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Monday, 12.18.2017
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3:32 PM
On the Buses.

If you were preparing a "Integrated Public Transport Strategy" for Manningham, what would you would include in it?

I think I would include information such as anticipated growth in the number of public transport users, peak usage times and numbers, problems where there are not enough buses, shelters, etc. I would include problems such as where bus timetabling caused long wait times and I would try to include new bus routes where there may be a hidden demand but where little public transport exists, for example, direct buses between Doncaster to Ringwood shopping centers, etc.

Don't you think information like this would be important? How else could you plan capital spending on transport infrastructure in Manningham if you don't know where the growth will be, where the trouble spots are, where new bus stops are needed, where transport hubs are needed or cannot handle the capacity and so on.

You would think this information would be form the basis for Manningham Council's "Integrated Transport Strategy" (Minutes 29 Aug 2017 page 109)?

Apparently, it does not.

 

 

Let me give you a bit of background.

The State Government understands that their very popular DART bus system from Doncaster to the city is approaching maximum capacity and plan to introduce a Doncaster Bus Rapid Transit to the city (BRT).

Manningham Council also understands that the State Government will soon come knocking on their door asking questions about capacities, potential growth and problem spots in the current bus network. And do you know that Manningham council does not have this information at hand?

Let me give you Manningham Council's exact words: (Please see Minutes 29 Aug 2017, page 107)

 

"In order to support the State Government's intentions to revisit the Manningham bus network changes proposed in April 2015, it would be prudent for Council to conduct an independent internal review to help identify and determine opportunities to improve local bus services and prioritize the delivery of bus infrastructure (such as bus shelters) to guide Council's annual Capital Works Programs. A similar review was conducted in 2012.

Similarly, given that the BRT proposal will initially investigate the Doncaster Road corridor as a pilot project, it is suggested that officers update current population and development projections for the Doncaster Road corridor (including Doncaster Hill), in order to gather strategic data to justify and contribute to the BRT proposal. A document will be prepared by December 2017 to relay this data.

It is suggested that both these are undertaken in 2017/18 utilising existing resources. No additional funding will be required for this. The outcomes of this assessment/report can also contribute to the objectives of the new ITS and support the BRT proposal."

Do you see what I mean?

Now, before any of you say that this is just an 'independent' review to check council figures, please note that this review will be done using EXISTING INTERNAL resources and will incur NO EXPENSES for OUTSIDE CONSULTANTS. So it is not an independent checking of council figures. It is the council gathering those figures using internal staff and doing so over a very short period of time. Remember this report is due in December this year, that is in three months time.

A similar document was prepared in 2012.

 

This makes me wonder.

a) How can Manningham Council plan to spend large amounts of money each year on transport infrastructure - i.e. to grow and extend the bus network in Manningham - if they do not know these basic things? What does the council rely on to direct it's capital public transport infrastructure spending?

b) And what is in this expensive "Manningham Integrated Transport Strategy" document if it is not based upon this fundamental data?

 

How does Manningham prepare their 'Integrated Transport Strategy' document?

We turn again to the minutes to answer this question. Let me give you Manningham Council's exact words on the purpose and how they go about preparing this "Integrated Transport Strategy" (Minutes page 107):

"The purpose of an ITS is to provide a clear framework for the future advocacy, planning, development and delivery of transport improvement over the next 10 to 15 years taking into consideration the current and projected transport planning climate.

The current ITS was endorsed in 2009 and has over time become outdated, and somewhat superceded by the preparation and review of a number of other supporting transport and planning strategies (such as the Bicycle Strategy 2013, Doncaster Hill Mode Shift Plan 2014, Residential Strategy 2012, etc.) In addition, general State objectives and directions have significantly changed during this time in reference to infrastructure Victoria and the Plan Melbourne Planning Strategy, affecting transport priorities in Melbourne.

