The Age: New year's warning for night riders

Melbourne’s public transport arrangements have once again come under the spotlight as New Year celebrations approach. The Age has reported on the arrangements for New Years Eve:

While the State Government is taking the proactive step of providing all-night train services and free public transport after 3pm, it has failed to provide services for the two-thirds of Melbourne that resides beyond the rail network.

PTUA spokesman Alex Makin said the Government should match the extra train services being provided into and out of the city with bus services.

“There needs to be extra bus services, particularly to parts of Melbourne that lack rail access,” Mr Makin said.

“It’s great for people that live next door to a train line, but for people in Doncaster, people in Rowville, there’s a complete absence of any late night services on New Year’s Eve.”

Unfortunately Melbourne’s bus network is once again neglected with the government providing no additional services to take people from their rail station to their homes.

Mr Makin said the PTUA was pleased the Government was providing free and extra train services but said many people did not live within walking distance of train stations.

“Once people are at their rail stations, where do they go from there? It seems like (the government’s) priority is getting people out of the city rather then necessarily getting people to their homes.”

Unfortunately, the State Government has again failed to view Melbourne’s public transport as an integrated network, meaning that parts of Melbourne will have no public transport available to take people home on New Year’s Eve.

Scoot Wheel 'N' Move End of Year Celebrations

This morning I attended the Scoot Wheel ‘N’ Move end of year celebrations where the group reflected on its successes of the current year.

Scoot Wheel ‘N’ Move provided a new basis for community engagement through empowering people with disabilities to become actively involved in planning events and improving accessibility within Maroondah. Scoot Wheel N Move has demonstrates its success as a model of community empowerment through he positive response received with the Maroondah Mobility Expo.

I look forward to further working with the Scoot Wheel N Move Working Group in 2007 as we continue to addresses accessibility issues within Maroondah.

Maroondah Journal: Transport portfolio split a 'backward step'

The Maroondah Journal has reported on the Government’s retrograde step to split the Transport Portfolio into separate Public Transport and Roads components:

While Peter Batchelor was unable to handle the Transport Portfolio, as evidenced by delivering little more than broken promises and empty rhetoric, the separation of the portfolio could further hamper the Government’s ability to deliver the public transport projects that are required to mitigate rising traffic congestion and provide an alternative to rising petrol prices.

The Public Transport Users Association, which last year called for Mr Batchelor to be sacked, said the portfolio split could simply make the imbalance between road and public transport planning even worse.

“The move to split the portfolio seems to be a backward step,” PTUA vice-president Alex Makin said. “One of the key criticisms was the lack of integration between road and public transport planning, and this could worsen under the change.”

While it is encouraging that Peter Batchelor has been replaced by Lynne Kosky, Melbourne cannot afford continued inaction and delays to much needed public transport projects.

Lynne Kosky, as the new Minister for Public Transport, must commit to delivering the broken promises, such as the Knox tram extension, the Rowville rail line, the South Morang and Merna rail extensions and other projects such as the Doncaster tram extension and much upgrades to Ringwood Station, which were all left unfunded and forgotten by her predecessor.

Maroondah Journal: Bus use to rise as zones merge

The Maroondah Journal has reported on the State Government’s reaffirming its election promise to abolish zone three in March.

The existence of zone three is one the ongoing inequities of Melbourne’s public transport system, where residents of Ringwood, Lilydale and Dandenong pay for more public transport despite living closer to the CBD than suburbs such as Hurstbridge.

Public Transport Users Association vice-president Alex Makin said zone three was one of the “great inequalities for people living in the outer east.”

The removal of zone three could provide an historic opportunity to increase public transport patronage, if service levels are improved simultaneously with the restructuring of the fare system.

He wanted the Government to better co-ordinate the different modes of public transport.

“We should see an increase in bus patronage as people [travel] to their closest railway stations. People won’t be driving their cars to get to stations in zone two.”

The Government must take this opportunity to demonstrate that Melbourne’s public transport system can function as an integrated network. Service coordination, between bus routes and the rail network, must be improved to provide people with a realistic alternative to driving and thus alleviate parking issues at rail stations.

Maroondah Italian Senior Citizens Luncheon

This afternoon the Maroondah Italian Senior Citizens Club, one of Maroondah’s larger senior associations, provided an end of year celebration for its members. The lunch held at La Porchetta in Heathmont provided an opportunity for members to reflect on the current year and look forward to 2007.

I wish Maroondah’s Italian Senior Citizens Club all the very best of success for 2007.

MAV Melbourne 2030 Councillor Reference Group: Discussing the Melbourne 2030 audit process

The Melbourne 2030 Councillor Reference provides a forum for councillors to discuss issues in relation to Melbourne 2030 and urban planning. Today’s meeting focused on Melbourne 2030 and the five-year review process with Halvard Dalheim, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) discussing the audit process of the strategy.

The audit, which is due to be completed by the end of 2007, will focus on the implementation of Melbourne 2030 and will compare reality with the aspirations of Melbourne 2030. In an encouraging sign, it was mentioned that policy gaps would be examined which should hopefully identify the lack of integration between transport and planning.

