am I agreeing with you? You could say partly (only on cost of tunnels really) but mostly no, as I’ve explained, if you need to expand, build a new tunnel. Keep the newly built tunnel fit for trains that is intended to run on it, that is rapid transit, not double decker trains. The new north west line is a stopping line with trains calling at all stations along the way with high turnover at major employment centers and they have quite high employment densities, which Alon covered earlier. Double decker trains are not suited to this job, I wouldn’t run double deckers on this stopping line under any scenario, even if the 45km distance is problematic as I do realize.
Distance should not be the only determining factor in whether a line is “fit for purpose”, taking that as the only justification of whether a line is SD or DD is incredibility narrow minded especially when modern commuting patterns are so different to the old one where downtown was only big employment center. Such is not the case on this north-west line, which as I say again, has high turnover at employment centers. Also, Alon said earlier than a job density of 200,000/km^2 justified SD trains, Sydney’s employment density in the CBD really exceeds that, even in 2006 as on the map. I can’t speak for Alon but I would like to point that out.
Flexibility is a moot point when the changes you want to make decades down the line will involve a very disruptive process, that’s also why the government decided against converting the existing Harbour Bridge line to metro even though it was cheaper instead of a new line, yes that’s right, they did consider converting the existing line before deciding on a new tunnel, hence that report the ABC FactCheck used (and is now out of date). Any future decision to convert a future north-west line to DD will involve the same thought process and by that time, the north-west will look completely different by then, much denser. Which is why I say build for what the line being designed for, rapid transit and if you really need to make changes, build a new tunnel that’s less disruptive.
Also, to expand on my point of the Arup report being out of date. I’ve dug up more info on the assumption made by Arup initally and extrapolated to the new operating pattern. If Arup’s results on the old 5 minute 8 car scenario are correct, then I estimate that 20% of passengers will miss the first connecting train under the new 4 minute 6 car, down from 40%. A significant reduction, although not perfect, but as I said earlier, there will be some pain in the initial period.
Also, have a look at this submission from the respected Cox Architecture (home to people like veteran planner Bob Meyer), the metro plans on p.28 will really get your head spinning and I’m not too sure about it either. https://gsc-public-1.s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/submissions/CoxArchitecture_Open_Submission.pdf
Also, you’re confusing NorthConnex and Beaches Link. Which leads me to ask, what the hell are you even doing anyway? What am I doing talking to someone who get their projects confused?
I am not quite sure what you are confusing here. But obviously RER can perfectly serve the route of NW-Metro. It’s not even really related to duplex trains in whatever sense mean; the main factors are that the duplex trains allows more people to be seated which is important for those long routes, and can handle a pax load that a Sydney commuter line is unlikely to ever need (300m pax pa; more than the entire Australian rail traffic), ie. it would be future-proofed. As to your confusion on density of stations, RER (or Sydney current duplex trains) can cope with any of those scenarios and I don’t know why you seem to think otherwise. None of the experts I cited thought otherwise. It is true that for the most efficient operation for long routes such as NW Sydney it is best to have widely spaced stations: thus the Paris RER network is 1,411 km with 452 stations which is an average spacing of 3.1 km (this is probably not quite current) and this mostly reflects the suburban sections (33 stations are within Paris). This compares with the 400m spacing of Paris Metro. But inside Paris some parts of the RER have much closer spacing eg. RER-A from Auber to Chatelet is about 1.7km; the southern part of RER-B (Cité-Universitaire/Denfert-Rochereau/Port-Royal/Luxembourg/StMichel-NotreDame) spans 4.1km with 5 stations which is an average spacing of 1.0km (but Port-Royal to Luxembourg almost touch and is similar to metro spacing at approx. 400m).
Make of that what you will. But clearly this can serve both dense city areas and sparse suburbia. The densest part of NW-Metro that concerns you is Epping-MacquarieUniv-MacquariePark-NorthRyde spanning approx. 6km thus av. spacing about 2km. Most of the rest of the line would have spacing at least as great as the RER average of 3km. So it is mysterious what your point or your worry is?
Again the issue is that there was nothing to be gained (including cost) by reducing the diameter of the NW Metro tunnel. It would prevent interoperability of the perfectly functional Sydney duplex trains and thus require another type of train set to be made and maintained. It certainly doesn’t deliver any improvement in operational matters (which you seem to imply but don’t explain, at least not coherently to me).
Hah, I came across the infamous “4cm” smaller tunnel reference (citation below). Perhaps this is a typo? Dunno, and as before it is not important enough for me to bother trying to nail down. And no, I don’t dismiss this ABC report because of such an error (all news media is filled with such stuff because none of them can afford proper sub-editing and proofing; and as we speak the Rightard in parliament are trying to remove more funding from the ABC.
The REM appears to be the Quebecois version of Paris-RER. All of the Montreal Metro is already driverless (except for the tiny yellow line) and are the rubber-wheeled type as on most of the Paris Metro. Those trains adirondacker mentioned for the Montreal Metro are the MPM-10 made by Bombardier-Alstom to replace the MP63 which was based on the Paris MP59 (made by the then GEC-Alsthom).
Working yourself into a rage over another ridiculous nitpick. Try focussing on things that matter. As I wrote, it didn’t matter which road and/or rail it was to serve because the point was that a very large bore tunnel was proposed by the Chinese. As the old Australian maxim goes: take a Bex and long lie down.
adirondacker12800, funny that you mentioned Montreal because they’re also converting parts of their commuter rail to the driverless REM metro project.
Except it’s not. Boarding times are incredibly slow (you’ve seen it with the stair video), the whole network is slow, it struggles to move passengers efficiently and on some days, it struggles to get scheduled 20tph because of dwell problems. If you don’t recognise that, then you’re in denial about the state of the network. While it’s not complete shambles, it’s not performing very well. I remember 2 commutes I regularly made in the past that really showed the strain of the DD network.
1. The very bad turnover situation at Town Hall and Central on the T1 (especially in the contra-peak direction, away from the CBD in AM) with regular dwell time blow outs delaying trains by 3-6 minutes and sometimes they decide to “solve” it by diverting some Western trains to Central Terminal and cancelling the Northern leg, this is less often but it does happen.
2. The T1 section between Macquarie Park/University and Epping, that small section, even though it’s 20km away from CBD, is just madness during the peaks with DD trains.
