Before I begin I would like to thank everyone that assisted in making tonight possible in particular Margaret Stevens and Sandra Hardiman from the Croydon Conservation Society, as well as our chair Nina Scott and to Bill Russell for being able to provide the introductory address.
I must particularly thank everyone that is in attendance this evening, for you have demonstrated that all we want a vibrant and open future for Ringwood.
I’m currently twenty four years old and have lived within Ringwood for the past twenty-two years.
During this time our counterparts in Knox have created a bustling entertainment and retail precinct in the form of Knox City and Knox O-Zone, meanwhile we as residents or visitors to Ringwood have seen the relative decline of our town centre.
The truth is Ringwood COULD and SHOULD be a vibrant centre for the outer east filled with opportunities for people of ages and mobility, yet for this to be realised direct and meaningful input from the community is crucial.
As one of the founding members of the Ringwood Transit City Community Coalition we believe that a cohesive vision for Ringwood is required. This is a vision that consists of more than just the opinion of the State Government, its departments and the owners of Eastland. It is a vision that includes the entire Ringwood community whether as a resident, business owner, visitor, community organisation or employee; it is a vision that requires those in Government to listen to those within our community.
The Ringwood Transit City Community Coalition was established on the 17th of January 2005 as a direct response to the continued refusal of the then Planning Minister Mary Delahunty to include community groups within the Ringwood Transit City Advisory Committee. The Ringwood Transit City Advisory Committee comprises of Maroondah Council, Government Departments and QIC (the owners of Eastland) yet excludes small businesses and community organisations.
I firmly believe that one of the major issues facing Ringwood is the lack of accessible transportation and the lack of an open consultative process. For example, the bus service along Stud Road is the sixth highest patronised service in Melbourne yet it finishes operating at 7:45 pm during the week! In Maroondah we are without Sunday bus services along our main thoroughfares such as Maroondah Highway and Canterbury Road. Such poor transport accessibility would never be tolerated within the inner or middle suburbs.
Ringwood Station is currently inaccessible to those with disabilities and is a struggle for the able bodied or parents with prams. Ringwood Station is perceived as being unsafe and as such as is to detriment to both local business and residents. Yet despite a decade of discussion no physical progress has been made to the required redevelopment of the station itself, despite the fact that modifications are required to ensure compliance with accessibility legislation.
It is often not realised but a lack of public transport affects everyone in Melbourne and the outer east:
- Our youth are often isolated or dependant on others to get them to work, school and recreation. Knox City Shopping Centre for example is currently inaccessible by public transport during evenings despite the popularity of its entertainment precinct and the employment opportunities it provides particularly for our youth;
- Our elderly are also disadvantaged due to a lack of public transport and this will only increase with the trend towards an aging population.
- People with disabilities are particularly disadvantaged not only due to the lack of mobility caused by a lack of frequent public transport but also due to the lack of an accessible environment as Margaret mentioned earlier;
- Families are often the biggest victims of a lack of public transport yet this is often overlooked. Excessive car ownership costs on average up to one fifth or 20% of a household’s income. In fact with the recent increase in interest rates a household with a $250,000 mortgage could save ten years of mortgage payments, that is the equivalent of almost $170,000, if a public transport alternative was readily available.
There is a strong economic case for public transport recognised through reductions in traffic congestions and a reduction in road trauma.
Congestion costs our economy $5 billion per year, this is expected to skyrocket to a staggering $29.7 billion by the year 2015; unless a public transport alternative is provided.
In Maroondah road trauma and accidents cost our community $38 million per year. This is an economic cost that we as a community face in lost productivity and damage to infrastructure. There is also of course the social impact and devastation of road trauma, a burden that could be minimised if a public transport alternative was readily available.
One of the aims of the Transit City Program is to improve public transport usage and the integration of transport services.
Yet the State Government has not provided action to support this rhetoric through providing more frequent and longer operating services within Maroondah.
Not once does the Ringwood Transit City Urban Design Masterplan refer to the need to improve public transport services particularly key bus routes which would allow residents to travel into and out of Ringwood from many directions.
The question that must ultimately be asked is; Will better public transport be utilised by our community?
The evidence overwhelmingly suggests yes.
There is a positive correlation between service frequencies and patronage.
In 2002 the state government upgraded the frequency and operating hours of bus services along Blackburn and Springvale Roads essentially providing a fifteen minute service during the day and services through to midnight during weeknights. As a result patronage grew by over 30% and the bulk of this came from those purchasing full fare tickets, that is passengers that are more likely to have access to a car.
How many people can currently catch a bus along Maroondah Highway for example from Ringwood to Chirnside Park on a Sunday?
The answer is none.
Why? Because the despite the popularity of this service during the week the government has thus far refused to provide funding for a Sunday bus service.
This is despite the fact that Maroondah Highway is one of the major thoroughfares into Ringwood.
Are we the people of Ringwood supposed to tolerate discussions behind closed doors, discussions that will impact upon the very liveability of our suburb?
As the Outer East Branch Convener of the Public Transport Users Association I’ve spent much time in organising and executing campaigns for better services in the outer east and throughout this time I have people say that no one takes any notice of individual action.
I tend to disagree; the very fact that the Ringwood Transit City Advisory Committee has established a Community Reference Group is testament to the work that we in the Ringwood Transit City Community Coalition have provided.
We will be monitoring the proposed Community Reference Group and we will ensure that it does in fact provide a genuine, meaningful and direct representation for community concerns.
Meanwhile Ringwood still deserves better, it deserves a vision consistent with its potential.
- Ringwood could and should be the premier gateway suburb into the outer east;
- Ringwood should a suburb we are proud of living in;
- Ringwood should be a suburb that provides access to employment and recreational opportunities for people of all ages and mobility.
I am hopeful that with direct and meaningful community input we will ensure a collective vision for Ringwood which become a reality.
So in conclusion; please, tell us what you want for the future of Ringwood and I along with those involved in the Ringwood Transit City Community Coalition will ensure that those responsible will listen.
I thank you for all for your attendance this evening.