Southland paid parking starts soon

Southland Shopping Centre introduces paid parking on Monday 16th October.

But before you reach for the pitchforks, it only applies if shoppers stay more than three hours.

You get the first three hours for free, with an extra hour if you’re going to a movie. Beyond that, it’s basically $3 per additional hour.

It uses number plate recognition, so if your stay is free, or you’ve pre-registered with a credit card on their web site, the boom will raise and let you out automatically. Otherwise you have to pay as you leave.

The details are all here: parkwestfield.com.au — it’s clear from the site that they’ve got this running at a number of Westfield centres around the country, so you’d think they have a fair idea of what it might do to shopper numbers.

Stupidly, the link to rates and conditions at Southland specifically keeps changing, and going up and down like a yoyo. Sometimes you get a 404 error, sometimes it goes to a page with no useful details on it, and just occasionally the actual information appears. So here it is reproduced:

EXTRA HOUR FREE FOR CINEMA – Customers who see a movie at Village Cinemas Southland will get one extra hour of free parking with cinema ticket validation.

FREE ENTRY AFTER 6pm – Parking is free when you enter the car park after 6pm and leave before 6am, meaning there’s plenty of time for dinner and a movie.

SAME DAY RE-ENTRY – If you exit the centre and want to return on the same day, there must be one hour between exit and re-entry in order to receive another three hours free parking.

DISABILITY PARKING – Shoppers with a valid Disability Parking Permit can register for Ticketless Parking to receive free parking all day. If you hold a permit you can visit one of our Concierge to have it validated to access free parking.

Skip the pay stations and register for Ticketless Parking for a quick and easy exit.

PARKING RATES

0 – 3 hrs Free
3 – 4 hrs $3
4 – 5 hrs $6
5 – 6 hrs $9
6 – 7 hrs $12
7 – 8 hrs $15
8+ hrs Maximum Day Rate / Overnight Fee $18

So what’s prompted this? Fees are being introduced now to prevent people using the centre car park as a station car park when the station opens in November. In that context, three hours for free makes sense.

Personally I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than three hours at Southland, except when I’ve been seeing a movie. So I don’t have a problem with this.

Southland bus interchange

However, they’re also introducing paid parking for staff. They’ll be shunted to a special staff car park, and charged $5 per day.

I’ll use the train to get to Southland, but it’s not like everybody will be able to.

The buses (particularly on weekends) will still be as pathetically infrequent as they are now.

Many staff will continue to have no viable choice but to drive.

So stinging staff $5 just seems greedy, given many retail workers are not particularly well-paid. Especially for junior part time employees, this would eat into their pay.

Okay, now you can reach for your pitchfork. Or at the very least, sign this petition.

New timetables on 27th August, as Southland Station nears completion

New public transport timetables kick in on August 27th. Last week (or maybe it was the week before), PTV released details, including full timetables for the routes affected:

Altona Loop users rejoice! (A bit)

There will be no more Altona Loop shuttles. Weekday Altona Loop services will run through to Flinders St.

This also means Werribee trains will run express Newport-Footscray-North Melbourne, so both Altona and Werribee people win from this.

Of course the mostly single track through Altona means bypasses are set to continue. At least we now know the Kororoit Creek Road grade separation will include some duplication. Hopefully that makes a difference.

There hasn’t been a wholesale re-write of the timetable, so peak Williamstown and Altona services remain at every 22 minutes, while off-peak is 20!

V/Line V/Locity train on viaduct between Flinders Street and Southern Cross

More Geelong trains

The Geelong line will go to every 40 minutes on weekends. With constant overcrowding on the current hourly trains, this was only a matter of time, though heaven knows why they didn’t push the upgrades a little further to half-hourly, which would have meant more trains, a clockface timetable (40’s alternating hours has always been problematic) and preserving the bus connections, many of which are every 30-60 minutes.

As it is, bus connections will break. The premier Geelong bus service, route 1 from North Shore to Deakin, is every 30 minutes on weekends, and will remain so. It doesn’t take a genius to see that buses every 30 minutes don’t interface well with trains every 40 minutes.

V/Line have said in response to queries that it’s because the Sunbury line is every 20-40 minutes on weekends, and the Bendigo line is tied in with that, because they share some tracks… and the Bendigo line in turn interfaces with the Ballarat and Geelong lines. V/Line claims this prevents the Geelong line going to every 30 minutes.

But then, this is the organisation that has three out of four hourly services currently meeting at Deer Park Junction within a few minutes of each other, so I don’t think it’s unfair to say that their timetabling leaves something to be desired.

So has that been fixed? Well, yes and no:

  • Ballarat line at Deer Park, inbound: 15 past the hour. Outbound: 34
  • Geelong line at Deer Park, inbound: 12 and 52, or 32. Outbound: 07 and 47, or 27

So if the inbound Geelong train is 3 minutes late, every second hour it’ll delay an inbound Ballarat train. If it’s even later, it’ll delay an outbound Ballarat train as well, thanks to the flat junction.