It doesn’t change my mind that the metro was the right decision. I know quite a lot about the RER by now, I’ve been reading lots about it in this debate (because it’s only example that gets cited) and I’ve explained my views on seating.
Very true, but I really expect you to know this stuff, I really do.
All you have “proven” is your ability to deny reality. How do you think RER-A can deliver 60,000 pax per hour (in both directions) and 300m pax p.a.? If Sydney trains can’t manage even one tenth of that without problems, then it clearly has nothing to do with the nature of the trains but how it is operated. It won’t matter if they are single or duplex–just like the London Jubilee line runs at a mere 12 tph versus double that for Paris-M1 or RER-A (and B, D etc as Alon has written).
I’ll indirectly agree with you on one thing: we don’t know how to run a rapid-transit system. Clearly the way to get better performance is to close those bloody doors. Give fair warning (approaching stations, while at stations) then just bloody close them … on time. You might get a few weeks of outcry but people quickly learn to do what they need to do. I can’t stand using London & British trains when you are sitting on them (having waited much longer for the train in the first place compared to Paris, and of course paid at least 2x for the ticket) and they just keep those doors open … and open… and open. After a while I just want to shout “FFS close the damned doors and let’s get this thing moving”! Do you know what Southern Rail (the privatised largest rail operator in UK) did to “improve” their appalling “on time” statistics (for which they get fined)? They reduced the number of trains they run! You can blather about stairs and you can provide far less seating to force passengers to ride tens of kilometres standing up (and thus closer to those exits!) but the end result will be more people choosing to stay away and stick to their cars. And of course the conservatives will say: look, we gave them trains and they didn’t use them; no more trains for you!
When Sydney brought in those French duplex trains in 1964, they should have brought some French managers with them. Instead, to this day we keep importing superannuated Brits to “help” (mis-)manage things and so we get stuck with the same peculiar anglosphere f-witted approaches (“mustn’t grumble”). We (ie you) deserve what we get. And it won’t matter if they are single or double deck. Same reason our major cities have poor transit and why we don’t have HSR linking our cities (despite talking about it since the early 80s), and why we have the appalling privatised monopoly of Sydney airport etc etc. It’s why Paris can operate at-capacity commuter trains at 27 tph, 60,000 pax per hour and 300m per year, and we (or London or NYC in fact) can’t run a train service at a fraction of those numbers–while at higher cost of course.
…the Jubilee line runs 30 tph, not 12 (source: London Underground timetables). Where did you get 12 from?
Alon, I was shocked when I saw it, here:
Jubilee line services are:
12 tph Stratford – Stanmore
6 tph Stratford – Willesden Green
6 tph Stratford – Wembley Park
6 tph North Greenwich – Stanmore
But I guess I must have mis-read this table. Strange way to list. You’re suggesting it must be additive (this lot adds up to 30, presumably for a central part of the line)? I was looking because the Jubilee is in fact driverless and the most modern system in London (?). (it is driverless but they still have someone sit in the driver’s cabin.)
According to this post on Skyscrapercity, Jubilee line has capacity for 34 tph but is running less than that for now.
No need to guess how I found it, although, as Michael would point out, he is anonymous.
I haven’t denied anything about the RER, just that the metro is better suited and Sydney’s DD is not up to scratch. I’m just ignoring your RER comments as best as I can because that’s not the type of system we have. If built for DD, it would have used the existing carriages rather than RER A carriages. Here’s another comment that’s not anti-metro from an engineer if you must. https://twitter.com/roodave/status/889703904216088576
Well, if there’s a silver lining, we’ll be getting rapid transit experience sooner or later.
I’ll tell you a story here so relax and don’t get angry (also, this is massively simplified). Sydney did not bring in French DD trains, they weren’t even the ones to introduce the idea to Sydney. Rather, and quite surprisingly, this was done by an American company called Budd. Budd was aware of the Paris DD carriages and when NSWGR asked Budd to design new cars, they handed over a bunch of information and Budd found that DD carriages could fit in Sydney. So Budd roughly designed some cars for Sydney and handed it over to a person named John Dunn who brushed up Budd’s DD design for Sydney. The first DD cars were built by Tulloch but they were trailer cars and were not powered, instead, they were coupled with SD cars for traction. Try and imagine a rickety old version of these new RER cars (not for A of course). https://i0.wp.com/railcolornews.com/wp-content/uploads/alstombombardier_rerng_sncf04alstom.jpg
Anyway, more on John Dunn, after a stint at Tulloch, he went over to Comeng and worked on a DD EMU design, a first in the world. Back then, there was no “real” DD EMU (unless you count Chicago Gallery cars), not even the Paris DDs that Budd was inspired by were EMUs. A contract came up and Comeng won and so did a DD design. This was the world’s first DD EMU and it was in Sydney, today, they’re known as the V-sets. The problem was that there was not DD EMU at the time in the world so they ran into big trouble building it and getting the right equipment, no one in the world was willing to supply equipment for what was back then such an experimental and bespoke train design but bespoke parts for the new train from Japan was eventually found. After that, Comeng won the contract for what is known as the S-sets. Around this time, Paris was still using loco-hauled double deckers and the RER was not built yet. A French delegation went to Sydney to inspect these new DD EMUs which they did not have, the French were impressed and like the EMU vs their loco-hauled DDs and Comeng sold Sydney’s designs to the French. The French made their own DD EMUs using John Dunn’s designs, which eventually evolved into the 3 door RER A trains. And in case you ask, did John Dunn know about Sydney’s DD dwell time problems, yes he did, he expressed those concerns when Melbourne was thinking about DD trains.
So basically, the story goes, Paris loco-hauled DD –> Budd tells Sydney about Paris –> Sydney evolves loco-hauled DD to EMU DD –> Paris EMU DD based on Sydney design. Sydney’s duplex trains are not French but John Dunn’s. Interestingly, John Dunn also went on to help MTA LIRR design the C1 double deckers. It was originally supposed to be built by Comeng but they pulled the plug and Comeng sold the designs to some Japanese company and the Japanese company won the LIRR C1 contract. For the C3, the designers got Dunn involved again. So that’s the story of Sydney’s double deckers. I thought I’ll just tell you that and I think you’ll like it as well and I get a chance to nitpick on your incorrect 1964 statement. If you want to know more, have a look at John Dunn’s 5 volume book, I borrowed it from a library which happened to have it, you can buy it too, I think you’ll like it. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that John Dunn did all this but it doesn’t change my mind about the metro.
