The new Frankston station

The other day I went and took a look around the new Frankston station, upgraded last year by the Level Crossing Removal Authority alongside the nearby Skye Road level crossing removal, and in parallel with Vicroads upgrades to Young Street.

In a similar manner to Southern Cross, there’s been an extensive renovation and replacement of all the buildings, though it does not appear to have changed the basic platform/track layout.

Frankston originally opened in 1882. As you approach (by train) it appears the only structure left is the old signal box, dating back from 1922, the year that electric trains arrived. Apparently this is one of the last lever frame signal boxes on the network.

Frankston signal box

Frankston station has two main platforms, with arriving trains from Melbourne alternating between them. As it’s a terminus station, this allows some recovery time before they head back towards the City.

Frankston station, looking north along the platform

New landscaping, seats and shelters were part of the upgrade, along with water taps – good idea!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielbowen/31635771397/

The new main station building is impressive, with one of those high roofs that unfortunately provides very little shelter along the platform when it’s raining. It’s also got a waiting room and toilets accessible from the platform.

You could argue that the station has two and a half platforms. Platform 3 is at the southern end of platform 2, with the Stony Point diesel sprinter trains terminating next to the Frankston line electric trains from Melbourne.

Trains to Melbourne and Stony Point waiting at Frankston

Large new LCD screens have been installed along the platforms. These seem quite readable, even in bright sunlight.

Passenger Information Display on the platform at Frankston

As you exit the station, you’ll see a big screen showing bus departure times – three screens worth (a lot of buses connect here), though it doesn’t tell you which bus leaves from which bay – it would be handy to see this added, though I suspect it may not be in the current data feeds.

Bus departures board, Frankston station exit

The flip side of that sign shows train departures as you enter. There are eight fare gates, and it was good to see that on a quiet New Years Day afternoon, these were closed and staffed – not much point in having them otherwise.

Fare gates at Frankston

In the station foyer is also a kiosk, booking office, two Myki vending machines, a Myki quick top-up machine and network status board.

Once again, the high roof is impressive, but I wonder how much shelter it provides when raining. (On the platform there is an enclosed waiting room, though for most passengers, heading towards Melbourne, it’s likely the train will be waiting for them when they arrive at the station.)

The main entrance too is visually impressive. I have no problem with this at all – the station should be a local community landmark. As long as it’s functional!

Main entrance to Frankston station

The pedestrian crossing adjacent to the station exit gives access across Young Street. Silly me, I didn’t look to see if there was a list of bus routes and which bays they use, given the screen inside the station doesn’t show them.

Just to the south there’s some creative wayfinding to help people find their way towards the beach, via Wells Street.

To The Beach - wayfinding in Frankston

Unlike the new skyrail stations on the Dandenong line, no indications they’re going to put up an Instagram-worthy sign with the official three letter station code… not surprising given it’s “FKN”, though I’d bet it’d be popular as a photo opportunity!

Either side of the station entrance/pedestrian crossing (but mostly to the north) are numerous bus bays. There were claims during the upgrade works that the design wasn’t actually sufficient for buses.

Young Street bus terminus, Frankston station

Each bus bay has printed timetables as well as screens.

Bus departure information display at Young Street bus terminus, Frankston station

The bus shelters have been criticised for their lack of capacity – they look like the standard design, and there’s one per bay. One could argue this is not sufficient shelter at peak times. There certainly seems to be plenty of space to install some more or larger shelters if they’re needed.

Young Street bus terminus, Frankston station

I also wonder how they’ve prioritised which buses are where. In the photo above, that’s the 788 in the distance – the main route to the Mornington Peninsula, and one of the busier bus routes. It’s a long way from the station entrance, and you won’t want to miss it, with a wait of 40 to 70 minutes between services.

Quibbles with bus bays and shelter aside, overall I think the upgrade looks good. It’s a more pleasant environment, and hopefully more efficient at moving people through and around the station.

And hopefully there’s plenty of capacity in the bus interchange to allow a big increase in bus frequencies, to better connect the surrounding suburbs to their new improved railway station.

Are the PSOs having an effect? Survey suggests no, but anecdotal evidence suggests yes.

Interesting article: PSOs do little for train passenger confidence:

Data from a survey conducted by the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency shows in 2012-13, 24.2 per cent of Victorians reported feeling safe or very safe on public transport at night. This was a small increase on the previous year, in which 23.7 per cent of Victorians said they felt safe. But the proportion of Victorians who said they felt safe on public transport at night in 2012-13 is significantly lower than the number who reported feeling safe in 2008-09 (27.9 per cent) or in 2009-10, (25.8 per cent), prior to the introduction of protective services officers.

In contrast to the research (and it appears it was not limited to the stations which actually have PSOs) the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from around the place is that many people do feel safer with them around.

From what I understand, Labor now considers the PSO deployment so far gone and so popular that they won’t be rolling it back.

Perhaps we’ll see a change in survey attitudes when the rollout is complete and there’s a consistent presence of PSOs on every station after 6pm.