It is anticipated that a review and preparation of a new ITS could cost in the order of $120,000 and require between 12 to 18 months to deliver (as community, stakeholder and internal consultation would be required). This process will involve the engagement of external consultant(s) to gather data, collate and provide necessary data, and undertake or manage the community and stakeholder engagement process"

 

This is puzzling.

a) How is it possible for Manningham Council to gather information regarding the growth and shortcomings of the existing transport system using internal staff only, requiring no additional spending, in a three month period but when it comes to the ITS they require 12 to 18 months and $120,000. What is involved in preparing the ITS that justifies 12 to 18 months of work and $120,000?

b) Also why would changes in the 'objectives and directions' of the state government require the ITS be revised. You would think that if the ITS were based on the physical and practical problems and objectives of the public transport system, such as a shortage of capacity, new shelters required, nbew routes, etc. then these issues would not go away or change with changes to state government 'objectives and directions'. They still need to be addressed. So why would changes in the priorities of the state government mean that the ITS needs to be revised? For example, if you have collected all your goals, current problems, projected growth and future needs, these could be addressed as opportunities present themselves (ie. as state government objectives change) and once addressed, they can be removed from the action items in the ITS.

So what is in the ITS and why does it need to be revised when State Government policy changes? 

I cannot address all these questions and issues here.

What I would like to do is look at just one issue that keeps popping up in the I.T.S. and that is the issue of 'advocacy'. For instance, one of the goals of the I.T.S. is 'to provide a clear framework for future 'advocacy'.

 

Who is involved in this 'Adocacy'.

We may be tempted to think that 'advocacy' is the council pressuring the state government to bring about outcomes that improve the public transport system.

But lets look at what the council has done in the past regarding advocacy.

You may recall, Manningham Council set up an 'advocacy' group after the State Government announced it was not going to proceed with the Doncaster Rail project. Many on that advocacy group were some of the most extreme environmentalists you could find. (I have written an article on this website, giving details of the background of those in the advocacy committee). These people railed publicly and online against the state government for not putting enough emphasis on environmental issues in their findings for the Doncaster Rail project. They thought that Manningham's dependency on motor cars was outrageous and unacceptable and doomed Manningham to be a major contributor to green house gasses, and so on.

The council and their advocacy group wanted the Doncaster Rail to proceed because, in their mind, it was the only environmentally sustainable option.

 

The proposed BRT presents some environmental challenges.

The main reason why the council wants to 'advocate' for the BRT is, strange at it may seem, to protect the Doncaster Rail project.

Please let me explain.

The Doncaster Rail line was going, in part, to run along the median strip in the center of the freeway. The council is worried that the State Government may widen the freeway and reduce the size of this median strip. To the council, this would prevent, or at least be a serious problem for the development of the Doncaster Rail project at a later date.

The council makes a point of this three times in the minutes. (Page 102, point 3.1 and pages 106 and 108).

It was also mentioned in the 'Manningham City Council Submission Doncaster Rail Study Phase One Recommendations Report'. See page 29:

"Council seeks to ensure that the median-strip of the Eastern Freeway is preserved for a future rail alignment, as it was first designed to achieve in the 1970s. Council request that a recommendation be included in the Final Recommendations Report to undertake the necessary planning and approvals to secure the land reservation of the Eastern Freeway."

Manningham Council funded the Doncaster Rail Advocacy group for two years (that I can find) at $40,000 per year to pressure the state government to proceed with the Doncaster Rail. They now plan to fund further advocacy for the BRT to the tune of $10,000 in 2016/17 and $15,000 in 2017/18 (Please see page 106 minutes).

So again we see a worrying trend. When Manningham Council wants the state government to adjust their plans because of environmental concerns, they form an 'advocacy' group to pressure the state government. 

And they use our money to fund these groups.

 

'Advocacy' is essentially a game of politics over environmental issues.

