Roundabouts and intersections

Wray Avenue has been closed down at the west end as the Council put in a new roundabout. It has been nice to have a break from the buses and two way traffic for a bit.

The purpose of the roundabout is to slow traffic down along South Terrace and, for some, to make it easier to get out of Wray Avenue than the current stop sign allows.

I’m not convinced by the idea that it will slow down traffic, at least not by the argument that this is the best, cheapest or only way to achieve it. Part of that comes from the roundabouts easier redistribution of traffic from Wray Avenue and the possible extra traffic this ease will bring.

The Howardians are also concerned that the roundabout will lead to their road becoming a legal throughway (as opposed the the illegal throughway that drivers currently make extensive use of). I’m sympathetic to their concerns.

Foremost in any issues I had with the roundabout, the only issue I really had anyway, was the possible removal of the tree (pictured above) and nearby seat. Thankfully, it looks like these are staying. I’m pretty sure that the plans said that they were but you never can tell with these things.

There was talk about placing some sort of public artwork on the roundabout but, at the local precinct meeting, it failed to garner any consensus. There were disputes about the subject matter, the artist to be commissioned and whether it should even have art on it. I imagine that nothing will happen.

Personally, I’m in favour of the art. Not because it’s a “bold entry statement” but because this is a significant, large and visible part of our public space. Roadways aren’t pretty in anyway, so any attempt to beautify them with trees or artwork is a bonus.

A tree is a bad idea as the roundabout will likely be ripped out in about ten years to accommodate the eventual light rail that will run along South Terrace and possibly up Wray Avenue itself. In that time, a tree won’t have time to establish itself and its demise upon this change will result in a lot of consternation which can easily be avoided.

In pondering the diversity of opinions about the nature of any public artwork I’ve thought of an idea that I think would be rather excellent.

Instead of having an artist (possibly from outside the local area) win the chance to make an artistic statement in one of the most prominent intersections of Fremantle, what should be created is a kind of “artistic space”, like a sculptural blank canvas. Locals could then use the space to make artistic comment.

This has the advantage of changing and evolving over time, reflecting no one person or group’s ideology. As the roundabout is likely only going to be a temporary fixture anyway, this “artistic space” would function in much the same way as derelict buildings attract graffiti This would not be graffiti though as it wouldn’t be derelict space but a space that the community had embraced to invest with their sense of creativity and diversity.

There is enough will and creative energy within the area to ensure that this space became vibrant with quality ideas – anyone walking through the area will know how Robyn from Wild Poppy decorates the space at this intersection, not to mention quality Wray Avenue designers like Madam Bukeshla and Dusty Designs.

I would also like to imagine that the frequently changing space would also cause drivers to slow and observe the space more carefully, achieving the goal that the roundabout is supposed to – calming traffic. I have my doubts that a roundabout in itself will be able to achieve this but with something to cause drivers to be more conscious of their surroundings it may just be possible. A great example of where something similar happens is the Eliza Statue on Mounts Bay Road, Crawley.

Anyway, watch this space – or the space on the roundabout. I think I’ll seek a few people who might give some support in this. If you see it happen, remember that you heard it here first.

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Railing against a lack of parking

The City of Fremantle has put out for public comment their plan for a Transit Corridor. You can fill in a survey on it here.

Funnily enough, one possible alignment includes a section on Wray Avenue. For a moment I got very excited – as I have previously written I think rail is kind of cool and for me the idea of trams rattling past my door isn’t so bad.

I filled in the survey and read the supporting documents enthusiastically. Sadly my enthusiasm has waned.

The plan calls for overhead wires above – this technology is being phased out all over the world. Underground power, while initially more expensive to put in, has the advantage of being less costly to maintain, requiring less electricity to power and being far less visually obtrusive. Presumably all the trees would have to go to accommodate these wires.

