Maroondah Leader: Commuters the winners in two zones

The Maroondah Leader has reported on the policy announcements delivered by the Victorian Liberal Party and the ALP to abolish zone three:

TRANSPORT costs will be slashed for outer-suburban commuters, including many Maroondah residents, whoever wins the November election.

Both the Bracks Government and Liberal Opposition last week pledged to scrap Zone 3 and switch to a two-zone system next year.

Maroondah City Council, as part of the Eastern Transport Coalition, had campaigned endlessly for the abolition of zone three.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman and Maroondah councillor Alex Makin said the news was “a victory for the outer-east community”.

“It’s something residents in conjunction with the Eastern Transport Coalition were campaigning for,” Mr Makin said. “We welcome the Opposition announcement and the carbon copy released by the Bracks Government.”

Four years ago when the Opposition pledged to abolition zone three the Bracks Government, through its Transport Minister Peter Batchelor, claimed that “capacity constraints” meant that the policy was ‘unworkable’ (Libs promise fare cuts to outer areas, The Age, Nov 7, 2002. pg. 9). Like other claims of ‘capacity constraints’ (such as being unable to deliver the South Morang rail extension or Rowville rail line), it is clear that such constraints are purely fabricated to excuse inaction.

The Opposition is to be congratulated for taking the lead on seeking to abolish one of the gross inequities that had existed in the pricing of Melbourne’s public transport system.

Maroondah Journal: Zone cut boost for outer suburbs

The Maroondah Journal has reported on the recent announcements to abolish zone three, released firstly by the Victorian Liberal Party and mimicked four hours later by the Bracks Government.

Public Transport users in the outer east will pay less next year after both major political parties pledged to scarp zone three – but the fight for better train and bus services continues.

While the removal of zone three addresses on the major pricing inequities of the public transport system, it is ultimately the level of service, such as the efficiency, frequency, reliability and availability of public transport that will ultimately result in higher patronage.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Alex Makin said Labor’s decision was a “complete U-turn” for the party which dismissed the idea at the previous election.

Train services and bus routes along main roads need to provide at least a 15 minute service frequency to ensure patronage growth. This is consistent which research which as shown that 15 minute service frequencies and an overhaul of bus routes are essential to achieving the goal of increasing public transport modal share.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you price the fares, waiting up to an hour for a bus can’t compete with car travel.”

Maroondah Leader: Libs' free transport plan for children, students put on the grill

The Maroondah Leader has reported on the Victorian Liberal Party’s plan to provide free public transport for children and students.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman, Maroondah councillor Alex Makin, welcomed the free public transport plan, but questioned how it would increase service levels.

“To drastically improve public transport patronage there must be an increased level of service, particularly in the eastern region,” Cr Makin said. “People cannot use public transport if it’s not available.”

While the plan has some merit in encouraging a culture of public transport usage (similar to how Walking School Bus provides a culture of encouraging walking) it is imperative that service levels are improved to ensure more frequent, readily available and efficient public transport services.

Maroondah Forum for People with Disabilities and Carers – Final Meeting for 2006

Maroondah holds a quarterly forum to provide information and to discuss and resolve issues relevant to people with disabilities and carers. Monday’s forum provided an update on the Maroondah Mobility Expo (scheduled for Tuesday the 5th of December) and also provided advice on personal safety.

The Maroondah Mobility Expo, which has been organised through Scoot Wheel N Move, will provide information on using a scooter and organisations that provide support for independent living.

Maroondah’s Forum for People with Disabilities and Carers will resume in 2007.

Victory: Zone Three to be abolished

This morning the Baillieu Liberal Opposition pledged to remove zone three public transport fares if elected into government. Four hours later Steve Bracks copied this announcement and said it too would scrap zone three.

As reported in The Age:

Public Transport Users Association vice-president Alex Makin welcomed the latest announcement, saying he believed it would encourage more people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs to use trains and buses.

“It has merit in that it tackles one of the biggest inequities in Melbourne’s public transport system,” Mr Makin told

The existence of zone three, is an oddity that has existed only within Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and as a result meant that residents in Ringwood, Croydon, Scoresby and Dandenong were forced to pay more for public transport than residents in suburbs such as Hurstbridge, which are located further away from the CBD.

“At the moment you have lots of people driving to Heatherdale station from Croydon, Ringwood and Lilydale to avoid paying the higher fare,” Mr Makin said.

While the removal of zone three is a welcomed and one that groups such as the Eastern Transport Coalition have requested, the announcement must be reinforced by policies that improve public transport services. Ultimately people will not use public transport if services continue to be infrequent, unreliable and inefficient.

But Mr Makin said reducing fares for people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs had to be accompanied by policies that improved services, saying there was no point reducing the cost of tickets if there weren’t enough trains and buses to service demand.

This announcement has demonstrated the power of combined community and council advocacy. As recently as last week the State Government claimed that zone three could not be abolished due to apparent capacity constraints. The fact that the Bracks Government has now been forced to act has demonstrated the so-called ‘capacity constraints’ that have prevented rail and tram extensions is nothing more than a complete fabrication.

ABC 774 on public transport

This afternoon Lindy Burns from ABC 774 interviewed me at an outside broadcast located at Southern Cross Station to discuss public transport issues in the lead up to the November state election.

Lindy stated that public transport and transport in general were major issues for the November State Election and highlighted the improvements that are required to ensure a frequent, reliable coordinated and readily available public transport system. As an example, in 1992 the frequency of trains were improved on the Sandringham line and overall coordination was increased. Due to these service improvements patronage increased by 38% demonstrating how crucial frequency improvements are to improving public transport modal share.

