From an active resident:
I wanted to give you all a quick update on the status of the traffic report recently submitted to Willoughby Council and some of the subsequent happenings since its release. It’s been an event-filled couple of weeks.
Apologies in advance for the length of this email; there is a lot to update.
As I mentioned to you in my email on 31 August, the summary of the long awaited report conducted by the traffic consultant company PeopleTrans was submitted to the Transport, Access and Environment Committee meeting on 1 September. It was drafted by James Brocklebank, who is the group leader of traffic and transport, for Paul Collings, who is the acting infrastructure services director for the council.
The summary contained some alarming assertions, namely that the data showed a decrease of traffic in the area in the time since the traffic lights have gone in at Beaconsfield & Mowbray road. It therefore recommended maintaining the status quo at that intersection—in other word, no change to the turn restrictions at the lights. It also suggested that a 300 vehicle / hour limit be placed on eastern Coolaroo Road (this is one car per 12 seconds on average) and that parking be partially banned on Coolaroo if traffic increased to more than 300 vehicles / hour.
As many of us have discussed in subsequent conversations, the report concluded that what we have been seeing with our own eyes is not true. Since we have all been living the reality and know better, we were very concerned that something was amiss with the data feeding into the report.
There were also some recommendations for nearby roads, mainly further west on Mowbray, including changing the intersection of Greenlands & Mowbray to allow for a dedicated right turn lane / phase for westbound traffic on Mowbray into Centennial Avenue headed toward Lane Cove. The general consensus seems to be that this will help alleviate some of the rat running affecting Coolaroo west of Greenlands. The report also mentioned the intersection of Mowbray and the Pacific Highway as a major cause of the traffic problems throughout the area.
Over the 3 days from the publication of this report to the committee meeting on 1 September, a group of worried residents urgently met and tried to spread the word as much as possible that we needed a united front to let council know that we disagree with the report and that we oppose its adoption. Despite a very rainy weekend, we managed to pull a significant number of signatures together on a petition to highlight our concerns about safety, something that was not really mentioned in the report.
THE COMMITTEE MEETING
A large group of concerned residents from Coolaroo and Dalrymple attended the Transport, Access and Environment meeting on 1 September. Our goal was to present a united front focused on:
· Questioning the validity of the data in the report, as our experience has not matched up with the conclusions of the report. To this end, we conducted an impromptu traffic count on the morning of 1 September in the morning peak and counted over 300 cars / hour in the 8-9 AM time block—something already over the proposed limit.
· Highlighting our concerns about the safety of our residents in the area (something seemingly lacking in the report) and establish it as an absolute priority and duty of care for council in all discussions about the traffic in the area. This included reminding council that the increased traffic is not the result of a rat run, but rather a forced traffic situation due to an active decision of council to support restricting turning at the Beaconsfield—giving traffic no other choice but to drive through the area.
· Questioning the logic and safety of the recommendation to ban parking on Coolaroo to allow for even faster and more traffic.
· Requesting a new study with accurate info be conducted focused on Coolaroo / Dalrymple.
· Understanding the political process of how all of this works and fits together.
The meeting itself was well attended by residents (thanks to those of you who attended and spoke). The committee, which included the mayor, was receptive to our concerns. We also got the opportunity to listen to a more detailed presentation of the report by the representatives from PeopleTrans as well as query them on it.
There were some very interesting things that came out of these discussions. First of all, Beaconsfield, Dalrymple and Coolaroo are not considered local streets, but rather collector roads (this is a classification by Willoughby Council). This means that the maximum speed is 50 km/h and maximum load is meant to be 500 cars per hour. In the case of Coolaroo, due to it being narrow and windy, the study recommended setting a 300 car per hour limit but maintaining the 50 km/h limit. It recommended continuously monitoring traffic along Coolaroo to determine when the 300 car per hour threshold is reached, at which point council should reconsider options—including traffic / parking restrictions and allowing a right hand turn out of Beaconsfield onto Mowbray.
