Sunday, 15 March 2009

Rally for Rail

There will be a public meeting to promote the development of a rail infrastructure for Cairns, next week.

CAST will be asking local candidates in the state election about their position on building on existing rail infrastructure to combat greenhouse gas emissions and make our region healthier and more livable.

"Cairns residents have been asking for improvements in public transport for a long time and the need has been identified in numerous planning reports," CAST spokesperson Svargo Freitag says.

"In October last year CAST met with the Queensland Transport Minister and he still fails to recognise the importance of rail in reducing our oil dependence and in reducing emissions."

"We have an existing rail-line from Gordonvale to Redlynch which should be duplicated and used for urban transport, rather then build a Ten-Lane-Freeway" says Freitag. "A fully-integrated bus and rail transit system will revitalise our city. Once we power the system with renewable energy, we can attain zero-emission public transport."

Organised by Cairns Action for Sustainable Transport, the interactive forum will be moderated by ABC's Kier Shorey. Cairns Mayor Val Schier and State election candidates will also be participating.

WHEN: Wednesday March 18th, 6.45pm.
WHERE: Rydges Tradewinds, Trinity Function Room, 137 The Esplanade.
RSVP: Email Jonathon, or call 4093 7755 or 0418 773 287
ONLINE: CAST or Facebook (search groups for "Rail for Cairns").

You can print the event flyer here.


Lotro Edmonton said...

Are you people just stupid, or what?

There is ZERO chance for commuter rain in Cairns. LESS THAN ZERO.

The fact that there is already a "rail corridor" is irrelevant to the cost. The cost of rail comes from purchase of the rolling stock, and operation. There is NO WHERE NEAR the population required for rail. Cairns would need a population of at least 500K for rail to even be remotely possible.

And even then, the cost of a trip (say, $5), would be subsidised by the government to the tune of probably at least $30-40 MILLION per year, minimum.

Textbooks on commuter rail design and operations are easily found on the web. Having meetings to generate "support" for such an unsustainable idea is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You'd be better off meeting to discuss dengue mitigation, or something else achievable.

Tom said...

Railway? No way! Have to agree with above comment. The best (and only option) for cost effective public transport in Cairns is to improve what we already have; the bus. In peak times, large capacity buses from city to southern and northern hubs, connecting along the way with feeder services to suburban nodes.

Syd Walker said...

Attitudes like the ones expounded above are eerily reminiscent, to me, of the arrogant, simplistic put-downs against rail proponents that we've grown accustomed to from Labor Party hacks.

As the commentators are (predictably) anonymous, I can't prove it in this case. And I may be wrong. But I have my suspicions. This type of smug intransigence seems to be one of the ALP's signatures, whenever rail is discussed.

These commentators would you have believe that rail is 'obviously' impossible given FNQ's current population numbers. This time, the half million figure cited as a threshold population level (without any evidence, as usual).

If the folk posting this pap aren't Labor hacks, perhaps we could have some explicit clarification from Labor candidates that this does NOT reflect their policy?

Are they determined to maintain - for another three years - an aggressive anti-rail posture? Are they going to content themselves with citing outdated studies in which the influence of the Main Roads Department was predominant? Are they going to wait till they get a boot over the head at the NEXT election from progressive voters before taking serious action to re-evaluate rail in this region?

Labor gets away with this, on an intellectual level, because it has no real commitment on emissions targets. It pitches for population growth in FNQ but insists that all new transport infrastructure is road-based. It has no real plan to reduce greenhouse emissions - just hot air. It reminds me of the ALP habit of talking green on climate change while it subsidizes and feather-beds the coal industry. It's just bullshit with a green wrapping.

I'd like to be wrong about this, but I have yet to hear a single comment from a Labor politician in this region that causes me to think otherwise. The fact that the LNP in FNQ can't seem to come up with better policies than Labor on rail highlights the intellectual bankruptcy of the major political parties.

Why shouldn't those of us who want real progress on advanced, 21st century, low emissions infrastructure vote Greens 1 on March 21st and allocate no preference vote at all?

