The Daily Telegraph, the copied quotes, the problems they caused, and #MediaWatch

During my time involved with the PTUA, there’s been a policy to not comment on issues outside Victoria, for three main reasons:

  • It’s a Victorian organisation. There are local groups covering other parts of Australia.
  • You make media comment on stuff outside your knowledge at your peril.
  • It takes away effort from activism for and in Victoria.

So I was very surprised to discover some quotes of mine in the Sydney Daily Telegraph last week.

Sydney: Domestic airport station

INCONSIDERATE travellers putting their feet up on train seats have been fined $48,000 in the past year.

Daniel Bowen, president of the Public Transport Users Association said it was “completely appropriate” for people to be penalised for placing their feet on seats, however he said more should be done to educate people it was an offence in the first place.

“It would certainly make sense to have an awareness campaign not only to warn people of the fine but to ­discourage people from engaging in anti-social behaviour in the first place,” Mr Bowen said.

– Daily Telegraph, 24/3/2014: Rude travellers toe the line: 480 people fined for putting their feet on train seats

I only found out about it because at least two Sydney radio stations contacted the PTUA wanting further comments (and specifically, audio quotes to use in their bulletins).

I hadn’t given quotes to the reporter, but they sounded vaguely familiar, so I did a bit of Googling and found them in a 2012 Age story.

The situation in Sydney is unclear to me. I know from the story that 480 people were fined in a year (a tiny amount compared to 17,592 people fined in Victoria in a year).

But the offence in Victoria includes (basically) putting your feet anywhere that isn’t the floor. Is that the same in Sydney? Is there signage in Sydney? Are there education campaigns in Sydney?

I don’t know, and the PTUA office received at least one grumpy email from a Sydneysider noting that the comments were uninformed. Well, yeah.

The interest from radio and from Sydney punters meant that PTUA volunteers had to spend time dealing with the fallout from two-year-old quotes copied out of context.

Some people suggested I contact Media Watch. So I did.

Media Watch: Daily Telegraph copied quotes

If you missed the story, it’s online here.

I should note that in no time in my dealing with the Melbourne media (including Daily Telegraph stablemate the Herald Sun) have I experienced anything this dodgy.


Update 14/4/2014: With thanks to Peter (see comments below), Crikey is reporting today that Phil Jacob has resigned from the Daily Telegraph after other instances of plagiarism came to light.

A Crikey investigation has uncovered a series of highly questionable articles published in The Daily Telegraph that appear to borrow — liberally and in some cases word-for-word — from reports in other publications.

The reports were all penned by Daily Telegraph state political reporter Phil Jacob, who was slapped down on the ABC’s Media Watch program two weeks ago for lifting quotes from a report in The Age to illustrate a story about rail commuters. But it appears this wasn’t the only time Jacob has lifted copy from stories other than his own.

– Crikey [Paywall]

Photos from December 2003

Continuing my series of ten year old photos

The Christmas tram in Flinders Street
Christmas tram

Grumpy Daniel
Grumpy

Next, perhaps the most useless Melbourne public transport map ever produced.
It doesn’t show the most well-known location, the CBD, and shows very few others. It also has numerous errors, including: Implies Sandringham is next to Clayton. Implies Glen Waverley is east of Clayton (it’s actually north). Implies Box Hill is east of Glen Waverley (it’s northwest). Implies Belgrave is next to Box Hill (it isn’t). Williamstown is actually in zone 1. Many of the others are on the zone 1/2 boundary.
Hopeless public transport zone map

Playing totem tennis in the backyard in Carnegie. (Animated GIF created by GIFmaker.me)
Playing totem tennis

A youthful looking me, on the news just before New Year’s Eve, warning of the chaos to come.
Daniel whinging about NYE

… You can read the full story on that here… or if you just want to know what happened:

The @PTUA rating of the three biggest parties on transport #AusVotes

Abbott’s outright refusal to fund urban public transport (while throwing billions into motorways) hasn’t won him any friends here. Make sure your vote counts.

PTUA 2013 Federal Election brochure

PT fare discounts you may not know about

From a conversation with my sister, an occasional PT user, I’m guessing there are some discounts around the place that people don’t know about. The good news is that with Myki being forced down everybody’s throats, if you can get over the hurdle of getting a card (now $6 full fare, $3 concession), it’s easier than ever before to get the discounts.

Bourke Street trams

This is just a summary, and is aimed at Melbourne, though some of the rules apply elsewhere in Victoria. There are various exclusions (for instance no free travel on some services such as Skybus or Countrylink). Click on the relevant link for all the details.