Sydney tried that, they hired lots of platform marshalls to make sure it happened, except it didn’t fully solve the problem.
Well, that story of John Dunn etc is interesting though I wish you had given dates, and a full reference for his book(s) so I can track it down. This back and forth of technology, ideas and IP is not uncommon so I would be interested to see the story more fully documented. An example s when Thatcher closed down BR’s APT research program in the early 80s, the tilt-train IP was sold (cheaply) to the Italians who used it in their own tilt-train project Pendolino. Of course today Alstom now owns that and so some of that technology is paradoxically going to find its way back in future British HSR trains! But it would take a forensic engineer to work out who contributed what… What I’m wondering is if it isn’t a bit simplistic to state “Sydney’s duplex trains are not French but John Dunn’s.” Ideas are one thing, even IP, but making working end-products is another matter.
My source is as follows, from
Transport: An Australian History
by Robert Lee; December 1, 2010.
Admittedly it is not much, and he doesn’t give any source. He does give sources for lots of his material but not this. I’ve just gone thru his bibliography (just in case) and can’t find anything relevant.
Note, of course back then this wouldn’t have been RER but I assumed (no evidence except the trains on RER-C or at least the ones in use in about 1980) it may have pre-dated the RER, ie. the two SNCF suburban rail lines that were joined up to create RER-C in 1979 (ie. the 900m section between Invalides and Gare d’Orsay). As Wiki says “The first RER rolling stock in fact predated the formation of the RER by 40 years, with the Z 23000 stock used on the ligne de Sceaux (which was subsequently integrated into RER B) from 1937 until February 27, 1987.”
Certainly when I first saw it (probably 1980 or 1981) the duplex trains on RER-C seemed quite old and indeed, as I wrote earlier, reminiscent of Sydney (even though I didn’t have any idea of this history). The Wiki entry on RER-C doesn’t have much of this kind of history and almost none on the rolling stock (except their codes, waiting for someone to write the wiki entries) but it seems to me the later duplexes are a quite separate development.
As to loading etc. using marshals is absurd (even if the Japanese use them) except perhaps as a transient learning/teaching exercise ideally using stock whips. So, what do you think can account for the fact that the French can use duplex trains at extremely high boarding/deboarding rates, even with their apparently horrible stairs, but we anglos can’t? (I’m tempted to launch into a Pythonesque ‘feelthy pig-dogs” tirade ..)
…Smacks forehead!… Of course, it’s our obesity! (France has the lowest, as well as cardiovascular disease, in the developed world except for Japan & Korea.)
I don’t know what Australian bilevels are like, but I’ve seen French, Swedish, and American bilevels. French ones have wide vestibules, even on the TER, let alone on the RER A. The TERs run the gamut on corridor width, but the RER A has relatively unobstructed corridors on the upper and lower levels, even with 2+2 seating, and triple-wide doors. American trains don’t have that. New Jersey Transit’s bilevels have wide vestibules and double-wide doors, but the upper and lower levels are cramped, even though the seating is 2+2 as in France and the trains are wider, so it takes way more time to get from the upper and lower levels to the exit. The MBTA’s bilevels have 2+3 seating and are less cramped than NJT’s trains, which have to fit in the tunnels to Penn Station, but they have narrow single-wide doors at the very end of the car. Swedish bilevels are somewhere in between in how easy it is to get in and out of them, but I think the regular commuter rail doesn’t use them, only the longer-range lines.
Reply to Alon on bilevels:
Right. I can’t really remember the old-style Sydney duplexes (like the old RER-C) but the current ones strike me as quite similar to the new RER-As. Quite wide vestibules with wide double-door openings. Though I don’t live in Sydney to have much experience (and in any case tend to stay off trains in peak hours) I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t perform as well. One has to be careful about complaints because the number of users has really shot up over the past decade (due to city growth and terrible road congestion) while the network has barely grown (ie. any crowding etc is due to inaction on improving the network not performance existing trains etc) Obviously I am biased in this, but I think the whole issue is a beat-up by certain people for rather obscure reasons. (Well, the reasons the politicians dumped them for the NW-Metro are not obscure but entirely obvious and political.)
I’ll just leave links to Book Depository here where you can find more info.
Vol 1: https://www.bookdepository.com/Comeng-John-Dunn/9781877058424
Vol 2: https://www.bookdepository.com/Comeng-1955-1966-v-2-John-Dunn/9781877058738
Vol 3: https://www.bookdepository.com/Comeng-John-Dunn/9781877058905
Vol 4: https://www.bookdepository.com/Comeng-John-Dunn/9781922013514
Vol 5: https://www.bookdepository.com/Comeng-John-Dunn/9781922013521
The French visited Sydney in 1974. According to Wikipedia in français, the oldest Paris DD EMU dates from 1982. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_5600
Before this, duplex trains were loco-hauled, which is what you could have saw. That or you visit in 1982 and not 80/81. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiture_de_banlieue_%C3%A0_deux_niveaux
Right, but I didn’t specify EMUs. The old RER-Cs were probably/presumably loco-driven. So it seems to me the original observation (by Robert Lee) can be true. And Sydney has run duplexes as far back as my memory goes (probably the late 60s or early 70s) which were presumably loco-driven too? My point was about this style of train, not the engineering or motive mechanisms per se, and whether they represent an advantage in terms of pax numbers. Clearly those early (loco-driven) duplexes of RER-C (and possibly of the SNCF lines that predated it; as I recall the history of C, it didn’t involve many changes, unlike RER-A, B which were all-new) must have been considered successful for their next-gen (EMU) replacements to follow the same pattern and then later for the RER-A and D.
Tx for the refs.
“presumably loco-driven too?”, Sydney has never run loco-hauled double decker trains. The earlier unpowered DD cars were always coupled with single decker EMU power cars, not locos like Paris.
Like this: https://farm6.static.flickr.com/5790/23034572216_f5e43b9480_b.jpg
Which is similar to this, kind of: https://i0.wp.com/railcolornews.com/wp-content/uploads/alstombombardier_rerng_sncf04alstom.jpg
“what do you think can account for the fact that the French can use duplex trains at extremely high boarding/deboarding rates”
One, will be the fact that they have an extra door and big, wide platforms. Another one and probably more significant one will be that the Metro provides supplementary local service in Paris, the RER has wider stop spacing even in the center of town. Sydney DD trains stop pretty tightly in some places compared to the RER, particularly in the CBD+North Syd. This means that you’ll have people using the train as if it was the Paris Metro even though it’s not and often these passengers don’t move up and down the stairs blocking passenger exchange at the doors (the worst).
