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Barred from Bayswater – that escalated quickly

I’d been reading this article about the proposal to narrow a section of Mountain Highway through Bayswater when the level crossing is removed — from 3 lanes in each direction down to 2.

Bayswater state Liberal MP Heidi Victoria has submitted the petition against the plans to State Parliament and urged the Government to intervene.

“Those of us who live and work in Bayswater know the traffic congestion is already at an all-time high,” Ms Victoria said.

“The community do not want this; local businesses do not want this.”

I don’t know the area well, but given Mountain Highway is 2 lanes east of the nearby intersection, and the removal of the level crossing would cut the major delay factor for cars, and the area just west of the station is a retail precinct, I thought the idea shouldn’t be automatically rejected.

Closer to my neck of the woods, Ormond is 3 lanes each way, and is quite pedestrian hostile. The noise of the traffic is near-constant, and unlike nearby Mckinnon or Bentleigh, it’s very difficult to cross the road to points of interest.

Mountain Highway, Bayswater (Pic: Google Maps)

Looking at the Google StreetView imagery, there are similarities. It’s hard to tell what day of the week and time the pictures were taken, but the businesses all look open, yet there is an absence of shoppers. Many of the street car spots are free, suggesting that local shops don’t do spectacularly well.

Removing a lane, widening the footpaths and reducing the speed limit might improve things, and appear to be ideas supported by the local council.

Judging from the comments in the local paper, the most vocal locals don’t care much for Bayswater other than as a place to drive through as quickly as possible.

But area is marked as a pedestrian priority route under the Smartroads strategy, so it’s understandable where the council and Vicroads are coming from.

So I pondered on it Twitter:

Note that I didn’t say it was a wonderful thing. I just said it shouldn’t automatically be rejected.

A few hours later, this furious response from the MP for Bayswater:

Well, that escalated quickly. Is this really the standard of public discourse that one should expect? I know the limited form of Twitter posts isn’t great for nuance, but that just seems ridiculously over-the-top.

Apparently I’ve been barred from going to Bayswater by the local MP. There goes any chance of getting to know the area better. Is this like the opposite of being presented with the keys to the city?

Happily, other locals are more welcoming.

It’s hard to tell, but I would assume that Ms Victoria (and anybody else getting into a debate about traffic and roads) is aware of the term “traffic sewer” (meaning an environment that encourages lots of traffic to move through at speed, to the detriment of other local activities such as walking, cycling, shopping). It’s definitely not the same as calling a place a sewer.

Assuming she knows that, she appears not to consider that a six lane road through a shopping centre doesn’t actually result in a great urban and retail environment.

My guess is the level crossing can result in long delays and frustration for motorists. Removing it will drastically cut delays, especially long unpredictable ones. Removing the third lane each way (matching the road further east) may still mean overall fewer delays for motorists, while drastically improving conditions for walkers and shoppers. One would hope Vicroads has done modelling on this.

Perhaps for some — a bit like Skyrail — any hint of even considering any evidence has gone out the window, because outright rejection is seen by the Opposition as the best way to make a political point.

I’d hope for a more considered response from the Member for Bayswater, but perhaps I got off lightly.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

21 replies on “Barred from Bayswater – that escalated quickly”

I would have thought a stretch of road called a highway (Mountain Highway) indicates its a major road with the main function to get cars from A to B as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.
If this can’t be done given local constraints (eg shops, schools in vicinity), then VicRoads needs to look at alternatives, which may be much more costly.

I live in Bayswater. Heidi Victoria has seemingly overlooked the fact that this section of Mountain Highway is a shopping precinct. Restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, etc on the north side. Banks on the other. Always has been, always will be. When major highways by-pass regional centres, the locals don’t scream out for the dual-carriageway to be reinstated. Bayswater doesn’t need traffic hurtling through, much of it heavy transport. Eliminating a lane will be offset by the grade separation. The beautification of the precinct is a sensible proposal and one only needs to look one station either way up or down the line (Boronia / Heathmont) to see the benefits.

The proposed reduction in lanes and speed limit sounds similar to what was done on Maroondah Hwy near the redeveloped Ringwood Station. That change produced a positive outcome for Ringwood – a safer, more people-friendly environment.

However, Ringwood had an obvious alternative for through-traffic: the nearby Ringwood Bypass.

I’m not sure if Canterbury Rd and Boronia Rd are considered obvious alternatives for Bayswater through-traffic? Or whether Vicroads is forecasting a long term reduction in Bayswater through-traffic, rather than simple displacement?

I travel along Mountain Hwy a few mornings and evenings each week – whenever I drive to work instead of using public transport. With current traffic levels, a reduction to two lanes will work. If the speed limit is reduced, however, the flow rate will drop too much and there will be problems. Alternative routes are Canterbury Rd-Wantirna Rd, or Dorset Rd-Burwood Hwy. These two combinations produce L-shapes that go around Bayswater at quite a distance.

A two-lane treatment – with adequate space between motor traffic, pedestrians and bikes – could operate safely with a 60 km/h speed limit. Whether VicRoads does this, or does its usual 40 km/h easy way out, remains to be seen.

Ringwood is not an example of how to do it well. The area around the station looks quite OK most of the time, because speed and flow have already reduced by the time the traffic reaches the station precinct. The chaos is in the roads leading to the centre of Ringwood – Maroondah Hwy east of the town centre (concentrating on city-bound traffic for brevity) is diabolical in heavier traffic periods. The bypass helps to a degree, but has to take two lanes of Mt Dandenong Rd and three lanes of Maroondah Hwy and fit them into three lanes of bypass which become two lanes of tunnel and ONE lane around Ringwood. Maroondah Hwy past the station is two slow lanes, which equate to about one lane of highway in terms of flow.

