My current position on Dornoch Terrace Improvement plans

Dear residents,

We’ve started receiving feedback in response to council’s first draft concept plans for Dornoch Terrace (thank you!). We’ve been passing this along to the council administration and asking further questions, including about what alternative design options were considered.

I thought I’d explain a bit more about where the project is heading and some of the specific design proposals. Please don’t read this post in a rush. No decisions about this project are going to be made in a hurry, so please take the time to sit down and read this whole document.

 

My Role as a Councillor

As your local rep, I’m actually quite separate from the public servants working within council who draft concept plans. I can provide advice to BCC, such as what my priorities and goals are for a particular neighbourhood, but I don’t get much access to detailed information, and I’m not closely involved in the drafting of road upgrade plans. For example, recently we held a community meeting at St Francis about the future of the corridor. We knew council was working on plans, but we didn’t know exactly what was being released to the public or when it would happen.

I see my role as being to balance and represent the various (often competing) views of the 50 000 residents in my electorate, but also to advise residents on exactly what the council is proposing and how best to advocate to get your voices heard. One of my biggest challenges is keeping residents in the loop, because I don’t have the resources to regularly send out printed letters to everyone. So if you do want regular local updates, please make sure you’re signed up to my email newsletter via www.jonathansri.com/updates

 

Project timeline and parameters

I’ve been advocating for safety improvements for Dornoch Terrace since before becoming your councillor. This particular project was initiated by the LNP after a couple of serious crashes involving cyclists (I have since been advocating for it to have a heavier focus on pedestrian safety). Unlike some council projects, it is predominantly a safety project, as opposed to a project that’s about maximising vehicle traffic flow, which means we have a better opportunity to push for good local outcomes.

The draft concept plans council has sent out for Dornoch Terrace are the first step of what will likely be a long and drawn-out process. Council’s usual approach is to first decide what the project parameters should be, before allocating any funding, producing more detailed designs or going out to tender.

I actually support the process of running initial public consultation on a proposed concept design to see if there’s general public support for a project, before spending tens of thousands of dollars developing detailed technical designs. In my experience, the problems tend to emerge later, where after running a shallow and rushed consultation on a draft concept design, the council fails to conduct a more in-depth follow-up consultation once detailed designs have been produced.

BCC has quite a bit of flexibility, in that it could decide to construct some parts of the design and not others, or undertake the project in stages, so that we can watch and learn how one element of the redesign is working before proceeding with the next one.

But if the LNP decides that this particular road corridor is too controversial, there’s a real risk they will back away from making any changes whatsoever.

That’s my biggest concern at the moment - that if there’s a backlash from residents against some elements of the project, without the council also receiving positive feedback about the good bits, the Liberals will decide the whole thing is too hard and complicated, and allocate money to other road projects in other parts of the city instead.

Before I form my own view on exactly what elements of the project I will or won’t support, I’ll be conducting my own detailed consultation with residents, including a follow-up survey/community vote.

 

Broader transport context

There are big transport changes on the horizon for Brissie’s inner-south side, including the footbridge between West End and Toowong, a possible second footbridge between Boundary St and UQ, major public transport projects like Cross River Rail, rising petrol costs, cheaper electric bikes and scooters, and the rise of personalised public transport services (such as electric minibuses that can drop people to their door).

There are also thousands more people moving into West End and South Brisbane. So if we don’t want the whole suburb of Highgate Hill to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it’s essential that as much as possible, we transition away from car-dependence towards active and public transport. The more people who use public transport, the more high-frequency services the state government will introduce.

If you’d like to understand my thinking about broader transport priorities and strategic directions, have a read of this short pamphlett.

 

Project goals

Based on what I’ve been hearing from residents, my overarching goals for the project are to:

  • Improve safety for all transport modes along Dornoch Terrace, especially pedestrians and cyclists
  • Slow down all road users
  • Discourage traffic (particularly heavy vehicles) from using Dornoch Tce as a through-corridor to access the Montague Rd side of West End
  • Support a gradual transition in Highgate Hill towards active transport and away from car-dependence
  • Reduce noise pollution and air pollution

I believe the council transport planners have similar goals, but that they are also under pressure to continue facilitating cars and heavy vehicles to use Dornoch Terrace as a main access route down to Montague Road.