For me personally, I’ve used the trains at night for many years without incident, and while I’ve never felt unsafe, everyone’s aware that incidents can and do happen from time to time. To me, the presence of PSOs has made little difference, though at otherwise unstaffed stations, it’s nice to know there is now an official presence one could turn to if help was needed.

And certainly as a parent with a kid old enough to be heading out at night, it’s nice to know more stations now have a stronger staff presence at night.

PSO at Richmond station

But more broadly, there are still questions to be answered:

Is the PSO rollout leading to more people being willing to use trains at night? I recall the Coalition saying before the 2010 election that they expected to see a patronage/revenue jump as a result of it. Has that happened? Or are other factors (generally low frequencies, and very poor connecting services after dark) holding back growth?

Is it reducing crime? The article notes that crime stats are up, but given there’s been no widespread reporting of crimes against the PSOs themselves, the logical conclusion is that more crimes are being reported.

These are the sorts of questions that need to be properly answered before we will know if the program is truly worth the $212 million (over four years) cost to the taxpayer.

Until then, I continue to take the view based on the assault statistics — that some stations need a security presence, not just at night, but from first train to last. And that at other stations, two armed guards from 6pm onwards is over-the-top — the funding for those positions is better used for more regular staff (who provide passive surveillance and customer service), and more train drivers and the other personnel needed to run more frequent public transport, including more trains running more often.

After all, it doesn’t matter how safe you feel, waiting 29 minutes for a train — after dark or in broad daylight — is still not fun.

Should parking at Melbourne railway stations be free?

Here’s something I didn’t know: Perth’s Transperth transport system has some paid parking, and you can pay for it with a Smartrider card.

Pay ‘n’ Display car parks are also fenced, but are patrolled by car park attendants between 7.00am and 9.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. A flat fee of $2.00 per day, or part thereof, applies. — Transperth web site

Car park, Laverton station

Bear in mind that provision of new parking spaces costs on average over $15,000 per space.

For multi-level parking, it can cost 3-4 times that amount. For the recent WA election, there was a promise by the Liberals of $47 million for a new multi-storey carpark at Edgewater station, providing 560 spaces. That’s about $84,000 per space. If every space was filled 365 days a year, paying $2 per day, it would take 115 years of for them to make the money back (and that doesn’t count the interest bill for borrowing the capital cost).

It appears that many Perth stations have between 30% and 60% of their parking with a $2 fee attached. I guess having at least some paid is to increase the likelihood of people arriving after rush hour being able to still find a spot. It may also be that the paid spots are those that have been added more recently, so the fees have helped pay for them. Bear in mind that because many Perth stations are in the middle of freeways, walk-up patronage is much lower than in Melbourne.

Another interesting one in Perth is they have some parking spaces which are locked-up between 9am and 3:30pm each weekday. Perhaps car theft is a big problem there.

It raises an obvious (but probably controversial) question: should they charge for parking spaces in Melbourne?

Options

You could have a charge for all station car parks, probably on weekdays only (as in Perth) when demand is high.

Or you could charge more in zone 1. Or have a charge in zone 1 but none in zone 2. That would help reduce the current zone fare difference, discouraging people from driving to zone 1. Plus typically (but not always) at zone 1 stations there are more and better feeder services available, which people should be encouraged to use.

Or you could only apply it to specific stations where there is very heavy demand, particularly around zone boundaries (hello Laverton!)

Or some free, some paid parking at each station like in Perth.

You might be talking boom gates (more infrastructure required), or you might use pay-and-display tickets (more staff required).

Given the government decision that every traveller is expected to have a Myki, I would think you’d want it possible to be paid using that, to avoid having to have cash collection and so on, though also allowing payment with coins might help for occasional users.

Pros

Given tight budgets at the moment, it could fund extra services, particularly feeder buses so more people can get to the station without driving at all. (After all, you shouldn’t have to own a car to be able to use public transport.)

It could help defray the huge cost of providing parking (though at $2 a day it would take at least 20 years to do so). And given that huge cost, user-pays is not inappropriate — remember, despite how it seems, most train passengers don’t drive to the station — and land around stations is some of the most valuable in Melbourne.

It would discourage non-passengers from using those spaces. At some stations such as Camberwell, local office and building workers are known to fill up commuter parking. (What might be practical to solve this, without actually charging, is to make entering and/or exiting a carpark dependent on a touch from a Myki, with the system treating it the same as a fare for that zone… thus actual PT users would be charged no more, but non-PT users would be charged.)

It might help reduce demand so that people who genuinely need a park at the station are able to get one, even if travelling after 8am or so (earlier at some stations) when they currently fill up.

Cons

It means an additional cost for people who may not have any practical choice but to drive to the station… which might encourage some to simply drive all the way to their destination. (When this has come up in the past has been the PTUA position.)

The cost of collecting the fees would need to be taken into account… apart from things like boom gates, it might also require re-modelling of car park layouts, and even a mechanism for ensuring people don’t enter a car park when it’s already full (or perhaps just allow free exit within 15 minutes, like with Myki at stations — also useful for “kiss and ride” drop-offs).

Can Myki handle this type of transaction if it’s not considered part of the zone system, but an additional charge? If not, it might result in additional costs.

Thoughts?