Usually longer stop spacing is associated with longer dwell time, though. For example, on the RER A, if you work in the CBD, you’re probably getting off at Auber, whereas on a line like M1 or M3 there are multiple closely-spaced stations you can use, and a secondary station might be closer to your destination, which means fewer total boardings and alightings at the busiest stations.
I understand you, but what I’m trying to get here that because there’s no metro and only commuter rail, there’s no separation and there’s nothing that provides supplementary service, this puts a lot more pressure on the commuter rail to perform some functions of a metro tightly spaced in certain parts of the network (like the CBD or Epping-Macquarie Park) which Sydney’s cars were primarily not designed for while also doing suburban RER-type work simultaneously. So imagine if Auber had the RER B, you would need to allocate dwell time for those passengers, and then on top of that more dwell time more passengers doing the equivalent of a metro trip and with only 2 doors.
Also, the job density in Sydney CBD is way higher than Paris. So one station, even if more tightly spaced than Paris, will serve more jobs.
Urgh, “So imagine if Auber had the RER B, you would need to allocate dwell time for those passengers, and then on top of that more dwell time more passengers doing the equivalent of a metro trip and with only 2 doors”.
It should read “So imagine if Auber’s RER A had what Sydney had, you would need to allocate dwell time for those passengers, and then on top of that more dwell time more passengers doing the equivalent of a metro trip and with only 2 doors. … Also, the job density in Sydney CBD is way higher than Paris. So one station, even if more tightly spaced than Paris, will serve more jobs (in say 500m of the station).”
No, Untangled, Alon is correct (and beat me to make the same comment).
The RER is carrying more pax and has to deliver/pick up them at far fewer stations–the opposite of your proposition. Also, I doubt this statement stands up: “the job density in Sydney CBD is way higher than Paris.” Especially in La Defense which is the biggest most concentrated biz district in Europe (which makes it multiples of Sydney’s which in fact is spread across at least two centres (Nth Syd).)
As to your explanation of how the RER duplexes outperform Sydney: “they have an extra door and big, wide platforms”. First, the latest iteration of the new trains for RER-A reduced the doors from 4 to 3. (Are you changing your mind about “4 doors better than 3”?) Second, you have rejected this as unsuitable for NW-Metrro (for reasons that have never been convincing). Third, Parisians do use the RER the same as they use the Metro within Paris (esp. as the tickets & passes don’t distinguish)–for example between Chatelet-les-Halles (the biggest metro station in the world) and Gare du Nord (the busiest mainline train station in Europe; RER-B & D deliver you directly under the bowels of the station compared to most of the Metros which involve a long correspondance). So your “these passengers don’t move up and down the stairs blocking passenger exchange at the doors (the worst)” may be true in your first assumption but not in the second–they clearly don’t under-perform and for the reason you’ve given, large vestibules and wide doors! By this 4th iteration the planners knew precisely what issues they had to deal with which is why their trains perform with the demanding job.
Back to the question about RER-C: you are saying that Sydney introduced duplex trains (in 1964 according to Robert Lee?) that were EMU, but Paris pre-RER-C trains were loco-driven duplex? You say that EMU-duplex trains were only introduced in Paris after 1982? Perhaps I am wrong but I remain convinced that the duplex trains I saw in Paris (whether just before or just after 1982) were quite old (the history suggests that SNCF didn’t upgrade these trains upon conversion of these two lines into RER-C—it was a “minimal” conversion.). By comparison I remember the RER-A and B trains of the same epoch as being quite modern. If this is not true then it requires both my memory of early-80s Paris to be very faulty (fair enough, but …) and for Robert Lee to be very wrong in his recent book (admittedly unreferenced, unsourced info). BTW, French Wiki says those new Z5600 duplexes were not introduced on RER-C until 1984 (they were on other SNCF transilien lines; I could well have my times wrong but the nature of the trains is a strongish memory of “like Sydney”.).
Incidentally, the RER and Sydney duplexes are far superior to those US trains–but I would point out that they make those gallery jobs (like the Chicago trains, only 1+1 on upper gallery) specifically to provide seating for more of their suburban (longer distance) commuters, ie. rather than increasing capacity.
I really don’t know the answer to your question then, you asked my what I thought of it. You should ask the people in RER. Again, the best explanation I have is that Sydney is using the DD trains as a closely spaced metro in the city because the stops are closer together than RER and it’s the only line (especially on the T1 across the Harbour where there’s problems) compared to the RER where it parallels Metro lines, so there’s a lot of passengers on the Sydney train (as a proportion but not in absolute terms, whereas it would be split RER-Metro in Paris). That’s just what I think of it, I’m not using anyone’s argument here, unless you have a better explanation.
It is he most concentrated in Europe but that’s not saying much. Apart from skyscrapers, there aren’t much other building around, it’s very “spacey” with lots of concrete. Apparently, the job density in La Defense is only over 800/ha, 80,000/km^2, slightly higher than Central Paris but not extremely dense at all, far from it considering all the skyscrapers. http://www.ateliers.org/IMG/pdf/3_session_book_eng_defense2050.pdf
No, I was comparing Sydney doors (2) to Paris doors (3).
Correct and if you’re not convinced by it, then by this stage, I’m not going to bother and the ship has sailed anyway.
As an express metro, yes but not as a stopping metro, see response to first quote.
I’ll take that question as a rhetorical question. Honestly, I can’t answer that question, you’ll need to ask the French to confirm it or check your diary. If you say that the duplex trains you saw were quite old, then they probably were and hence loco-hauled but I ain’t too sure.
That is almost too weird to address. What the questions were directed at is why you think the RER (or similar Sydney duplex) is not suitable or up to the job of what NW-Metro is designed for. There is no doubt in my mind or all of those experts I cited that it (or the current Sydney duplex trains) not only can do it, but would be better (more seated pax for their longer journeys; potential much higher capacity). But here you continue to speak of the RER as if it doesn’t actually do what we all know it does do rather well (RER-A delivers 60,000 pax/h both directions). It is you who has no explanation for why you continue to dispute it, and claim false or weird reasons as to why the NSW conservatives junked the existing trains.
