Where’s the community’s focal point? It’s the railway station.

Two sleeps until the election.

Apart from trying to get citizens out to a public meeting, where in the neighbourhood is the best place to meet as many people you can, face-to-face?

Judging from what the politicians and lobby groups have been up to, it’s the railway station — on weekdays, at least.

I’ve lost count of the number of flyers I’ve been handed at Bentleigh station over the past few months. Undoubtedly it’s due to being in a marginal seat.

Supporter of Labor, and independent candidate Chandra Ojha, handing out flyers at Bentleigh station

Public Transport Not Traffic campaigners (including myself) at Bentleigh station. Campaigner Tony (who worked harder than me that morning) is not pictured; he snapped the photo.

The Greens candidate Sean Mulcahy at Bentleigh station

The political parties and one of the independents, as well as various unions and lobby groups (including one supporting national parks, and also Public Transport Not Traffic) have been prominent at the station in the last few weeks.

Mostly they are in the morning. It’s easier to hand out flyers as you get a steady stream of people, and if the train isn’t imminent, they can stop for a minute to ask questions. In the evening few people want to linger; they’re keen to get home. Plus it’s harder to hand out to scores of people arriving in a burst, followed by minutes of nobody going past.

Chalk one up for the trains. Cleverer people than I might ponder if this helps skew policies. As the Liberals’ fake commuter newspaper shows, it certainly helps influence campaign literature.

You’re certainly unlikely to have a face-to-face encounter with politicians and their supporters while driving your car. Sadly those people who are unable to use trains because suburban connecting buses are so poor will also miss out.

On the weekends the campaigners tend to be elsewhere in the shopping centre, though sometimes at the station. The advantage for them of street shopping centres is I doubt they’d ever get permission from a Westfield or Gandel to set up in Chadstone or Southland.

Of course this week, they’re also at early voting centres, and will be swarming around polling places on Saturday. (The first inkling I had that Bentleigh was at risk of swinging from Labor to Liberal in 2010 was when I heard that then-Premier John Brumby had been seen at a local polling place, Mckinnon Secondary College. On voting day you’re most likely to see the senior pollies in marginal seats.)

I’ve been tracking the various flyers handed to me in person via Twitter at Bentleigh station. Here are a few instances of flyers and local campaigning from the past month or two:

PS. On Monday the PTUA put out its election scorecard. If you’re interested in public transport issues, and they’ll influence your vote, check it out.

Update: After the election…

Rainbow

Sorry, no time to do a proper blog post, so here’s a photo of a rainbow I snapped in Bentleigh on Monday, as dark clouds loomed:

Rainbow over Bentleigh

Frankston line: $100m of upgrades coming. What’s included, and what isn’t? #SpringSt #metrotrains

The Frankston line is to get upgrades worth $100 million — signalling changes to allow X’Trapolis trains to run, more shelter at stations, better CCTV, and better passenger information, including about connecting buses and trams.

The Premier, Public Transport Minister, local (Coalition) MPs, heads of PTV and Metro and even the Mayor of Glen Eira were at Bentleigh station this morning for an announcement.

IMAG0021

I heard it was happening, so decided to ambush the press conference and listen in. (Just like old times.)

The press release details what’s included:

“Frankston line passengers will also benefit from improvements to station lighting, the installation of extra CCTV cameras, the extension of station platform canopies to provide more weather protection, additional myki readers and disability access improvements.

“Frankston line stations will also have new passenger information screens installed which display real time updates for trains, trams and buses, providing improved information for commuters as they arrive at stations.

“The Coalition Government’s doubling in train frequencies to every 10 minutes during the day on weekends on the Dandenong, Frankston and Ringwood lines has been successful, and now it is time to roll out further improvements,” Mr Mulder said.

This all sounds pretty good.

In fact, it sounds like precisely the sort of upgrade which should be carried out on lines across the network.

Along with the ten minute trains now seen on the line every day, a good amount of shelter, good lighting and CCTV and real time connection information is not unreasonable to expect on all our rail lines.