While it is often claimed that Melbourne 2030 provides a ‘whole of government approach’ reality has shown this to be untrue. The Department of Treasury and Finance has continually refused to sign off on the goals expressed in Melbourne 2030 and issues such as transport still fail to be viewed in a holistic manner.

The Government’s recently released Transport and Liveability Statement, known as Meeting Our Transport Challenges is a classic example of the ongoing disconnect between transport and planning. While Melbourne 2030 expressly includes the goal of increasing public transport modal share to 20% by 2020, the Government’s long-term transport statement fails to acknowledge this goal or even allow benchmarking against it.

Key reference groups for Melbourne 2030, including advisory groups hand picked by the State Government, have cited the poor integration between transport and land use planning as a key barrier to ensuring the holistic implementation of this framework for urban planning.

Melbourne 2030 will continue to flounder unless the State Government coordinates land use and planning and provides a fully funded implementation plan that extends much needed infrastructure to public transport poor suburbs. Unfortunately the recent move to split the Transport Portfolio into separate road and public transport ministerial positions provides little confidence that such integration will occur.

Through the Transport and Liveability Statement the State Government committed itself to creating the position of Coordinator General for Infrastructure “to improve whole of government coordination of transport and land use planning and policy.” (Source: Meeting Our Transport Challenges, 2006).

Unfortunately the Coordinator General has no reporting channels within the DSE (Planning) organisational chart and still needs to wade through the management structure of the DOI.

By contrast VicRoads maintains its unimpeded direct access to the Minister, the newly designated Roads and Ports Minister, Tim Pallas.

Lynne Kosky, as Minister for Public Transport is still new within the portfolio. It is yet to be seen whether she will address the shortcoming in Melbourne’s public transport planning and provision. It is also yet to be seen whether Justin Madden, the new Minister for Public Transport will rectify the lack of integration between transport and land use planning through the audit of Melbourne 2030.

The future of Melbourne depends on the actions of these two Ministers. Another seven years of rhetoric and inaction cannot be tolerated.

Eastern Transport Coalition: Planning the agenda for 2007

A strategic planning session to manage next year’s activities was conducted for tonight’s Eastern Transport Coalition meeting, which marked the final meeting for 2006.

The Eastern Transport Coalition has had considerable success this year, with the council advocacy body being able to secure the abolition of zone three and improvements to bus services. These successes provide a powerful foundation for the ETC to continue achieving results for next year and beyond.

The substantial focus for next year will be the federal funding of public transport and to utilise the five year of Melbourne 2030 to ensure a holistic to transport and land use planning. While there is a need for federal public transport funding this will not be at the expense of allowing the State Government to avoid responsibility for its own inaction.

In fact federal funding of public transport through tied matching funding would allow the Federal Government to hold the State Government into action through ensuring that the State Government delivers on its own promises.

I am certain that the ETC will continue to achieve success as we enter 2007.

MAV Transport and Infrastructure Advisory Group

The MAV Transport and Infrastructure Group is focusing on three areas for 2007:

  • Federal funding for Transport;
  • Freight and rail infrastructure;
  • Infrastructure issues related to growth.

Working groups have been established to focus on each of the specific issues and I am within the Federal funding for transport group.

The MAV Transport and Infrastructure Advisory Group and each of the separate working groups will continue to meet throughout 2007 to ensure progress on the issues discussed.

Herald-Sun: Tram, train, bus tangle

The Herald-Sun has reported on the confusion that will ensue due to service cutbacks on public transport over most of January:

The annual Christmas present from public transport operators will include slashed train, tram and bus services for at least six weeks until mid-January.

Unfortunately the persistence of the summer timetable has demonstrated the continued failure of the State Government to operate a public transport system that reflects modern needs. In particular many students, who are on holidays over January, require reliable and frequent public transport to ensure access to employment and recreation.

But the Public Transport Users Association has attacked operators and the Government for again reducing the number of services over Christmas.

“There is no basis today for the continuation of the summer timetable, particularly one that is so drastically reduced,” vice-president Alex Makin said.

“The bureaucrats aren’t keeping up with modern trends and they’re not challenging the system to reflect modern needs. Particularly with flexible working hours, Melbourne does try to function as a 24-hour city.”

Like in previous years there has been a failure to properly integrate the service cutbacks to ensure that the modified train, tram and bus services have at the very least a consistent a start and finishing date. This lack of coordination demonstrates once again the failure to view public transport as part of an integrated network.

With bus contracts to be reviewed in 2007 there is an opportunity to ensure consistency across the bus network. In particular the former National bus routes (which includes bus routes in Manningham, Maroondah and Whitehorse), operate on a completely separate to the rest of the bus network resulting in the poor integration that is rife throughout metropolitan Melbourne.

Maroondah Heritage Senior Citizens Club end of year luncheon

This afternoon I was invited to attend the Maroondah Heritage Senior Citizens end of year luncheon. Maroondah Heritage Senior Citizens is based at Federation Estate in Ringwood and provide regular day trips, card games, singing and other forms of entertainment for Maroondah’s senior citizens.

Maroondah Heritage Senior Citizens, like other senior citizens clubs, provides a social outlet for elderly citizens within Maroondah and has access to a mini-bus with a driver to ensure that all elderly citizens are able to participate.

I wish Maroondah Heritage Citizens Clubs another year of ongoing success as we enter 2007.