Koonda Lat Pipe Bridge Crossing Merri Creek

Koonda Lat Pipe Bridge Crossing Merri Creek

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vale Dot McNamara

So sad to see Dot McNamara pass away earlier this week and, with her, the closure of one of the few remaining shops in our neighbourhood.  A chat or two with our saddened neighbours reveals Dot's store on Charles Street was established in the 1920s by her parents, who operated a Dye Works out the back.  Dot went to school at St Joseph's up the hill and is one of many of our older generation who have spent their entire lives in the neighbourhood - many, like Dot, were apparently born in houses on our streets.  They have lived through a lot of change.

When an institution like Dot moves on, many start to recount their memories and knowledge of the Merri precinct's history and character.  Many of us have photos of what the place looked like over a long period; the houses, shops, the people and the stories that go with them.  It would be great to get all this down in some form or other before we lose a connection to our colourful past forever.

Howard Bolton, who operates the bookstore opposite Dot's shop, is calling for expressions of interest in having a memorial plaque created and mounted in tribute to her life and connection to our community history.  Please drop in to Howard's shop on the corner of Charles and Park Streets to let him know if you're interested - Saturday morning is probably the best time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Merri Parade: What on Earth is going on with Councillor Tsitas?

Okay - as many will be aware, Darebin's Council officers took a good look at this proposal and pretty much shot it out of the water in their report to a meeting of Council earlier this week:
"Based on the issues described in previous sections, it is expected that the benefits to the community obtained from the investment on the road expansion are extremely limited. Road widening could only generate benefits to those who drive regularly on Merri Parade. As previously discussed, any benefits to these people would quickly dissolve as yet more traffic uses Merri Parade, resulting in the same level of congestion as currently exists, but an additional lane of it. A large proportion of the drivers using Merri Parade are assumed to be through traffic from north of Darebin.
In terms of a benefit cost ratio (BCR) (that is, value for money), a project like this would score very poorly, in contrast to a public transport improvement project, or even a cycling improvement project.
Studies show that high-quality, time-competitive public transport tends to attract travellers who would otherwise drive, which reduces congestion on parallel roads. Although public transport does not usually eliminate road congestion, it can significantly reduce congestion intensity on roads like Merri Parade."
 See the full report on page 44 of the meeting agenda online.

So that was pretty good.  However, the Mayor then tabled a counter-proposal as follows:

My Merri Hiiiiiiiigggghwaaaaaaayyyy
I have no idea why Cr Tsitas is so obsessed with Merri Parade.  Not only is this contrary to expert advice, all it does is claim parkland for roadspace with no increase to capacity for either cars or bikes, compromising the quality and safety of the separate bike path, and preventing residents  from accessing their local streets when returning from the south-east.  The divided road would either divert all north-westbound local traffic through McLaughlin and Barry Streets to follow a ridiculously circuitous route through the labyrinthine chicanes of Westgarth, or force residents to drive up to St George's Rd, take a u-turn at Northcote High School, and return to the neighbourhood with south-eastbound traffic.  Nuts. All we want is a safe pedestrian crossing point to the creek and bikepath, preferably at the end of Union Street where visibility is poor.

Anyway, Council apparently approved the motion to approach VicRoads with this recommendation, except Crs. Tim Laurence and Trent McCarthy.  Also, there will be some form of community consultation!

There is another agenda we aren't seeing here.  It suggests a kind of incrementalism, whereby the road is first (pointlessly) widened without increasing capacity, providing scope for further lanes to be added at an undisclosed point in the future.  There is no obvious benefit to anyone from pursuing this incredible waste of Council resources and residents' time.  So the motivation for this dogged pursuit of widening Merri Parade has me quite concerned.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Merri Parade Duplication

Many will have seen the old issue of Merri Parade's duplication resurfacing of late, largely in reaction to Council's decision to minimise traffic flows on High Street, creating a heavier flow through our precinct.  We already have westbound traffic on Westgarth Street unable to turn right into either High Street or Charles Street further on at the St George's Rd junction, requiring drivers to cut through established residential streets to access main roads on the south-west of Rucker's Hill. While some traffic calming measures are in the pipeline, Council is now considering establishing a four-lane highway between local residences and the creek parkland, to continue down Westgarth Street where opportunities for widening are scant without loss of on-street parking, plantings and amenity.

The Parade Development: increasingly an optimistic vision.
Picture a four-lane highway where the tree plantings are.
Darebin's Mayor, Cr Stevan Tsitas (a Rucker ward councillor), has urged Council officers to prepare a report on the viability of revisiting the idea of bringing greater traffic flow down Merri Parade yet again.  On this week's Council agenda a progress report was sought from Council officers:

1) Council officers prepare a report on what strategic direction
Darebin’s advocacy will take to VicRoads with respect to the ‘Main
Road’ status category attributed to Merri Parade once the full effects
of Tram Route 86 are felt.
(2) In light of the Council report of 21 March 2011 noting 18,000
passenger vehicle movements per day on Merri Parade that we seek
to engage the community to advocate for the duplication of Merri
Parade to alleviate the traffic congestion in this key area linking the
two major entrances to the city to the south, namely High Street and
St Georges Road, Northcote.
Felipe Carvajal Michael Ballock Report to Council in July 2012.

We need to be ready for this consultation and to have our arguments well formulated and grounded in basic common sense.  Naturally this would have a major impact on our precinct and its environment, further cutting us off from and compromising existing creekside reserves and in particular degrading the quality of life for residents close to or living on Westgarth Street and Merri Parade.

Of course, it would be great to get this sort of nonsense sorted out:

Some highly effective recent stormwater works.
Remember this is an election year.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Demolition and excavation recommencing

Couple of quick updates: first, advice from Merri Merri Developments is that the last bit of demolition on the site should be recommencing this week, weather permitting.  This should also roll on to the excavation works for the underground carpark - a whole bunch of jackhammering through the good old Northcote basalt.  Hang on to your hats!  Probably a good four month's worth of colour and motion in the neighbourhood before the site can move on to the construction stage.  Director Russell Gordon has generously pledged us as many landscaping boulders as our little hearts desire to embellish the Merri Station landscaping works (thanks Russell).  Will be a nice touch to have some local rock in our local spaces.

Second, some great work undertaken by many of us last week up at Merri Station, spreading out a vast heap of organic compost generously donated by Sita Organics to charge up the new garden beds on both sides of the train line.  Thanks to everyone who pitched in, particularly all the kids!  Photos soon at the new Stationeers blog at http://merri-stationeers.blogspot.com.au/ .