Why should we reward (yet again) sloppy, lazy, backwards-looking thinking from major parties?

Five days to go...

Tom said...

My goodness Syd, did you get out of the wrong side of the bed! I am not a Labour party hack, neither am I anonymous; I'm Tom, and I have a point of view that just happens to differ from yours, so please try and be a little more accommodating.

Common sense suggests (to me at least) that rail in Cairns would be so problematic as to make it totally unfeasible. Imagine for example the logistics of laying two lines (one up, one down) to the beaches. How much land would need to be resumed? How much public opposition would it create? How long would it take to construct? How much would it cost? And more importantly; who will pay? When you consider all of those questions, you just know it's never going to happen. There are feasible alternatives:

The highway (north and south) is already there. It can easily accommodate mass transit vehicles; articulated buses (trains on tarmac?). And then the biggest challenge of them all: provide an incentive to get people out of their cars and into them.

Enjoy your day Syd.

Syd Walker said...

Thanks Tom.

OK - I admit that I don't know whether - and to what extent - rail is part of the optimal transport mix for FNQ. I don't have the information.

But I do object to claims made by others, who purport to speak with certainty, that rail has NO part in the near-term future. As far as I'm aware, they don't have the necessary information to make such a claim either. Nor is it apparent to me that they have a well-considered, rational basis for holding such a view.

We clearly need a new study of transport options for FNQ, done with some urgency, but starting afresh, open to meaningful public input and NOT dominated by the bloated Department of Main Roads.

Many advantages of rail should be taken into account in such a study. Rail favours a more nodal, village-sytle mode of development - a much better basis for sustainability than sprawl.

The Terms of Reference must also incorporate a rational greenhouse emissions reduction target. The Queensland Greens target is 50% by 2020. That's very ambitious - but it's in line with the latest global scientific mainstream view of what must be done to begin to stabilize the climate within a generation.

As soon as a target like that is adopted, it would change the whole planning dynamic. It would force appropriate technological change.

Politicians of the major parties who don't want to lead on this - and the silly journalists and backward-looking business lobbies who egg them along - make it sound as though big change is impossible. It's the other way round. Big change is inevitable. I believe the community as a whole has a better sense of this than the economic and political establishment.

If I wrongly associated you with the latter, I humbly apologize.

One other thing. The next line of a soundrels' defense against change is to say "but it doesn't matter what we do in FNQ... what about the big emitters? What about China? etc etc"

How about turning that round? How about FNQ leads - instead of follows - for once? After all, we have rather a lot to lose from catastrophic climate change, including at least one World Heritage ecosystem and most of our major urban settlement. Who knows, we might even be able to market ourselves as a 'model'. We might even find that we're not really 'leading' at all - just swimming the same way as rest of our species, furiously trying to escape a growing whirlpool.

Lotro Edmonton said...


See the problem? You admit you don't have a clue about the viability of rail, and yet you've already taken a stand. Basing it now on "greenhouse gas reduction". Even more absurd. Rail isn't free of pollution? If it's electric, you've increased pollution from our mostly coal-fired power plants. If diesel, you're polluting here. Either way, the only way you can achieve a reduction PER CAPITA is with much higher use than what Cairns can ever generate.

You're right, the planning dynamic is changed if you factor in global targets for greenhouse gas - a rail system would NEVER comply!

You see Syd, these are not complicated calculations. Get the Queensland rail figures for per-capital use of the Brisbane system, TRIPLE THE USE figures for Cairns (an impossibility), and the numbers still are no where near the threshold for rail transit across the city.

Man, you've got to apply a little brain power to things Syd. Being an advocate means you MUST educate yourself, not lay back on platitudes and wishful thinking. Get a grip!

Syd Walker said...

More exhortations to "apply brain power" from an anon 'expert' who cites no references (but why bother if it's 'obvious' you have direct access to divine wisdom?)

You'd have us all believe you're an expert on this subject, Lotro. Yet much of what you say is easy to disprove. Here's a very short extract from an article found just now on the web. It doesn't 'prove' rail is optimal for Cairns. But it does suggest your blustering, arrogant certainty that rail must be ruled out of consideration from the outset is spurious.

