Friday, February 22, 2019

Be the first to know about almost anything happening in public transport: Researcher sources revealed

Even just in Victoria, public transport is such a vast field that it can be a battle keeping up with developments. New happenings are often first flagged on Twitter or sometimes a Facebook page or closed enthusiast group. More substantive information may then be available on a website or video on YouTube.

While the links below are (mostly) to websites, don't forget to check their Twitter and Facebook posts if you have an inkling that something big could be happening. 

Australasian Bus and Coach Good source of industry news. If one company buys another or you enjoying reading articles about people in the industry you'll likely find it here.

Get Involved A site sometimes used when the government wants to consult the public on a transport project or service change.

Infrastructure Victoria Produces reports and strategies often affecting transport. Long term stuff - what government does is up to it.

Parliament of Victoria Search here for Hansard (including speeches that mention transport), committee reports and annual reports. Annual reports are timed to report on the financial year just gone. They typically appear in a deluge near the end of the year when parliament is still sitting. You may need to search under both Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council to find everything. Annual reports may also be placed on the website for the respective organisation after they have been tabled.

Public Transport Ombudsman Read their annual reports for details of the most complained about issues on our public transport network. PTO also has an active Facebook page advising passengers of their rights and obligations.

Public Transport Users Association Passenger advocacy group. Regularly posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Public Transport Victoria Where you go for maps, timetables, journey planner and service information. Also see Network performance for regular reports and, for what is to come, Improvements and projects. They also tweet

State government media releases - transport Find recent announcements here. And if they are area specific look up the local district seat, find the MP and track down their website/Facebook/Twitter etc for news. Local newspapers and Facebook groups can also be helpful, reporting items that may be missed by the larger outlets.  

Transport Operators List is on the PTV website. They sometimes have details of service changes or disruptions. Some are active users of Facebook and/or Twitter. 

Transport for Victoria An umbrella site for transport in Victoria. They don't yet tweet but you can view their videos

Transport Safety Victoria Often breaks news about the results of bus safety inspections, compliance activities and prosecutions of dodgy operators. Their Twitter is worth following.

Victorian Auditor Generals Office Check their website regularly for reports on the management of public transport agencies and projects.

Victorian State Budget The state budget is handed down each May. The budget papers are published online shortly after the budget speech is delivered. These show allocations for new capital works projects and planned spending for service delivery. There is also often reporting on public transport patronage and forecasts for the following year. 

The above are mostly industry and official sources. You can also often get early warnings on Twitter accounts maintained by individuals, commentators and media. Even if you're not signed up to Twitter enter key words here to get tweets. Blogs (like the ones linked on the right) are useful. 

Also cast your net a bit wider. Collaboration between transport authorities and academics is often reported on university research or transport research forum websites. Consultants or contractors often showcase work such as a network review or advertising campaign they do for a public transport authority. And don't forget a Google, Youtube, Twitter or Facebook search using a few key words.  Online council meeting minutes sometimes contain documents from state government agencies that are otherwise inaccessible. And sometimes you can find items that have sunk to obscurity (maybe because they were written under a previous government) but still contain valuable information.

Often you need history to know the full significance of a change made today. Transport agencies and operators, with their constant restructurings, rebrandings and website reorganisations, aren't the best custodians of this. If you know an old URL then the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is your friend. Go to the National Library's Trove for old newspaper reports. And any serious historian will have scoured the Victorian Parliamentary Papers Database where they can trace significant decisions and read important reports such as royal commissions and technical investigations.

As for service changes and historical maps, BCSV's Virtual Museum is good as is the curiously-named Krustylink for 1980s/90s timetables. Victoran Railways has many old documents. Back issues of Table Talk from the Australian Timetable Association are a must-read. Along with old forum posts from the Australian Transport Discussion Board and Railpage forums from the days when online bulletin boards were more a thing. A Google search with the forum name and a few key words will often be rewarding. 

Serendipity often plays a part. Just last week I was searching for something else (confirmation of as-yet unreported word-of-mouth news). I wasn't successful in that. But I did find some other material.  While somewhat out of date now it was a KPMG report that government would have paid thousands of dollars for on how all the public transport agencies fit together.  Read all the four parts here (pdf). 

To conclude: listen widely, read widely and search widely. Then you'll often be the first in your group  to know stuff. If you have other handy information sources, please leave them in the comments below. 

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