Election wrap-up: Counting continues, East West Link, and Pudding!

A few thoughts post-election…

Bentleigh

As I write this, the seat is still too close to call. Counting is continuing, but it would seem we are destined to remain a marginal seat for the next election — in fact some voters reckoned they were deliberately voting to stay marginal.

Elsewhere, some sandbelt (or as I prefer to call them, “Frankston line”) seats are still being counted, though it looks like some of them have swung back to Labor.

Bentleigh, Centre Road

East West Link

A few weeks ago Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared the state election a referendum on the East West Link tollroad.

“This election is about many things, but in the end, it is a referendum on the East West Link. It is a referendum on the plan that this Premier and no one else has, to build a modern 21st century with 21st century infrastructure.”

Some people still don’t grasp that the tollroad was a bad idea for numerous reasons.

  • It wouldn’t solve traffic congestion.
  • It would have entrenched car dependency — which is bad for all sorts of reasons.
  • It would have swallowed billions of dollars in funding — perhaps $18 billion just for stage one.
  • Because it was so expensive, we couldn’t have it as well as big public transport upgrades. Trying to do both would have led to the old “balance” scenario, where all the road projects get up, and public transport gets the crumbs. (Even while the $4 billion Regional Rail Link has been built, which you’d think would skew the balance back towards equal, billions have been spent on motorways, and pseudo-motorway “arterials”.)
  • Even if you could fund everything, building big new roads is still a bad idea. Even if you argue they spark economic growth by enabling mobility of people and goods, the problem is they do so in the least efficient manner possible (and in the case of people, limiting it to those who can drive).
  • As I’ve said before: do we want more traffic? Or do we want more people using public transport? The one we want is where the investment should go.

Foremost in not grasping these concepts is the PM himself. It’s hardly surprising; in transport policy as in so many other areas, he’s a dinosaur.

Having declared the election to be a referendum on East West Link, he has now put out a statement saying he wants it to happen anyway:

“He (Denis Napthine) restored the fiscal position of the state and embarked on a major infrastructure programme to get Victoria moving. I share his commitment to the East West Link and I am determined to do what I can to ensure this vital national infrastructure project proceeds to completion.”

And to cap it off, when he had his first phone conversation with Premier-elect Daniel Andrews, he suggested building it anyway, despite Andrews’ pledge not to!

I suspect Abbott simply doesn’t understand why people would not want a massive new road. He still thinks they’re the “roads of the 21st century“.

I’d like to think that in our big cities, voters are increasingly aware that cars a not a mass transit solution.

Credit to Daniel Andrews for refusing the offer to break his pledge, and indeed deciding to release all the East West Link paperwork (including cabinet-in-confidence papers). It should make for some interesting reading.

State election 2014: Transport referendum

Pudding

My son Jeremy’s Pudding video got noticed by The Age… By Monday morning it had over 14,000 views.

On Monday, The Age updated its story with an audio interview with me, describing what inspired the video. Then it got picked up by news.com.au, and then shown (including to Mr Andrews) on The Project (about 26 minutes in). As I write this, it’s at 28,000 views.

I know Daniel Andrews has a sense of humour… hopefully he sees the funny side of this.

So how did it happen?

Jeremy had been looking at an ALP campaign video on Youtube, and played it to Isaac (who is of voting age), who misheard, and wondered why there was talk of pudding. Jeremy (too young to vote) took it from there.

Initially Jeremy posted it privately, and only his friends could see it, but M thought (and I agreed) it could get a wider audience on YouTube. It spread after I tweeted it, helped along by my Twitter feed being followed by a number of journalists.

What’s interesting is that both my kids are becoming more politically engaged — a product no doubt of my interest, and the fact that we often watch the evening news together.

The political parties using social media and the internet is helping this, and in fact hopefully the spread of this video has helped more otherwise disengaged people know who our new Premier is.

Yes, train punctuality has increased – thanks to timetable padding

One day until the state election.

They do great work, and it’s rather good to see the ABC’s Fact Check unit looking at Victorian issues just before the election.