The traffic counts shown indicated that while the overall traffic dropped from 2012 (pre-lights) to 2013 (post lights) in the study, the numbers for Coolaroo increased while upper Beaconsfield decreased:
|AM Peak (2 way)||
220 cars / hour
257 cars / hour
|PM Peak (2 way)||
181 cars / hour
170 cars / hour
Roughly 81% of the increase in Coolaroo was eastbound traffic, which makes sense given the turn restriction at Beaconsfield. The story is a happier one for Beaconsfield, though:
|AM Peak (2 way)||
170 cars / hour
130 cars / hour
|PM Pack (2 way)||
12 1 cars / hour
111 cars / hour
While PM peak is similar, the AM peak seems to have all migrated to Coolaroo.
Upon questioning the traffic report, we were able to ascertain several very interesting things:
· The December 2013 study was conducted during private school and university holidays, understating the post Beaconsfield lights traffic volume down Dalrymple & Coolaroo and it thus fitting into an “acceptable level” of under 300 cars / hour. We countered that we believe the road is already beyond that and that we had indeed counted more than this in an impromptu AM peak count that very morning (a light traffic morning, by the way). When pressed, the consultants acknowledged that updated non-school holiday counts wouldn’t hurt, given that the data are already 9 months old.
· The average speed down Coolaroo (85th percentile) was roughly the same (47 km/h in 2012 and 46 km/h in 2013). The consultants mentioned that this was also within acceptable standards for a collector road. We pressed them to define an acceptable safe speed given the narrow, winding nature of the road. They were non-committal but mentioned that a road safety analysis should be undertaken to ascertain precisely this.
· The consultants conclude that the lights at Beaconsfield have increased traffic on Dalrymple / Coolaroo, but not above acceptable limits of 300 vehicles / hour.
· The consultants’ projection for 2021 was for 319 vehicles / hour on Coolaroo, something that we believe we are already “achieving.”
· The recommendations for what to do when the 300 vehicles / hour threshold is breached range from allowing turns at the Beaconsfield lights, parking bans on Coolaroo, and speed bumps / traffic calming. The consultants prefer parking bans.
· The consultants concluded that there is a problem on Coolaroo and that something needs to be done about it now rather than later. Related to this, Coolaroo is projected to be a major problem by 2021 once all the units go in on the Lane Cove side of Mowbray.
· Lane Cove Council have approved the conversion of a total of 317 houses into 2,329 high density dwellings on their side of western Mowbray—this will have a significant impact on traffic in the surrounding area.
· Mowbray Public School is slated to expand from 354 students to 1,000, also impacting traffic.
· The right turn from Mowbray into Centennial will happen, but it’s up to Lane Cove council as to when.
· There was some interesting discussion around the logic for the ban on right hand turns at Beaconsfield, with many residents mentioning that due to it, they are forced down Coolaroo whereas they would prefer to use Beasonsfield. One of the Beaconsfield residents explained that they never wanted lights to begin with, so the no turns was a compromise. We countered with safety and actual experience of residents. Our point was that Mowbray road is a perfectly good main road just 100 m to the south, but impossible to use due to the turn ban. At least council heard this first-hand from residents and seemed somewhat open to questioning the logic as to why traffic is intentionally diverted from Mowbray down Coolaroo / Dalrymple.
Overall, we made our viewpoints known, and the councilors present as well as the mayor were very supportive of our concerns. The mayor stated that she wants to be proactive rather than wait until the 300 cars / hour is exceeded.
After hearing and accepting our concerns, the committee unanimously approved a motion to accept the traffic report and recommend that the full council adopt it, but to add the following:
· That there be a new traffic count study for the area, focusing on Coolaroo & Dalrymple
· That a road safety audit be conducted on Coolaroo with a specific focus on the overall safety of the road and the behaviour of the traffic, not just volumes
· That there be letterbox drops informing residents of the study
· That there be a community meeting held on the matter once the new data are in
· That the consultants come back with recommendations for traffic management in the area now for when the maximum thresholds are exceeded
· That steps should be taken now to find solutions to the problem rather than wait until it becomes worse
· That the full traffic report be put on public exhibition for a month
· That the other recommendations in the report be accepted (related to Mowbray road west of Greenlands as well as the Mowbray / Centennial intersection redesign)
On balance, this was a positive outcome for us, and the councilors present (including many from other wards as well as the mayor) were supportive and understanding of our concerns.