You’d think they could have figured out better spacing between the Geelong and Ballarat trains. Aside from junction conflicts, Deer Park passengers will have 2-3 trains per hour: either at 12, 15, 52 past the hour, or at 15 and 32. Hmmmmm.

It remains to be seen whether V/Line continues to run their daily game of Mystery Platforms at Southern Cross.


Southland

The August 27th timetable for the Frankston line already includes Southland times:

Frankston line timetable showing Southland times

For those wondering about stopping patterns, the full timetable shows peak expresses will still run to/from Cheltenham, not stopping at Southland.

On Sunday afternoon I went and had a quick look at the station. It’s looking good. These views from the top of the shopping centre carpark.

The platforms are looking close to complete. Even some signage is now up.
Southland Station under construction

View looking towards the City. I’m guessing the structure closest the camera is the PSO pod and/or toilets. There seems to be plenty of coverage on the citybound platform; less so on the outbound platform.
Southland Station under construction

View looking towards Frankston. The southern ends of the platforms (as well as the entire citybound platform) are adjacent to houses, but it appears you won’t be able to see much from the platform. A few better view from the top of the Southland carpark :-/
Southland Station under construction

It’s good to see the pedestrian route through the carpark has been modified recently; it now heads more-or-less directly to the station entrance.
Southland Station - shopping centre car park

I’m not sure you’d say the station looks beautiful. I guess we’ll see what it looks like when it opens.

The station may look close to completion, but that is not to say that it is opening imminently. While the structure looks more and more functional every week, I’m hearing November is the likely opening date, with electrical and signalling works still underway.

I suppose until the station actually opens, the extra minute or two allowed in the timetables will be one less excuse Metro has for train delays.

It’ll be good to finally have it open – hopefully in time for the Christmas shopping rush.

Other timetable changes

Other changes on August 27th include additional trains on a number of lines: Werribee, Craigieburn (with all peak trains now via the Loop), Sunbury (some peak trains direct via Southern Cross), and some trains extended to Eltham.

There are also more V/Line services to Shepparton, Traralgon (approaching hourly on weekends, but not quite there yet), Bendigo, and Ballarat/Ararat. A number of local buses, both in metropolitan Melbourne and around Victoria, also have timetable changes.

All in all, some good upgrades. Enough? No, of course not – missing in action is any hint of a rollout of PTV’s 10 minute suburban train plan – but this is a step forward.

After years of inaction, great to see progress on Southland station

Last week on Facebook the Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan published this great photo (along with a couple of others) from Southland Station under construction:

Southland station under construction

Over the weekend of 5-6 November when the Frankston line was closed, they put the pedestrian subway into place.

On Facebook the doubters continue to… well, doubt the usefulness of the station, to which I will say (at the risk of repeating myself):

  • Walking from Cheltenham station is too far for most people to want to do. If they’ve already had to get to their origin station, they don’t want another 15 minute walk to Southland.
  • Almost all the buses from Cheltenham (and other connecting stations) are either hopelessly infrequent (especially on weekends), or depart from a myriad of stops, or both. It’s even worse coming back, as only a severe bus nerd would be able to memorise which bus routes go to the station.
  • The government is right not to spend up big trying to provide commuter parking. Just like somewhere such as South Yarra, it’s a destination, with walk-up access in there as a bonus.
  • Many (most?) trips to shopping centres don’t result in people buying more shopping than they can carry (though some enterprising people do take home furniture, televisions and other big items on public transport). In fact a lot of journeys are for service-based spending, such as going to the cinema, banks, appointments.

Anyway, I took a look on Sunday. After so many years of inaction, it’s great to see solid progress on this project.

Southland station under construction November 2016

They seem to be making good use of the property in neighbouring Tulip Grove that was snapped up when it came up for sale, using it for construction access. It probably makes sense for it to provide another station entrance (as well as better access into the shopping centre) for locals, with parking restrictions to prevent park and ride commuters using it — but I guess it’s fair enough to get community views on this.

Southland station under construction November 2016

Some have observed that the station will be pretty bare bones. This impression posted on Facebook by Member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos shows the design. What even is the point of that thing above the entrance?

Plan for Southland Station

It certainly appears the pedestrian access into the centre itself will be less then ideal. (Source: PTV)

Southland station - overarching design (PTV)

But, hey, salami tactics. Just getting the station is the big step forward. Improved access is something to lobby for next.

If Westfield are smart, they’ll move to remodel parts of the car park to provide a more direct pedestrian path. And in the long term I wouldn’t be surprised if they extend the centre building out to meet the station.

