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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bays Precinct Ferries Revisted

Action to transform the Bays Precinct - the 80 hectares of land surrounding waterways on the western edge of Sydney's central business district - is ramping up. An international summit about the project in November 2014 has been followed by a community open day and a "Sydneysiders Summit" on 16 and 17 May.

Work on developing the Bays Market District (currently Sydney Fish Markets), the White Bay Power Station and area around the White Bay Cruise terminal will start over the period from 2015-2019. All indications are that the beautiful old Power Station site and Market District will be major destinations and areas of residential development. Residential development is also likely around the Cruise Terminal, which may eventually be relocated. 

There is wide recognition that new public transport infrastructure is critical to the success of the whole project. But what mode and where?

From a ferry network perspective, the elephant in the room has always been the Superyacht Marina in Rozelle Bay. As long as it remains, this corner of the bays is condemned to 4 knot speed limits, hardly an appropriate speed for world class public transport. Not sure that superyachts add much to Sydney's rich fabric, but obviously they must or the marina would be moved elsewhere.

Realistically, the superyachts will probably stay and developments around Rozelle Bay will need to be serviced by other modes of transport. This means the suggestion in a previous post that Sydney Ferries establish a new line to Glebe Point is probably not a goer.

So is there a place for ferries in the Bays Precinct?

The logical option is a new line running from Barangaroo to White Bay, with possible intermediate stops at Darling Island, somewhere near the Cruise terminal and the wharf located at the temporary convention centre site at Glebe Island. 

Even with a speed limit of 8 knots, this would make a competitive journey time of 10-12 minutes from the Power Station to Barangaroo.  It offers a direct connection to the western side of the CBD, not just for the new residential developments, but also for existing residents on the eastern edge of Rozelle and south-east Balmain.

As with any ferry line, it must be viewed in the context of the whole ferry network. If the integrated regular-interval timetable advocated in early posts is adopted, then timed transfers could be made at Barangaroo for services to the Parramatta River, Circular Quay and north Sydney.  
 Another line could also be contemplated to the Market District with one stop at the densely populated Jacksons Landing.

Quality public transport is critical to the Bays Precinct development. Transport planning must happen in tandem with urban planning, recognising that one is not the tail of the other.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Is a new ferry terminal at Rhodes really a good idea?

At first blush, the State Government’s plan to build a new ferry terminal at the currently wharfless Rhodes sounds like a great plan. The population density is high and growing, the area is an employment hub for over 10,000, and it’s a major destination for shoppers. And it would be just one extra stop on the existing F3 line between Meadowbank and Sydney Olympic Park. 

What could go wrong?
Quite a bit actually, especially if the impact on other passengers using the F3 line is taken into account. 

Rhodes is a peninsular suburb, sandwiched between Homebush Bay to the west and Bray’s Bay to the east. The current plan is to locate the wharf at Mill Park on the northern tip. This is a fair hike from the Rhodes train station (840 metres) and 1.2 km from the entry to the retail centre, Rhodes Waterside.

So why not build the wharf at Bray’s Bay, or on the Homebush Bay side of the peninsular? There could be good connectivity with the train and better access to the commercial area. Unfortunately, neither of these sites are realistic because the water is too shallow. Dredging is not an option because of the cost and toxic waste still remaining from the area’s industrial past.
Even if it was possible to locate a wharf closer to Rhodes station, the need for vessels to divert into the maritime equivalent of a cul de sac would add significantly to transit times for passengers travelling from Sydney Olympic Park, Rydalmere or Parramatta.  
This means a new wharf must be located in the main channel of the Parramatta River.
Okay, why not go with the RMS plan then and position the wharf at Mill Park? The resident population of this Travel Zone will be nearly 6,000 by 2021.  Currently 34% of the working population work in the Sydney CBD, so the commuter peak demand case seems convincing.
Regrettably, there are two significant problems with Mill Park:
  • Mill Park is almost directly opposite the existing Meadowbank wharf. Meadowbank is on the north side of the river, just east of the railway bridge.  Mill Park is just west of the bridge on the south side. The line of approach for vessels between the two points will be very awkward, with consequent safety issues. There will again be the problem of a much extended transit time for passengers up river.
  • Even at Mill Park the river is shallow, so a long ramp is required to position the wharf pontoon on a navigable channel. It could be nearly a third of the width of the river at this point. This will adversely affect rowers and other users of the southern side of the river, who will find the pontoon and its ramp a difficult barrier to navigate around.
The only way Rhodes will become a workable new terminal is if Meadowbank Wharf is relocated further east at Anderson Park to provide a straight line of approach for vessels traversing to and from Mill Park. The Travel Zone surrounding Anderson Park has a rapidly growing population (forecast to reach 5,700 by 2041 or nearly three times the population residing near the current Meadowbank wharf) and access to other public transport is poor.
But this of course doesn’t solve the navigation problems for rowers.
Perhaps there are good reasons why we haven’t had a public ferry wharf at Rhodes before now. It seems those reasons are still valid today. They mean the Sydney Ferry network will probably be better off if Rhodes remains wharfless and the interests of passengers travelling from Sydney Olympic Park and other locations up river are better protected.