La Defense has 180,000 workers. Served by RER-A (one station) and M1 (two stops). Again it is unclear what your problem with these straight-forward numbers are. Do you think Macquarie Park is higher? Or any business area in Oz served by comparable mass transit?
? Another weird remark. But it simply doesn’t matter what you intended to say, when we know the performance of RER-A, and B, C, D all of which carry vastly more pax than any Sydney line, certainly the future NW-Metro. As I patiently explained in an earlier post there are parts of the RER which operate at near-Metro spacing, but really it doesn’t matter, it can work over either arrangement if need be (and it was specifically designed to do exactly that, compared to SNCF suburban trains that terminate at a Paris station). You could make theories about how people may or may not choose to use Metro versus RER in different parts of a network, but again the reality is in the numbers. Certainly an RER-type service, not what is commonly called “Metro” service, is what is appropriate for the NW-Metro and is in fact what is planned, even if the conservatives changed the trains to an inferior type, which may impact negatively if it ever approaches very high pax number. When/if the NW- joins up to the SW-Metro it will be very similar to the 108km of RER-A.
Re the thing about duplex trains on RER-C, it is a secondary question (that to me remains unresolved) that has no importance to the main issues here.
What I’m hinting at the the lack of separation of services, instead, everything is done by DD trains, instead of splitting it up but whatever man. There’s also no doubt that there are experts who liked the metro, hence why it’s even getting built.
Do you have any proof of this potential higher capacity claim? As I understand it, the metro will carry more passengers at the expense of seating. Even then the seating loss vs current capacity isn’t exactly dramatic.
An 8-car DD Sydney train has 900 seats but can only run under 20 tph now, An 8-car (initial system will be with 6 cars) SD Sydney metro train will have 500 seats and will run 30 tph (30 is quite conservative for rapid transit). 900*20=18000 seats compare that to the metro which will have 500*30=15000 seats once everything is completed. So really you’re losing 16-17%, not huge different really. Even if you boosted the DD tph to 24, then that’s 21600 seats, only a 30% reduction of seats compared to DD. Comparing total capacity, currently, the DD trains can only carry 1200 people reliably. Sydney Metro SD can carry 1500 people but let’s suppose they upgrade DD to carry 1500 reliably while doing 24 tph. Then Sydney Metro will still be able to carry more people, 45000 vs 36000. A bigger total capacity while sacrificing just 30% of seats, an acceptable sacrifice, I say.
As for RER, apparently, a 225 meter RER A train only has 950 seats, compared to 900 seats for the 160 meter Waratah, because, you know, doors. Let’s do some unscientific calculations to fit RER A trains into Sydney’s 160 meter platforms and you end up with 675 seats and assume that you can operate 30 tph all the time. You end up with 20000 seats for RER vs 15000 for metro, that’s only 25% less seats, again, I say acceptable. But as I said, 30 tph is on the conservative side for the metro, let’s suppose it could it could 34 tph for metro. You get 20000 (RER) vs 17000 seats (34 tph metro). That’s only 15% less seated capacity RER style trains vs Sydney Metro. 30 tph for Paris DD is really just about all you can squeeze out of it. Sure metro loses out, but it’s really not by much if you run the Metro correctly, a sacrifice I can live with. The seat claim, while true, is really blown out of proportion.
If you want to compare RER style 675 seats to existing 900 seats 160m trains, you end up with 13500 vs 18000 for 20 tph, 16500 vs 21600 seats for 24 tph.
That has 3 on the same line. Uni, Park, North Ryde. But I’m not sure of the relevance of comparing that to La Defense. They have dreams of being like Tysons Corner though.
The Sydney Metro is not planned to branch at all. Branching reduces reliability, which reduces maximum throughput; in Moscow the headway management system can’t deal with branching at all, so none of the Metro lines branches. The RER is highly branched, even the RER A, and has to run as a scheduled railway. For what it is, 30 peak tph is amazing.
Branching reduces does reliability but I’m pretty sure the plan is to eventually branch, well that was the original plan anyway, it could have been quietly dropped. There has been no official announcement on it, the government hasn’t said anything about branching since the plan was first released. If they don’t, then that means more seats.
These letters (in the Weekend Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s top serious newspaper) reveal the new low in how successive governments treat rail travellers (my emphases):
1. CA of Cedar Party: “AC” has again revealed the government’s antiunion bias and its failure to appreciate value the public places on government service provision (“Constance says private sector is transport future”, August 17). Driverless, single-deck, lacking seating, and not integrated with the heavy rail system trains, all highlight this government’s failure to consider all factors. Then again, it makes it simple to sell it off to a profit-take not a service provider.
2. PS, Wonoona: Sorry, I can’t wait for future improvement in rail services Mr Constance. I am more concerned about my travel comfort here and now! I would invite our transport minister to join, if he can gain a foothold, all the tired travellers on an afternoon four-carriage train to Nowra. Squeeze on at, say, Sutherland after changing from a suburban train but do not expect comfort for the next two hours. As one exhausted co-traveller remarked, the only seat you might get is in the toilet.
3. JPC, Leura: Andrew Constance states there will be 24 new express services to the Blue Mountains on weekends. Yet I just received a pamphlet from Sydney Trains stating that all work to deal with issues around the new trains that don’t fit the line will be done on weekends. More express services are needed during the week, but judging by the gloating of the minister over the sacking of rail workers due to technology it is obvious workers are low down the list compared to tourists.
Untangled, if 30 tph is so easy-peasy, perhaps you could name a single rail service in Australia that achieves even close to that? I wonder if you don’t quite grasp what it means. In Paris, on some Metro lines and on the RER it is common to see the departing rear of one train as the next train starts pulling into the same station. When you think about the dwell-time and accel/decel times to meet 30 tph, that is almost inevitable (and of course some RER platforms being 225m long ….). Parisians are so spoiled that they start getting all restive late at night and Sundays when the service reduces to 5minutes or worse! Perhaps there are some lines at peak times in Sydney or Melbourne (I don’t live in either city and avoid peaks when visiting; also let me pre-empt Alon: I don’t believe printed timetables which in the Anglosphere are merely “indicative”, meaning they can’t be held to them and will vary trains as they wish.). It is also why I remain sceptical about 30 tph on London Jubilee line because an abiding memory of London Underground for me has always been the seemingly interminable wait for a train and then the interminable wait for them to shut the doors and move off. (But the Jubilee is driverless and so presumably might be different. I must have used it to get to Canary Wharf but can’t remember–which of course might be a good sign of low irritance!)
