Friday, November 27, 2020

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 71: Better transport for Melbourne's new social housing growth areas


A major part of Tuesday's Victorian state budget was a social housing package. The headline numbers include a $5.3 billion spend for 12 000 housing units. I will not go into the intricacies of these arrangements. Nor will I dwell on the distinction between social housing and government-owned and lower rent public housing. However the initiative does mark a substantial increase in activity in a portfolio that Victoria has for several decades paid little attention to (even compared to other Australian states). Welfare advocacy and housing groups have generally praised this new attention.  

The main housing announcement came out a few days before the budget. The first sites to be developed will be in Heidelberg West, Ascot Vale, Flemington, Hawthorn, Richmond and Ashburton. No doubt there were other reasons to choose them but these locations are reasonable choices for low income people who may not own cars.

For example all are handy inner to middle distance suburbs and have at least reasonable public transport in some directions. Many needed services are within a 20 minute ride on public transport running every 20 minutes or better (at least on weekdays). Apart from the socio-economic diversity that the new housing might incorporate within them, these locations all abut higher income areas, something that's desirable to avoid large geographical concentrations of disadvantage. 

The maps below show the current Public Transport Useful Network (ie service every 20 minutes or better) in the six abovementioned areas proposed for redevelopment. Click for a sharper view. 

The rest of this item will propose service improvements, mostly to buses, by area. These are needed to complete sometimes disjointed networks or correct timetable irregularities. These should provide a good return in the form of increased patronage since areas with high densities of public and social housing tenants are conducive to high all-day public transport usage. 

West Heidelberg

Most of the area is fortunate to be near a long hours bus route (250) and a SmartBus (903). However weekend frequencies are still quote low. There is some poor legibility caused by limited service on routes including 350 and 550 in or near the area.  Recommendations include: 

* Add after 9pm Sunday service and increase weekend frequency on Route 903 SmartBus from 30 to 20 minutes or better. Even better and potentially cheaper is to replace Route 903 with a Route 904 Megabus operating every 10 minutes (with knock-on improvements for La Trobe University if the 903 SmartBus is extended there).  

* Increase Sunday frequency on Route 250 (and hence also Route 251) to 30 minutes (to provide a 15 minute combined service on the common section). 

* Reform local buses including Route 350 and 550 as per the VTAG publication Networking the North with simpler service and seven day operation.  

* Upgrade weekend frequency on Route 513 and extend operating hours to provide parts of Heidelberg West with a more direct connection to the west. Because it can go two possible ways east of Rosanna, the 513 is currently a very confusing route. Service upgrades should preferably be done in tandem with network reform such as proposed in Networking the North eg having all 513 trips going via a single simple path to Greensborough.  

Ascot Vale

The main public housing area is a bit away from the railway. Two tram routes operate though Route 82 is a 'Cinderella' route, operating less frequently than other tram routes. This is due to ancient history, namely that 82 is a tacked together remnant of the old Footscray tram network, and the lack of subsequent reform. Bus route 472 is the nearest public transport to many homes. It runs to a good 15 minute frequency during the day but services fall sharply at night and on Sundays to approximately hourly.  Recommendations are as follows: 

* Reshuffle and add a few early evening trips on bus route 472 to improve evening service from every 60 to every 30 minutes. 

* Boost bus 472's Sunday frequency from every 50 minutes to every 20 to 40 minutes with an earlier am start. 

* Boost weekday frequency on Tram 82 from every 20 to every 10 - 15 minutes (noting that weekend frequency is currently better than weekdays at every 15 minutes). 

* Boost Sunday morning and evening frequencies on trams so intervals are never more than 20 minutes (currently 30 min maximum waits are common). 


Flemington

Area has substantial train and tram services. However, as is common, especially in northern and western Melbourne, evening and Sunday morning trains only come every 30 to 40 minutes. Long waits even on our main lines stymie access to many casual jobs that typically involve night and weekend work. There could also be some connectivity benefits of upgrading the nearby Route 404 bus to Footscray and Moonee Ponds. Suggested upgrades are as follows: 

* Upgrade Craigieburn and Upfield line evening train frequency from every 30 to every 20 minutes and Sunday morning frequency from every 40 to every 20 minutes. Both upgrades would have far wider community benefits than just for the social housing developments discussed here. 

* Upgrade bus route 404 to operate (a) 7 days per week, (b) over longer hours with a 9pm finish, and (c) every 20 minutes on weekdays to form a 'Useful Network' route that provides a useful connection to some major suburban centres just outside Flemington. 

* Boost Sunday morning and evening frequencies on trams so intervals are never more than 20 minutes (currently 30 min maximum waits are common). 

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is well served with trains and trams. However parts have poor connectivity in some directions, especially north-south. For instance the 609 bus operates only occasionally across the Yarra. And the confusing 624 bus, while potentially a major north-south corridor linking multiple train and tram lines, operates only every 30 to 60 minutes, even during peak times. Recommendations include: 

* Split Route 624 bus at Caulfield and reconfigure as a more frequent north-south route, extending north to La Trobe University, potentially through an amalgamation with Route 548. A 15 to 20 minute 7 day operating frequency is suggested with somewhat longer operating hours. This would benefit public housing on Bills St. More detail in the Route 620 concept (Useful Network Part 41)

* Consider scope for a north-south route from Swinburne University and Hawthorn Station operating via Denmark St and Princess St. Scope exists to continue to Alphington, Northland and potentially La Trobe University as part of an extended Route 567. The main benefit of this would be to address a structural difficulty with the current network which provides difficult north-south access. More in Networking the North.

* Boost Sunday morning and evening frequencies on trams so intervals are never more than 20 minutes (currently 30 min maximum waits are common). 



Richmond

The area around Richmond is generally well served with frequent train, tram bus services during the day. At night though the popular 246 bus drops to half-hourly. Burnley St used to but no longer has a bus, making some local cross-Yarra trips difficult. Restoring it would deliver a full network in a fairly densely populated areas. Recommendations include:  

* Commence a new Burnley St bus from Victoria Gardens to the Elsternwick area, potentially involving a modified and extended Route 603 or 604.  

* Upgrade late weeknight, Saturday and Sunday evening service on the 246 bus from every 30 to every 15-20 minutes to provide better north-south connectivity. 

* Boost Sunday morning and evening frequencies on trams so intervals are never more than 20 minutes (currently 30 min maximum waits are common). 

* End the midday loop reversal and weekday/weekend variations on the City Loop to make trains simpler to catch 7 days per week.  