A couple of days ago they did a segment on train punctuality:

  • The claim: Denis Napthine says his Government has “improved train punctuality”.
  • The verdict: With punctuality running at over 92 per cent across the Metro network, trains are more often on time now than under the previous Labor government.

They looked at the statistics, and they also considered stop skipping, which figures indicate is done on less than half of 1% of services — not enough to greatly influence the result, though sometimes done to excess.

But as commenters on their web site have noted, they didn’t look at the other factor: timetable padding.

Comparing times on the Frankston line: during peak (morning inbound, afternoon outbound), and when it’s quiter (Sunday morning inbound and outbound), we can clearly see that running times have increased — 3-4 minutes was added in 2012.

Frankston line running times, 1997-2012

It’s a similar story on other lines.

Is padding the timetable always bad? No. If network congestion or loadings are such that trains can never achieve the timetable, then allowing more time would be justified.

But in some cases there is now so much padding (for instance, Hawksburn to South Yarra now allows 4 minutes in peak; Richmond to Flinders Street direct allows up to 7) that trains regularly sit idle at stations waiting for the timetable to catch up… or (accidentally) depart before their scheduled time.

So it’s hardly surprising that punctuality has increased.

  • They also haven’t mentioned Loop bypasses, which are a particular problem for the Altona Loop (perhaps thankfully the only suburban section they can do it on) but also the City Loop. These count as a partial cancellation, but when they happen they improve punctuality stats.
  • Additionally it’s notable that the government always talks about punctuality, not cancellations, because the latter has barely changed. That’s outside the scope of ABC Factcheck though; they look at what is claimed, not what isn’t.
  • See also: Alan Davies at Crikey: Did the ABC fact checkers get it right on train punctuality?

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…

Online state election advertising

Only a few days until the state election, and the campaign is heating up.

Miller and Staikos signs for the state election 2014

Here’s something interesting I’ve noticed: apart from posting and advertising on Facebook, the Liberals have paid for Google Adwords advertising — that is, links to appear above search results on Google.

They’ve covered the names of a number of Labor candidates in marginal seats, plus their state leader’s name (linking to the more positive “Our Plan” site), and the name of their main opposition party and its leader. They don’t seem to have covered opposition candidates in some marginal seats such as Prahran and Frankston, and nor have they included the Greens.

Online advertising, November 2014 Victorian election

View the slideshow

It’s all interesting stuff. I wonder how many people searching for information on Labor candidates end up clicking through to the Liberals’ “Frankston Line Facts” or “Backwards Under Labor” web sites?

I didn’t spot any evidence that Labor have done the same thing, but they have gone in strong advertising on the mainstream media web sites: this morning the Herald Sun and The Age web sites are covered in ads for them attacking Napthine and Abbott.

An article in Crikey (Paywall) last week suggested that political advertising doesn’t actually work very well, a position also supported by research done in America. Personal interactions such as doorknocking (and I guess handing out flyers) work better.

That can be difficult to organise, but has been happening a lot in the marginal seats this year.

The somewhat antiquated “Electronic media blackout” kicks in from midnight tonight, but only applies to TV and radio. I guess we’ll continue to see online ads right up until, and during, Saturday’s vote.

  • Note that the Libs’ 44% fare increase claim (which is repeated on the Frankston Line Facts site) appears to be more scare-mongering. Apparently in one radio interview some months ago, Daniel Andrews misspoke and suggested Labor would remove zone 2 altogether. Their actual policy is to cap fares at zone 1 rates — the same policy as the Coalition, which is why PTV has felt confident enough to press ahead with it from January. (If zone 2 was completely removed, current zone 2-only trips would go up in price to the higher zone 1 fare — a 44% increase.)

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on the 822

Incumbent Elizabeth Miller has gone strong on “saving the 822“, promoting via Facebook and an ad the front page of the local Leader newspaper last week, apparently trying to imply that Labor is proposing to scrap the route completely.

