If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from my IT studies, it’s this: even if you come up with a new, whizbang idea, ask yourself, what problem does it solve?
Many innovative people are probably having many innovative ideas right now, but do any of these ideas solve real problems that people care about?
As an example, my pet peeve are those barcodes on posters that you’re meant to scan with your mobile phone. Telstra seems to think they’re a great idea, but really, what problem does it solve? Is it that I can’t get enough advertising in my day that I need to access promotional crap even faster? It doesn’t even save me time, and it’s not easier either. I tried it on a bus once: navigating the menus on my Nokia and trying to get the camera (which (un)helpfully zoomed in to telescopic depths) to focus on a little square on the ceiling above my head got me nowhere except for stares all round.
Anyway, back to the main point for today. Firstly, I’d say metros are good. I like metros. Nathan Rees likes metros too.
But what problem does the Central-Rozelle metro solve?
According to the Herald today, the first three stops are Central, Town Hall and Martin Place. We already have a train line that allows you convey yourself between those very three points. Then it continues on to Rozelle. What on earth is at Rozelle? The idea is, it would be seem, to make people alight from Victoria Road buses and finish the balance of their journey on the metro. Yes, Victoria Road is a parking lot during peak hour, but does this metro solve the problem? If people aren’t catching the buses right now, there’s no indication that more people will be inclined to catch buses that connect onto a metro. Look at the map yourself: Victoria Road is a nightmare because it’s the free alternative to the Lane Cove Tunnel and the Harbour Bridge, for people up north-western way (Ryde, etc).
Then there’s the Central end. The idea is to make people get off CityRail trains and force them to change onto the metro… which runs to Town Hall, Martin Place and Wynyard. Apart from the fact that those stations can already be reached by people getting off at Central, what problem is the metro solving? It’s a little crowded at times, but it works reasonably well, and the government must have been thinking that they could artificially engineer a problem by making everyone get off. It’s not going to work.
Spending $5bn for a patronage of 5,500 people is pathetic. But people will come if you solve their problems.
So what problems are there that could be solved by a metro? Buses. Sydney Buses suck. Especially the ones that run along George and Castlereigh Streets. If you stand along George Street during peak hour, every second vehicle going past you is a bus. The Wynyard bus terminal is also a nightmare; office workers queuing up for miles to get on buses destined for the northern beaches, along with the Great Wall of China, are the two man-made formations visible from space.
I’ve had this drawn up for a while, but this is a metro line, if it were built, that I think would solve problems:
Enlarge this map
With this metro, you would terminate Parramatta Road and City Road buses before Broadway. In this case, forcing people off won’t irk anyone because the ride into the city is currently torture anyway. Likewise, on the northern approach, terminate northern beaches buses before they hit the bridge. I’ve only paired two stations with CityRail stations – Central and Wynyard (I think Town Hall is beyond hope) – and moved city stations closer together. They’re further apart than bus stops, but frankly, bus stops on every block as it currently stands is a bit ridiculous. Combined with some light rail on the surface, which Clover seems more than happy to provide, this, I humbly submit, is a metro that solves the CBD’s problems.
It’s not that I think a metro can’t be a good solution, but as it stands, the Central-Rozelle metro gets Sydney nowhere.