Fw: Mon.21.3.22 daily digest
  Roderick Smith

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Mon.21.3.22 Metro Twitter
Flinders St: still with a lane closed for tunnel works? [reopened by July]
Buses replace trains Dandenong - Pakenham until  the last train of Mon 21 Mar (works).
18.33  Werribee/Williamstown Lines: Major delays - as we recover from trespassers.
18.42 Sunbury line: Major delays (a train fault near Tottenham and a VLine train fault near Ginifer).
- 18.54  clearing.
- 19.35 Major delays (an equipment fault near Sunbury and earlier faulty trains).
- 20.44 Minor delays.
19.22 Werribee line: Major delays (an equipment fault near Hoppers Crossing).
- 19.35  clearing.
19.58 What is going on with the Upfield line? Continual cancellations with no reason for the cessation.
- Because of staff shortages, we have had a number of cancellations this evening.
- When cancelling a service, please state the reason at the same time.
Pakenham/Cranbourne lines: Buses replace trains Caulfield - Dandenong - Pakenham from 20.15 until the last train (works). Trains operate Dandenong - Cranbourne.
Buses replace trains North Melbourne - Upfield from 20.35 until the last train  (maintenance works).
21.00 Craigieburn line: Buses replace trains Essendon - Broadmeadows from 21.00 until the last train (works).
21.38 Pakenham/Cranbourne lines: Major delays clearing after a  train fault at Dandenong.
Buses replace trains Newport - Werribee from 23.30 until the last train (maintenance works).

Sun.6.3.22 NewsCorp Escape.  Travel news.
* Above the beyond. There’s a new after-hours way to be immersed in the Blue Mountains — for anyone with an appetite for height and thrills. Scenic World at Katoomba has launched Beyond Skyway.
The $349-a-head experience takes four harnessed guests at a time through the roof hatch of Skyway cable car — 270m in the air—to take in the 360-degree views. scenicworld.com.au