(And if you don’t understand how Myki works, and the difference between Myki Money and Myki Pass, go read this or this.)

Freebies

Kids aged 3 and under ride for free.

Anybody with a permanent disability which means they can’t use tickets can get an Access Travel Pass, which means they ride for free.

Separately, there’s also a Scooter and Wheelchair Travel Pass which also provides free travel, and also a Vision Impaired Travel Pass.

There are various other free passes for (some) war veterans, companions/carers, and also some retired public transport staff.

There’s free travel on weekends for Victorian Seniors — see below.

Note that Myki cards need a positive balance (above zero) for the free travel to work (eg if you owe them money, you don’t get a free ride).

Concessions

Concession fares are generally 50% of the full (adult) fare.

You can’t buy a concession Myki from a vending machine; you have to find a Premium station or retail outlet or buy online.

Kids from 4 to 16 can use a concession Myki (without needing a concession card to prove entitlement).

Kids 17 and older who are in fulltime study (secondary or tertiary) need to get a VPT (Victorian Public Transport) Student Concession Card (costing $9) to be eligible to use a concession Myki. You also need one of these if using a Student Pass (discounted 6-month or yearly ticket).

Anybody with a Health Care Card (with a Victorian address) can travel on concession fares — these cards are broadly available to people on limited incomes. This is helpful for some postgrad or part-time students who are ineligible for student concessions.

If you have a Victorian Seniors Card you can get a Seniors Myki, which gives concession fares on weekdays, capped to the Seniors Daily $3.60 fare (2013: $3.80), and free travel on weekends.

There are various other concessions for (some) war veterans and widows, and asylum seekers.

From interstate or overseas

Seniors from Interstate can use a standard concession Myki, but can’t get a Seniors Myki. It’s not clear to me if seniors from overseas are entitled to any discount at all — although this page implies all “non-Victorian” Seniors can get a concession Myki, but this is not reflected in the Fares & Ticketing Manual, which talks about Victorian and interstate/Australian seniors or pension card holders.

The rules for kids appear to apply to those from interstate or overseas — free rides for 3 and under, concession fares 4 to 16. No discount for 17 and over, as you have to be a student in Victoria.

Despite continuing campaigns, international students aren’t eligible for concessions.

Evening discounts

The rules about 2-hour tickets being valid all night after 6pm still apply to Myki: the fare applies until 3am.

Earlybird

Free rides apply on Metro electric train services if your trip is finished by 7am. You can’t just travel without a ticket; you have to get a Myki and touch-on and touch-off so you can prove your trip was finished.

(Although it’s advertised as 7am, technically the cut-off time is actually 7:15am; this is to allow for delayed trains. If your regular trip arrives at 7:10am, then you lucked out. Just don’t complain on the odd day it’s delayed and you have to pay. And don’t complain that you have to get a Myki and touch-on and touch-off to get the free travel. Boo hoo, you’re breaking my heart.)

Weekend and public holiday discounts

On weekends and public holidays, the old Sunday Saver/Weekend Saver discounts apply, meaning you pay no more than $3.30 for zones 1+2 (2013: $3.50). If you’ve been driving on the weekend to a zone 1 station to avoid the zone 1+2 fare, you might as well not bother.

Note that it applies on all gazetted Melbourne public holidays. This is a genuine improvement over Metcard, which didn’t offer public holiday discounts.

For Myki Pass single zone holders, you get a discount on the second zone if you use it. For some crazy reason it’s equal to the 2-hour fare from the zone you paid for, so a Zone 1 Passholder going into zone 2 on a weekend gets charged 2 cents: the weekend $3.30 cap minus the $3.28 2 hour zone 1 fare… (I think it would have made more sense to apply the per day Pass fare that was originally paid — $4.02 in the case of zone 1. Oh well.)

(2013: Both the Z1 2-hour fare and the weekend daily cap are now $3.50, so a full fare Z1 pass holder pays nothing extra to travel in Z2 on weekends.)

Free Mykis

Normally full fare Myki cards cost $6, and concessions $3.

But some types of Myki are issued free: these include the various free travel passes listed above, as well as to Victorian Seniors, and also Commuter Club (see below).

Bulk discounts

And of course the discounts most people do know about: if you’re travelling 4-5 days or more per week, check out Myki Pass options: 7 days (eg a weekly fare for the same price as 5 individual days using Myki Money) or 28-365 days.

And of course if you’re travelling most days and are prepared to pay a year in advance for the best discount possible, check if your employer offers Commuter Club (some will even offer it via salary deduction), or get it via the PTUA.

