Some local PT issues in Bentleigh #SpringSt

The Public Transport Not Traffic campaign held their PT To Parliament event on Thursday morning. Locals were encouraged to invite their local MPs to catch public transport with them into Parliament House, and discuss PT issues with them along the way.

My local MP, Elizabeth Miller, was sadly unavailable. So we invited ALP opposition candidate Nick Staikos instead. (As I understand it, the intent wasn’t for a single local group to invite multiple opposing candidates — that may have just descended into a debate/shouting match on the train!)

Terry K, Nick Staikos, Danita T, Daniel B at Parliament

Since Elizabeth couldn’t make it, I emailed over to her a list of some local PT issues, which she was happy to receive. Here’s that same list, for wider distribution and discussion, in no particular order…

Smartbus 703 (Centre Road) is quite crowded at peak times. Part of the problem is delays on the route due to a lack of bus priority. Also the shortened operating hours and poor frequencies (compared to other Smartbuses) in the evenings and on weekends (including part of the route not running on Sundays) continue to mean patronage is not what it could be, which contributes to weekday parking issues at Bentleigh station.

(Inadequate bus connections are also an issue at other local stations serving the electorate, particularly Moorabbin, Mckinnon and Ormond. The 630 in particular would be a good candidate for Smartbus services — where buses have been upgraded, they get lots of passengers.)

Bus 822 – this currently diverts along side streets between North and Centre Roads, but has long been proposed that it be moved to run down East Boundary Road, to speed up travel, and better serve GESAC (though it already stops nearby, out the back). It’s a mystery to me why this hasn’t happened.

(One local told me he’d heard the bus was diverted out of East Boundary Road many decades ago due to major works, but never put back afterwards! I don’t know if that’s true or not.)

Summer train timetables in the past few weeks caused a LOT of crowding on the Frankston line. Thankfully this is over for now, but this left a lot of regular users very angry.

Signage – several years after it went out of service, the automated sign for train times outside Bentleigh station still does not work. It’s a little thing, but easily seen as a sign of inaction.

(It’s unclear if this will be resolved as part of the $100 million Bayside rail improvements package, which does include signage upgrades.)

Southland station – still no visible progress. I think it’s reasonable to say people had expected more on this by now.

And one more thing with a little twist…

Ten minute services – the Coalition has presided over improvements on the Frankston line such that we now get a train every 10 minutes for much of the day, 7 days-a-week. But there has been almost zero publicity around this, and many locals remain unaware of it. I dare say that better promotion of this fact would not only boost patronage, it would also be a genuine good news story for the government.

(And it being a success is the only way we’ll see it spread to other lines. And even the Frankston line timetable could do with some tweaking, to fix the confusing shoulder-peak mess.)

There are bigger issues at the statewide/citywide level, of course, which I’ll aim to cover in a future post. But these are the local transport issues that sprang immediately to my mind. And note — none of them are mega-projects. The most expensive is Southland Station, in the tens of millions of dollars range. Fixing the other issues would be relatively cheap.

And other areas have local issues… The PTNT campaign is going to launch something on that soon.

But in the meantime, any other locals care to contribute their thoughts?

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.

Live from the BBC (and a few other pics from this week)

Live from the BBC!
Live from the BBC

I’m no big fan of motor vehicles, but that is a fine looking machine.
I'm no big fan of motor vehicles, but that is a fine looking machine.

Advert for Myki top-up at 7-11 talks up the fact that it’s instant, without the delay of online top-up.
#Myki promo in @mxmelbourne talking up instant topup (no delay like online)

And finally, from a friend’s kids’ party last weekend… this castle had a high quotient of princesses in towers. Razing it was a lot easier than in medieval times:
Conquest of castles was never this easy in medieval days (1/3)
Conquest of castles was never this easy in medieval days (2/3)
Conquest of castles was never this easy in medieval days (3/3)

Flyer highlights public transport – are Coalition MPs starting to get worried?

YEARS ago, it might have been strange to think the fortunes of a government could rest on a suburban railway line.

That was before the last Victorian election, when the Frankston train line became a potent symbol of the Brumby government’s transport woes: overcrowded carriages, ageing infrastructure, myki cost blowouts.

Labor hardheads call it the Frankston Train Wreck – that fateful polling day in 2010 when voters in the sandbelt seats of Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc, and Bentleigh helped install the Baillieu government with a cautionary tale: a bad transport system loses votes; the pledge of a good one is a game-changer.

Farrah Tomazin in The Sunday Age, 16/12/2012

If you were an MP in one of these seats… the most marginal seat in the state in fact (and the one that ultimately decided the election), halfway through your term, and it was widely recognised that what swung voters was dissatisfaction with public transport, yet those at the top of the parliamentary tree were prioritising roads instead (contrary to their election promises), and there was continuing speculation that public transport having been your ticket to victory last time might be your downfall next time, what would you do?

Flyer from Elizabeth Miller, MP for Bentleigh (front)

Maybe you’d issue a seasonal card emphasising some good things about public transport, like free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport, extra Nightrider services, as well as a new taxi sharing scheme?

Before Bentleigh electorate residents get too excited about the wonderful PT upgrades the government has provided, there is a catch of course.

Free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport is a nice gesture. All-night services on NYE have been provided since 2004-5 (after the then Labor government was thoroughly embarrassed by the lack of it the year before). It’s probably free on NYE for practical considerations. Free rides on Christmas day probably result in little revenue lost, though many pack onto V/Line trains for free rides to the regions — to full accommodate demand may cost a bit of money. Perhaps instead it should be a token amount for charity, to discourage too many free-loaders?

The extra Nightrider services do indeed boost capacity and cut waiting times, with Frankston-bound buses up to every 15 minutes on Friday and Saturday nights before Christmas. But these run down the Nepean Highway, only within reasonable walking distance of a fraction of the electorate. In extreme cases it might take you well over an hour to walk from a Nightrider stop to a home in the eastern part of the electorate. Arguably what Nightrider really needs is a recasting of the route structure, to better follow the busiest daytime routes (eg rail and tram lines, preferably while not adding too much to travel time) and provide a network that people actually understand.

Taxi sharing is an interesting idea, with a flat rate to share a maxi taxi on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s so new it’s unclear if it’ll really solve the problem — which is a lack of after-midnight mass transit in a busy city, especially on Sunday to Thursday nights.

The flip side of Ms Miller’s card is asking for feedback.

Flyer from Elizabeth Miller, MP for Bentleigh (back)

I’ll send mine in. To my mind, the two priorities in transport would have to be bringing the 703 up to proper Smartbus standards, and building Southland station.

I’m very transport-focussed, of course. What non-transport issues need state-level attention in Bentleigh?