Experts ease infection fear as commuters drive up public transport usage. Melissa Cunningham March 21, 2022
Victoria’s public transport network hit 63 per cent of pre-COVID baseline usage this week, its highest level in two years.
The network reported more than 1.4 million trips in 24 hours on Thursday, a rise from Tuesday, when patronage was hovering at 56 per cent of the pre-COVID baseline.
Experts say Melbourne commuter levels will never reach the heights of the pre-coronavirus era, as people opt to work from home or travel in by car.
Melbourne has reported its highest rise in public transport usage in more than two years, as experts say the danger of catching coronavirus on a train is no worse than when eating at a cafe.
The latest data, obtained by The Age from the Department of Transport, shows the network experienced its sharpest increase in activity since 2020 on Thursday, with usage hovering at 63 per cent of the pre-COVID baseline – a 9 per cent rise from the same time the previous week.
Passengers leave a crowded tram in the CBD on Sunday.CREDIT:CHRIS HOPKINS
Fear of catching coronavirus on public transport is thought by some to be among the factors continuing to keep patronage down, as road traffic volumes rise.
But Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said lingering in a shop or cafe for longer than 15 minutes could now pose a higher risk of transmission than being on a train or tram carriage, where face masks remain mandated.
She said if a vaccinated commuter was wearing a highly protective or fitted face mask such as an N95 respirator, the risk was on par with “other areas we go to every day without thinking”. This included having a meal at a restaurant or cafe in a scenario where a person may be unlikely to wear a mask at all, Professor Bennett said.
“A good, well-fitted mask on public transport is the great equaliser,” she said.
After hovering at just over 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels for weeks, Melbourne public transport usage experienced a bump in recent days, said Tony Morton, president of Victoria’s Public Transport Users Association.
This came as no surprise after the indoor mask mandate was removed, work-from-home orders lifted and fuel prices soared, he said.
However, Mr Morton is among a growing number of experts who say Melbourne commuters levels will never reach the heights of the pre-coronavirus heyday.
Professor Graham Currie, chair of public transport at Monash University, said people opting to work from home, a rise in commuting by car and an enduring fear of being infected on public transport was keeping patronage down.
video Creative proposal to rejuvenate Melbourne CBD These urban designers want to convert one segment of the CBD into a creative hub.
Occupational hygienist Andrew Orfanos, who assesses and controls workplace hazards such as airborne infectious diseases, said ventilation in trains was “pretty good” and air circulation was often better than in some indoor settings.
Mr Orfanos, who is triple-vaccinated, said he caught public transport himself. He said the biggest danger remained an overcrowded carriage in which somebody was coughing and sputtering.
“The message is, if you’re symptomatic, don’t come to work,” he said.
“Don’t go on public transport if you’re coughing and sneezing. Our perceptions since COVID have changed so much that even if you tried to catch public transport while you were spluttering ... there would be people trying to throw you off the train or the bus.”
The network reported more than 1.4 million trips in 24 hours on Thursday, up 2 per cent from Wednesday and a notable increase from Tuesday, when patronage was hovering at 56 per cent of the pre-COVID baseline, off the back of the Labour Day public holiday.
The last time the state’s public transport patronage surpassed 63 per cent of pre-pandemic usage was on March 16, 2020, when more than 1.5 million trips were recorded – the same day, a state of emergency took effect to try to curb an explosion of coronavirus cases.
Professor Currie, who has led research on how people will commute after COVID-19, has forecast Victoria’s public transport will lose 114 million yearly trips post-pandemic and city roads face worsening congestion as commuters desert the network in favour of their cars, in a revolution driven by well-educated and higher-income people who had the option of working remotely.
A tram in Swanston Street on Sunday. Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett says wearing a well-fitted mask on public transport is a great “equaliser”.CREDIT:CHRIS HOPKINS
Mr Morton recently undertook an analysis that found that when most people who worked within four kilometres of the General Post Office in the CBD worked from home on a weekday, it “basically halved the entire patronage on the network”.
“The lion’s share of people who work beyond four kilometres from the GPO are actually now driving to work rather than using the public transport system,” he said, pointing to new government figures that show traffic congestion has re-emerged.
In the near future, Professor Currie predicts, one in five people will stop travelling into the CBD, as work-from-home arrangements increase by 75 per cent.
“We think public transport levels are going to go up to 80 per cent [of pre-COVID levels], but I don’t think it will ever go back to 100 per cent of what it was,” he said.
“I am often asked when we will see this happen and my answer to that is, when we are no longer in a pandemic.”
RELATED ARTICLE The West Gate traffic jam stretched for 17 kilometres on Thursday morning. Traffic jams are back as commuters shun public transport
RELATED ARTICLE Flinders Lane during the worst of lockdown in 2021. Seize this opportunity to make our CBD even better than before
* Oh the heyday of train travel - overcrowding, people swearing and cursing to move down the carriage, cancellations, delays, announcements you can't hear or understand, smelly people, people with loud headphones, manspreading, people with bags on seats, escalators not working, lifts not working etc etc. Why would I want this back when I am now happily working from home full time.
* There needs to be a large expansion of public transport infrastructure the level of crowding precovid was insane and we don’t want to go back to that. We also don’t want to continue growing the record levels of traffic currently
* Whilst masks are still mandated on Public Transport my experience has been that around half of the commuters were not wearing them...we used a tram after attending AAMI Park & people were standing shoulder to shoulder. We are all triple vaccinated but have immunocompromised people in our circle, so whilst catching covid-19 might not be a big deal for some of us it can certainly have more serious implications for them. So, I most likely won't be using public transport again...
* On all days I have traveled VLine it has been pretty much 2 seats for all. Still at only less than half levels pre COVID. But I do see the suburban trains passing through Footscray next to us and they are looking pretty full. The real problem? Mask wearing is mandatory, but not enforced. Why do the Inspectors not get on the trains and fine the usual suspects who find it all too hard to follow a simple rule. They are very much in the minority, yet seem immune to any sanction by the railway authorities.
* Masks may be mandated, but the truth is that way too many people consider themselves too special to comply, and there is zero enforcement. Combine this with the very high cost of public transport by world standards, and is it any wonder people are avoiding using PT whenever possible.
* But don’t we all know by now that you can catch it if you remove your mask to drink alcohol (coffee ok) outside in a playground?
* People need to calm down with reacting to others coughing and sneezing. Not all coughs or sneezes are caused by infectious diseases. I am asthmatic and suffer from allergies so I cough and sneeze often despite medication. I’m not staying home all the time because the worlds perception of a cough or sneeze has changed.
* “However, Mr Morton is among a growing number of experts who say Melbourne commuters levels will never reach the heights of the pre-coronavirus heyday.” Can a situation where people were often crammed onto overcrowded services and had time stolen from their days by highly inefficient daily commutes really be described ad a “heyday”? And “never” is a long time. Into the future population will continue to grow so even if proportionally fewer trudge into the city like sardines in a can on PT or driving at 10kph the absolute numbers WILL in time grow back to where they were, or beyond. Hopefully by then services will have improved so we end up in a better place in terms of travel times and comfort rather than simply returning to a pre pandemic status quo which wasn’t some sort of utopia to yearn for but in fact had many problems.
* Metro couldn’t even get their services to run well when they had no passengers during Covid. I’ve been using Melbourne PT for decades and it hasn’t improved at all. There’s more trains sure but therefore more problems. Melbourne just can’t seem to manage it.
* It can’t go back to pre covid levels because at peak hour you couldn’t get on the train it was so crowded
* Trains are awesome so good to be back
* The dreadful traffic and especially the price of petrol definitely has a lot to do with it. I knew the hordes would return...it was just a matter of time.