THE COUNCIL MEETING
One week later, on 8 September, several residents and I attended the full council meeting to support the recommendation of the committee. I was given 3 minutes to address council, and I made the point that we strongly support the committee’s recommendation for additional counts and a road safety study; that we are very concerned about safety and are worried that someone will get knocked down and killed if nothing is done; and that while we are appreciative of the fact that sensors have again been installed in the area, we stress that next week is the beginning of private school holidays.
The council acknowledged that the counts need to continue for some time to avoid the school holiday effect and are aware that this mistake in data comparison should not be repeated. We were all a little surprised that the counters had gone in on Monday, 8 September prior to the council meeting, but we were happy about it. It seems that Paul Collings is very proactive on this.
In the end, the full council passed the motion to accept the recommendations of the committee unanimously, with a couple of small changes to include language that school holidays be taken into account for the study as well as to add Goodchap Road to the study area.
Now we wait. You may have noticed that there are new traffic counters and sensors in some of the local roads, including Beaconsfield, Dalrypmle, and both ends of Coolaroo, so they are counting now. We also requested that there be an additional sensor installed on eastern Coolaroo near Greenlands to properly capture the speed of the traffic once it encounters the straightaway and accelerates downhill. This was agreed to by Paul Collins.
The study as presented to the committee will also be placed on public exhibition soon. It’s not clear if this will happen concurrently with the new counting and safety analyses, but in any case we will watch for it.
In the next months, a road safety analysis will be conducted and recommendations made. It will be a longer process, but it’s important to stay involved and aware.
Once the minutes from the full council meeting are published and the traffic report is up for exhibition, I will inform you. We will need some help to spread the word and keep the momentum going, and we welcome any contribution you can make.
Thanks again for your interest and involvement.
I wanted to correct one part of your post where you assert that “The December 2013 study was conducted during private school and university holidays,”. When questioned on this matter at the Council meeting I actually responded that the traffic data was collected during the last week of November and the first week of December. A resident then advised that the counts were conducted during private school holidays. To which I responded that I didn’t believe this to be the case. The facts are that in 2013 School’s (including catholic schools) did not break up until the the week before Christmas. The traffic data was therefore collected at an appropriate time. We are always careful to avoid school holidays when we collect traffic data however it always seems to be claimed that counts were conducted within holiday periods.
Never-the-less we are conducting revised counts and are quite prepared to act on the recommendations to investigate changes to address safety in Coolaroo Rd should the data reveal volumes are higher than those measured in 2013.
Group leader, Traffic & Transport
Willoughby City Council
EDITOR: I think the reference to school holidays may also have been to private schools, many of whom close in early December.
that is why I checked. I have not been able to find a school that was on holidays in the last week of Nov/first week of December 2013 when the counts were undertaken.
The PeopleTrans traffic study is finally up on the Willoughby Council website for all of us to review. I can’t attach a copy because it’s a big file, but you can download it at the link below.
Most importantly, we now have a chance to be heard. Please use the following link to give your opinion on the current situation:
It will give you the chance to give your feedback, and you can also indicate preferences for what to do about the traffic situation—including whether the turn restrictions at the Beaconsfield lights should be lifted.
It is IMPORTANT that we all participate in this opportunity. One of the problems in the past is that very few people gave any feedback to council before the changes were made to the Beaconsfield lights, and even since then it has been light, with the exception of the Fix The Lights petition.
In other words, THIS IS OUR CHANCE to be heard!!!
Many of you have asked what you can do to help—this is a big part of it.
Now, to the details in the survey—it’s a long, detailed document, but a couple of things popped out at me that I would encourage you to think about and comment on in the survey. Note that the page numbers are ones printed in the report—not the numbers in the PDF file.
· Peak hour traffic in Coolaroo & Dalrymple is more than double that of Beaconsfield as of last November, after the lights went in (section 2.3, table 2.2 on page 6).
· The configuration of the Beaconsfield lights (i.e. the left turn only) was not what council officers had recommended (footnote 2, page 23).
· The report concludes that Coolaroo has been unaffected by the Beaconsfield lights in terms of volumes or speeds (section 6.1, page 28). Any increase is attributed to the intersection of Mowbray and the Pacific Highway, resulting in a rat run for eastbound traffic.
