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 fully 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?

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.

8 replies on “Flyer highlights public transport – are Coalition MPs starting to get worried?”

The 703 bus you mentioned needs a lot of improvement. The last bus from Monash to Brighton leaves Monash at 7:47pm on weekdays (too bad if you need to study in the library after lectures) and doesn’t go beyond Bentleigh at all on Sundays. So a trip that would take 25 minutes by car (Monash-Brighton) is 2 hours on public transport – who in their right mind would use PT?

They’ve committed one of the great no-nos of graphic design: reversing white copy out of process yellow. And whose idea was it to put a yellow cab on a yellow background?

Hrmpf. You’d think that they would at least have splashed out on Nightrider buses for every night of the week from around December 17th until New Year’s Day. Judging by the number of people out and about in the city last night, it would have been well patronised.

Sydney has some buses that run midnight to 6am every day; why can’t we have this?

In fairness to Miller, reliability on the Frankston line has improved a bit since the Coalition came to government.

4 issues come immediately to mind for me, one transport related and three non related.

The first is somehow making it easier to park at train stations like Bentleigh ie park and ride. Where I live in Bentleigh East it is about a 35 minute walk to Bentleigh train station or I have to pay for a zone 2 bus to get to Bentleigh which is in zone 1. So I have to drive to the station to park. But it’s almost impossible to get a park there after about 7.30am. It discourages me and others I know from taking the train.

The second local issue is the proliferation of subdivisions in the Bentleigh electorate. It seems like every second house is being subdivided, which leads to more congestion in streets (more people on a house lot means more cars parking in streets etc), more load on drainage systems etc. likewise, I understand the idea of building apartments near train stations but I can’t see how building large apartment blocks in bentleigh east, which is not really in walking distance to bentleigh station, is achieving the goals of high density housing near stations.

Another major issue for the electorate is the lack of quality, affordable childcare. Waiting lists are getting longer and some have told me I should have registered my child the day I discovered I was pregnant! It has a huge impact on being able to go back to work after having a child and needs to be addressed at a state level.

Finally, the recent sackings of thousands of public servants in Victoria is of significant concern. It is misleading to say it won’t affect front line services. The state government needs to engender confidence in the economy by spending, creating jobs etc, rather than sending out signals to the contrary.

@Luke, that’s a fair point. I plan to do a little number crunching soon.

@Belinda, good feedback — hope you also got one of these cards and will send it in — or if not, contact Ms Miller directly.

I’ve heard vaguely about childcare issues, but my kids are older now so I haven’t really kept up to date on the issue.

Re: parking at Bentleigh station… to my mind there’s little spare land left around the station, and even if there was, the cost is upwards of $15,000 PER SPACE to provide it (and much higher for multi-storey), so there are concerns that parking is simply not a cost-effective way of getting more people onto trains.

I assume you’re aware the 703 is zone 1 (overlap) as far as Monash Medical Centre, just past East Boundary Road? Does that help? (Map).

One idea kicked around in the past was to make all buses (except perhaps Eastern freeway express routes) zone-free (eg entirely within the zone 1/2 overlap), thus for CBD commuters using zone 1 stations there’d be no additional cost for catching the bus to the station. I suspect the revenue lost wouldn’t be particularly high given most routes are used predominantly for local travel (though it would also mean a price cut/lost revenue for Z1 bus-only users).

I haven’t received one of these cards yet Daniel. I did see ms miller handing out free reusable shopping bags on Monday at IGA. I’m surprised she wasn’t also handing out these cards.

The 703 is a good 15 minute walk from me still. That combined with having to race back for childcare pick up (even if the 703 waits for passengers at Bentleigh!) makes it a discouraging option for me. I can see a lot of sense in removing zones from all bus routes. The 701 bus would then be a more viable option for me.

That’s really interesting about the cost per space to provide more car parking. I had no idea it would be anywhere near that. It would also not please local residents I’m sure to have a multi level car park opposite them at the station! It really seems that providing more frequent, zone neutral bus services would be a much better solution for connecting people to trains.

Oh and one final issue that I didn’t include originally be must be rectified is the lack of a short term ticket for travel. It beggers belief that occasional users, tourists etc can not purchase a once off ticket for travel. Has there ever been a bigger incentive for people to fare evade??

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