 

How can we discourage cars and heavy vehicles?

To discourage through-traffic from using Dornoch Terrace, we need a combination of lower speed limits, narrower traffic lanes, more traffic calming, and intersections and crossing points that prioritise pedestrians over cars.

Council’s draft concept plan includes some of these elements, but not others. With the above goals in mind, I’ll unpack some of the key elements of the project and let you know what I think of them. I expect my views will change a bit over time as I hear more feedback from residents and receive more info from the council bureaucracy.

 

Pedestrian Crossings

Council has proposed 3 new pedestrian refuge islands at useful, logical crossing points. My only concern is that they are just refuge islands, which still give right of way to cars, whereas a lot of residents want zebra crossings, which give right of way to pedestrians.

Introducing new zebra crossings would be one of the most effective ways to slow down and discourage through-traffic, because vehicles (including bikes) using Dornoch Terrace would have to stop and give way to anyone crossing. I also think the existing refuge island outside St Francis Church should be converted into a zebra crossing.

Here’s a list of the three new pedestrian crossing locations, including the number of street parking bays that would have to be removed specifically in order to allow enough visibility for approaching traffic:

  • West of Colville St near the bus stop (7 parking spots removed)
  • East of Colville St just before Sankey St (7 parking spots removed)
  • East of Carlton St, just before Dauphin Terrace (3 parking spots removed)

 

Bus stop amalgamation

A common complaint about some bus routes is that they stop too often, slowing down the journey unnecessarily. Council has proposed amalgamating some of the stops along Dornoch Terrace, by removing the stops near Katrine St, and the eastbound stop near Doris St. While removing stops makes routes faster, more reliable and more efficient (and also reduces the safety concerns associated with buses pulling in and out of stops) it also means people have to walk further to get to a stop, which isn’t ideal in hilly areas.

I’m interested in resident feedback on these stop removals. My position at this stage is that I have strong concerns about the idea.

Another option for the bus stops (which is not included in the council plans) would be to make them ‘in-lane’ stops. This would mean that rather than the buses pulling over out of the way of the traffic lanes, cars have to stop and wait behind buses while passengers get on and off. Some motorists would find this annoying, but it would be immensely effective at slowing down and discouraging traffic.

 

Visibility improvements

A common complaint from residents is that parked vehicles block visibility for drivers who are pulling out of driveways and side-streets, particularly when the vehicles are larger 4WDs, vans and delivery trucks. The topography of Highgate Hill means that for certain properties, it’s almost impossible to see oncoming traffic when an exiting car is parked close to a driveway.

Parked cars also impact visibility for cars exiting side-streets such as Sankey St and Carlton St.

All up, around 20 parking bay removals would be necessary to improve visibility at crucial locations along the corridor.

 

Shared zone at Hardgrave-Ganges intersection

Council is proposing to create a 30km/h shared zone around the intersection of Dornoch Tce, Hardgrave Rd and Ganges St. This is a solution that I’ve personally been advocating for a while now. It will mean that vehicles coming down the hill would hit a raised platform just after Doris St, forcing them to slow down.

It also involves removing the most dangerous pedestrian crossing point (where visibility is poor) and converting the other two crossing points to zebra crossings, so that pedestrians have priority and cars and bikes have to stop and give way. This part of the project only involves removing one carpark.

If you support this part of the project, it would be great if you can let council know this, as this element of the concept designs could start first, even if discussions and debates about other parts of Dornoch Terrace continue for a year or two.

Carparking loss

Council’s draft concept designs propose the loss of 115 street parking spaces along the 1.4km corridor (at one point in the flyer, BCC mentions 106 spaces, and at another point they mention 115 spaces - I believe this discrepancy is because they’ve excluded the 9 spaces that are being removed specifically to facilitate traffic lights at the Dornoch-Hampstead intersection).