There won’t be anything like 30tph on the NW-Metro, however I agree it will inevitably be a branched line (like the RERs) to service more of Sydney’s vast sprawl, and that could mean doubling or tripling of frequency on the inner sections (and harbour tunnel). But at the rate Sydney does this stuff, everyone reading this will be long dead; in the 40 years since RER first opened (1977) Paris has built 5 RER lines which carry >1 billion pax p.a. while Sydney has built the grand total of …. zero (as far as I can tell) and has one line under construction (NW; and the history of trying to get that thing built traces to the 90s).
Driverless, single-deck, lacking seating, and not integrated with the heavy rail system trains
Already addressed this, as I said, it’s only a 15% reduction in seats compared to RER style trains. Fully driverless is not a bad thing. I have to say, the RER A trains carry slightly fewer seats than I thought, I thought it would be around 750 in 160 meters. I’m guessing that the bean counters in the government knew about the RER and did the maths but realized that a Metro could get very close to RER seating per hour, if not match it, and it would save them money too, especially on operating cost.
At least future improvements are happening. As I understand, there has been a surge in ridership beyond forecast from areas beyond the Sydney, especially on the South Coast Line, so that’s the reason why. They’re pretty stretched for cars now but a large order of new trains will begin rolling soon, see below.
Out of all electrified long distance lines in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains line is the only line that does not conform to wide body standards. In the 1990s when the G-set Tangaras (as opposed to normal ones) was being introduced, work was being prepared to upgrade the entire line to wide body standards, unfortunately, the upgrade only went up to Springwood. What we’re getting now is that the government has decided to upgrade the rest of the line in what should have been done in the 1990s.
Did I ever say that it was easy? I did mention that Sydney is struggling with 20 tph.
Click to access wtt-14-jubilee-6-sep-2015.pdf
They’re building the Metro West straight afterward. I think I’ll still be alive then, I wasn’t even born when you first saw the RER C duplex cars.
At risk of flogging this pointless, dead horse debate again, looking back at some older news articles, it appears that the existing metro plans are very closely inspired by, but not a copy of, Dr Garry Glazebrook’s plan, like the metro route from NW to CBD.
Reply to Untangled:
Clearly the topic cannot be so pointless or you wouldn’t continue to flog this undead horse:-)
You continue to pretend that this was a decision made by public servants, transport experts or even DoT, when everyone knows it was purely a 100% political decision and a partisan divisive counter-productive one at that. It won’t save a dime over earlier plans as every transport expert has attested.
I’m not at all sure of what point you are trying to make by the Glazebrook reference. I mean: of course, but so what? There’s a more recent summary in Crikey (a small-circulation but influential e-newspaper that publishes better commentary on infrastructure and transport than the MSM in Australia–well hardly a surprise since 70% of print and 100% of cable-tv is owned by Murdoch; oops, disclosure, I have published maybe 40 articles in said e-journal): (I list the headings of his separate suggestions):
I have a similar listicle but mine is for $1 trillion —and I beat Trump by many years; one trillion is a kind of magical number isn’t it, but it is approximately the real deficit in Oz but must be almost tenfold under the real need in the US? In any case over ten years it would barely exceed 4% of Oz GDP. Infrastructure Australia (a government appointed & funded body) keeps revising upwards their original estimate of a $600bn infrastructure deficit in Australia (and obviously they are inherently conservative or cautious). The problem is that it keeps growing because we don’t do anything about it. (Don’t boast about NW-Metro, it was needed 40 years ago and was first planned in the 90s and brought close to reality by Labor in the late 2000s. Sydney needs about 4x NWMetros. )
Hah, so instead of an old fogie you are a young fogie 🙂 Maybe that is a good sign–with time and experience you might gain wisdom. OTOH being a young fogie usually correlates with a peculiarly inflexible mind. I hope I am wrong.
“You continue to pretend that this was a decision made by public servants, transport experts or even DoT”
Well Rodd Staples seems to be person pushing metro, you’re saying he’s not a transport expert (even if he disagrees with you)? The point of the Glazebrook is that clearly there are people who don’t think a metro for long distances is a terrible idea and the government followed it, I thought it might be interesting to know that. I am aware of his recent plan, his recent plan also sends the Metro West out to the new airport (albeit a “faster” version but still rapid transit with longish journey times), way out into the suburbs. I have spoken to Glazebrook on the plan. But I already know your view, so whatever.
“It won’t save a dime over earlier plans.”
You’re not seriously pretending that fully driverless trains (GoA4) are more expensive than trains with drivers with GoA2, especially in the long run. Seriously? Of course, you mean capital costs are similar, but you still money to operate it right, lots of savings there with GoA4, so if you chose to ignore that saving. But I already know your view anyway, so whatever.
“OTOH being a young fogie usually correlates with a peculiarly inflexible mind.”
I thought it was the other way around considering that it’s mostly the old fogies voting for far-right parties. I actually used to support the DD plan but then over time I warmed up to it (metro isn’t too bad but DD is preferred) and then changed my mind (metro is better DD). Hardly inflexible, just not the way you want it. But if you want to insult young people with that claim, you have wonder why there’s a generational divide but that’s another story.
I am going to throw out a possibly not so radical idea:Where construction costs are high, rents are also high (no crap). An essential questions is “can we exploit that correlation in favor of financing infrastructure construction?” Imagine things like new bridges over the Hudson or East Rivers created by selling the construction rights along it (who wouldn’t pay $10 million to live in an apartment OVER the river), or new rail connections to lower Manhattan via cable-stayed bridge financed by the construction of a big commercial building in the Battery.
That was the idea for the 7 extension. It flopped. Hudson Yards is not that hot a neighborhood, especially for commercial.
OK, the Flushing line extension is, for once, ahead of its time. Probably will herald the closing of JJC. If I am right, then in 20 years business will be so good in Hudson Yards that the Flushing Line will be over capacity to it.
One could also make the case that a single seat on the SIR to Battery Park will raise SI real estate values and taxes so much that it would pay for itself. Not to mention the $100 million plus annual budget f the SI ferry, and SIR’s fares to Manhattan could probably pay for the increased operating cost.