Seize this opportunity to make our CBD even better than before. March 20, 2022
You only have to walk a few blocks down Swanston Street to see how badly the pandemic, now two years old, has affected Melbourne’s CBD.
The boarded-up shops and proliferation of “for lease” signs all too clearly tell the story of hopes dashed and livelihoods ruined. As columnist John Silvester observed yesterday, “In Russell Street there is a line of empty shops collecting city grime”.
Flinders Lane during the worst of lockdown in 2021.CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES
Those outward impressions of a city down on its luck are backed up by hard data: CreditorWatch estimates there was a 50 per cent increase in the number of businesses collapsing in the CBD in 2021 compared to 2019.
Yet for all the hand-wringing about the future of the CBD and the doubts about whether it would ever rebound to its pre-pandemic self, a clearer picture is now beginning to emerge – and it’s not all gloom and doom.
Indeed, as Cara Waters reports today, central Melbourne is not so much in crisis as at a crossroads; that while there are clearly many challenges ahead, there are also opportunities.
Some businesses will never recover. Those who depend entirely on strong weekday trade from office workers will continue to struggle as long as their customers work remotely or flexibly, which seems to be likely for the duration.
But it is also apparent that the direst predictions, that somehow COVID would force an entire rethink of how we live, have turned out to be complete bunk.
Now mask mandates have been repealed, it’s evident the CBD is still a major draw, for its retail, dining, cultural institutions, football, theatre and everything else that you won’t find in your neighbourhood shopping strip.
Perhaps, then, the focus can shift from dragging office workers back into town – what some call the “sandwich economy” – and onto maximising the city’s cultural drawcards.
As urban strategist Steven Burgess recently told the ABC, there is now an opportunity to reimagine Melbourne’s CBD as “less business-focused ... but more a central activity centre where you live, you work, and you play”; to think of it as a place “not just for bowing over a desk – it’s for meeting people, it’s for going to lunch, it’s going to the pub, going to the theatre”.
Some of this may well happen organically. Vacant shops should mean lower rents, at least temporarily, which could attract independent and creative businesses, as retail data suggests has already been happening in the UK.
But it wouldn’t hurt to prime the pump, either. The city council’s dining voucher scheme, currently offering diners 25 per cent off their bill when they spend $40 or more between Monday and Thursday, is just one example of what’s possible.
In New York, the Museum of Modern Art is offering targeted windows of free admission; the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers half-price cocktails and free live music, and there are two-for-one deals on most Broadway tickets.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams, meanwhile, has pledged to beautify his city, adding more benches, bike racks, planters and other amenities, telling America’s ABC news: “We can’t stumble into post-COVID. We must start to think about the redefinition of what our city is going to look like.”
For us, it could be fruitful to look back to the 1990s, when the City of Melbourne’s Postcode 3000 initiative sought to make the CBD – then a pretty grim prospect out of hours – an attractive place to actually live in.
Today, many more people call the city home, but life there is still challenging for families. Investing in childcare, schools and clinics and planning scheme amendments that mandate affordable, family-sized apartments in new developments could continue the good work that Postcode 3000 began.
Likewise, this is an opportunity to revisit the Docklands experiment: could it yet be transformed from a dormitory and office park into a vibrant suburb in its own right?
The key is to remain imaginative, inspired, yet pragmatic: to tread a line between wild, futuristic imaginings and the status quo, and to focus on what our city could be. As RMIT’s Michael Trudgeon told this masthead last month, “The lockdowns really gave us the opportunity to think about the Melbourne we wanted, which wasn’t necessarily the Melbourne we had before.”
RELATED ARTICLE Future of Melbourne Melbourne at crossroads as it emerges from pandemic
RELATED ARTICLE Saying farewell to the police reporters’ office with my colleagues, 1980. We all have to grow up some time. Maybe Melbourne is just growing up: a walk through my city
* The headline may as well say "bring back the horse and cart". Because the world has changed and it isn't going back. Employers and workers are not returning to the office en masse because it's more convenient, more productive and more efficient not to. So to all the media, politicians and advertisers desperate to push their barrows... get over it, that goose is cooked.
* Bring back the cars, get rid of the e-scooters, get rid of the bike lanes from everywhere but Swanston, return parking to central Exhibition St and remove all the turning restrictions from that street, stop builders using roads and footpaths for their private development (including for scaffolding) and introduce "all cross" sequences for pedestrians on all traffic lights. Those are things government can do. Leave free markets to work out the rest.