In short, you have to be careful with projects like this, or you end up paralysing suburbs. And it takes much more public transport work than the improvement of one station, to provide alternatives to car travel for the people who used to use the high-capacity road.

Surely a reduction to two lanes would hardly cause massive delays, given Mountain Hwy is only two lanes each way just 400m further up the road (east of Bayswater Road)…

@Roger, lots of roads are called highways. It doesn’t mean you determine their layout and operation forever more because of it — otherwise this little street (curiously named The Highway) would also be a 6 lane road.

Thanks for all the comments… unsurprisingly the issue is a little more nuanced than Ms Victoria would have us believe.

What an intemperate woman. I thought politicians generally want to be liked and can even garner votes by simply being a nice person. She may have a huge margin, but I would not have thought so for that area.

@7 Daniel

Someone must have been taking the piss when they named that street.

In Mount Waverley, there is also “The Highway” of which on one end has some good Asian food places and is full on retail. (Highly recommend the Japanese food)

I live less than a kilometre from this part of Mountain Highway. As you and others note, three lanes are only required now due to the level crossing.

This provides an opportunity to connect the two halves of the Bayswater shopping precinct.

I only wish they would do the same at Heathmont shops.

@Brad, it is true that Mountain Hwy drops to only 2 lane each way east of Bayswater Road. However I think this may be because a lot of Mountain Highway traffic uses Bayswater Road to get to Canterbury Road (I know I do when I am heading east towards Montrose).

I would assume the number of lanes in Mountain Highway is less to the east of Bayswater Road because the traffic volume is less in that section. I don’t think it follows that just because that section is only 2 lanes each way then it would be appropriate to apply that cross-section for the section where the level crossing is to be removed.

A greater number of lanes does not necessarily mean higher capacity.
The problem with wide roads with multiple lanes is that you need signals for cars that make right hand turns at intersections which significantly lowers capacity.
Another thing that people seem to forget is that public transport and bike lanes makes the best use of the road capacity available so a better way to move people is to get more people on buses (by improving bus services) and bikes ( installing protected bike lanes) not widen roads for more cars which are inefficient.

re: In Mount Waverley, there is also “The Highway”
My parents use to live there!

I am familiar with this bit of road. West of the railway is 3 lanes for several kilometres, and half a K to the east the traffic splits between 2 east bound lanes and a N-S road. I can tell you from personal experience the left lane is in hot contention, so it is’nt really a 3 to 2 lane transition. Throttling the road at the (ex)crossing will make it worse not better up where the bulk of pedestrians cross. Smooth flowing cars are more managable than a jostling mess.

@ Allan

I do not see how having a wider road with faster moving traffic will help pedestrians. the definition
of a traffic sewer is a large wide road with lots of traffic making it difficult for pedestrians to cross the road and generally providing poor amenity for the area.

In regards to Heidi Victoria stating that congestion is at an all time high, the reason for that is because these areas are car dependent because you have no alternative precisely because of the wide roads and town planning designs (or complete lack of planning) have made it hostile to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

I know the area well, but regardless of all the various personal opinions:

This could be tested in the area with relatively little outlay. Use concrete blocks and temporary signage to create the necessary conditions once the railway has been removed, and monitor traffic flow and business revenue in the area. If there’s actual improvement, do it. If not, change the setup of the test to improve things (eg: no 40kph slow down), and try again.

I’m around the corner from Ormond, and would happily see North Rd reduced to 2 lanes if the following things were done:
1. Provide longer turning lanes for side streets, on the right AND left of the road, all along the current 3 lane section (all the way up to Nepean Hwy). If people want to turn, you want to get this traffic off the road ASAP.
2. All along the existing 3 lane section of North Rd, provide more dedicated parking (eg: use the 3rd lane for parking bays that can’t be used by traffic at all), particularly around shops and large facilities (eg: the nursing facility west of Ormond, the Cemetery, etc).
3. If you’re not going to use the 3rd lane for anything else, turn it into a dedicated bus lane. Bus stops along that stretch should definitely have a LARGE dedicated area (twice the normal size, with proper slip entrances if needed) even if turning lanes and parking are provided as well.
3. Look at tunnels either under the road or covered bridges over the road so that pedestrians can cross without impeding traffic (ie: removal of all 3 pedestrian crossings around the station). I’m actually a bit annoyed that while there is two exits for Ormond (one on each side) that they didn’t provide an under-road pedestrian bridge at the same time.

FWIW: The outflow from Ormond on North Rd heading East has gotten slightly worse since the upgrade, simply because these turning lanes are not deep enough, and people keep blocking the road. They never have been deep enough, but now the traffic flows better they never get a chance to drain. This happens at Grange Rd (and even for the side streets within Ormond itself), but it also happens 2 major intersections down at Boundary Rd, which in the morning peak can bank up as far back as Ormond.

[…] As I’ve noted before, I hope Vicroads have done the modelling on this, but after the crossing is removed you’re likely to see more consistent driving times, with fewer delays, especially long unpredictable ones — even with the lanes reduced. The space can be used more productively to make the shopping centre a place to spend time, not just drive through — consistent with likely re-development of the land immediately around the station. […]

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