In the discussion of this issue in the documents, I don’t like the implication that Wray Avenue is not a valued heritage precinct. Apparently further down the line it is heritage value that will require the power to go underground, from the hospital to the train station. I don’t see why, apart from cost, this shouldn’t happen on Wray Avenue.

But here’s the real clincher, the thing that made me realise I’ll never see a tram trundle past my house.

At the end of the discussion of this option, it states that “kerbside parking would need to be banned along these roads.”

This is very worrying for me as I have no off-street parking, and I’m not alone in this. Where am I meant to park my car? Even if I managed to be car-less (something I aspire to eventually be) where are my visitors going to park when they come over using private transport? Where are tradespeople I require to service my house going to park when I need them? – They already have a hard enough time!

There’d be much stronger opposition from those on the street who, unlike me, don’t even think light rail is a good idea. Plus there’s Galati’s who would pretty much have their business killed.

I don’t think that a Wray Avenue alignment in this form will ever take place.

Further consultation is taking plan on Tuesday 14th Decemebr from 6pm. Email your RSVP to susan.m@creatingcommunities.com.au.

For other ideas about light rail in Fremantle and across the metropolitan area, I suggest visiting Senator Scott Ludlam’s Perth Light Rail website. It’s a tremendous, ambitious but necessary plan.

A light Wray-l option?

Since roadworks began earlier this year as part of the South Street upgrade, I’ve become very conscious of the increased amount of public transport travelling on Wray Avenue. Even though the roadworks have finished, I’m pretty certain that more routes travel up Wray than did previously.

While it has certainly made my trip home from work easier, as more bus connections stop by my house than ever before, it has also made the street considerably noisier and more hazardous. Case in point, earlier this week I heard a loud bang on the street. When I went to look, I discovered that a bus had collided with a parked ute, its driver having left the tail of his vehicle jutting out from the parking spot on the corner of Brennan and Wray while he shopped at Galati’s. I’m certain that buses speed along this stretch and the narrow street, with parking either side, means that they often overhang their lane. Car drivers aren’t exactly supportive. And don’t get me started about the hazards faced by cyclist!

I should point out that I’m a big fan of public transport, even with these perils and fully support it. In fact, I’m the sort of nut that gets excited at the development of public infrastructure. I don’t know why, but I find myself enthused by proposals to extend railway lines, improve connectivity and reintroduce tramlines.

I’ll admit then that I’ve often sat on the porch of my Wray Avenue cottage and wondered what it would be like to have trams, rather than buses, rolling past on their way east to the suburbs or downtown to the train station.

To my mind, Wray Avenue would make a perfect road for such a tram line. I would imagine that the corner of South Street and South Terrace is too tight and the gradient of South Street too steep to climb. With increasing retail in the Wray Avenue precinct, a stop at the bottom would be essential.

This led me to investigate the history of trams in Fremantle and whether they’d ever run up Wray. It turns out that they did.

Fremantle’s first tramways began in 1905. I haven’t been able to find a map of the routes but from what I can gather, by April of 1906 there were several routes servicing Fremantle [1].

One ran along South Terrace (then called Mandurah Road) at the bottom of Wray Avenue, taking passengers all the way to South Beach.

The Beaconsfield route ran along Hampton Road and turned up Wray Avenue where Moondyne Joe’s (formerly the Beaconsfield Hotel) is and headed up to turn southwards at Solomon Street. This route terminated at the primary school (I presume by continuing along Solomon Street). It was later extended eastwards along South Street to Central Avenue and later again to Carrington Street.

What is interesting is that, from photos that I have seen, there is hardly anyone living along the end of the Beaconsfield lines at these times. It means that people actually had the forethought and vision to put this infrastructure in, anticipating that it would grow with time. It seems strange in our times when there is a lot of talk but no real action on delivering this kind of infrastructure.

As an interesting aside, William Ernst Wray, after whom Wray Avenue was renamed, was elected to the tramways board in 1919 and served as chairman in 1920.

1 – http://pets.railpage.org.au/pets10f.html