Mon.21.3.22 Melbourne 'Herald Sun'.  Letters.
* HOW useless can this Victorian government be, encouraging people back to the CBD but giving over so much of the roadways to bike lanes. Labor governments will never and have never cared about small businesses.
* THE more you talk against bike lanes, the more they build.
* Police masks properly. AFTER many months not using public transport, I finally made a train trip to the city. Masked up, I sat socially distanced until the carriage filled, but I was uneasy. You see, about 30 per cent of people were not wearing masks (or not properly).  Rules are useless if they are not enforced and I cannot believe in a 50-minute train ride to the city I saw not one authorised person board to check compliance.  Either police it properly or abandon it.
* I WENT to a fish and chip shop in Anglesea last week. It was open for one night. Why? Couldn't get staff. Why? Rents too high, so had to close. Our governments reckon they're managing the states and country well. Pigs can fly too.

Mon.21.3.22 Melbourne 'Herald Sun'.  Porkbarrelling.  MATT JOHNSTON
HOTLY contested federal electorates were showered with millions of dollars more than safe seats received from a controversial urban congestion fund, an analysis shows.
And Victoria has been consistently short-changed when it comes to federal transport initiatives, which favoured Queensland and NSW “where federal elections tend to be won and lost”.
The analysis of “pork-barrelling” — promising public funds to particular seats for political gain — by think tank the Grattan Institute shows the average marginal urban seat has received $83m from a $4.9bn Urban Congestion Fund.
The average safe Coalition seat received $64m, while safe Labor seats got $34m
The analysis takes broader aim at transport promises at elections, with only one of 71 coalition major projects worth more than $100m promised at the most recent federal poll having a business case approved by advisory body Infrastructure Australia.
Labor was little better, with just two business cases out of 61 mega projects promised — and its transport spending promises were worth more.
Transport and cities program director at the Grattan Institute Marion Terrill said pork barrelling “wastes money, is unfair, and could be dramatically curtailed if the federal government stuck to its job of providing funding only for nationally significant transport projects”.
“Politicians who insist on pork barrelling are wasting taxpayers’ money, and the biggest losers are people who live in safe seats or states with few marginal electorates,” she said.
“Whichever party wins government at the 2022 federal election should stick to its job: no more roundabouts, overpasses, or carparks, just nation-ally significant roads and rail on the National Land Transport Network.”
The report shows the dramatic increase in transport funding pledges at the 2019 election compared with the 2016 poll.
The coalition increased the value of its promises from $5.4bn to $42bn between those elections, while Labor ratcheted up its spendathon from $6.7bn to $49bn.
Labor’s commitments in 2019 included $l0bn for the Andrews government’s Suburban Rail Loop, which at the time had no business case or detailed alignment.
Since 2009 federal governments have funded almost 800 roundabouts, carparks, and overpasses that are unconnected with the national network, the report says.
Ms Terrill said Victoria had received less transport cash compared with other eastern states, with the discrepancy unable to be explained “by population, population growth, size of the road network, share of passenger or freight travel, or what it actu ally costs the state government to run the transport system”.

