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5:28 AM
Its all your fault.

Please see pages 361 to 367 of the minutes for 29 March 2016 and page 1 of the Manningham Leader for 11 April 2016.

Manningham Council is getting desperate over traffic congestion at Doncaster Hill.

However, it is not as though they were not warned about this problem years ago.

Back on 3 August 2012, GTA Consultants prepared a report for Manningham Council called "Review of Parking and Traffic Management Within Doncaster Hill". (presented at Council meeting of 28 May 2013.)

Let me give you exact quotes from this report so you can see that Manningham Council knew precisely what was going to happen AND that there was precious little they would be able to do if they persisted with their population growth plans for Doncaster Hill. (Note that the report from GTA Consultants does not have page numbers.)

 

"However the results also show that there may be capacity constraints in the road network (with existing infrastructure and travel behaviour) to accommodate full (100%) build out of the Doncaster Hill Strategy. The results indicate the following outcomes:

  • Slower traffic speeds/longer travel times within and though the area.

  • Decreased performance of on-road public transport services within and through the area.

  • Increased delays at intersections

  • Longer times for localised traffic to access the arterial road network.

 

Overall, at 100% build out, the results suggest that there is a limit to how much the road network in Doncaster Hill can accommodate additional traffic, i.e. Development generated traffic. At full development, the resultant road conditions will not be dissimilar to those found in inner city areas activity centers across Metropolitan Melbourne where urban density is higher.

Traditional approaches to mitigating against traffic congestion involve increasing the capacity of the road network, however, in this instance improvements will result in localised improvements rather than overall network improvements. Further there are limited opportunities to provide significant capacity improvements on the arterial road network due to the constrained land availability.

Non-traditional methods seek to encourage a mode shift for users, away from private vehicle and onto alternate transport modes (public transport, walking and cycling) should continue to be investigated. Mitigation measures that could be applied to Doncaster Hill are provided in the following table noting that several of the measures could be complementary to each other.'

 

That was quite a mouth full so let me summarise the essential points.

  1. Manningham Council knew full well years ago that if they persisted with their Doncaster Hill strategy, there would be significant traffic problems at Doncaster Hill

  2. Manningham Council knew full well years ago that there was precious little they would be able to do about those traffic problems. They knew they did not have the land to widen the roads. They knew they could not make (or request) changes to traffic signalling sequences to improve traffic flow, and so on.

  3. They knew that the only options available to them was to rely on the rather optimistic hope that they could get people out of their cars and onto public transport, bicycles or walking. Assuming that it is practical for residents to do so.

The Council knew all this and they persisted. Why? Why would you pursue a strategy that you knew would cause serious traffic problems in the future and there was precious little you could do about those problems?

May I ask you a question? Does this sound like good city planning to you?

It certainly doesn't to me.

Why would they persist in such a policy?

There is one reason I can think of.

 

The State Government.

The state government has directed councils to find ways to increase population numbers while minimising the impact on the environment due of urban spread.

A string of Victorian State governments, both Labor and Liberal, have produced planning strategies for Melbourne which direct local councils to find ways of increasing population numbers without increasing the amount of land given to housing. For example we have had the "Melbourne 2030" document produced in 2002 by the Bracks Government. And Plan Melbourne released in 2014. This quote is taken from Plan Melbourne on page 5:

"Melbourne will be a very different city in 2050. Given our rapid growth over the past decade, and projections of natural population growth and migration, it’s imperative that we plan for a bigger city in the years ahead. ... Melbourne could grow by another 3.4 million people, to be a city of around 7.7 million people by 2051. To accommodate this growth, we will require around 1.6 million more dwellings than we have today."

So what did Manningham Council do in response to these planning strategies?

They approved a large number of new dwellings all in close proximity to each other. They allowed the development of high density dwellings at the old Eastern Golf Links site and even higher density dwellings at nearby Doncaster Hill.

 

Will these traffic problems spread?

The worrying thing is that similar high density development is slated for just about the entire length of Doncaster Road and parts of Blackburn Road (see page 38 Minutes for 16 Oct 2012).

It is true that the largest area for high density development is at Doncaster Hill however significant areas for high density housing also exist in the Manningham Planning Scheme along Doncaster Road. This could also lead to traffic congestion problems at other places such as the intersections of Doncaster and Blackburn Roads and Doncaster and Wetherby Roads.

So are we to expect similar planning disasters in these other areas also? Are we to expect traffic congestion problems there?

 

Whose fault is all this?

If high density development along Doncaster Road causes other traffic congestion problems, just like Manningham Council allowed to happen at Doncaster Hill, do you think the Council will see it as being their fault?

Of course they won't. Manningham council may be incompetent, self interested, indifferent or even hopeless at their job. But one thing they will never be and that is responsible for what they do.

So who is getting the blame for the mess the council made at Doncaster Hill?

It is you and me of course.

The council won't blame their bosses in the State government. They certainly won't blame themselves. So the only other people left to blame is you and me.