· Nonetheless, morning peak traffic on Beaconsfield is now 50% less than what it was prior to the installation of the lights (section 6.2.1, page 29). Note also in figure 6.5 and 6.7 that people are simply disregarding the restrictions and making illegal turns anyway (also figures 5.2 & 5.3 on page 24).
· It is assumed that all traffic is local, but no one really knows for sure (section 6.5, page 39).
· The assumption for the impact of all the new development happening on the Lane Cove side of Mowbray is for morning traffic to increase by 36% and afternoon by 25% in the next 7 years (section 7, page 41).
· There is a plan to redesign the intersection at Mowbay and Greenlands / Centennial to allow for eastbound traffic to have a right turn arrow phase to avoid worsening conditions on Greenlands (the assumption is that the rat runs on western Coolaroo would decrease). This will require a banning of parking on Greenlands, however (section 7.3.5, page 47).
· No consideration was given in future modeling to the actual capacity of the intersections along Mowbray, so the assumptions may be wrong and rat runs may in fact ensure despite the modeling (section 8.3, page 54).
· The report concludes that the overall problem of rat running cannot be solved without doing something at the Pacific Highway / Mowbray intersection (section 8.5.2, page 62).
This may indeed be true, but the consultants mentioned that this is something that is likely to take a long time, as the RMS is involved. If you think that other issues should be dealt with on a concurrent basis (i.e. not wait for the solution at Pacific Hwy / Mowbray), this is your opportunity to indicate that.
· It is proposed to ban some parking on Dalrymple (section 8.6.2, page 63) as well as Coolaroo in the future (section 9.1.3, page 73).
· Overall, the report concludes that although volumes on Coolaroo have increased, it is not due to the lights at Beaconsfield (despite Beaconsfield volumes dropping), so the recommendation is to keep the turn bans (section 9.1.2, pages 71 & 72).
· It is recommended to set a 300 car per hour limit on Coolaroo due to its narrow, undulating nature (section 9.1.2, page 72).
Although the council have agreed to do a road safety audit on Coolaroo to take into account the impact of the speed and aggression of the traffic on overall safety, if you agree that it is best to keep this limit of 300 vehicles / hour rather than the standard 500 per hour, this is your chance to say so.
· The general theme seems to be, however, that removing the restrictions at the lights at Beaconsfield won’t do much to help Dalrymple or Coolaroo because of the increase in rat runs expected from all of the development underway on the Lane Cove side.
If you believe that safety should also be taken into account regardless of what else is done with a goal toward calming and slowing the traffic regardless of volume, this is your chance to say so.
You can indicate your thoughts on these and other ideas by ticking yes to the last question before the comments section, whereupon a field will open to ask you for your suggestions on what should be done.
Further west, there are also a few things that I noted in the report:
· It is recommended to not ban right turns from westbound Mowbray into Willandra Street (section 7.3.1, page 42) as originally suggested by the previous report from 2011.
· New signals are recommended to be put in at the Hatsfield / Mowbray intersection (section 7.3.2, page 44), which will require some parking changes.
· It is recommended to not accept the original proposal to make Mooney St a left hand turn only into Mowbray, as this will increase traffic on Farran or Hart (section 7.3.4, page 46).
You will be able to indicate your preference for these questions as well in the survey.
It is REALLY IMPORTANT that each of you take the time to comment on this survey. There are some parts of the study that just don’t make sense, and some that do. This is one of our few opportunities to add some weight to our individual viewpoints.
Even though new counting has recently been done and there is still a pending road safety audit in the works, we can’t wait for those data to comment on this report.
From Council’s Traffic Engineer:
I have made the right turn into Beaconsfield Road during the am peak and accept that at times it can be difficult to make this right turn. The problem is not however easily addressed. We have previously requested that consideration be given to a dedicated right turn phase however Roads and Maritime Services (who control the traffic signals) have not agreed citing increased delays for other traffic. I am happy to raise the matter with them again. In the report we have recommended that an additional set of signal displays be introduced for eastbound traffic which should decrease the incidence of that traffic queuing across the intersection thereby increasing your opportunities to turn right.