Add Lancaster, Pa., in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, to the list of smaller U.S. cities actively pursuing the reintroduction of streetcars within municipal borders.

The city of roughly 57,000 is pursuing a plan for a two-mile starter streetcar line. The effort is spearheaded by the non-profit Lancaster Alliance, which includes 15 of the city's largest businesses, and bolstered by various community groups.

Mayor Richard Gray is an unabashed supporter of the project...

Lotro Edmonton said...

A two mile streetcar line gets to the waste dump station at Portsmith, Syd.

Comparing a compact, eastern American city built prior to the introduction of the automobile is a spurious diversion from the facts. But that's your game, Syd. Why spend the time reading up on the subject when you can grab an irrelevant link from the web and call it your own?

And no where in this article does it say that this "wish list" from the Mayor will ever get done. It won't, unless some big tax monies are underwriting it.

But a valiant effort, Syd. Keep up the good work.

Tom said...

There is another issue with the public transport vs. private cars debate which many overlook: Cairns is an extremely hot and humid city. For several months of the year, the walk to/from bus route/train station results in an overheated lather of sweat (or a wet-season soaking). Now, before anyone points out our climate similarities with, say, Singapore, let me point out a difference: Car ownership there is prohibitive and their (very good) public transport system is the ONLY option for most.
Here we (currently) have choice, journey distances are relatively short (compared to larger cities), and the cost of fuel is not an impost (yet).
So, on a hot steamy (and often wet) January day, what do you think most people will choose to do: Trudge off to their closest bus stop/train station and wait for public transport, or hop into their personal air-conditioned door to door transport? I would suggest that for most people, even FREE public transport would not be an incentive to its use.

Michael P Moore said...

Jonathan Strauss, a co-ordinator of CAST, wrote to me and said...

"Three basic arguments:
* The total population argument is a distortion, and not only because of what Syd's pointed to (in fact many European cities with light rail are smaller than Cairns is now or will be in 2025/2031/2036).

Three factors must be considered: total population (including tourists, really), which is your
potential pool for public transport use; population density, which determines how many people are close (eg 400m) to the public transport routes; the comprehensiveness (routes, frequency and time span) of the
public transport system, which is its "reach" into the population pool.

CAST would not deny that Cairns total population and population density are at the low end of the scale (personally, I don't think you could use light rail in Australian cities much below Cairns' predicted size). The apparent need for "high" density should not be exaggerated, however, especially in
terms of building heights. The area covered by the Paris Metro is almost entirely limited to five or so stories, except for La Defence (and the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, if you want to nit pick), for example. I'm sure most of the smaller European cities are even lower, so to speak, including the preservation of historical centres.

The way to overcome this is comprehensiveness, in particular beyond a "tipping point" (hate this term) where people will start to be able get rid of cars (eg second in household, young person while going to uni and out
late partying, etc). Therefore, in our discussions we're look at 24-hr
services, bus services to complement the light rail services.

* "Impossible" usage levels? In fact Zurich, Freiburg etc are at 30-40% already. Professor Peter Newman argues electrified rail is the way of the future for city transport. Also, there is substantial evidence rail systems
are much more likely to attract people out of cars than buses (build a bus system and the people won't come!) CAST has suggested seeking usage levels increasing from 4% to 40% (at a minimum) for the system to be place by 2025.

At that level, assuming a reduction of half that increase in car ownership/use, over the life-cycle of a light rail + bus system (50 years) this will be substantially cheaper than QT's Cairns Transit Network or even
about the same as running buses to achieve the same public transport usage result. I have done a DRAFT costing, using QT's figure for light rail, and not including costs where QT doesn't have an estimate for buses, or the more
intangible benefits of light rail. I can send that to you if you wish.

* Even Melbourne's older tram system, running on BROWN coal, produces less emissions than cars if six people are on the tram (from memory: this is a Public Transport Users Association figure, but even if it's somewhat out, you get the drift).