Beat the price rise

Another 5% + CPI rise has not yet been confirmed, but is expected in January. It used to be you could buy Metcards in advance to beat the rise. You can’t do this anymore — Myki Money fares are charged at the time you travel, not when you load the card.

But you can buy Myki Pass fares in advance. You can have two on a single Myki card at once; the current one and the next one.

And keep in mind if you want to buy a Commuter Club yearly to beat the price rise, orders take a couple of weeks to organise, and some organisations only place orders once a month…

When the price rise was officially announced last December, there was only about a fortnight during which Commuter Club orders were accepted at the 2011 price… in that fortnight the PTUA processed around 160 orders (most of them from new members), running the volunteers ragged by the end, and pumping over $180,000 through — it felt like we’d opened a money laundering service.

So if you’re going to order one, my advice is get in early.

So, what did I miss?

Tonight’s PTUA AGM means today is my last day as Prez.

MX story 10/10/2012: Routes thrown for LoopTonight’s PTUA Annual General Meeting means today is my last day as President.

I’ll miss a lot of it, particularly dealing with the media, and meeting/discussing/debating with industry and political players (the former in particular often providing information that should be out in public, but isn’t.

(Over the years, I suspect, the media has been increasingly sympathetic as more and more journos, many of whom work in the CBD, have switched to using PT themselves.)

And I’ll definitely miss being able to help shape the debate – I’m thinking of the push towards frequent and better connected services, both ideas which are now generally agreed upon as needing fixing.

Without wishing to offend the good people in radio media, I can’t say I’ll miss the early morning radio calls, nor trying to juggle multiple things at once to do a live chat with Faine or Mitchell on the way to work (though I gotta say, live radio is a buzz — great for keeping you alert).

And while I’m always happy for a chat with people, those who just intently stare at me on the street… yeah, I won’t miss that so much.

What’s been fascinating is the shift away from the attitude that PT is only for the minority who can’t drive, plus CBD workers. It’s part of Melbourne’s transition to a big city, but organisations like PTUA have helped keep reminding governments that investment in better services has to keep up.

It will be critical for the new team to stay on message — to keep using the sort of language which the average punter sitting at home reading the paper or watching the news finds themselves agreeing with — whether they use PT or not themselves.

Thanks

Thanks to those who got in touch (by whatever medium) when it was announced I was stepping down.

There were a lot of very nice tweets. If you’ll indulge me and let me stroke my own ego for a moment, here are some of my faves:

Farewell to Daniel Bowen after nearly 10 years at the Public Transport Users Association. A formidable advocate. http://goo.gl/eOWUx
@metrotrains – 4:13 PM – 17 Sep 12

Congrats to Daniel Bowen on a decade of great advocacy for PT: http://www.theage.com.au/…
@VeoliaTrans – 12:03 PM – 17 Sep 12
– that’s Veolia TransDev, a merger of former operators of Melbourne’s Connex and Yarra Trams (1999-2009)

After nearly 10 years, @ptua president Daniel Bowen will stand down as head of the commuter group. More in @mxmelbourne. @danielbowen
@mxmelbourne – 2:44 PM – 17 Sep 12
– for those not on the eastern seaboard, MX is the free afternoon commuter newspaper. Some deride their emphasis on showbiz news, but they do have a mix of wire stories and their small team of actual local reporters are good guys. PT passengers are their core demographic, and they’ve run many PTUA stories over the years.

Congratulations to @danielbowen. Stepping down after (almost) ten years as voice of the commuter. Many could learn from his approachability!
@gboreham – 1:19 PM – 17 Sep 12
– Gareth Boreham is the former state political reporter for channel 10, including during the height of the trains crisis. Gareth’s comment on approachability is an important one for volunteer activist groups to remember. Mainstream media works to deadlines. For maximum effectiveness you need to understand and work within those deadlines, and foster good working relationships with the journos.

Final projects

In the past couple of weeks before officially finishing up, I’ve managed to push out the door a couple of things that have been in the pipeline on and off for months, which I hope will be of interest:

An update to the study of 15 minute services, showing how few (buses in particular) meet the standard, and the huge gaps in Melbourne with no frequent PT, even in peak hour.

A new set of maps showing how the City Loop works, to try and highlight the silliness of so many confusing patterns.

Those of you who are PTUA members, hope to see you at the AGM tonight, and good luck to the incoming PTUA executive and committee team.

I am standing down as PTUA president on October 11th

Yes it’s true. I have decided not to renominate as the PTUA’s President, and will stand down at the Annual General Meeting on October 11th.

