Who to vote for in Transport?

Please note that as always, the views expressed on my blog are my own, and are not necessarily a PTUA position.

The state election’s about six weeks away.

The Opposition has been criticised for not having a transport policy, but it’s important to note that Labor hasn’t said much about what they’d do, either.

Sure, they’re launching lots of things like new train timetables this week, new Smartbuses last week, and new tram timetables next week. Lots of colour and movement to keep us all distracted.

But I’m generally of the view that judging past performance is of limited use, particularly as the whole debate in PT has moved on from the cost-cutting of the early 90s to the mid 2000s, when both sides sought to minimise investment. (And it should be noted that Kennett in 1999 introduced one of the biggest positive changes — the upgrade of most Sunday tram and train services to Saturday levels).

Richmond station, 5:38pm

Yes, Labor has the Victorian Transport Plan, which is a blueprint for further developments. But that doesn’t really count unless the items in it are funded. Until something is funded, it may never happen (eg the Blue Orbital Smartbus in the previous MOTC plan from 2006).

The important thing for voters to know is what would the parties do differently from one another.

There are lots of VTP projects already funded, already underway. Unless we are told different, we must assume that these would happen no matter who gets power: Regional Rail Link, Sunbury electrification, completion of Myki, South Morang rail, 50 new trams and an upgraded tram depot, Bumblebee trams kept, various new outer-suburban stations.

What’s different between the big two parties? Here’s what they’ve announced so far which is not already funded and underway:

The Opposition: Rowville/Monash rail feasibility study; Eltham North station feasibility; armed Protective Service Officers on Metro stations after 6pm; increase transit police numbers; $1 million competition for a plan to renovate Flinders Street (not really a public transport issue per se, as long as whatever’s built doesn’t adversely affect station operation — really a heritage and planning issue)

Labor: Balaclava Station upgrade; increase transit police and Authorised Officer numbers.

(The Greens have a lot more in their policy, but I’m just looking at the big two for now. Let me know if I’ve missed anything.)

So in fact, while the Opposition gets the flak, in fact Labor are also keeping their cards close for now. They’re both pretty light-on for detail in such a key issue, no doubt wanting to avoid being trumped by the other side.

Who’s going to pledge not just South Morang, but Mernda? Who’s going to build Southland Station? Who’s going to duplicate and electrify to Melton? How about 7 day 10 minute trains/trams/Smartbuses? Half-hourly V/Line services? And the next lot of Smartbus routes, for that matter?

Only once we know these answers (and provided one has some confidence in their promises) will people know which side is going to do more in public transport.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

23 replies on “Who to vote for in Transport?”

It seems highly unlikely that either side will really do much besides building lots of new freeways. I think the best we can hope for is enough Greens in the parliament to push things in the right direction.

To add to jon’s answer, a very important point to bear in mind is that the Greens’ policies will come into play if they hold the balance of power. So I think a summary of the Greens’ project wish-list would be very wise.

Specific things like “Tram to Upper Ferntree Gully” and where it sits in the priority list, as well as more general things like “Disband VicRoads and replace/merge with X”.

Oh and if the Greens are thinking of decommissioning projects like RRL, that would be useful to know.


I’d also like to chime in on the Greens.

Polling has shown the most likely outcome of this election is that Labor hold onto power, losing a few seats to both the Liberals and the Greens. However the 2nd most likely outcome is actually a hung parliament with the Greens in the balance of power. For the Liberals to win power outright there would have to be a massive swing to them.

The Greens have spoken loudly about PT in the state and are obviously very keen for action. It has been reported that they have demanded the Transport Portfolio if they gain the balance of power in a hung parliament, however confirmation that this is true is sketchy. It did however lead to Mr. Brumby to call the Greens “arrogant” (pot, kettle, black?).

If the Greens do end up with the balance of power and demand the Transport portfolio it might be what ends up deciding to who controls the rest of parliament, and more importantly in terms of this discussion it will be important to know what their policies are in terms of the future of transport in our state.

I for one am clinging to the hope this outcome is what we land for. Bracks leading a hung parliament was surely better for the state than Brumby has been on his own, and if the transport portfolio heads to the Greens we might finally see a break from all this freeway building madness and end up with a public run somewhat independent Public Transport Authority in a similar fashion to VicRoads now.

This would also increase the likely-hood of receiving Federal Funding for PT objectives, as the National Labor party have already stated that funding may be dependant on states creating a body similar to what is in operation in W.A.

@Nick/@Julian, yeah, stay tuned for a proper comparison of ALP/Coalition/Greens policies.

@Julian, I don’t think it’s Federal Labor that said that about funding being dependent on a PTA; it’s an Infrastructure Australia thing, from memory. Remember last year the Rudd govt handed over $3 billion for Regional Rail Link without that condition… which given the subsequent lack of stimulus money around now, may be the last big federally funded PT project in a while.