Ashburton

Ashburton has the most disjointed public transport network of the six sites. It's not for lack of routes but lack of frequency, particularly on bus route 734 along High St. 734 also suffers from a weak western terminus that retards its usefuless.  Recommendations include: 

* Extend bus Route 734 to Caulfield Station. This provides access to a key railway junction, Monash University and (eventually) Metro Tunnel and Airport services. More on that here

* Upgrade Route 734 from every 30 to every 20 minutes, thus making it a Useful Network service. Also improve weekend frequencies and add span if desired. Again, more here.

* Upgrade SmartBus Route 903 to operate every 15 minutes on weekends on the portion between at least Doncaster and Oakleigh South. Add after 9pm Sunday service to provide a comprehensive full-time service (buses, even SmartBuses, are currently the poor relation with regard to weekend frequencies and operating hours). 

Conclusion

Described are several Useful Network expansions to serve areas earmarked for expanded social housing with some wider connectivity benefits as well.  With few exception they only involve boosts to existing routes. Are these sufficient or should more network changes be made? Please leave any comments below. 
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Big Build boost but service starved in expansive state budget


The last fortnight has felt like a mini election campaign with all major political groupings releasing spending plans. Not least on public transport projects. 

Different priorities

We saw several announcements from the Government. Notable examples include a. $20m for a 3 year low emission bus trial, b. $2.2b to start Suburban Rail Loop Stage 1, c. More parking and new bus routes at Tarneit Station and, biggest of all, last Friday (d) airport rail via Metro Tunnel and faster Geelong trains. Sandwiched in between these and an announcement on easing COVID restrictions was a new charge on electric vehicles. Pre-budget releases like these from Australian governments are now so common that the budget itself, despite being kept under tight security, is almost an anti-climax. 

I discussed The Greens' Green New Deal plans here. It's a big boost for train and tram services, but, possibly reflecting the party's increasingly inner-suburban skew, does nothing for buses. Walking, unlike cycling, also gets neglected. 

Then last week the opposition Liberal Party released its transport hopes for the budget. Their theme is cost-effective smaller projects for public transport, including rail line duplications and small tram extensions. Plus, what has become an article of faith, reviving the (less cost-effective) East-West road link mega-project. I presented more detail on Sunday. Since then the Coalition released a list of 25 road/rail level crossings they'd like see removed. 

Overall, Labor is into big public transport infrastructure, big road infrastructure but not service upgrades. The coalition favours small public transport infrastructure, big road infrastructure but not service upgrades. The Greens like trains and trams (including service upgrades) plus bikes. But hardly anyone at Spring Street considers buses or walking worth making a fuss over. Which is regrettable due to the highly cost-effective and job-creating nature of improvements in these areas. 

Broader context

One can't ignore the bigger context of this budget. There's more uncertainty in this one than previous recent years due to COVID-19. At both federal and state levels the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression has resulted in huge public borrowing and spending to keep people in jobs. 

Even before that Victoria was borrowing and spending big on infrastructure, with low interest rates making the servicing of debt appear affordable and Melbourne's rapid population growth making big projects appear forward thinking. 

The high point of this thinking was before the 2018 election when the Labor state government announced the Suburban Rail Loop. This was not in isolation; public sentiment in favour of big projects had been building in the years prior. The Coalition in 2010 successfully painted itself as being competent economic managers who could run services better than Labor. However it was seen as being out of step as interest in big projects revived and interest rates were low. 

The Bracks government acted too slowly with regards to improved train timetables and reliability in 2005-7. That left an intractable problem for successor premier John Brumby (who, as treasurer under Bracks, might have resisted some spending required to make improvements happen). The 2010 election was lost before Labor's actions had time to give results. As incoming Liberal premier, Ted Baillieu was slow on infrastructure, commissioning studies but building little. Sentiment had changed when Denis Napthine took over but projects proposed were too late to be credible, let alone get built. 

Labor and Daniel Andrews did promise infrastructure and were sufficiently credible to win 2014. They, to quote their own words, 'did not waste a single moment' and built, built, built. That was rewarded by a big victory in 2018. 

Even though we have seen the results of many level crossing removals, sentiment may again be shifting, this time away from the big projects. Expectations of population growth have fallen, some expert opinion (eg Grattan Institute) is hostile, the Liberal Opposition is rediscovering the value of smaller projects and the state's mounting debt (despite low interest rates) is once again a concern

Still, that's for future years; this government is too committed to its promises to alter them. And, besides, only a small fraction of the funding of projects like the SRL are needed in the early years and interest rates are (currently) low enough to make large borrowings serviceable. While so many peoples' jobs remain uncertain, calls to repay (as opposed to merely service) debt won't be seen to be of immediate importance. 

Last year's budget

My write-up on 2019's state budget is here. Unlike the splashy pre-election 2018 budget it was a  dull 'business as usual' document. There was a continuation of existing capital works program and new trains and trams. Plus planning for some large projects including the Suburban Rail Loop, Western Rail Plan and Airport Rail. Not to mention the continuation of the large level crossing removal program. 

Minor patronage rises were forecast. But, as has become normal in recent years, there was very little for additional services. 2019 service growth initiatives included a handful of peri-urban buses, some of which even in late 2020 haven't started yet. 

The world of 2018 is very different to today's, with COVID-19 basically halting transport usage and  much economic activity, particularly in Victoria. We are only just getting out of this. And it remains to be seen whether some changes and patterns that established themselves during the pandemic will prove enduring. 

We do however know that the economic shock has goaded governments of all stripes to introduce expansionary budgets. Instead of aspiring to surpluses, deficits to pump billions into the economy and preserve jobs have become the rule. Low interest rates have made such borrowing more respectable than at previous times such as during our early 1990s recession. So that is what you will see in today's state budget - massive borrowing and big spending, including on public transport projects. 

Public transport in today's budget

The centrepiece is funding for the much anticipated airport rail. Even though most would only fly a couple of times a year, airport rail gets people taking like no other rail project. Many crazy schemes have been proposed and then dashed over the decades. 

We could have chosen a private consortium to build a fast dedicated line but instead opted for a standard Metro service feeding into the Metro Tunnel and through to the south-east. When you look at what gets the most use in other cities it's a good choice, with the travel time savings of the private line being less significant than the improved connectivity of the Metro line. Longer term though, capacity may be an issue, particularly with continued growth of and future electrification to Melton. The line, which includes both state and federal funding, is expected to open in 2029. 