In regard to traffic volumes on Dalrymple Avenue, while I note that you have advised that you now use Dalrymple Avenue rather than Beaconsfield Road and, I expect you are not alone, traffic volume data does not show an increase in traffic on Dalrymple Avenue.
I live in West Ward just off Mowbray Road and am concerned about the traffic lights at the Mowbray and Centennial Ave. Coming up Mowbray towards Chatswood, I often have to turn right into Centennial and have watched many near misses at these lights. In busy times you are forced to turn on the red light and never know whether someone is going to hit you. With all the development of units on Mowbray road it is only going to get worse. Have we been lobbying for a right hand green arrow here? It is certainly needed. I would appreciate an update on anything you’ve heard on this matter.
Sent in by a frustrated resident:
It has been a while since we communicated and we are now in a NEW YEAR.
Hope the YEAR has started well for you.
In any case, returning to the ongoing TRAFFIC ISSUE I raised with you FOUR years ago and we have been communicating about it through all this time, may the residence of Lane Cove North and Chatswood West know if you are across or aware of the Traffic survey that was done re-the TRAFFIC through the “RAT ROUTE” (Coolaroo, Dalrymple, Beresford, Lone Pine, Eddy Road, De Villers and Centennial) from Mowbray Road to Pacific Hwy or Fullers Road.
It has been “yonks” since the Survey was done and with the completion of ONLY THREE of a total 8 Apartments in the vicinity of Lane Cove North (Centennial Ave, Gordon Crescent and Mowbray Road) the TRAFFIC through the “RAT ROUTE” has increased tremendously.
The PEAK HOUR TRAFFIC now commences at 0700 (it used to be around 0745) and stops around 0945/10am (used to stop around 0900). In the evenings it commences at 3.00 – 5.30 or 6pm (used to be 3.45pm – 5pm).
ALSO even Saturday mornings, there has been quite an increase in traffic through the “RAT ROUTE” especially when Mowbray road to the Pacific Hwy is a car park between 0900 – Noon.
I have not actually sat through them to count the number of cars going through each PEAK hour period but believe me IT has considerably increased since the residence of the area started our campaign 2 years ago or since the Official Survey was conducted by the Willoughby Council more than a year ago.
We need your assistance to alleviate the congestion, noise and pollution problem into the “RAT ROUTE”. It is caused by all the development in Lane Cove North and eventually a spill over from those in Lane Cove itself. Also not forgetting the new large Meriton Apartments (about 100 apartments) being constructed at the junction of Epping Road and Mowbray Road end where the SHELL petrol station and McDonalds used to be.
When ALL of the developments are completed, my presumption is the Traffic through our “RAT ROUTE” will be similar to that of Mowbray Road and Pacific Hwy during peak periods which will be our BIGGEST FEAR.
We hope you, our Parliament representative have the authority to do something as it seems the Local Government has probably forgotten about our ever growing SERIOUS Traffic problem.
From a local resident:
I want congratulate you for being voted back into Office for Willoughby and also to your promotion as NSW Treasurer.
However before you take office of your new portfolio, can you kindly fix an on-going problem for the residents of Chatswood who live in the “rat route” (Mowbray road to Pacific Highway, Chatswood and Fullers Road) area.
I have left Terry in the email loop as he represents the Local Newsletter and I have just been informed Craig has been having a lot of dialogue with the Willoughby Council about the problem.
It’s been a gruelling 5 years of conversations with you and as you are well aware the traffic problem is increasing and will get worse as each of the developments around Lane Cove North (Mowbray Road, Centennial Avenue, Mindarie Road, Gordon Crescent and Epping Road) are completed.
Await your earliest response.
From a local resident:
Along with Soon, I too am shocked at the lack of response to our traffic issue. I reside on Dalrymple Avenue and for some time have noticed the increase in traffic along our route.
As I drive along Centennial Avenue in Lane Cove I am amazed to see how the streets that run perpendicular to it are closed off or restricted, pushing the traffic onto the main roads Same goes for streets that run off Mowbray Road on the Artarmon side. Why nothing is done along our route amazes me.
I patiently await a response.