As mentioned above, 17 bays are being removed to accommodate pedestrian crossings, a further 20 need to be removed to improve visibility and rectify dangerous blindspots, and roughly 8 or 9 spaces relate to the Dornoch-Hampstead removal. The rest are being removed to accommodate separated bike lanes. (What this means is that even without the bike lane component of the design, around 45 spaces would be removed for other reasons)

I’ve had a look through the council’s plans and tried to break down how many street parking bays are proposed to be retained and removed along each stretch of the corridor.

- Hardgrave to Boundary - 23 retained, 30 removed

- Boundary to Sankey - 0 retained, 39 removed

- Sankey to Hampstead - 3 retained, 17 removed

- Hampstead to Gladstone - 20 retained, 29 removed 

I’ve told council that I do not support the design in its current form, but that I am open to supporting carpark removals if there’s a clear justification and the LNP also agrees to:

- drop speed limits to 40km/h

- install zebra crossings, and

- make the other safety improvements residents are requesting (such as speed bumps and traffic calming).


Obviously the biggest impacts are in the middle stretch, east of Boundary St, but I’m also mindful of how these removals would impact sites like St Francis Church, and will be asking council more questions about the possibility of retaining some on-street disability parking bays and drop-off zones. I’m aware that one or two homes along Dornoch Terrace don’t have any off-street parking whatsoever, and I particularly want to hear from you if you fall into that category.

 

Bike lanes

Lots of residents tell me that they would be more likely to ride for transport if it were safer to do so. We also hear complaints from residents that they don’t like sharing narrow footpaths with faster-moving bikes and escooters. With that in mind, I think council’s proposal to include separate bike lanes along Dornoch Terrace makes sense.

Separate bike lanes are not primarily intended to cater for sports cyclists, who tend to travel at higher speeds and sometimes in larger groups. Separated bike lanes cater for less experienced local riders, particularly children who might be riding to school.

With the growth of escooters and ebikes in hilly neighbourhoods, we need to create room for these modes of transport so that they aren’t sharing narrow footpaths with pedestrians.

An alternative approach would be to significantly widen footpaths, but this is difficult and expensive along Dornoch Terrace, and would also result in the removal of dozens of street trees.

Some short sections of the bike lanes include physical separators to the main traffic lane. This makes the lanes more useable for unconfident riders, but is more difficult to achieve on stretches where there are lots of driveways and side-streets. The benefit of physical separators is that they also tend to make the roadway feel narrower, and thus encourage cars and trucks to slow down in the same way as build-outs do.

 

Speed limit

Council’s plan proposes to leave the speed limit for most of Dornoch Terrace at 50km/h. I don’t think this is acceptable. I think the speed limit should be reduced to 40km/h, dropping to 30km/h from St Francis Church all the way to the bottom of the hill. More traffic calming should be included in the design to slow down all modes of transport. For example, it would make sense to install a speed bump or build-outs that narrow the roadway immediately uphill from each zebra crossing.

It’s likely that construction companies, bus drivers and sports cyclists will object strongly to more traffic calming along Dornoch Tce than is shown in BCC’s current concept design, so if local residents want to see more build-outs or speed bumps, you will need to advocate strongly for this.

The following image shows recent speed limit data from the warning sign that's installed beside the bridge over Boundary St. While the speed data from these warning signs is not considered 100% reliable by council's transport planners, it suggests that as many as 1 in 5 vehicles are travelling over the 50km/h speed limit by the time they're halfway down the hill.

Hampstead-Dornoch Intersection Redesign

The designs propose traffic signals at the intersection of Hampstead Rd and Dornoch Terrace, at the top of the hill. It’s obvious to me that this intersection needs redesigning to improve pedestrian safety and access. Right now it’s virtually impossible for someone in a wheelchair to move across this intersection.

However the intersection design proposed by council still gives too much priority to cars over pedestrians. A better redesign would involve removing the dedicated right-turn lane from Dornoch onto Hampstead, and instead having a single lane which is used by vehicles heading west along Dornoch and turning right onto Hampstead. This would mean vehicles wishing to travel west on Dornoch still have to wait for cars turning down onto Hampstead, and would thus significantly discourage through-traffic from using the Dornoch Terrace corridor. It would also create more space around this intersection for broader footpaths and additional shade tree planting.