Geelong was another part of that announcement. Geelong's V/Line trains previously went via Werribee and Newport for something like 150 years. Then they were switched to go via the Regional Rail Link and Sunshine, making Werribee purely a Metro terminus station. Patronage at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit soon grew to such an extent that trains became crowded and unreliable. And there were still some large gaps in the timetable, including during peak times. Geelong Fast Rail aims to relieve pressure by running some Geelong trains via the RRL and some via the old Newport alignment, with extra track (they don't say whether it's one or two) added between Werribee and Laverton. This should allow more dedicated trains to run to Wyndham Vale, meeting demand there and at Tarneit. Again federal funding will contribute.  

A revenue measure has been a charge on the use of electric cars. This is akin to what South Australia has announced and what New South Wales is considering. This has angered (generally affluent) electric car advocates and their supporters in The Greens who suggest it sends the wrong price signals for those wishing to convert from fossil fuel to electric. However even after the tax electric cars will still be cheaper to drive. And it could be the first movement towards the sort of road use charges necessary for governments to preserve their revenue sources as the fuel tax base diminishes. 

It's essential not to lose sight of the fact that we already extensively use electric vehicles in the form of trains and trams. Encouraging a shift from driving to public transport makes our transport less carbon intensive to the extent that our electricity generation moves to clean sources and public transport vehicle occupancy is high. We've been lagging with buses but, as previously announced, there will be $20m for a trial of zero emission buses in Melbourne, pending a future more extensive roll-out.   

That's summarised the main pre-budget announcements as they apply to public transport. 

What about the rest? 


A short cut to the budget papers is here 

On Twitter follow #vicbudget (or #vicbudget2020 )

The budget papers most important for public transport are:

* Paper 2 (Strategy and Outlook) Pages 83 - 104 for State Capital Program

* Paper 3 (Service Delivery) Pages 127 - 136, 337 - 360 and 422 - 424.

* Paper 4 (Statement of Finances) Pages 124 - 130

Salient points from Paper 3 (Service Delivery)

* Bus service improvements. $1.3m in 2020/21, ramping up to $6.3m the following year and slightly more in years after that. This is tied to asset initiatives ($2.8m 2020/21 and $1.4m 2021/22) to buy buses required to run the increased services. The most important is network reform and service upgrades on the Mornington Peninsula. A Mernda - Craigieburn bus is also mentioned, with accelerated delivery. Some outer suburban secondary colleges will get improved school special services. 

* $3m this financial year on a tram corridor strategy. This will consider network reform to optimise the use of both existing and next generation trams. Currently we have cases of high floor trams operating on routes with many accessible stops and vice versa. One would hope that a review would, amongst other things, maximise network accessibility with what we currently have. 

* $5.5m on Caulfield Rationalisation. This will segregate the Frankston and Dandenong lines with claimed speed and timetabling benefits. 

* $4m for zero emissions bus fleet, with $1m spent in this financial year. Added to this is $16m in 2021/22 under the asset initiative. 

* The West Gate Punt service will be continued. 

* $438m is recorded as spent on public transport's coronavirus response. This was basically to keep the system running (noting reduced fare revenue) and increase cleaning. 

* $2.8m in first year on ticketing strategy. 

* Expenditures for timetable planning - between $0.5 and 1m each year. Mainly for rail. 

* $1m on public transport network safety and resilience. This is associated with $34m over four years for the asset component. This is about upgrading substations in bushfire prone outer parts of the rail network. 

* $231.4m will be spent over four years for the car parks at stations initiative. The biggest proportion ($100.9m) will be spent in a 2021/2022 pre-election blitz. This is listed as an asset initiative under train services. 

* $276.5m over four years will go to the Dandenong rail corridor. This will support high capacity signalling, the High Capacity Metro Trains and speed things at Dandenong. 

* 100 Next Generation Trams will be ordered in the next four years, costing just under $1.5b. We don't know what year the expenditure for this will be included in.   

* Suburban Rail Loop includes the previously announced $2.2b in the next four years for preparatory works including project work, initial land assembly and relocation of utilities.  

* Page 339 says how much we spent on running various train, tram and bus services. 

* Outputs (from Page 342) describe expenditure and patronage. Of note is the large falls in patronage due to the coronavirus. That started to hit usage from about March 2020. The 2020/21 targets assume a standard year, ie exclude the coronavirus impact that we've already had this financial year. 

* Page 350 includes a target of just two level access tram stops to be upgraded. 

Salient points from Paper 4 (Statement of Finances)

* Page 17 has key economic assumptions, including an economic rebound, recovering population growth and a fall in unemployment post-coronavirus. 

* Contingent liabilities. Remember Donald Rumsfield going on about 'known knowns, and unknown knowns etc'? Budgets are asked to make projections for things that may or may not happen. Page 188 lists some. Some are associated with transport operation and projects. These include land acquisition, partnership agreements (ie operator franchises), a claim re patronage at Southern Cross Station and issues with the Metro Tunnel construction. 

* Page 212 lists all the major government infrastructure projects on the go. It's worth reading this to refresh one's memory. Those related to public transport include: 

• 75 level crossing removals by 2025;
• Additional VLocity trains;
• Caulfield to Dandenong conventional signalling and power infrastructure upgrade;
• City Loop fire and safety upgrade (Stage 2) and intruder alarm;
• Courts case management system;
• Cranbourne line duplication;
• Cranbourne-Pakenham and Sunbury line upgrade;
• Frankston line stabling;
• High Capacity Metro Trains Project;
• Hurstbridge Line upgrade – Stage 2;
• Melbourne Airport Rail;
• Metro Tunnel;
• More E-Class trams and infrastructure;
• Murray Basin Rail Project;
• New trains for Sunbury;
• Regional Rail Revival;
• Shepparton Corridor Upgrade – Stage 2;
• Suburban Rail Loop;
• Tram procurement and supporting infrastructure;
• Waurn Ponds Track Duplication – Stage 2;
• Western Rail Plan;

Summary

Like the 2018 budget, this has been a big budget for a small number of large public transport infrastructure projects. This has been helped by federal funding. These projects will be city-shaping in their impact. In the case of airport rail it delivers on something that has been talked about for years, but, until now, not funded. The zero emission bus trials could be the start of a long-term transition towards a low carbon future. While it might be imperfect, the charging of electric car usage may be a tentative step towards a workable post-fuel pricing mechanism. The state government need some sound revenue sources to fund what it does and, given the negative consequences of driving regardless of propulsion, there could be many worse than  taxing cars. 

Again overlooked has been services, with only minor (but still welcome) bus initiatives on the Mornington Peninsula and at Craigieburn. Melbourne passengers will continue to wait up to 30 minutes for evening trains at times where Sydney passengers have only 15 minute waits. Many neighbourhoods will remain without 7 day bus services, or even, in some cases, on Saturday afternoons. The new tram order is good but stops need to support them to provide genuinely accessible service. The pace here, too, has been very slow. Meanwhile funds seem limitless for station car parking, despite the very high per user cost and the opportunity for higher value land uses (that return profits rather than costs) such as housing near stations. 

