Bicycle Network: Metro Routes
Moving tram tracks further apart
The DDA Act requires all tram stops to meet the standards by 2022. VicRoads is developing engineering solutions to achieve this goal. One of the ideas is to move the tram tracks further apart.
23 September 2008. Our letter questioning the wisdom of wider tram 'centres'.
DDA Compliant Tram Stop Platforms
Thank you for the detailed briefing on the implications of future tram track centre realignments, under consideration in order to make tram stops compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
We support improvements to the tram system for two reasons: Firstly, we know that bicycle riders are also habitual public transport users; secondly, improvements to the tram network can and should improve the bicycle network, for example, with joint signal priority at intersections for pedestrians, riders and tram passengers.
Now we learn of the proposal to move tram tracks further apart so as to install platform stops across the network.
As your Review recognises, this will have negative consequences for the current Bicycle Network. As currently envisaged the proposal will, on many routes, so seriously reduce the space available to bike riders that riding on those roads will no longer be practicable.
The consequence of this will be to constrain the prospects of future growth in bike transportation, the very opposite of the Government’s stated objectives.
In a network wide enhancement as extensive as this there should be opportunities to maximise the benefits for both bikes and trams, if imagination, professionalism and co-operation are allowed to flourish.
The impact of platforms on the road environment
The on-road public transport platforms installed so far have had a mixture of positive, negative and neutral impacts on the bicycle network and the road environment.
Some of the advantages that platforms can offer include:
• Lower vehicle speeds and fewer vehicles. In Collins Street for example the platforms have reduced the available lanes and the associated zebra crossings have slowed vehicles. The street is now more favourable for riding.
• Parking is banned on the Danks St platform. This provides a section of road in which the rider is not at risk of a collision with a car door.
• Improved access to the intersection. The platform at Albert and Nicholson has forced a reconfiguration of the intersection layout. Before the installation of the platform the bike lane ended in two narrow motor vehicle lanes with no room for bike riders. Now there is a bicycle stand up lane to the intersection. This is a significant improvement.
• More disciplined and predictable pedestrian movements occur around platforms reducing the risk of conflict with pedestrians.
Platforms such as the one at St Kilda junction have no impact on the bike network.
Some on-road public transport platforms have taken away or reduced the operating space for bicycles. The pilot design at Collins and Swanston for example is unsatisfactory.
In general we see on-road public transport platforms as an opportunity to improve the surrounding road environment and we ask that the tram network upgrade take account of this and ensure platforms are installed in a way to provide the maximum benefit to bike riders.
Types of platforms
In our discussion we outlined our views on the range of platform types and the bicycle movements at those designs:
• We do not support a bike route travelling at grade with the trams alongside the platforms. (This was a cause of contention in the proposals for Clarendon Street for example).
o The gap between the left rail and the platform is too narrow
o The gap between the rails is satisfactory for riding but is difficult to reach without a risky low angle crossing of the left hand tracks. The risk of a fall in crossing the rails would be exacerbated by rain. The severity of a fall would be increased by the motor vehicles using the platform side lane.
• We do support the Trafficable Danks St style platform where the motor vehicles and bikes go over the platform. We would prefer this design to include a marked bike lane. We understand that this layout does not provide a strong benefit for the tram passengers.
• We are keen for VicRoads to trial some Kerb Access platforms for trams (and buses) where the motor vehicles follow the tram and the riders ride over the face of the platform – giving way to the passengers when the tram (or bus) is stopped at the platform. We believe these platforms have the potential to increase the separation of bike routes from motor vehicles. We understand that this layout offers the greatest passenger and tram operation benefits.
• We do not support the ‘round the back’ style of provision used at the Kerb Access platforms in Whitehorse Road on the 109 Tram route.
We would like to be shown a design that illustrates how the height of a tram platform at 290mm will be integrated into the standard 150mm footpath kerb.
You explained that – according to the guidelines laid down by VicRoads – two trams can pass each other in opposite directions between two platforms in two lanes each 3.1m wide. You explained that in such a situation it is not appropriate to allow motor vehicles to follow the trams along the track as 6.2m is insufficient clearance for oncoming motor vehicles between platforms.
On this basis it is logical that, where there is a need for the motor vehicles to follow the trams, the tracks have to be laid further apart.
We understand that the current view is that to meet the DDA rules, tram tracks will have to be moved 200mm apart on each side of the road; 400mm in total. We understand that this can be done – without considering the needs of bike riders – where roads are wider than 13.6m wide or on 76% of the tram network
We also understand from your explanation that the rails will be moved all along the road rather than moving out at the platforms and then back to the ‘normal’ position.