Rather than doing so many expensive feasibility studies which don’t even guarantee anything and cost a lot of money, with the conclusion reports generating 50% of information which a commuter could tell you, how about the parties actually guarantee stuff, and then do a report to figure out not whether it’s feasible or not, but what the best way to do it is?

Your blog raises an important issue: the wearing of backpacks on platforms and in train and trams (see the guys in your photo). It is dangerous. People don’t realise that they are twice as thick as normal wearing a backpack. They don’t realise that they (i.e. their backpack) bashes into people on crowded platforms or while standing on busy trains/trams, especially when they turn left or right.
Has this ever been raised as an issue on PT?

Here is my manifesto

The aerial map on the PTUA website (follow Daniels link) with the Frankston train line running past Southland seems like a no brainer. That’s first.

Then were going to sink the Geelong train line underground at the intersection of Cottrel and Werribee Street and then extend the Werribee train line to Wyndham Vale and build a massive car park (yes, yes it would be nice if people used feeder buses – but what are ya going to do).

Thirdly, were going to build an orbital train line along the Western Ring road.
(Also making it a rule of thumb that you cant build a new freeway without a rail line beside it)

Were also gunna build a train line out to Tullamarine airport. We have decided that it doesn’t have to be a direct route – so it’s going via Broadmeadows on the Craigieburn line.

Oh and speaking of Airports were also reserving land to build a railway line from Lara to Avalon airport.

On the drawing board is a plan to extend the Flemington racecourse train line either over or under the Maribynong river and run it out through the Edgewater housing estate to Highpoint shopping centre and then to new housing estate that will be built on the old Defense land site near Avondale Heights.

The new Melbourne Metro underground line servicing Melbourne Uni, Arden / North Melbourne and St Kilda Road is going ahead but were just working out how we can build the new station for Fitzroy and wheather or not running the train out to Doncaster on the freeway is really the best idea or if we should just bite the bullet and just put the whole line underground all the way out there.

Some of our more contriversial plans we have, rely on the smart technology were building into our advanced Myki card.

If you are a homeowner living within seven kilometers of the CBD and have two cars registered at that property and travel into the CBD each workday via public transport you will pay triple the current fare.

Conversely if you live in the far out outer suburbs (25km’s plus) from the CBD then you will get free public transport for travel within Zone 2 and greatly reduced fares in Zone 1 if you only have the one car registed at that property.
If you have no vehicle then your fares for trips in Zone 1 are tax deductible.

We are also investigating frequent travel points where you earn rewards points of some sort for choosing public transport over using your car.

A couple of things raised in other forums but met with resistance are likely to be introduced. eg. Adult concession fares will most likely be abolished during peak times. Seniors fares will definietly be abolished during peaks.

We are also removing all seating within three meters of doors to create more standing room on our inner city trains and trams.

Probably the most contriversial plan is partially borrowed from the Lib’s – were going to put Protection officers armed with tasers at each and every station.

Also CCTV monitored by security profesionals is also going to be really beefed up.
However it’s also going to be live and streaming over the internet. You at home will be able to log onto any of the dozens of cameras at any station at any time. You will also be able to report suspicious behaviour in real time.

Flying squads of graffiti removers will also be employed. All existing graffiti will be removed within the network and any new graffiti will be removed within four hours of our specialist investigative taskforce, documenting the attack and the starting of there investigation.

Oh and did I mention free wifi on the network including at bus stops if you have validated your card? Yeah we will have that too.

Would the libs slash passenger rail services in Maryburough Creswick Ararat and Bairnsdale like they did in the 90s? I hope not

@Candidate, I’ll try and digest all that later, but if you have an opinion:

@Phill, in the early 90s the state had a lot of debt, and the incoming Libs in 1993 were desperate to cut spending wherever they could. As I note above, it’s hard to judge them today by what happened then, because the environment was completely different.

To my knowledge neither party has said they would build the Doncaster tram.

@Candidate Re: “Protection officers” armed with Tasers

I was hoping to feel safer on the train network, not terrified!

You’ve got some interesting ideas, I think your roaming graffiti removal squads and free wifi might end up sending you broke though, especially at bus stops. Surely improving services would be a better way to spend a fortune?

Also your stream the CCTV footage idea…. terrifying.

While it’s not directly a public transport issue, the taxi industry needs a good look. This is because taxis play a role for scenarios where public transport does not suit, particularly for those without a car.

Law and order is also somewhat relevant, as well.

Correct me if I’m wrong Daniel, I understand the PTUA does not cover those issues, and therefore individuals should consider these policies as part of the bigger picture when making decisions.

Letter-writing meter: 3 written last 7 days.

At the risk of sounding like @Candidate … I have an audacious idea: extending the #8 tram to Upper Ferntree Gully.

Start extending it along Toorak Road from Glenferrie Road to Camberwell Road (to the #75 tracks), then extend from Vermont South according to more established proposals.

This would plug a fairly serious gap for public transport in Tooronga.

This I will write in a letter to a metro newspaper. Others are welcome to write a letter in their own words, or see an MP about it, etc.