Right now cost-effectiveness may not be number one criterion of whether a transport project gets approval. But as debts mount and finances tighten then circumstances may change. Therefore, despite these being trying times for advocates, they should continue their push for high-return local infrastructure and service based upgrades to provide a truly useful, comprehensive and connected network. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Victorian Coalition's wish list for the 2020 budget


Melbourne on Transit and others have said little about the state opposition's suburban public transport policies. 

Mainly because there's been little to go on.  

Their bus service upgrade policy, released election eve 2018, was a classic example. 

It had a dollar figure. But there were no maps. Nor even concrete proposals. Hence candidates couldn't sell it and no one knew who would benefit.  

So what could have been a worthwhile measure that needled Labor in marginal seats got zero airtime because it came out too late and had no specifics. 

Hence the first Andrews government, with its mediocre record on suburban bus reform and service improvements (as opposed to big infrastructure) got off lightly in an area that it should have been hammered on if the opposition was more alert. 

We are now almost exactly half way between the Coalition's 2018 electoral routing and the 2022 poll. 

Spring Street watchers know about Tim Smith's bats or Bernie Finn's cross-eyed meme. They also know that building the East-West Link road tunnel is an article of faith within the Liberal party. But the rest, especially with regard to public transport policy, is pretty much a blank sheet. No one knows what they stand for. 

Sure, there's the tweets about train delays, project cost blow-outs and the odd corruption scandal. Any opposition would do that. But to be credible they also need to be seen as an acceptable alternative that can be trusted to govern. This requires community engagement and policy development.

Suggestions for Labor's 2020 budget 

The first hints of policy with regard to public transport came out on Thursday from transport shadow minister David Davis MP. These came in the form of three releases, as below: 

1. Duplicating single metropolitan train tracks

Duplication is stated to be the best way to increase capacity and reliability on our trains. Sections the Coalition is calling on Labor to duplicate include: 

* Belgrave line between Ferntree Gully and Upper Ferntree Gully

* Lilydale line between Mooroolbark and Lilydale

* Alamein line between Ashburton and Alamein

* Hurstbridge line from Greensborough to Eltham 

* Upfield line between Gowrie and Roxburgh Park, including a connection to the Craigieburn line.

These cost-effective projects are compared favourably with the Suburban Rail Loop that is considered a pie-in-the-sky mega project. I'll leave it to the rail wonks to consider their relative merits. 

2. 'Missing link' tram extensions

The Coalition is also asking for the 2020 budget to include tram extensions. Due to historical competition between railways and tramways, trams, particularly in the inner south-east suburbs, finish about a kilometre short of stations. This limits the ability to serve local multimodal trips. I listed  examples here

Drawing on proposals from the Rail Futures Institute, the following extensions are suggested: 

Route 3: extended from East Malvern (Darling Road) terminus 0.8 km to EAST MALVERN STATION

Route 5: extended from Malvern (Burke Road) terminus 1.4 km to DARLING STATION.

Route 19: extended from North Coburg (Bakers Road) terminus 0.7 km to MERLYNSTON STATION

Route 67: extended from Carnegie (Koornang Road) terminus 0.9 km to CARNEGIE STATION

Route 48: extended from North Balwyn terminus 0.9 km to GREYTHORN (Shopping Centre)

Route 86 (existing Route 109): Station Pier, Port Melbourne – 200m of new track crossing Waterfront Place to a new twin-track interchange/terminus at the Station Pier gate.

Route 57: extended from West Maribyrnong 3.4 km to AVONDALE HEIGHTS (Buckley Street)

Also recommended is a new tram interchange at Clifton Hill Station. 


The least important extension of the above is the 109 since (a) it is just 200 metres and (b) since it was suggested by Rail Futures, Station Pier has lost the Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Geelong. The reference to Route 86 arises from other tram network reform Rail Futures propose. I don't even know why you'd bother; the existing 200m walk is likely quicker than what is considered acceptable for transfers between metropolitan and regional trains within a station like Southern Cross, or what is routinely added to the walks of those getting to busy stations (like Frankston) that lack multiple entrances. I'm also not sure about the Route 19 extension as the tram and train are closely parallel and mostly do not serve unique catchments. 

Other extensions have more merit. By weaving together 'loose ends' they make the network much more useful for non-CBD trips by reducing walking and backtracking. Again these 'missing link' projects are suggested as alternatives to the Suburban Rail Loop. 

3. Regional and outer suburban train upgrades

What is referred to as 'Labor's major project budget blowouts' and the Suburban Rail Loop is blamed for delays on other projects that could have been started. These include:   

* Extension of the Frankston line to Baxter (more here)

* Extension of the Cranbourne line to Clyde 

* Commencement of the Rowville Rail plan including linkage through Chadstone and Monash University

* Extension of rail system to Wallan 

* Electrification and expansion of rail in Melton and Wyndham

* Implementation of Western rail plan

Note that the above came out before the premier's announcement yesterday about the airport rail alignment and altered arrangements for Geelong. 

Evaluation

It is good that the Coalition is moving towards having policies for public transport. The reason why I don't think these lists yet quite constitute policies is that they are suggestions for Labor in next week's budget. 

They don't actually promise that a 2022 O'Brien government would implement them. That gives some flexibility in case they want some different policies in two years and freedom from having a commitment recorded (which could prove troublesome if broken).  

Maybe the Liberals were chastened by their last time in office where rail projects the public thought of as being promises were not started? Maybe two years prior is too long to expect since things can change, so it's better not to promise anything at this stage? If we go back to the last term, even proposals made the year before the election (such as David Hodgett's very good plan to boost trains on most lines to every 10 minutes) didn't make it in to the 2018 campaign for reasons unknown. 

If you like the above policies released by Mr Davis and have a local coalition member (especially in a marginal seat) it wouldn't hurt to ask for a firmer commitment. 

What about their content? It would appear that the Coalition has been listening to people like the Rail Futures Institute. And possibly the Grattan Institute who recently warned about the perils of mega-projects. This is also good as a concentration on mega-projects, possibly to the exclusion of more cost-effective smaller projects, is arguably an Andrews government failing. Although the East-West road link, the Coalition's own mega-project, remains a protected species despite the broader population being indifferent for two elections running.

There are two main areas where the Coalition releases are like those put out by The Greens under the 'Green New Deal' banner. 