This is clearly a concern to us. The centre of the road platforms mentioned above can reduce the width of the kerbside lane at the platform. Moving the tram tracks apart will reduce the kerbside lane along the whole length road.
As a general comment the 400mm is more valuable between the tram tracks and the kerb where it can be put to a number of purposes. The additional 400mm in the centre of the road between the sets of rails will lie there unused except when two large vehicles pass each other at a tram platform. This proposal will insert a lot of low value space into the centre of the road.
You explained that on 31% of the road network the tracks can be moved 2x200mm and still leave a wide kerbside lane for riders.
We have two responses to this.
First, while the remaining space may fall within the definition of a wide kerbside lane it may mean in practice the removal of a comfortable bicycle operating space such as a shared bike parking lane or its informal equivalent and its replacement with a merely adequate space. Clearway bike lanes may also be threatened.
Second, we need to know what the effect of this proposed program will be on bike routes, in particular those on the PBN and/or the bicycle routes that will be identified in the State Bicycle Transport Plan and/or the Network Operating Plans currently under development that allocate priority to modes on particular routes.
Therefore we ask you for:
1. A detailed briefing with charts and maps of where bike routes share tram corridors and what the widths of those roads are;
2. A proposal on each route for the related bicycle facility;
3. A process to work through the proposals on each of the routes in detail.
In some cases, we imagine, we will be able to endorse a proposed change as it will be able to be made without compromising the bicycle operating space.
In some cases the proposed changes would mean the eradication of the bicycle operating space without hope of mitigation. We would not be able to agree to this without a commitment to an alternative route of equivalent or higher standard. This alternative would have to be in place before the tram rails were moved.
There would also be a group of routes in the middle category where it might be possible by a series of measures to arrive at a workable compromise for all parties.
Taking advantage of scheduled upgrades to the tram network
You alerted us to two scheduled upgrades of the tram network: one in Riversdale Road and one in Camberwell Road. You pointed out that this gave the tram operator a chance to move the rails and asked if we would agree to the rails being moved.
You made it clear that even if the rails were moved, there was no plan to install any platforms as part of the scheduled upgrade. You made the point that it would be cheaper to move them now as part of the schedule and install platforms later rather than to upgrade them in the current location and then dig them up later and move them to comply with the timetable in the DDA Act. We understand that the government and the tram operator want to take advantage of the schedule to get ready for the DDA deadline.
However we cannot agree to tackle this task piecemeal. It is inappropriate to keep chasing the tram line upgrade schedule and commenting on it section by section. We ask that the upgrade schedule should be linked to the detailed briefing and proposals mentioned above.
The move-now-platform-later approach is unfortunate as riders would have to take the disadvantage of the moved rails without the possible compensatory advantages of the platforms. We would in general prefer that platforms were installed when rails are moved.
You gave us the detailed kerb to kerb measurements along Riversdale Road. These showed that if the tram rails were moved, the bicycle space would be below that required in the guidelines for a wide kerb side lane. Riversdale Road is on the PBN and there is – as far as we can see – no alternative. The change would move a long stretch of rail. We therefore strongly oppose the rails being moved as part of the upgrade.
The detailed kerb to kerb measurements along Camberwell Road however showed that the rails could be moved and still leave a wide kerb side lane. The proposal covers a short section of Camberwell Road.
We are prepared to give our conditional support to moving the rails on Camberwell Road as:
• The remaining space is adequate
• The proposed length of rail to be moved is relatively short.
• It is important to have a trial section of wider tracks that can be formally and informally evaluated.
Our support is conditional on the following:
• We ask you to commission an appropriate professional quantitative and qualitative study of the impact on bike riders of the new configuration.
• Our support for this section of Camberwell Road is understood to be support for a trial only and not an agreement for all roads of similar dimensions.
• Associated works mitigate the reduction of the bicycle operating space. We propose:
• Parking is banned 20m from the area of the stops – consistent with the latest approach
• The WKSL is:
o Marked with logos as in Cycle Notes 13
o The clearance lines are marked in tactile edge lining
o The frequency of the logos is maximised
o The location of the clearance line is based on the location of the centre tram/motor vehicle lane and not the kerb.
• Advance light phasing at intersections is installed at intersections where the rails have been moved to allow riders (trams and pedestrians) to get out in front of motor vehicles along the reduced width travel lane.
In addition we ask that VicRoads installs a trial ride-over kerbside bus platform on a suitable bus/bike route to assess their effectiveness. We suggest that Bay Street Port Melbourne would be a suitable location.
Thank you once again for giving us the opportunity to comment on this significant project