They have to finish building the buildings
What JY is talking about is “value capture” but the reason it works elsewhere (Japan, Hong Kong, even Paris) but not in the Anglosphere is our dogged neo-con belief in our right to exploit property speculation even if its viability is entirely built on the back of government-funded infrastructure. And adirondacker is correct too, in that it takes time to convert an area, say a brownfield site (this should work in government’s favour but alas in the Anglosphere our politicians have a one-term time horizon for such projects) . But look at the WTC Transport Hub and Oculus which is often claimed as the world’s most expensive rail hub, and as far as I can tell, entirely publicly-funded. Now Alon can correct me if necessary but I can’t find anything about the NYC or PATH subway sharing in the bounty they will deliver daily to the private Westfield WTC Mall (an Australian property company as it happens). In fact I would be very surprised if all the usual suspects didn’t continue to complain that the subway service bleeds money blah blah, even as the whole WTC and adjacent WFC etc are so dependent on its workers and visitors. It’s very complex with NYNJPA owning the site (and therefore I assume extracting rents) but somehow I don’t imagine a dollar of that makes its way back to the operational budgets of the MTA.
True value-capture should be along the lines of Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation (a 70% government-owned entity) which acts as primary developer of its new stations and commercial and residential developments around it and dependent on it. (There is plenty of normal private developer activity too; in fact they remain the dominant force so this hasn’t frozen them out.) This allows MTRC to earn a continuous income stream such that it offsets the capital cost (running into billions) of extensions etc of the Metro system (even as those extensions involve further value capture in a virtuous circle). But in the Anglosphere “model” public transit is never allowed to participate in the uplift in values and rents that arise from the new transit. Instead the concept of “value capture” is that government will take a one-off charge to developers etc (and even that just disappears into consolidated revenue not improving transit’s finances one dollar) resulting in all the value being captured by private interests. Forever. Yeah, yeah, they will “repay” it by their taxes blah, blah …
Untangled, you continue to confound terminology re “Metro” and then declare a “win” for your argument. The only person being fooled on this is yourself.
You are introducing more confusion. First, in fact a driverless system is more expensive (in the trains, signalling & requiring platform-aligned doors) on a simple dollar comparison. Naturally on a performance basis they are superior and on a long-term perspective better still. No one is arguing that. Second, I don’t know why you bring in the “driverless” argument since that is and has never been the issue re double-decker trains. It is more related to the signalling system (anything of near 30 tph will require an essentially automated system) and of course whether the train + platform system can support such headways (which is why RER-A trains were redesigned to 3 (double, wider) doors etc.). Even then in the Anglosphere they usually don’t run the trains without staff in the driver’s cabin–eg. that’s how the London Victoria and Jubilee lines run even though technically “driverless”. By contrast Paris M14 & M1 really are driverless (you can sit up front of those trains); and M4 is next to be converted. Apparently the Brits are still not sure if they can adopt the Parisian thing in London; very reminiscent of the door-closing problem, ie. a psycho-social cultural issue. The RER-A is in the same class (ie. highly-automated but still with “drivers” in the cabin.)
We’ll see whether the NW-Metro really runs without staff. In any case it is neither here nor there in this argument about the trains on that line.
Well, yes but perhaps you haven’t noticed the recent phenom. of old socialists like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. That’s my pattern (though not as old–but who knows, there’s still plenty of time for me to turn into a greedy self-obsessed old bastard with zero concern for anyone else or the future of the world, like those on the right). But you also seem to be too young, and poorly-read, to know the term “young fogies”. It was invented to describe Maggie Thatcher’s young acolytes in the Young Cons. (It may have even been in response to William Hague who came to prominence after giving a speech, when a high-school student, in high praise of Maggie; that was enough to get him all the way to Foreign Sec. and at one point leader of the Cons. I remember that as it happened in my first year in the UK. It was briefly entertaining until you realised these types actually end up running the country.) Yes, that particularly cohort of young fogies are now old fogies, but alas their damage remains.
The driverless thing was by me raised to address your point on cost (“It won’t save a dime over earlier plans”), not in response to capacity as you seem to think. I didn’t add to any confusion in that sentence, I think you just got confused yourself.
Within the Anglosphere, there’s a fully driverless GoA4 system in Vancouver Skytrain which has been going strong and soon Honolulu. The upfront capital costs for GoA4 or even GoA2 are more expensive compared to standard metro systems, no question, but long terms savings, especially on GoA4, are substantial as you say. Sydney Metro will be GoA4.
For clarity (from wiki):
GoA2 In this system trains run automatically from station to station but a driver is in the cab, with responsibility for door closing, obstacle detection on the track in front of the train and handling of emergency situations. GoA2 train cannot operate safely without the staff member on board.
GoA4 In this system trains are capable of operating automatically at all times, including door closing, obstacle detection and emergency situations.
Don’t care for “young fogies” either tbh, if I’m conservative to you because of metro only, then so be it. But I shouldn’t be locked into a particular view because the party generally I vote for, *ahem* Greens *surprise*, doesn’t like it. I’m not that rigid.
As a university student (don’t ask how long ago) I once shared a house with 3 VetSci students. I have just done a quick poll amongst them and their diagnosis is unanimous: you have flogged this horse to death. A cruel and horrible death. In fact they are close to reporting you to the RSPCA. Since Alon is in France, he can cart the carcass off to the abattoir to make some horse burgers (he might still find an abattoir à cheval surviving in the 13th–towards the southern end of rue de Chevaleret?–but that new tech-startup incubator is probably built on their bones …. such is progress).
No problem, go ahead, you’ve been a part of this too, so come join me, the more the merrier. I’m also quite small proud of my contribution to Station F.
Small contribution, not small proud, urgh.
Some interesting comments on both sides of the fence. Having worked on underground construction projects in UK, Denmark, Hong Kong, Istanbul and the US including a significant portion of time on one of the mega projects in NY I will offer my 10 cents to the discussion below and attempt to frame it within some of the points raised in the initial post.