Station construction work is likely to continue until December, then take a break over the busy Christmas shopping period, then resume next year, with PTV saying the station due to open in 2017.

Southland station: now expected to open 2017

I remember when Labor and the Coalition both pledged to build Southland station.

It was 2010. I told my kids, who were excited. They were 15 and 12 at the time, just the ages when they were looking forward to exploring the city and suburbs on their own, going to places like Southland with friends.

This train will not stop at Southland station. Because there still isn't one yet. #SpringSt

Of course it was the Coalition who won the 2010 election. In 2012 I looked back at progress — at the time, not much. By 2013 a little bit of detail of the plans had emerged — for a basic station. No matter, said I — the fancy amenity can all come later. The important thing is just to get it built.

Toilets? Not that important. There are some in the centre on the ground floor, about 150 metres (or one train length) away.

Bus interchange? Not that important — almost all the bus routes that serve Southland already intersect the Frankston line at other stations.

In fact given that one could reasonably expect Westfield to expand the centre towards, up to and perhaps over the railway station once it’s clear it’s bringing more punters, much of any facilities provided would be likely to be replaced anyway.

Even with the bare-bones design, it took until 2014 for full funding to be provided in the state budget, with expected opening in 2016.

When I quizzed her about it last year, then-MP for Bentleigh Elizabeth Miller told me that construction would start in early 2015. At that point, the only progress had been a few banners unfurled at the site.

This week she noted that she had been the MP when the funding came through. Yes well, that’s good, but perhaps if that had happened in 2012 instead of 2014, and the station completed before the 2014 election, she might have held onto her seat. Nearby Carrum, Mordialloc and Frankston might have also stayed with the Coalition. The problem was, between 2012 and 2014, the Coalition was so fixated on the East West Link that they dropped the ball on even relatively cheap public transport promises like this. Such as contrast.

The news this week is that PTV is running consultation sessions (19th March 5:30-8:30pm, Cheltenham Community Centre and 21st March 9am-2pm at Southland) — and that toilets are back in scope.

They’re also wanting to know community views on an entrance via Tulip Grove, on the other side of the railway line. It seems someone at PTV had their wits about them when they spotted a property in the street had come up for sale, and bought it, to be used for construction — no compulsory acquisition required. I think it’d be good to provide permanent station access as well, with parking restrictions in the street to prevent shoppers parking there — but it makes sense to ask the locals what they think.

(I’m guessing it was number 60 Tulip Grove — that seems to have sold mid-last-year.)

But they’re now saying the station is expected to open in 2017.

By that time Southland Station is built, my kids will be 22 and 19, both old enough to drive — though at current trajectories of interest, I’m not assuming that they will be driving. That’s another story of course, but fundamentally if we’re hoping fewer people drive in the future, they will need other, viable options to get around.

With appalling bus services and very inconvenient train access, it’s hardly surprising that Southland remains so car-dependent, and it’s a battle every weekend to find a spot to park. The sooner the station opens the better.

PS: I understand the station is not planned to be Premium (fulltime staffed), despite the presence of public toilets. This is likely to be the first of this type of station, and will probably mean an Exeloo-type installation. Additionally Hallam station, also not Premium, was the subject of an election promise for toilets, so is likely to get an Exeloo. Presumably this type of automated self-cleaning toilet is an option for other stations as well, both staffed and unstaffed.

Update 8/3/2015: Comments from some local residents have prompted me to dig out a site plan I came across last year. It’s from 2013, so may have been revised, but hopefully is indicative of the current plan. No doubt we’ll hear more at the consultation sessions.

Southland station: Concept development diagram, Option 4 (March 2013)

It’s hard to see here — click here to see it bigger.

Update 11/3/2015: PTV has published more details, and plans and artist impressions on their web site.

As per the comments, the plan has changed a bit from the above diagram, with the platforms moved further south along the line.

Southland plan - published by PTV 11/3/2015

It’s worth noting that the intent is not to reposition the tracks. This is apparently difficult/expensive due to the nearby bridge over Bay Road. This rules out an island platform for the station.

Quicker to wait for the hourly bus, or walk?

Last weekend I tried an experiment, for a PTUA video

In the highly marginal electorate of Bentleigh, having just missed the bus, is it quicker to wait for the next service, or walk to Southland?

Given walking speeds and a five kilometre distance, perhaps the answer (at least for reasonably fit, able-bodied people) is obvious…

More frequent weekend buses is easy. Most of the bus fleet sits around in depots all weekend. As with more frequent off-peak and weekend trains and trams, the only costs would be fuel, maintenance and drivers.

Labor has pledged to re-route this bus — the 822 — onto the main roads, which would help with travel times. But it’s not clear if that would include other network changes in the area, or more frequent services — this is one of many bus routes which is still less frequent in peak hour and on Saturday mornings than it was 25 years ago.

Thanks to Jeremy for help with the camera.