First of all the timing. Having held government less than six years ago they would know that budgets take longer than a few days to knock up. Like the Greens proposals there is no way the government would modify its budget to include any at this late stage.  

Secondly buses and walking are invisible. There's nothing for them in either the abovementioned Liberal or the Green New Deal policies. Despite improvements for these modes often being quick, local, highly cost-effective and job creating. The coalition also neglects cycling. 

Greens could argue (on self-interest grounds) that buses are of limited relevance to their inner-suburban train and tram rich constituencies. And since losing all but one of its Legislative Council seats in 2018 the party is increasingly geographically concentrated. Its constituents are thus more and more removed from what John Howard used to call 'mainstream Australia'. 

The Liberals are in a different boat. With even traditional inner suburban seats under threat (sometimes from The Greens) its constituency is based increasingly in outer areas. And voters do not necessarily have mega-high incomes. These are the same areas that have no trams and sparse train services. Buses then are relatively more important for constituents but the Liberal policy-setting elite (though a different type of elite to Greens elite) are equally blind to buses. 

This is despite advocacy groups like BusVic (who could offer help with policy) being seen to be closer to the Coalition than Labor in recent years. And a seat-by-seat list of bus issues and cost-effective upgrades, concentrating on politically marginal areas, can be found here. So there would be no shortage of information and advice available when developing plans. 

As well as similarities with The Greens, there are unfortunate parallels with Labor. I say 'unfortunate' because an opposition should be different where the government is wrong. 

Take off-peak train services. Both the Kennett and Baillieu/Napthine coalition governments greatly improved off-peak train service frequency in the east and south-east suburbs. Ditto for NSW Liberals in Sydney. Andrews Labor, being infrastructure focused, has done little of this, shelving the big service upgrades proposed in the 2012 Rail Network Development Plan

Oddly, Davis appears reluctant to draw inspiration from his predecessors and pick up the ball where Labor dropped it. Hence even badly needed low-cost off-peak train frequency upgrades, like Belgrave and Lilydale, serving seats that the Liberals must win to form government, don't rate mentions in the releases. 

By neglecting service (like Labor) the coalition's budget suggestions are still infrastructure based but with smaller projects on the public transport side (the big roads projects remain). The most cost-effective mix for public transport is likely to be a mix of smaller infrastructure projects combined with service upgrades. The Coalition hasn't shown signs of understanding this yet. And if you want even bigger patronage gains, mode shift for public transport and a better budget bottom line then you'd also lay off the big road projects.  

Conclusion

Some of the Coalition's proposals have merit and would strengthen and better connect the network. It wouldn't be a bad idea if Labor stole some. Will Labor copy and paste them into Tuesday's budget? With an already full agenda it's unlikely but time will tell. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 70: Leveraging big projects to get better buses (SRL & Bulleen Park+Ride examples)

One of the more successful ways a community can get better bus services is to lobby for a train. Just like Doncaster did a decade ago. When the political pressure gets hot the government is compelled to respond. Which they might by running more buses.  

The Brumby government misfired in 2008 when it introduced the damp squib otherwise known as the Manningham Mover bus. But, two years later, with an election looming, it sharpened its act by introducing multiple SmartBuses (which did prove successful). 

Another way bus improvements can occur is when there's new infrastructure. Even a minor bus route reform can take years due to hidebound internal processes. But when there's a risk of the government being embarrassed by, for example, a new station opening with no buses, then they will move heaven and earth to get things moving. 

Some great things can happen as a result. For example the opening of Williams Landing Station in 2013 coincided with a new more direct and more frequent bus network in Point Cook. On a bigger scale, Regional Rail Link came with improved buses across Geelong and Wyndham. The new Wyndham Vale and Tarneit stations sparked the reform but the benefits spread much wider because buses were taken seriously. More recently, Caroline Springs and Cobblebank stations also got new bus routes when they opened. 

Current transport funding favours capital infrastructure over service. This is for varying reasons including treasuries disliking recurrent expenditure, low interest rates and the availability of creative financing that keeps projects off the government balance sheet.  Politicians like seeing themselves as builders and major projects as vote winners and job creators (even though boosting services has a higher job per dollar ratio and the jobs are ongoing). 

The result is that (unlike Sydney) Melbourne's public transport service provision per capita has fallen for most of the last decade. Those advocating increased services have had precious few wins in the last five years. They need to reflect on why this is so.  

Better buses by leveraging other projects

How can we fix this? You could ask for a train like the Doncaster people did. That won't work everywhere; some suggestions for trains are truly laughable. But direct requests for improved buses don't have a good record of succeeding, despite low costs and often high benefits. 

Another possibility is to get buses tacked on to another transport project. Many such projects are long term, expensive and high risk with blow-outs common. Especially mega-projects, according to the Grattan Institute. They might not stack up on conventional cost benefits assessment grounds but governments still do them anyway.  

In contrast many smaller walking, cycling, bus, tram and some train upgrades do have high benefit / cost ratios but don't get funded. The same likely applies for certain local road and bridge projects, especially those with multimodal benefits. 

This is a kludge. But one way to make a big project stack up is to add some of the abovementioned cheap, low-risk high benefit works to its scope. While not strictly necessary they increase project benefits out of proportion to their cost. Improvements to improve walking, cycling, bus access or interchange in a project's surrounding area are examples. 

They might particularly be pursued if a project's benefit cost ratio is uncomfortably close to 1:1 such that a minor cost escalation would make it unviable. An example is the Metro Tunnel that sits at 1.1 when conventionally measured

Other projects rate below 1. That is they cost more than the likely return. The Department of Transport has cited Baxter rail electrification at 0.47. William McDougall calculates 0.7 for the North East Link.  

Potential exists for high BCR add-ons to make these numbers look less dismal and, possibly as significant, to divide and weaken any opposition. Other ways to massage fiddle adjust the numbers could include changing the project's scope, lowering the discount rate (something, interestingly, Grattan support) or altering the financing method. 

Then there are cases where you might support a project despite a low BCR. Eg rail duplication to improve reliability might not stack up if there were not also large capacity gains likely to be used. But where you have efficient scheduling and operations for much of the network constrained by a small section of single track then you'd want to duplicate, almost regardless of the numbers if the cost is affordable. In other cases so-called 'wider benefits' might make or break a project's perceived value. 

Suburban Rail Loop SmartBuses

We don't yet know the BCR for the Suburban Rail Loop. However the diagnosis that a growing Melbourne needs much better orbital transport than buses stuck in traffic is sound, with the only debate being on how best to achieve it. It's a massive project and even the first stage is over ten years away.