Another approach would be to undertake other changes along Dornoch first (such as the shared zone at Hardgrave, lower speed limits and additional crossings). Once these other changes are introduced, we might see a drop in traffic volumes, which could change how we evaluate the Hampstead-Dornoch intersection. It might turn out that traffic lights aren’t needed at all, and that another solution (for example, a small roundabout with lots of dedicated zebra crossings for pedestrians) is a better way to go.

 

Side-street redesigns

To improve safety and discourage rat-running, council is proposing to prevent right turns in and out of Carlton St, which seems like a good idea to me.

 

The draft concept designs also propose converting part of the service lane connecting Boundary St to Dornoch Terrace into a one-way street, so cars can get from Dornoch down to Boundary, but not from Boundary back up to Dornoch (they can still use the service road to get from Boundary to Daventry). I expect this change might also help reduce the number of vehicles using Dornoch Terrace to get down to Hill End and Montague Rd, but I’m interested in your feedback on what other impacts this might have on the network.

 

Equity is important

Not everyone has an equal opportunity to provide feedback in a limited timeframe, and not everyone is equally impacted by changes to how a road is designed. Arguably, the most disadvantaged voices in this conversation are people who have limited mobility and can’t afford to travel by car or catch public transport.

So while I’m particularly mindful of people with impaired mobility who need disability parking spots, I’m also conscious that some people with impaired mobility don’t even have the luxury of using a vehicle, which means pedestrian access and comfort is always the top priority.

 

Where to from here?

I understand that council sent out approximately 13 000 newsletters about the draft concept design, and that so far, council has received around 500 online survey responses, and around 50 detailed email responses to the draft concept plans.

In November, council’s city projects team will start compiling the feedback they have received so far. In the new year, they will present that feedback to the Chair of Public and Active Transport, and also to me as the local councillor. They will ask me what aspects of the project I do and don’t support, and take that feedback on board in developing an updated concept plan, which I expect will be released to the public sometime in 2020. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the LNP hold off releasing an updated concept plan until after the March election so as to avoid controversy)

In the meantime, we are also asking council for more detailed info about crash histories, traffic volumes (including bikes and pedestrians), current speeds and bus patronage, which we will pass on to residents when we get it.

My office is looking at organising a second detailed survey/community vote regarding the future of Dornoch Terrace, once more info has been shared with the public. We know council has been running its own survey, but we want to run a more thorough and inclusive process that provides quantitative data on exactly how many local residents support or oppose different elements of the project. I want to make sure that I’m hearing from the whole community, and not just vocal minorities or well-organised stakeholder groups. We will also be organising another public meeting, probably early in the new year.

One of the tricky questions I’m currently working through is how much weight to give to the views of residents who live immediately along the corridor, as compared to those who live in nearby side-streets and residents who travel in from other suburbs. This is a difficult balance to strike. Inevitably, those who live closest expect to have more say, while those who live further away but travel to or through the area regularly also expect their views to be given weight.

 

Please stay engaged

I don’t have the resources to post out multiple detailed updates about this project, so I implore you to make sure you check your emails regularly and ensure emails from my office aren’t going into your junk mail folder.

If you know someone who doesn’t use email, please ask them to contact my office and we’ll make a note to send them printed updates.

If you know someone who doesn’t speak English, let me know and I can arrange to have materials translated.

 

Please keep your feedback specific

At this stage, the best way to give feedback is to email the City Projects team in council on cityprojects@brisbane.qld.gov.au and CC my office at thegabba.ward@bcc.qld.gov.au to keep me in the loop. Whether you’re contacting my office or the council directly, I strongly encourage you to keep your feedback specific. Saying you ‘object to the entire project’ is much less useful and persuasive than identifying which specific elements you do and don’t support.

As your local councillor, I intend to share as much info with you as I can, and to make sure I hear from as many residents as possible (and not just vocal minorities). As mentioned at the outset, this is going to be a slow, drawn-out project - probably in multiple stages - so please don’t stress if you feel you haven’t yet had time to give feedback. We have a long way to go.

Thanks for reading this far!