Mon.21.3.22 Melbourne 'Herald Sun'.  Transport infrastructure.  MATTHEW BACH
FILLED up my little VW Jetta sedan yesterday and got one hell of a shock. 140 bucks! Not too long ago a tank cost me well under $100. Fuel and food prices are going through the roof
And now the federal Treasurer is warning us to brace for higher interest rates. If, like me and my wife, you’ve got a significant mortgage, that will send a shiver down your spine.
Alarmingly, we are very badly placed here in Victoria to absorb these cost-of-living shocks. That’s because we are already suffering under record tax.
It should never have been like this. Before the 2014 election Daniel Andrews looked down the barrel of the camera and promised Victorians no new or increased taxes. Since then he’s broken that promise no fewer than 42 times. In the process, he’s significantly increased the cost of living for all Victorians.
With this record, Victorians should be under no illusion. If the Andrews government is re-elected later this year there will be more tax increases to come.
Last week Andrews said the dream of home ownership is less important to younger Victorians. What complete nonsense. As a former secondary school teacher I can tell you that young people are desperate to own their own home.
It’s just that many know that dream — for the first time in our history — is unattainable because of huge cost-of-living pressures.
Andrews is clearly laying the groundwork for the reintroduction of his crushing new housing tax, which will push up the price of new homes to the tune of $20,000.
Last week he also announced a new tax on small businesses, to pay for sick leave for casual workers.
This will make it even harder for businesses to take on staff. Labor’s tax binge has to stop. If the Liberals and Nationals are elected to government in November we guarantee no new taxes, to keep the cost of living down. We will also stop wasteful spending.
The worst thing about Andrews’ many tax increases is that they have not been to pay for better services — like staff to take triple-0 calls so Victorians stop dying while on hold or the promised (yet never delivered) intensive care beds — but to pay for Labor’s waste.
Since 2014 when Daniel Andrews and Labor were elected, they have lost more than $24bn to waste and infrastructure cost blowouts. That’s 24 thousand million dollars!
It’s an astronomical sum of money — your money. It could have bought more than 120,000 ambulances, or paid the yearly wages of an extra 280,000 teachers or nurses.
Because of poor planning and dreadful negotiations with the private sector and with unions, there have been huge blowouts on the North East Link, the West Gate Tunnel, level crossing removals, the Metro Tunnel and the Victorian Heart Hospital. Oh, and another lazy $l.3bn to not build the East West Link.
To add insult to serious injury, Andrews is now spending millions more of your money promoting projects that are already years overdue and billions over budget.
In fact, the Andrews government is now the country’s third largest advertiser, spending more than Coles, Woolworths and McDonalds.
This shameless self—promotion shows that the government has more front than Myer. Much of it, for instance, is to plug the botched West Gate Tunnel project.
Earlier this month action by the militant CFMMEU shut down the West Gate Freeway for hours, causing extreme disruption for thousands and thousands of motorists. Andrews did nothing.
Then last week the Herald Sun also ran the story of workers on the site being ripped off by Labor, forcing significant payouts with — you guessed it — yet more of your money. These are just the most recent examples of mismanagement and waste.
As a result, Victoria’s net debt is on track to reach a staggering $l62.7bn by 2024-25, burdening future generations with a huge weight.
Good economic management, and proper scrutiny of major projects, allows government to pay for the services Victorians deserve, at the lowest possible taxation levels. To deliver this, a future Liberals and Nationals government will commission an urgent, independent audit of all of Labor’s capital projects over the value of $100m.
We will also re-establish a parliamentary Public Works Committee. This will deliver better scrutiny of major infrastructure projects in Victoria.
Sound economic management that eases cost-of-living pressures is not rocket science. After all, millions and millions of Victorians manage their own budgets very effectively every day.
Yet the most basic principles of economy are totally unknown to the Andrews government. For example, on infrastructure cost overruns, Andrews says “Things cost what they cost”.
No. You plan carefully, budget properly, do your due diligence, and honour contracts.
Anything less will only worsen Victoria’s cost-of-living crisis.

Mon.21.3.22 Melbourne 'Herald Sun'.  Covid's challenge to urban planning.  JOHN MASANAUSKAS
VICTORIA’S Covid tsar has called for bold thinking on urban planning in response to the rise of viral infections.
Covid response commander Jeroen Weimar said the current pandemic was just the latest in a series of infections, and “we need a fundamental re- think on how we incorporate community resilience into our future planning”.
“Specifically, Covid is a direct challenge to more sustainable, dense, shared infrastructure cities,” he told a Planning Institute of Australia publication.
“However, we need to think beyond that, and develop far more creative and interesting solutions to meeting the real long-term challenges of climate change, affordable and high-quality housing, effective urban transport and public health.”
A former chief executive of Public Transport Victoria, Mr Weimar said the pandemic would trigger some of the most exciting ideas for urban planning for many years.
“We can’t just fall back into the complacency of the current urban form and commercial property markets — we need to be bold and innovate,” he said.
The rise of working from home has sparked debate among planners about issues like the future of the CBD given lower office occupancy.
Speaking at a recent Property Council of Victoria event, director of cities and design at Urbis, Tim O’Loan, said that one in five of the coffees that were previously sold in the CBD were now being bought in the suburbs.
“If we really want a polycentric city are we prepared to see the CBD donate a lot of its social and economic activity to the missing middle and the outer periphery?” he said.
“I’m not hearing that we are prepared to reinvest in the CBD to understand what its true role is in meetings, sport and entertainment.
“You don’t have to pack all your employees in a CBD tower, you use that for a meeting space, and that’s the purpose of the city in itself.”

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