There are transport needs to be met between now and then. Also it would be desirable to influence business and residential location decisions before the SRL opens so that patronage can be high almost from Day One. That can be done with buses, with a conceptual 'SRL SmartBus' network map below (click for better clarity). 


The annual cost of 'SRL SmartBus' would be a minuscule proportion of the SRL's cost. Buses won't be as fast as the train but it would start the SRL benefits rolling ten to thirty years earlier than otherwise. This could only strengthen public goodwill towards the project and demonstrate tangible evidence of progress. And its implementation in politically marginal eastern suburbs seats would deliver the biggest upgrade to buses since the SmartBus orbitals started about ten years ago.  

Even an investment of $20m per year on SRL Stage One SmartBus would be just one percent of the $2 billion that next week's state budget is understood to include for the SRL. And given that the routes involved are already amongst the most productive in Melbourne the returns on costs are likely to be high when compared against both buses and the wider SRL project.  

Bulleen local network revision

Another project on the go is the Bulleen Park & Ride. Part of North-East Link and an associated busway, it is being fast-tracked with completion expected in late 2022. The $69 million facility will have parking for 370 cars. 

Assuming one person per car, that number of people can fit into about nine standard buses or three train carriages. It is stated that bringing forward its construction will lessen disruption arising from the construction of the North-East Link. 

The Park & Ride also presents an opportunity to rethink local buses. Not much has happened to the local bus network since the commencement of DART services ten years ago and reforms to some Transdev routes in 2014. Wider changes were proposed but then abandoned in 2015. However the new bus franchise (which will be operational by then) foreshadows them having another crack at bus network reform arising from the North-East Link project.  

All routes of interest are on the Manningham local area map

Network issues in the surrounding area include: 

* Lack of north-south routes across a wide area. Those that operate (609, 548, 284, 285) operate a maximum of six days per week with limited frequency and operating hours. And they often stop short of major centres. 

* Poor access to Box Hill and Heidelberg (both rank amongst Melbourne's biggest suburban employment clusters) and La Trobe University from many areas. 

* Some routes do not operate 7 days per week (284, 285)

* Limited operating hours on local routes (eg 280, 282, 284, 285) and even SmartBus (on Sunday evenings)

*  Weak terminus (Route 200)

* Overlaps in areas that don't need it (eg Reynolds Rd which is mostly low density)

A revised network concept, mainly focusing on local routes, is below. 


Major reforms include: 

* Making the DART SmartBus network (905, 906, 907, 908) truly train-like in terms of timetables and operating hours. Key improvements include (a) extending Sunday evening service to midnight to match trains, (b) boosting weekend frequency to 20 minutes on all routes, (c) Doing the small upgrades needed to make Route 305 a SmartBus. Service upgrades beyond include 10 minute 7-day frequencies on key routes (such as being done in parts of Sydney demographically similar to Manningham such as the Northern Beaches). Higher off-peak and weekend frequencies on orbital routes such as 902 and especially 903 are also desirable, with some resources available by rerouting, splitting and downgrading the poorly used 901 in the Templestowe area. 

* Splitting the confusing and poorly used 280/282 loop into two linear routes between Heidelberg and The Pines. The Heidelberg connection adds an alternative train feeder location and access to jobs. Connections to La Trobe University are also improved, especially if improvements are made between Heidelberg and La Trobe (eg replacing existing infrequent route with an extended SmartBus as raised here). Off-peak trips on Route 309 could be deleted since a large section overlaps the 280. 

* Extending Route 305 to the new Park & Ride. This could be in conjunction with shortening the 200 to terminate at the new Park & Ride (its current terminus is weak). 

* Extending Route 284 to Heidelberg via the new Park & Ride. This would connect two large employment centres (Heidelberg and Box Hill) to areas that currently have poor access to them. Operating hours should be extended to at least 9pm with 7 day service (given its relatively strong Saturday usage). Scope exists to reroute 284 to be nearer the hospitals at Box Hill. A swap could be done with the 612 which could be made more direct. 

The map does not show any change to Route 285, despite its weak terminus and complicated, backtracking alignment due to an unfavourable road layout. At the least 285 should get Sunday service though the need for it is reduced if the 284 is extended and upgraded. 

Metro Tunnel

Completion of this is still a way off. However bus links to the new stations of Arden, Parkville and Anzac should be part of the projects's mix. And there will need to be review of the service levels on the 401 shuttle from North Melbourne to Parkville (if it's needed at all) and the potential for other connections such as from Clifton Hill.   

Airport rail

Like with SRL we can bring many benefits years sooner by running a bus from Sunshine. That would enable improved access from large parts of western Melbourne and regional Victoria. Discussed in detail here

Other opportunities

The approach of riding on the coat-tails of road and rail projects to benefit buses hasn't always been fully exploited. This is to the discredit of Department of Transport bosses who should push hard to deliver cost-effective improvements for all transport modes across projects. That these were not done indicates an inability to see cost-effective service improvement opportunities (often apparent to their own staff a few rungs down) and/or advocate effectively through fragmented governance and authority structures. 

Southland Station is one example. That got built without 'no-brainer' low-cost local bus network reform including simpler routes and a direct Bay Rd bus to Sandringham. And despite the new Cardinia Rd station we still have a bus (the 925) that stops short of it by several hundred metres.  

The level crossing removals present other instances. Some projects have moved new stations to less convenient locations that reduce their pedshed by shifting them away from the main intersection they were intended to serve (eg the completed Mentone and the proposed Edithvale and Bonbeach designs) and also sometimes buses. New stations that get built can sometimes also be poor when it comes to multimodal passenger information. 

Delays at level crossings have historically been one reason for bus routes to stay on one side of the railway line with another route across the tracks. This can make for more complicated routes or create a need to change even when travelling along the same road. Considering bus reform in tandem with level crossing removals could have delivered revised bus networks that make the grade separations fully beneficial for bus passengers as well as car drivers. 

The above are a few cases of opportunities not being seized. Hence a big infrastructure project does not always guarantee bus improvements. But the odds of getting at least some bus upgrades as part of a bigger non-bus project seem to be higher than if advocating for them separately.

Conclusion

What do you think of these suggested networks? Only a short time has been devoted to the Bulleen network and there are likely other temporary or longer term changes that would be desirable given the construction works and disruption to travel patterns. Are there other projects that public transport network and service upgrades could hang off? And are there other approaches to bus advocacy that could be even more successful? These are interesting topics and it would be great to read your comments below.  

PS: An index to all Useful Networks is here.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Timetable Tuesday #97: Frankston South's loopy 773

Nothing ever happens to buses in Frankston South. Well hardly ever. It's an area glossed over by almost every transport strategy anyone can remember. The local bus review from over 10 years ago was when it was last seriously reappraised. Parts got implemented. But nothing in Frankston South.    