Buy America; This does impact costs, how much is difficult to quantify and it also depends on which Federal Agency has oversight of the Project. For example there is allegedly no manufacturer of cast frogs for switches in the US, now if you are funded by FRA they deem it permissible to purchase these from non US source, whereas the FTA considers these to be a component and hence have to be purchased in the US meaning you have to use built up frogs and are then as I understand it limited on the geometry you can achieve on your switches. Some agencies consider sheet piles and soldier piles for temporary works to be exempt from Buy America meaning you can use the cheapest steel possible that satisfies your temporary loading conditions, some don’t. Also not all products that you would like to use are necessarily made in the US meaning you cant always from a design and spec perspective take advantage of newer, cheaper technology. Again is it a major cost driver, probably not but it is a factor. As is Ship America, which requires you for example to ship your German TBM on US flagged ships, meaning your transportation costs are higher to get your equipment to the place of work. Both of these issues can cause problems for Contractors when you consider the multinational supply chains many of the vendors have. As an example the Victaulic clamps for a 12,000 ft. long fire line were sourced through a US Vendor but on inspection of the mill certificates were found to have originated in Poland, after they had been installed. So they had to be removed and US manufactured clamps installed. From a material cost perspective not hug $ but from a labor cost perspective not cheap. Again Contractors will carry contingency in their bid for such issues.
Long Term Planning and Political Stability. The short duration tenure of MTA Chairman, the fact that its a State Body providing transportation primarily within the Five Boroughs and answers to the Governor not the Mayor does not exactly help. Nor do the turf wars between LIRR/MNR/NYCT etc. Adding PATH and the blackhole that is AMTRAK into the equation complicates matters even more. Whats the answer, not sure but the current chaos will never provide a unified approach to transportation in the NY/NJ area.
Budget: MTA works on a Five Year Capital Plan, which is rarely approved in time to fund the first year of the plan and is often underfunded leading to cash flow problems on megaprojects that span multiple Capital Plans. Add in the fact that MTA cannot award a Contract unless 100% funding is available and this leads to some hard choices being made as the money runs out towards the end of the Capital Plan cycle. East Side Access for example has been through 4 Capital Plans and some of the delay is directly attributable to non availability of funding to award contracts. And in NY more than anywhere else time = money. If you look at the increase in cost of ESA for example, it has gone from $4,6 bn to $10.4bn the scope of the project has not significantly changed and a large portion of the cost increase is essentially time related.
Contractors. IN NY the labor is essentially run by the Unions, and for underground construction Local 147 (SandHogs) in conjunction with the Operators in Local 14/15 and laborers. Wage rates and benefits are determined through collective bargaining agreements between the Unions and the Contractors, the Project Owners have no seat at the table. The CBA’s provide staffing levels and rates that are to be paid and NY rates are some of the highest in the US. This is a major cost driver, but do interpret that as an attack on Unions, its simply a fact. The Sand Hogs for example excavate the tunnel and install the lining. Even when you bring a sub on board the subs crew need to be Union, and if you need a specialty sub you cant always use the specialty subs staff. This leads to inefficiencies in work, quality issues and rework which all costs money. For example when pre-cast concrete tunnel segments are manufactured out of State, there has to be a Union Rep paid for at the production facility. In other parts of the world Tunnel Contractors use multiple subs, for example the TBM operating crew may be supplied by a labor only specialty supplier and as soon as the TBM work is done that very expensive crew which has been paid production bonus to finish as fast as possible is off the books and cheaper labor can be brought in to do the finishing works and then the tunnel fit out. Specialty Subs bring and use their own labor to do their wok meaning that initial quality may be better and rework minimized. In this scenario the Contractor is in control of the labor rather than the Union and frankly those two entities have very different objectives when it comes to labor.
Working around Railroads. One aspect that has caused significant issues with the ESA project has been the work in Sunnyside Yard to connect the new lines into the existing Harold Interlocking. Given that the interlocking is owned and managed by both AMTRAK and LIRR this has been complex to manage. Work rules related to Track Outages and working on an operating railroad to avoid interruption to operations and protect the folk working in the live area are necessary but can be somewhat overblown. For example you could be working in a location where the track was LIRR territory, the signal lines were LIRR and the traction power was AMTRAK. This could lead to say 8 railroad personnel , 4 LIRR and 4 Amtrak watching a 4 man contractor crew do the work. That costs money. The limited resources that AMTRAK and LIRR had also has caused significant delay. Installing 92 new switches in an operational railroad interlocking handling 800 trains per day takes considerable planning to avoid operational disruptions. The work also has to be done in a sequence so that as the switches are installed and old ones taken out of service, signal circuits, power circuits etc. all have to be in place to support the cut overs. Planning occurs months ahead of the work but the performance of the work is still dependent upon the railroad resources requested to support the work showing up on the day of the work. The railroads operate on a Bid system for this kind of work so you can plan the work and then have no one bid on the work meaning you have no support and then as a minimum lose a week until the next bid comes around. Efficient no, reality yes. In addition you can only really count on 5 hours out of an 8 hr shift for productive work to allow the AMTRAK and LIRR guys have their coffee break, lunch break etc. When you can lose a year of schedule in one cancelled track outage that’s never good.
Work in Manhattan: The original EIS for East Side Access stated that the project would not increase truck traffic in midtown Manhattan. This together with lack of sites for a major shaft to supply the project in Manhattan, has led to the underground construction portion being fed from a single small location in Queens, with at times three different contractors using that Site to feed material to the Manhattan tunnels and caverns, and the concourse work in Grand Central Terminal being supported using Metro North operated work trains staged from BN Yard 9 miles north of GCT in the Bronx. A variance to the EIS was obtained to allow concrete deliveries and there are a number of drop pipe locations in midtown Manhattan delivering concrete up to 3000 ft horizontally and 150ft vertically to the project. Basically the lack of access and the project logistics have contributed to higher costs for this particular project.
Different Systems: It seems facile to compare costs of a commuter rail system such as ESA, with a light rail project. For example not many light rail projects or subway projects will be building a 350,000 sq ft. concourse to run the new terminal, why so big well you have retail, bathrooms, comms, power, HVAC, police station, trash handling facilities, waiting areas etc. to handle 160,000 people per day. Also there is a fixed footprint on the lower level of the existing GCT, and then to build such a facility in a 100 year old operational terminal is challenging. The platforms on ESA will be 900 ft in length to handle 10 car commuter trains, light rail will rarely require such platform lengths and so the structures would be smaller and hence cheaper.
And finally to finish this ramble, why should infrastructure projects be utilitarian, whats wrong with making them look good to make a statement? I’m pretty sure that the New York Central were not so constrained when they built the existing GCT, with its Zodiac roof and Tiffany clocks. Compare that to the toilet that is Penn Station and tell me which one you prefer to use…..not saying you need to be overly elaborate but to make people want to use such systems they need to feel secure and comfortable and just occasionally you need a great big FU statement. such as the PATH terminal at World Trade Center……