Apparently the traffic congestion at Doncaster Hill is because we like driving our cars. You see, it is all our fault.

 

The genius of Manningham Council.

So how is Manningham Council going to get us out of our cars and onto public transport? If you read the Manningham Leader for 11 April 2016, page 1, you will see that they plan to use bus stops shaped like pieces of fruit.

No, that is not a typo.

The article says that the council hopes to use these novel bus stops to entice us to use public transport.

I am not kidding you. It says it right there in the Manningham Leader on page 1, along with a picture of a bus stop with a watermelon on top of it.

Apparently even the Manningham Leader, which is usually very pro-council, thought the idea was simply ridiculous.

 

Let us further consider the genius of Manningham Council.

They want us out of our cars and onto public transport or use bicycles or simply walk.

Here is an experiment for you to try. Do your shopping at Westfield and try to get it home on the handlebars of your bicycle. Better still, try to walk and carry it home. Or you could try taking it home on public transport and hope you get it all home in one piece.

Here is another experiment to try. This one is for those who travel to work in a north/south direction. (That is those who do not go toward or away from the CBD). Count the number of buses you need to take and the amount of time you spend waiting at bus, tram and train stops.

Here is another experiment. If you are a tradesman try taking your tools and materials to work by public transport.

Clearly there is a need for private transport. And our council could well be underestimating this very real need. Also clearly there is a need for public transport.

However it is quite possible that those who can take public transport already do so. And those who do not use public transport have a very good reason for not doing so.

And it is not only me making this point. State government reports made this very point, i.e. that those who can use public transport already do so.

 

The Master Plan.

Does our Council have a plan for getting people out of their cars? The minutes of the meeting are very revealing. Please see page 701 of the minutes:

"1.16 The Behaviour Change Plan is a ‘fluid’ and ‘living’ document, which will be adapted and modified over time as the community grows and demographics change. The Plan is not a fixed document and is intended to be responsive to the various and differing precincts within Doncaster Hill, as well as to changes in Council objectives and State Government direction over time."

Unkind people might say that Manningham council doesn't have a clue how they are going to achieve their objective and their plan appears to be a "try it and see" approach.

And what is going to happen when none of these bizarre ideas work? (Which they probably won't) Will Manningham council look for ways to punish car users for being such terrible people. After all, the traffic congestion at Doncaster Hill is all their fault.

 

Genius beyond that of us mere mortals .

Manningham Council knows that they can't address traffic congestion problems by making the roads wider at Doncaster Hill.

So just what exactly are their plans for the roads at Doncaster Hill?

No doubt, over the years the council's plans for that part of Doncaster Road have changed but what exactly are they right now?

To get an idea of what their plans are, I would like, if I may, to take you back to 2011 to a case at VCAT (See case P2630/2010 of 9, 10 and 20 June 2011).

The VCAT Member (i.e. the judge) said this in paragraph 12 of the findings for this case regarding the intersection of Manningham and Doncaster Roads:

12. Council considers the intersection to be a suitable location for high quality public art to identify a distinctive place. Council would prefer Doncaster Road, where it passes through Doncaster Hill, to be more a “main street for people” and less an arterial road that efficiently carries high traffic volumes. This could be achieved by reducing the number of lanes to two, allowing on-street parking, improving street tree planting and encouraging retail and food and drink premises to directly front Doncaster Road.

Apparently Manningham Council legal representatives said this to the VCAT member (judge) during this case. 

So we see that back in 2011, Manningham council wanted to REDUCE the number of lanes on Doncaster Road at exactly the point where the traffic congestion would be at it's worst.

But surely Manningham Council has changed it's mind since then. Surely since the 2012 GTA Consultants report, Manningham Council no longer plans to reduce the number of lanes on Doncaster Road. Surely?

Well, I am not so sure.

This is what Manningham council is saying about those same roads some 5 years later. In the minutes of 29 March 2016 on page 699 we read this:

"1.2 Doncaster Hill aims to be pedestrian friendly with tree lined streets alive with restaurants, cafes, shops, public art and open spaces." (Page 699, Minutes)

There is not a lot of difference. We need to note what has been left out (the narrowing of the roads and the on street parking) and what has been left in (restaurants, shoppers, diners, art, open spaces).

So does this represent a temporary tactical withdrawal by the council or is it a permanent change to their plans for Doncaster Hill?

First, if you look at the footpaths along Doncaster Road as it goes through Doncaster Hill, there is not much space there now for the art exhibitions, the restaurants, the open public space, the diners, the shoppers, etc. Right now they are not much more than just footpaths. I think something has to give before Manningham Council can fulfill the vision they are still expressing in 2016. They have to find the room there to do all the things they are still speaking of.

So I am not that sure that Manningham Council have given up on their mad plans to reduce the number of lanes on Doncaster Road.

There is a strange genius at work in Manningham Council. Do they still want to reduce the width of Doncaster Road and turn what is now a traffic problem -- into a traffic disaster. And somehow think of that as an improvement?

Us lesser mortals are just left wondering.

 

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