822 bus ad

822 promotion (Elizabeth Miller Facebook page)

Having put the claim out there on Facebook, the Liberals have done nothing to quell people’s fears that the route might be scrapped. Comments on the Facebook post have included:

  • Its the only way i can get to work and school :///
  • You cannot remove the 822.. its the only bus route running along east boundary road.. its central for anyone that lives around bentleigh area as its our way to Chadstone & Southland… You have gotta be joking.
  • Our children use the 822 a lot. It is needed for children for school outings as well. … I also see many elderly using that bus as I believe it travels to southland and Chadstone which allows for them to shop and also catch up with friends. This is only a small part of how useful that bus route is. Think before you remove. Elizabeth Miller keep up the good work.
  • For me and all the other passengers of the 822 bus rely on this bus because it gets us to our everyday destinations and without it would be a dissapointment! If you fet rid of this route you will make peoples lives much more difficult.
  • please save the 822 bus.

This is classic FUD — Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. There is NO plan to scrap the route.

I asked the Labor candidate Nick Staikos about it, and he said their intent is the logical move of the route off the backstreets and onto East Boundary Road (as proposed in the 2010 bus reviews), for a speedier trip and to better space out the north-south bus routes — there’s a huge gap between the Frankston line and the 822, with no services on Jasper or Tucker Roads.

But they’d do any change with community consultation to make sure as many people as possible are happy.

Part of that change might be moving the 701 from Mackie Road onto Marlborough Street to cover the section removed from the 822. As I wrote a few months ago, that’d be a good solution as it would remove duplication on Mackie Road (which also has the 767).

It would be difficult to have the 701 turn right from Marlborough Street onto North Road could be troublesome with no lights at that intersection, but the 2010 plan had it following the current 822 route as far as Duncan Mackinnon Reserve, then heading back towards Oakleigh.

Labor aren’t talking about proposed bus frequency upgrades. The 822, like most suburban buses, is appallingly infrequent, particularly on weekends. Public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy mentioned there was some kind of bus strategy coming, but so far we don’t know what’s in it. See below.

There’s obviously some detail to nut out, but nevertheless the Liberals’ posturing is nonsense. It seems to be trying to imply that everything is fine with the local buses… clearly not the case. One way of reading it would be that “only the Liberals” will fail to do anything whatsoever to improve them.

Fact is, local buses in Bentleigh do need improvement. Making the 822 a main road bus is a good start. Making it and other routes more frequent is also vital.

  • PTV stats show the 822 has about 450,000 boardings per year — around 1600 each weekday, 575 Saturdays and 388 on Sundays — the latter not being too bad, given it’s only an hourly service, but given it serves two of Melbourne’s busiest shopping centres, there’s a huge potential to carry more people if it ran more frequently.
  • Labor has said several times they would make an announcement around buses… This is important, as many areas only have buses. The policy has just been released today, and in summary is a $100 million package of upgrades. I haven’t digested the detail yet, but it’s got specifics on a number of routes, particularly the growth areas most dependent on buses. I can’t see anything in the Bentleigh area — not the 822, and also not the 703, which was promised an upgrade to full SmartBus status in the 2010 election by Labor.

Update: Labor’s Public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy has spelt it out on Twitter:

Update 25/11/2014: Partly for anybody clicking through from Jarrett Walker’s blog post, here’s the map of the current route, highlighting the diversion through Crosbie Road, Marlborough Street, Stockdale Avenue and Gardeners Road (including one-way sections) proposed to be changed to run direct along East Boundary Road (which is not shown in full on the map, but is a continuation of Murrumbeena Road) instead.

Bus 822 map

It’s also worth noting that it was not just Labor and the 2010 bus reviews that proposed this change.

Elizabeth Miller herself also called for the change shortly after she won the seat of Bentleigh:

Since taking office as the member for Bentleigh I have been shocked to discover that the former government made no provision for public transport to and from GESAC’s front door.

I call on the minister to investigate with his department the appropriate alteration of existing bus routes, including the 822, to provide a bus stop outside GESAC on East Boundary Road, Bentleigh East, to ensure that as many residents as possible of Bentleigh and neighbouring communities are able to access this wonderful new facility.Hansard, 24/3/2011

By earlier this year, she had changed her mind:

The 822 bus currently services this facility [Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre) on Gardeners Road at its rear. The bus service to the facility is well patronised. I note that the opposition is currently conducting a petition to state otherwise.Hansard 25/3/2014