The Age: After almost a decade, Melbourne’s chief public transport complainer has finally had enough.
PTUA: PTUA President to step down

Basically, after nine years, I need a break.

It’s been fun, but all good things and all that. We’ll find out who will take over at the AGM — nominations aren’t due for a couple of weeks, but my assumption is that current secretary Tony Morton will nominate.

I’m still interested in transport issues, of course, and I’ll keep tweeting and blogging on them.

If you care about public transport, the PTUA committee always needs and welcomes active new members. Join up, come along to the AGM, and get involved.

Update Thursday

Public transport: more openness, accountability, and consultation is needed

One of the problems plaguing public transport in Victoria is the secrecy. Historically the Department of Transport has kept its cards very close to its chest. There’s a lack of information, and a lack of consulation.

As some people sitting around a table during a parliamentary inquiry into train services a couple of years ago remarked:

Mr BARBER — I think your evidence is quite clear — despite being seasoned observers of Melbourne’s public transport system, you guys are telling us you do not really understand how the government is going about planning public transport for the future. Would that be a fair summary of what you have been telling us this morning?

Mr BOWEN — If it is going on to a high degree, it is invisible to us, yes.

Secrecy in Melbourne

To this day, many people think that the South Morang rail extension was $562 million for a simple 3.5 kilometre rail extension along an existing reservation. There was more to it than that.

Back in June 2009, an Age feature article noted widespread concern and confusion over what seemed an astronomical cost for the project:

Liberal Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder says that while grade separations are expensive, the cost per kilometre for South Morang is still too high. “Taxpayers have a right to expect that they are getting good value for money spent. If Perth can build a 72-kilometre double-track railway with 11 stations including two underground stations for $1.2 billion, you’d have to say that for effectively 8 1/2 kilometres of new railway in Melbourne to cost $562 million then Victorian taxpayers are being dudded.”

Around that time, I remember that myself and PTUA Treasurer Kerryn Wilmot went to meet with the project manager. He expressed surprise that people were unaware of the full scope of the project. We told him that it was simply the case that nobody from the Department of Transport (DOT) had told anybody what was really going on. All the public information being put out by DOT’s public affairs people at the time was extremely vague. What other conclusion could people come to other than that DOT was paying ridiculous sums of money for a few kilometres of track along an existing alignment?

As I subsequently noted in this post on the Transport Textbook blog, there was actually a lot included in the project, including some major bridges and grade separation (in other words, big changes to the existing alignment), duplication of part of the existing line, two entirely new railway stations (Epping and South Morang, the latter with a big car park) and rebuilding of station buildings at Thomastown, electrical substations, communications systems, parallel bike/walking paths, extra stabling, and re-signalling most of the way down to Clifton Hill and on the neighbouring Hurstbridge line.

In short, it was a wholesale upgrade of two rail lines, and (arguably) a bunch of catch-up maintenance, as well as the short rail extension.

It was only well after this that DOT bothered to put this information out in the public arena, but it was too late — many had already got the impression that this simple project was way over-priced, and that DOT and the government had no idea what they were doing.

Daniel Bowen and Darren Peters at the South Morang station open day

Some things have gone right with the project. It was thoroughly welcomed by the local community, completed early, and was wisely timed to include changes to local buses to re-focus routes around the new station. But even that has gone sour, with local residents campaigning against some of the changes, saying they were not consulted with, or informed.

Likewise, when one PTUA member complained about his local bus route regularly getting caught in traffic, and asked what was being done about it, he was basically told DOT were talking to the bus company, but they couldn’t and wouldn’t be informing the public of any progress.

And one final example: In June PTV posted a (very welcome) list of upcoming tram and train closures so people could plan ahead. But the recent near-complete shutdown of the Glen Waverley line was not mentioned until much closer to the date. If the upcoming works list isn’t complete, that rather defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

Contrast: Openness in North America

Vancouver. Over there, the transport agency Translink has a number of communication channels with the public, including public Annual General Meetings, regular consultations, their magazine The Buzzer, and its accompanying blog.

The blog has reports from the various parts of Translink, including Q+A with the CEO, route changes, and summaries from the AGMs.

A Buzzer article from a few days ago talks in detail about how Translink designs their routes. This stuff is a goldmine of information.

Of course, PTV (formerly DOT/Metlink) in Melbourne posts route and service changes on their web site, but Translink go a long way beyond that. The posts are open for comments so people can offer their points of view, and their blogger actually goes away and makes enquiries on behalf of commenters to help answer their questions.

