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.
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?
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.
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?