It is Council playing politics with the state Government. It is very real politics. Let me give you the very words of the council:

"Withhold Advocacy (until it is warranted, or State Government priorities Change) The following matters do not have a high political priority, and/or would be premature for council to consider as a priority at this time..." (page 109 minutes)

"In regards to overall advocacy, both the Eastern Transport Coalition and Metropolitan Transport Forum [both fanatical environmental groups (my words)] campaigns are targeted ad advocating for BRT in the lead up the the State Election in late 2018" (page 103, 6.3)

 

Note campaigns are timed to have the greatest impact by holding them during the election cycle. Note how they hold back on certain issues until it is 'warranted' by state government priorities.

 

Why is the I.T.S. so expensive and requires change so often?

One reason for changing the ITS so often is so that it can serve as a basis for council 'advocacy'.

Basically the council needs to keep up to date on what the state government is doing and what they think the environmentally sustainable options are. This involves a lot of consultation with some of the most extreme environmental groups.

As part of the ITS, Manningham Council gets together with environmental extremists from various groups to ensure that the latest (and most likely unproven) environmental opinions are included in this council document. And all this is done at great expense for the ratepayers.

 

Manningham Council misleads people regarding 'Advocacy'.

I say this because the council uses the word 'advocacy' without really explaining what they really are doing. Instead they allow people to make assumptions that lead people to the wrong conclusions.

I think most people would think that council 'advocacy' is something along the lines of pressuring the state government to provide more up to date and frequent public transport.

Most people would not think that council 'advocacy' is actually the council providing a platform for some of the most extreme environmentalists to pressure the state government to get what they want and all at our expense. 

Also, I think many people would not agree that what these extreme groups regard as environmentally sustainable would be the best public transport solution.

I think most would think that compromises need to be made along the way and a middle of the road solution would probably give the best results.

 

The council has a right to voice concerns over the environment.

My issue is this. Why does the council rely on the obscurity of language to hide what they are really doing. Why don't they talk about it openly and plainly?

Instead they use ambiguous terms and rely on people's good nature and idealism to get away with what they are doing.

I think that many people in the community would be outraged at what they are doing.

Also the council's environmental issues may not be such a major concern in the community as they may want us to think.

How do I know this? Look at the Doncaster Rail Feasibility study. Especially where Doncaster residents were interviewed. Nearly always ordinary people wanted a sensible, cost effective transport solution that provided timely and reliable transport. Surprisingly environmental issues where hardly raised.

Of course, these responses startled the council and their extremist friends. One of the jobs of the council's Doncaster Rail Advocacy group was to 'educate' the public about the real issues for having the Doncaster Rail.

In my view, Manningham Council is lying using obscurity. They also spend our money to pursue goals that they know many people in Manningham would disagree with. This lying using obscurity is more common than you may thing. Please see here.

 

Is all 'advocacy' necessary?

There is one last issue that is related to advocacy that I think needs to be highlighted.

Please read the following:

"There is a need to advocate for improved linkages to these centers (Ringwood, Box Hill and Heidelburg), where the frequency to Ringwood is not ideal, there is no direct link to Box Hill, except from Doncaster Hill, and there is no direct link to Heidelbery from most parts of Manningham. There is also a need to advocate for better timetabling and routing within the municipality (as many routes are not direct and very convoluted) for the local buses to feed into the existing DART services and proposed BRT, to help alleviate paring pressures in local streets and car parks around some bus stops." (minutes Page 109)

 

Note that the the council wants to 'advocate' to the state government for better timetabling and routing WITHIN the municipality.

Why does Manningham Council need to go running to the State Government for something that only effects their own city?

Surely they could get together with the bus operators for Manningham to change the time tables and routes. It is all WITHIN Manningham. It appears that no one else is effected.

Why does the council have to 'advocate' for this to the state government? Are they going to form another 'advocacy' group (at our expense) to foolishly carry on in front of the state government and pressure them for this? Are we going to see more toy trains or toy buses tied to the fences in Alexandra Parade, like we saw before?

Has it really come to this? Local government who cannot manage their own affairs unless they go running to the state government to get their permission and approval?

Good grief.

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