Song only slightly downplays the extent of bus network reform in Frankston South

Frankston South is Frankston's preferred address. Especially if you like some land around your house and a secluded spot from the summer beach crowds. There's great walking trails, reserves and views in the area. It is also in the catchment of the highly regarded Frankston High School. It is in the seat of Frankston held by Labor's Paul Edbrooke MP. It is typically marginal but strengthened for Labor in the 2018 election.

Frankston South's walk score is 38 with only limited local shops. That makes walking a non-starter for most trips. Parts are somewhat hilly, restricting cycling. So if you are talking non-car transport then it probably has to be buses. Even though its sometimes large blocks and car dependence don't sound promising for buses, patronage productivity of local bus routes actually slightly beats the Melbourne average. 

The routes involved are a clump comprising 772, 773 and 774. We'll only talk about 773, the westernmost of these, today. 

Route description

773 is a short feeder route from Frankston South to Frankston Station. With a small loop at the bottom it looks slightly like a noose.  Its depiction is complicated by several route variations. The map just below is the new PTV website style. 

The next map is the old PTV style that I saved when their old website was active. As it's a more manually produced map it can be customised with different line styles and legends to reflect the route variations. And it has a couple. For instance in the Frankston CBD (two weekday interpeak trips) and in the south at Overport Rd where it extends south to do a large loop at school times. These, along with the single directional running of the nearby 772 and 774 make buses in the area confusing.


The local area map (below) shows the 773 in relation to other routes. To the west is an intensive service provided by the 781/784/785 group to Mornington/Mt Martha. To the east is the 772 and 774. These are unidirectional routes. 


Timetable

Like 772 and 774, the 773 is a limited service, daytime only route. Service is Monday to Saturday only. There is no Sunday service. 

Peak service is roughly every 30 to 50 minutes. Midday service is hourly. Saturday service is every 80 - 100 minutes. 

Click on the timetables for a clearer view. 




History

Route 773 can trace its history back to 1938. That's a long way back for a bus route so far from Melbourne. But recall that certain outer areas, such as parts of the outer east (eg Berwick and Belgrave) and south-east (eg Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula) were well established towns pre WW2 before suburban expansion crept up to swallow them. 

The maps below show that the route has gradually extended south. It has also got more complicated with the extensions being occasional trips. These complications need to be understood in conjunction with other complications on the 772 and 774. Hence any attempt to simplify these services must tackle all three routes. 

The timetables below show that the 773 has had some minor improvements in the last 30 years (mainly slightly later finishes). However it (and this part of Frankston South generally) missed out on the 2006 - 2010 minimum standards upgrades that gave many areas 7 day service at least every 60 min until 9pm. 

1993 (timetable via Krustylink)


2003 (timetable via Krustylink)


Usage

The 773 is as well used as (or slightly better than) the average bus in Melbourne. In 2018 it recorded 24 boardings per hour on both weekdays and Saturdays. This is above the 20 passengers boarding per hour that Infrastructure Victoria regards as a viable bus route. 

Nearby routes 772 and 774 are even busier on schooldays, with 33 and 37 passenger boardings per hour on respectively. This is likely due to the presence of the nearby Frankston High School. Usage of these two drops to a still respectable 23 for 772 and a very good 30 on 774. 773 is different in that it is slightly busier on school holidays. 773 is the busiest of the three routes on Saturday, partly as 774 has no Saturday service. 

Conclusion

What do you think should be done to the 773? Should it get 7 day service given its strong Saturday usage? Would it benefit from a stronger terminus, such as Mt Eliza as recommended in the local bus review? And is there scope to simplify the local network in conjunction with 772 and 774 for improved directness? Please leave any comments and ideas below. 


Friday, November 13, 2020

Missing the bus: The Victorian Greens' disappointing 'Green New Deal'


On Wednesday afternoon the Victorian Greens were cock-a-hoop. They managed to get endorsement for their 'Green New Deal' in Victoria's Legislative Council. 


Getting the strong numbers they did would have required support from Labor plus others. While passing motions (as opposed to legislation) goes unnoticed by the public, it's considered pretty cool by those involved. Their timing was also deft, with the defeat of President Trump in the US and the resignation of Joel Fitzgibbon from federal Labor's front bench 'shifting the dial' a little towards green-friendly policies. 

Also notable is that the Legislative Council has had just one Green member since the 2018 election. That's well down on the five seats won in 2014. Getting the motion passed indicates that Greens can work with others including Labor, despite rivalries being not far below the surface (eg this Twitter thread).  

The rest of the leader's tweet is about influencing the budget due in just over a week. That's encouraging for supporters but likely wishful thinking. That's not to say that the budget won't contain some initiatives that could be considered 'green'. But proposals will have been developed some time ago.   

This is because budgets are complex documents with input and agreement between numerous portfolio and coordinating departments. Their development takes months. And external factors, for instance the contents of and projections in last month's Federal budget, can prove influential. Savvy advocacy groups knew that the time when new policy proposals were being considered has passed, even noting this budget's delays due to COVID-19. November 24's budget should be very advanced by now, unless something dramatic to force a change happens.  

Still, there's always next year's budget. And it's worth looking at the content of the Victorian Greens' 'Green New Deal' policy rather than just the process. In particular, as is on-topic here, the soundness of their proposals for public transport services. 

The following came out just after the motion was passed. Public and active transport is a key plank. That is good.

There's more on the Greens' website, complete with bus logo (below). 

Here they mention that a Green New Deal could create jobs and tackle climate change and inequality. Keep both uppermost when you read what follows. 

The next page talks about trains, trams and bikes. 

The centrepiece for cycling is a 'bike superhighway' linking the Green-held seats of Brunswick, Melbourne and Prahran. 

Trains and trams get a separate Rail to Recovery paper. 


Despite the extreme cost-effectiveness of upgrades and benefits for where over four million people live and work buses get no mention anywhere. That bus logo turned out to be a cruel ruse with nothing more said about them anywhere. 

It's as if, in the minds of those who drafted this 'Green New Deal', the majority of Melburnians, whose nearest and often only public transport is a bus, neither exist nor have legitimate public transport needs. Walking, which has a wider social base than cycling, and is essential to reach trains, trams and buses, also goes un-mentioned. 


In more detail, this is what Rail to Recovery proposes for trains: 

* Trains every 2 - 3 minutes during peak hour and
* every 5 - 10 minutes off peak times.
* Staff at every station, first train to last.
* Over 100 new high capacity trains.
* New tunnels and extra tracks.
* Modern high capacity signalling across the network.