Unfortunately, over the last seven years the State Government has delivered nothing more than just tokenistic public transport improvements and nowhere is this more apparent than the bus network, which still fails to provide frequencies comparable to the train or tram network.

The $10.5 billion that was allocated over the next decade through the Transport and Liveability Statement (known as Meeting Our Transport Challenges) is more than enough to solve Melbourne’s transport woes but grossly misallocated. Rather than petty gestures priorities should have included rail network expansion in areas such as South Morang and Cranbourne East, both of which were promised rail extensions back in 1999. Instead the State Government is forcing the people of South Morang to now wait at least 10 to 15 years for their promised line and yet Whittlesea is fortunate compared to Cranbourne East, where the government has decided to neglect Melbourne’s fastest growing urban corridor by failing to plan or deliver the Cranbourne East rail extension.

While rail extensions are crucial for Melbourne’s growth areas, there is also a need to enhance the level of bus services to a standard comparable to the well-patronised tram network. Currently, most of Melbourne’s bus network is very confusing due to highly convoluted routes that are in a dire need of being overhauled.

The success of Perth, which has prioritised public transport projects, through doubling its rail network and providing frequent bus services, has allowed enhanced mobility and demonstrates just how far behind Melbourne is when it comes to international and national best practices.

With just over four weeks to the next State Election it is imperative that our political parties commit to securing the economic, social and environmental success of Melbourne by pledging to deliver real public transport improvements. After seven years of rhetoric Melbourne’s public transport system needs urgent action.

Stringybark Festival: Community support for better public transport

Stringybark is a weekend-long annual community festival organised by Knox City Council and held at the Rowville Community Centre. Like previous years, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA), like other community groups such as the Knox Environment Society (KES) and Environment Victoria (EV), held a stall at the festival to engage the community in the call for better public transport.

Alex Makin at the PTUA stall at the Stringybark Festival (October 2006)

Each year the momentum for better public transport continues to build with the PTUA focusing on the much-needed Rowville rail line and the broken promise of the tram extension to Knox. Stickers calling for the funding of the Rowville rail line were distributed as well as copies of the PTUA’s Rail for Rowville factsheet.

Fund Rowville Rail Now Sticker

With a state election due in five weeks time there has never been a better time to show your support for the Rowville rail line. Stickers can be acquired by emailing me at

Rail for Rowville FactsheetIn addition to the stickers, the Rail for Rowville factsheet clearly states the economic feasibility of the Rowville rail line and the reasons why it is required within the next five years. While the government was keen to trumpet the Wellington SmartBus service, the fact is that only a rail line will meet the needs of residents, students and businesses by ensuring a fast and efficient public transport option.

Eastern Transport Coalition: Evaluating the Fair Fares Campaign

Tonight’s Eastern Transport Coalition meeting focused on evaluating the results of the Fair Fares Campaign and on preparing to speak to candidates in the upcoming election about the ongoing public transport issues facing Melbourne’s outer east.

While final results are still being prepared, it appears that approximately 60% of all commuters surveyed are driving substantial distances to avoid paying zone three fares. The avoidance of zone three fares results in an unnecessary increase in traffic congestion and detracts from the local amenity of neighbourhoods near stations due to excessive car parking. Furthermore the existence of zone three detracts of residents catching nearby bus services to access stations due to the excessive cost of the additional zone.

The survey results vindicate the Eastern Transport Coalition’s stance on fare reform and the calls to seek a restructuring of the fare system concurrently with the introduction of the new ticketing system next year.

The outer east deserves fair public transport fares.

MAV Transport and Infrastructure Group

The Municipal Association of Victoria’s (MAV) Transport and Infrastructure Group is continuing its planning for next year with a concentration on the need for systematic federal funding of public transport. Australia remains the only westernised nation in the world where federal funding has consistent not been provided for public transport.

Due the increasing economic burden of rising traffic congestion it is imperative that the federal government provides a national framework for involvement in urban public transport. While federal involvement is required, it does not however, excuse the current State Government from inaction particularly in the failure to provide much needed rail extensions. The State Government has a lot to answer for, and must be held accountable, for its failure to properly manage and extend the public transport system.

Ideally, federal involvement in urban public transport would be provided as a framework for infrastructure projects and require matching funding from the State Government, similar in essence to the existing AusLink scheme.

Manningham sees the 'End of Suburbia'

This evening the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA), in conjunction with Manningham City Council, held a screening of the End of Suburbia to supplement the Destination Doncaster Launch.

Chris Trikilis, the PTUA’s Doncaster Coordinator, accompanied myself as Vice-President and Manningham City Councillor Grace La Vella in providing an overview of the film and highlighting the ramifications of continued public transport neglect within Doncaster and Manningham.

Manningham is the only municipality in Melbourne that lacks any form of rail access. The extension of tram 48 with a restructuring of the bus network would not only provide greater transport choice but would also spur much needed investment within Doncaster Hill. As demonstrated in Box Hill, the extension of tram route 109 to Box Hill rejuvenated the town centre, extending tram 48 for Doncaster would provide a similar effect for Manningham.

Chris Trikils and Alex Makin presenting the Doncaster End of Suburbia screening

In the longer term heavy-rail via the Eastern Freeway is the only viable alternative to ensuring quick and efficient journeys into the CBD and inner suburbs. Manningham has a similar population density and size to Glen Waverley and yet its needs are constantly being overlooked.

It is time for all political parties to deliver urgent public transport improvements to Manningham.