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The End the Rat Run campaign was formed after a number of parents of primary school age children contacted me concerned about the volumes and speed of traffic that passes through West Hobart, Mount Stuart and Lenah Valley. I had definitely noticed the traffic, the increase in volume at peak and the general trend of busier streets, but I hadn't identified some of the issues until I was approached.
I don't personally use the Rat Run, even though I work at Claremont Ambulance Station and live on Lansdowne Crescent. So I did my homework and drove the length of the rat run from Rosetta to Davey St and back at different times of day. As is the case everywhere, there isn't much of an issue between 10:00am and 2:30pm, and after 6:30pm but the traffic predictably increases between 7:30 and 10:00am and 2:30 - 6:30pm. I also went up to Mount Stuart at 5:20pm on a week day and counted cars, which produced a number nearing 1000 cars passing the Mount Stuart Memorial Hall per hour. Which is backed up by empirical data collected by Misdon Traffic consultants in 2019 (see table below).
So, thinking upon the community concerns and the data I had collected, I decided this campaign was a worthy cause. You see, the Rat Run simply doesn't serve a single resident of West Hobart or Mount Stuart. It almost exclusively serves people who live south of Hobart and work in the northern suburbs or vice versa. Yes, some people who reside in South Hobart or Sandy Bay may use this route to go north, but generally the route serves people from outside of the Hobart City LGA.
I understand that people believe this route is faster or more efficient, I also understand that people use this route to make their mobile business more efficient. However, the penalty the many residents of Mount Stuart and West Hobart pay exceeds the benefit of a few in my view. Here are some points to consider about the appropriateness of this route for large volumes of traffic working from South to North.
The volume of traffic has necessitated installation of a set of traffic lights between the Rivulet and Collins Street to enable cycle commuters from South Hobart to safely cross on their way in and out of the city. This area is also frequently crossed by parents with children as a result of the Good Start early learning centre that is at the end of the rivulet. It is also in proximity to Pigeon Hole Cafe and Goulburn Street primary school, so pedestrian traffic is high, particularly around school time.
The pinch between Goulburn Street and Melville Street has an average gradient of about 15% with some sections exceeding 20%. This leads to significant noise for neighbours as cars and light trucks are at 100% throttle to get up the hill. It also leads to wheel spinning cars sliding their way up the street in slippery conditions. In fact, it used to be two way but its so steep that it was closed as accidents frequently occurred at the intersection with Goulburn Street as cars simply couldn't stop in wet or frosty conditions.
The first danger point on Hill Street occurs at the roundabout with Patrick Street. With a local post office and grocer on one corner, Paesanos and Verde on another and Island Tyres on another, as well as, Guilford Young College nearby, it is fair to say this is a high hazard intersection. I have a friend who lives at this intersection and he says that crossing with his young family in busy times is impossible unless someone waves them through. This intersection is punctuated by cars pulling into and out of the 15 minute parking zones, a bus stop and teenagers crossing to and from their parked cars and their school.
Moving down the hill, a new 40km/h zone starts just before the Train Park. It is a welcome reduction, but the because of the topography of the street, the volume of parked cars and the width of the street, visibility of children exiting the park gate or on the footpath is minimal. In addition, drivers are focusing on Warwick st, looking down the hill, away from the park to the right in anticipation of being able to continue through the roundabout without fully slowing or stopping. And because the roundabout is so small, it is possible to pass through the round about at 40km/h as the minimum speed. Meanwhile cars and people come and go from the Florist and mechanic that are opposite the park.
The next intersection is Pine Street. This intersection contains a pharmacy and Smolt Kitchen. Again pedestrian traffic is high. Around school time, this intersection is crossed by many children and families headed to and from Lansdowne Primary School. The new Wombat Crossing is a welcome addition, but unfortunately it was installed too close to the roundabout. The result is that again, drivers attention is not where the hazards are likely to be found. Only drivers exiting Pine street are looking toward the crossing. This leads to many close calls with pedestrians where drivers see them too late or not at all.
Moving to the Arthur Street intersection. Hill Street Grocer is known to cause a little bit of traffic mayhem with cars trying to enter an already full car park. This is made considerably more dangerous by being bordered by a sizeable retirement village. Frequently, elderly residents are trying to cross Hill Street outside the AA Lord village to get to The Grocer with no assistance from a pedestrian crossing.
Mellifont street begins with the Friends Park and a busy bus stop, frequented by teens on their way to and from Taroona High school, most of whom have to cross Melllifont Street from their homes. There is also a medical practice, pathologist and Adam's Store. So again this is an area that has a high pedestrian density of vulnerable people.
It continues up the hill which has a gradient of between 20-25%. Again subjecting residents to excessive noise when travelling up the hill. I have witnessed rear wheel drive cars getting stuck on wet days if they have to stop half way up and end up causing chaos needing to reverse and do a U-turn. The gradient also leads to a tendency of excessive speed when travelling down the hill.
Mount Stuart Road
The first danger point is the intersection with Mellifont street, where many cars are not anticipating cars coming up Mount Stuart Road and want to maintain their momentum up the steep hill. Next comes a known as a pinch point, where cars must give way to oncoming traffic as the street narrows. All in proximity to Mount Stuart Primary School.
Byard St, Gordon Av, Montagu St, Doyle Av
While the hazards being to lessen at this part of the route, it does still have Mount Stuart Memorial hall. This hall is a multipurpose hall that is frequented by children and families of all ages. Residents in this section of the route have told me that on occasion they have waited more than 5 minutes simply to get out of their driveway. It is a route that is punctuated by give way and stop signs as well as more roundabouts. Again residents have told me that if you aren't in the Rat Run traffic and you are coming from a side street or unexpected direction, you are subject to regular close calls with people who treat this route like a highway.
I think the above list shows just how inappropriate this route is for large volumes of traffic. Those who use it regularly state they use it as a shortcut to avoid the Brooker Highway. I think this is telling, they literally choose this route as their alternate "highway". Reducing traffic and slowing/calming the traffic on this route will hopefully lead to more families allowing their kids to walk unsupervised to and from school, the elderly feeling safe when trying to do their shopping, increase a sense of community as streets will be a safer place for children and families to play, and prevent future life changing or life ending incidents where cars meet kids. It will truly change the feel of both suburbs for the better.
I believe that installing traffic calming devices, such as speed bumps or chicanes, lowing the speed limit in key places and increasing the number of raised pedestrian crossings (Wombat Crossings) in crucial high pedestrian areas will deter enough people from using this route. Yes, it may now take them 5 minutes longer to get from The Southern Outlet to Rosetta, but I believe that the gains to the 8,000 residents of Mount Stuart and West Hobart are so substantial that it is worth it.
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Some of this petitions crossings have already been recommended but not implemented by Hobart City Council. Read council’s 2019 work, external traffic consultant‘s (Midson Traffic) report and recommendations here (scroll to page 141)