X’trapolis trains

I had a quick chat to Andrew Lezala from Metro — it seems the acceleration of the X’trapolis and Siemens trains are similar, so they’d like to predominantly run those on the Frankston line, and tweak the timetable to match.

Presumably this means Comeng trains will go elsewhere — and it would also mean the Williamstown and Werribee lines will also get X’trapolises, since most Frankston trains through-route to there.

What wasn’t announced?

What’s missing?

More services — we’ve already seen ten minute services every day on the line during off-peak (though few people know about them) — better than any other line in Melbourne, so I think it’s fair enough to let that be for now. But peak could do with a boost to cope with crowding and a clean-up of peak shoulder would help too.

Ormond level crossing grade separation "delivered" according to local MP - not the last time I lookedGrade separation — North Road grade separation is coming along (though is not quite “delivered” yet, as a flyer from the local member recently claimed), but no others on this line are proposed at present. The Premier and Minister had caught the train to Bentleigh, and when I had a chat with him, the Premier noted the extremely slow speed over the Glenhuntly train/tram crossing. I think he may have made noises about improving it, but I’m assuming this does not amount to a promise to grade separate!

Southland station — One of the journos asked about Southland. Terry Mulder said that because it involves building on land owned by the shopping centre, they are in negotiations over that. He seemed to also say that it would happen soon, without giving a firm time line, but it did say it would definitely happen.

Station staff — Nup. They’re still pushing the PSOs policy, even though much crime happens before 6pm, and many stations see little or nothing happen.

Connections — The upgrade will include real time information about connections, but of course one of the things lacking is the frequency of those connecting services. Passengers in Glenhuntly are lucky enough to have trams every 10-15 minutes every day, but those relying on buses see mostly hourly weekend services, and some (such as the Bentleigh to Brighton end of the 703) don’t run on Sundays.

The gunzel version

X’Traps to replace Comengs on the Franga line! Get photos!!

When will things start to happen

It’s hard not to see that this package of upgrade works is aimed squarely at the row of marginal seats along the Frankston line. As such I’d be surprised if some of the more visible changes don’t start to happen in the next 12 months, well in time for the election in November 2014.

With trains every ten minutes, better realtime information and station shelters, enhanced CCTV, more reliable services… sounds like just the sort of thing that should be rolled-out across the rail network.

But $100 million is also a lot of money. For instance, yesterday it was announced that a new high school in the Mernda/Doreen area would be built… costing $11.5 million. Some are pointing out that $100 million would pay for duplication on some of the single-line sections of other lines, which would make a huge difference to reliability.

The week in house maintenance

It was house maintenance week this week. I took a couple of days off to do some de-cluttering and get some people in.

Hard rubbish got rid of two old mattresses, three former recycle bins, a big plank of wood, an old fan and two disused old bicycles. Amusingly, between putting stuff out/booking the collection and having it picked up, one bike disappeared, then came back, then the second went.

On Tuesday I got my ducts cleaned. (Note: This is not a euphemism.)

On Wednesday it was the pest controllers, as part of my self-declared War On Cockroaches. The guy sprayed inside and out, and we evacuated for a while to let the fumes dissipate — into the city for some lunch, a walk around, and some photography.

Princes Bridge and the Southbank footbridge, Yarra River, Melbourne

Of course, the most exciting news this week in the ‘hood has been the opening of the new Aldi store in downtown Bentleigh (in the old IGA site). Wednesday was opening day, and it was packed with people hunting down $10 kettles and toasters, and $89 Android tablets.

$89 at Aldi. Should I or shouldn't I?I must admit I was tempted by the latter. But in the end I decided not to buy it, for three reasons: [1] the check-out queues were really long, [2] although it’s cheap, a review reckoned this model of tablet has poor Wifi reception (and in fact the reviewer ended up returning it due to poor battery life), and perhaps most importantly, [3] I’d just spent days de-cluttering the house, and buying something I didn’t really need would be a backward step,

And after all, there’ll be other cheap tablets. Wait a few months and there’ll be a better one for the same price.