This post specifically caught my eye: it summarises new legislation designed to fight fare evasion, as well as tweaks to Translink’s structure and reporting, and links to past posts on these topics. The post and comments try to explain some of the thinking behind the legislation changes, giving those reading a better understanding of what’s going on.

It’s a stark contrast to the recent Melbourne changes that have allowed limited sharing of Myki cards, but have not been publicised at all.

Another page on Translink’s web site goes into detail on individual bus route efficiency (even down to things like measuring costs per passenger).

In Portland, Oregon, the public transport authority Tri-met recently offered an online tool to let people see how budget cuts were affecting their operations, and offer their opinion on how it should be dealt with. The tool let people click around and try different measures to meet the defecit, such as fare increases, changing fare rules, removing a free fare zone, cutting services, and so on. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s the sort of thing that can not only let people make their views known, but also ensure they are aware there are real constraints and not a bottomless bucket of money for transport.

(The tool is gone now; replaced by detail on what Tri-met are now proposing.)

What’s needed here?

More openness is what’s needed. Proactively volunteering information about what’s planned, what’s happening and why, responding to questions without spin, and actively getting feedback (not just waiting for people to be annoyed enough to complain).

True, there has been some progress. Yarra Trams have recently got a lot better at responding to queries on Twitter, and one of their customer service people recently gained fame for responding to a customer email complaint informatively and with good humour. They’ve also got quite a good web page flagging upcoming track works.

And true, some members of the public have been able to ask questions of Public Transport Victoria chief Ian Dobbs recently on talkback radio and at the recent PTUA Member Meeting.

But this kind of direct contact and accountability needs to be more than just the CEO running himself ragged going to public/semi-public meetings. It needs to be commonplace throughout PTV and the associated agencies and organisations, including operators. And it needs to be genuine consultation — not just telling people how things are, but letting them participate in the planning process.

The other big positive change is that PTV have started publishing documents that previously have not been for public distribution, such as these documents relating to the proposed Metro rail tunnel and this study of long-term patronage trends from 1946-2011.

PTV: Patronage graph 1946-2011

But these documents are often highly technical, and very difficult to read. Unlike the example of Vancouver, there’s no explanations of much of the jargon, nor highlighting the sections that will be of particular interest to people, and why, and no public avenue for questions or two-way discussion.

In conclusion

This post has rambled a bit, but I’ll try and reach some kind of conclusion.

Ironically, when bloggers write about the true scope of the South Morang project, mentioned above, rather than link to the official DOT page, they’re more likely to cite the Transport Textbook post.

Ditto, I see regular links pop up to my blog post which published station-by-station patronage figures.

People do want information about how the public transport network is being planned, and how their (taxpayer) money is being spent. It helps inform debate and discussion.

Social media such as blogs and Twitter can help; public meetings can help; radio talkback can help — just being more open can help.

The more people are offered the chance to voice their opinions and concern, the more they’ll feel involved in the way the system’s run, and who knows, all those ideas might also result in a better transport network.

Metro apostrophe crimes! (and will the next state election again swing on PT?)

As if disrupted trains weren’t enough, now we have Metro apostrophe crimes.
Metro apostrophe crime
(from Channel 10 news 25/6/2012: Commute derailed)

Metro was already having a bad Monday morning peak with the inner part of the Sandringham line suspended due to a maintenance train derailing overnight. Things didn’t improve when at about 7:15 the outer section of the Cranbourne line also went down, and it just got worse when at 8:10 a train caused an overhead power fault at Caulfield. By 8:40, they were evacuating that train and others, as these snaps I grabbed from a passing Frankston line train show:

Passengers evacuate a train at Caulfield, 25/6/201227a

Passengers evacuate a train at Caulfield, 25/6/2012

They weren’t the best pictures, but thanks to Twitter, what they did do was alert journalists that there was a major disruption emerging at Caulfield. The second pic got picked up by The Age, though far better was a pic and video shot by Gavin Tan on Twitter:

Now, the maintenance train derailing on the Sandringham line could be just bad luck. Metro are pointing at vandalism for the Caulfield problem. And the Cranbourne issue (which seemed to recur on Monday afternoon)? We don’t know.

But it all underscores just how fragile and troubleprone the rail network continues to be.

The political fallout

While Metro might be the operator, it’s the level of investment, and the level of scrutiny of the operator that must ensure a good outcome. And that’s the government’s job.

The last state election was won and lost on public transport — both sides said so.

Not everybody uses the trains, but everybody knows somebody that uses the trains. In the 2010 election campaign, they were a powerful symbol of a government failing to deliver.

Will history repeat in 2014?