The likes of Box Hill and Caulfield already have peak trains running at or close to the 2 to 3 minutes suggested. That's been needed for capacity. But do they seriously think that the likes of Williamstown, Altona and Alamein justify it? After all they do say every train line

While Melbourne on Transit supports boosting frequency to speed travel, even proponents must realise that there is a point of diminishing returns when service is already very frequent. At this point cost-effective measures to free capacity include network reform to divert some travel from pinch points, revised fares like peak surcharges to shift demand and, eventually, larger trains (like we're getting). 

Adding four more trains per hour to triple service from 2 tph (every 30 min) to 6 tph (every 10 min) vastly reduces travel time variability or long waits. Such a large improvement would transform how people would use trains, with average waits falling from 15 to 5 minutes. That's huge, with an even bigger reduction in travel time variability (ie maximum waits drop from 30 to 10 min). 

To their credit The Greens cite a 10 minute frequency as Step One for trains and trams. But they go further. Adding another 4 tph would give 10 tph (every 6 min) while another 4 tph would give 14 tph (every 4.3 min).

Such increases are good where needed to increase passenger capacity. But elsewhere it's overkill. This is because the reduction in average waits tends towards the insignificant as frequency goes from high to very high. You'd only ever consider 2 to 3 minute frequencies if justified for capacity or the trip mix involves many short trips with lots of transferring.   

That's especially given the marginal costs involved which start off small but become exponential when boosting already high frequencies. Adding off-peak frequency is initially mostly just about hiring more drivers. That's relatively cheap.  But if peak frequency upgrades are needed you will need to buy, stable and maintain more trains. That's a further cost hike. 

If you want still more service you may have difficulties running it on the existing infrastructure. The first thing you do is implement more efficient timetables and operating patterns. When that's exhausted the next upgrades require steps to allow closer train spacing. Examples include upgraded signalling and more station exits and platform connections to clear busy platforms of passengers faster. 

Only then, if you still need more capacity, would you build more tracks. That may require land acquisition, or, if there isn't the ground space, elevation or tunnelling. Now we're talking about major projects costing billions. You'd carefully review their cost-effectiveness, especially if they are only going to be fully used a few hours of the day.  

The lesson is this. By all means run good 7-day frequencies day and night across the nework. And beat the current infrastructure-obsessed government over the head for scrimping on the service aspects (and lagging behind Sydney).  

But don't overservice the peaks. Especially right now when COVID and more working from home has depressed patronage. Otherwise you will be spending good money for diminishing benefit to the detriment of more pressing needs in transport.  

Similar comments apply to station staffing. The Greens 'one size fits all' approach would staff even the quietest stations first to last train. The benefits of this are marginal. If you want to create jobs recruit bus drivers and reform networks instead. At least then you'd spread service to the 'have nots' that The Greens' plan ignores.  


What about trams? The Greens' New Deal proposes the following:

* Trams every 5 minutes all day, every day.
* Over 300 new high capacity trams.
* Line extensions to fill in the missing gaps in the tram network.
* New level access stops for every stop.
* Improved separation and priority for trams in traffic.

I don't mind these. The accessibility improvements are overdue. Priority will improve speeds, boost patronage and possibly allow some frequency improvements. Some extensions would provide more  suburban interchange points, rather than have trams terminating a kilometre or so from trains. 

Five minute frequencies are also nice. But given that many tram routes run at 12 to 20 minute base frequencies most times it would be an expensive upgrade. You might meet them part way, aiming to bring trams up to the 10 minute base frequencies in Step 1. But in full conscience I cannot recommend more while so much of Melbourne, including some quite dense areas, remains with 30 to 60 minute base frequencies for buses, complex routes, limited operating hours and substantial coverage gaps. 
  


Other Greens' public transport policies

What seems to be their overarching 2018 transport and freight policy principles present some good concepts. Although the free school travel is of dubious merit if your values support active transport, localism and state schools. That document says little about buses, including the pressing need for bus network reform. 

Amends for this are made in two other documents released before the 2018 election. These give specifics regarding bus upgrades. Indeed they are more detailed than anything from Labor or the Coalition parties. The most wide-ranging of these is the metropolitan-wide Greens SmartBus Solution. Also, then Greens MP Samantha Dunn released an ambitious eastern metropolitan bus network plan that focuses heavily on transport to La Trobe University. 

You might quibble about the priorities but The Victorian Greens did have some substantial bus upgrade policies in 2018. But when they proposed their flagship 'Green New Deal' policy  none were included. 

This is despite buses being the mode nearest to most people and jobs. Also the policy mix in the New Deal could exacerbate transport inequality by going overboard on expensive to provide peak train service frequencies when more could be done sooner for less with more cost-effective measures across all modes. 


Conclusion

The Victorian Greens probably mean well. Groups such as the PTUA generally rated their public transport policies favourably in 2018. However ditching previous policy work and neglecting buses (and walking) in the Green New Deal is a severe oversight that narrows the deal's appeal and efficacy. Even a couple of links to the previous bus policies would have been something! 

The fact that no one influential piped up and said 'What about buses?' when the bus-less Green New Deal policy was being developed tells something about the internal workings of the party. As well as their place and prospects in the Victorian polity. At one time their only hope was in state and federal upper houses. But recently their vote has become more concentrated. This has been visible with large wider area losses (eg upper house seats) but local gains (including lower house seats). Compare 2014 vs 2018  election results to see the numbers behind this shift. 

Showing blindness on buses (and suburban issues generally) risks the Victorian Greens becoming what their critics accuse them of. That is an elite inner-suburban virtue and lifestyle club distant from the daily struggles (including transport) of those who don't share their privilege. This narrowness will limit the potential of Greens to grow their support base, despite the unbounded optimism of party elders like Bob Brown. 

A genuine statewide 'Green New Deal' would make walking top priority. Melbourne alone needs thousands of kilometres of new footpaths, hundreds of wombat and zebra crossings and dozens of roundabout removals and traffic light signalisations to make walking work. That would hugely spread benefits, create thousands of local jobs and support '20 minute cities'. 

In relation to public transport  the inefficient but fixable bus system would be the ripest to start with, along with targeted shoulder and off-peak train frequency upgrades to remove those horrid 30, 40 and 60 minute frequencies that make us way worse than Sydney. Such upgrades, as often discussed in the Useful Network, would ensure that the benefits of any Green New Deal are equitably enjoyed by the many rather than the few. 

Thought that was harsh? Reckon the Victorian Greens have more of a clue than portrayed? Prove me wrong in the comments below!