@Kiwi Nick, you’re on the money re: tram extensions. They’re minuscule in cost and barely a handful of them would be required to plug some gaping holes in the existing tram network. #8 to Hartwell RS/existing #75 tracks, #75 to Knox and Upper FTG RS, #5 to Darling RS, #6 to Ashburton RS, #3 to East Malvern RS and Chadstone, #48 to Doncaster Shoppingtown via Park and Ride, and #72 to Caulfield RS along Burke Road are just a few extensions that could be done at relatively low cost (compared to equivalent heavy rail/freeway expansion), and could at least partially rectify some massive PT issues.
Why tram extensions aren’t more seriously considered, especially in the form of light rail alignments like that on Dandenong Road or Burwood Highway, is completely beyond me.

“Protection officers” armed with Tasers
I was hoping to feel safer on the train network, not terrified!

Why? Are you a lout?
I and tens of thousands of other decent people who support public transport wont use a train after 7.00pm. After the evening peak, the perception is that the network is handed over to the gangs, drunks, thugs, yobs and taggers.

All right thinking people I am sure would rather stand on South Kensington station after dark with two pseudo coppers nearby armed with stun guns then alone with 8 or so teen wannabe bloods or crips carrying on and yahooing.

I think your roaming graffiti removal squads and free wifi might end up sending you broke though, especially at bus stops.

Eighty or so blokes employed for a year or so until all the graff is gone and then about twenty on an ongoing program isn’t going to send the network broke or any broker. Think of it as an economic stimulus.
Also getting rid of the graffiti and having clean trains will guarantee an increase in patronage. If somthing is dirty, rubbish strewn and tagged people feel unsafe.
Maybe not so much a 25 year old man, but the elderly and mothers with young children etc.
Many of these people are isolated enough as it is.

As for the free wifi. Well we are rolling out a $40+ billion National broadband network past every bus stop in every metropolitian city in the country. Properly sycronised so that you only could only access once you had validated your ticket – its a cost that myself and my future government can live with. At a minimum were building thousands more bus shelters. I am sick of driving to work (yes I drive to work) and seeing school kids huddled under trees trying to avoid the rain.

Also your stream the CCTV footage idea…. terrifying.
Terrifyingly good idea is surely what you mean.

I gotta say I’m nervous about any modifications to Flinders St. Station

You just have to look at the messes made at Spencer St & Museum/Melbourne Central.

Southern Cross is noisy smelly & takes too long to get between paltforms

Melbourne Central used to be the best designed station in Melbourne IMHO, coping easily with the masses of people going in and out, now it’s a disaster. with unused escalators.

Replacing the ramps at Flinders St with escalators and (sometimes working) lifts is a disaster for the flow of people, what else can they stuff up?

@Candidate — “After the evening peak, the perception is that the network is handed over to the gangs, drunks, thugs, yobs and taggers. ”

It’s simply not true; the perception and reality are quite different. The biggest problem with travelling after dark is the long wait, and in many cases, problems finding a seat on the train once it arrives.

Which is not to say security isn’t an issue, but under the Opposition’s plan for two guards at each station after 6pm, in almost all cases they’d be standing around doing nothing.

Some things borne from the statistics: About half of all assaults are at just 10 stations. And about half of assaults are before 6pm, eg in the daytime. And more than half of all stations had no recorded assaults at all for the whole of 2009.

@Kiwi Nick, yes, there are lots of relatively cheap, highly beneficial tram extensions that could be carried out. We highlighted some of them in the PTUA’s election manifesto.

@archi, yeah you got that right. The interchange at Melbourne Central to the Swanston St trams got well and truly stuffed.

There needs to be much heavier advertising of the Police Advice Line (131444 but is this valid for Melbourne?).

HINT: Should provide an 03 number so people from mobiles can call cheaply (stark example, TPG charges 10 times as much for a 13 call)

That way, people can feel free to report louts or anything not requiring emergency response, and you’d probably get some extra statistics coming out of the woodwork.

wanna train station at Southland?

Vote in the Libs and you get one.

In addition to $1.4 billion for 40 new trains over two terms, he also pledged two new train stations, an extra $100 million for infrastructure maintenance and renewal and a new $10 million independent transport authority to co-ordinate and improve train, tram and bus services.

The new stations would be built on the Frankston line at Southland, in Melbourne’s outer southeast ($13 million) and Grovedale on the regional Geelong line ($25 million).

Mr Baillieu said the transport plan would improve services and safety and “relieve pressure on long-suffering commuters”.

Did someone say we ought to have a train line out to Avalon airport?

“The Victorian Coalition is pledging $50 million to plan and begin construction work on a rail link to Avalon Airport.

Under the Opposition plan, commuters would be able to catch a train direct from either Melbourne or Geelong, to Avalon.”

If the real cost of Avalon rail is $250m (and especially if it means adding delays to Geelong to Melbourne trains) then I reckon it’s way down the priority list given the lack of traffic to Avalon at the moment. By all means reserve the land, but how about have a shuttle bus meet every train at Lara while the important rail links are built?

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