It's about more than a road in 2014

Berishnsaskia.jpgThe polls are suggesting, already, that 2014 is going to be a big year and with an impending state election coming our way, community groups across Melbourne and Victoria are getting warmed up to make sure their voices are heard.

As a campaigner myself, I’ve never doubted the impact an organised, structured and strategic community campaign can have on a local seat, a political party hanging in the balance or even state leadership. 

So, it seems, Napthine has already pinned his re-election hopes on the expensive and controversial East-West Link, but he’s facing some staunch backlash from affected residents and local councils. There’s little doubt that public transport and the wasteful East-West toll road are going to be deciding factors in who take’s up the Premiership come the end of the year.

This toll road effects – and is opposed by – more than just the inner-city, leftie types, as Napthine and his transport minister, Mulder, claim. This affects all of Melbourne, and Victoria’s transport future. Not limited to inner city suburbs who are directly impacted by more cars on their streets, it will blow a black hole in our state’s transport budget will affect everyone from Mildura down to Frankston and the Peninsula. We’re also going to make, when deciding whether to dig this tunnel, what sort of city we want to live in.

As part of this powerful community campaign, I have had the pleasure of speaking with Melbourne residents from the middle to outer suburbs about our city’s transport future. They are well informed about what this expensive and wasteful toll road means for them as well as the deplorable lack of public transport in their area.

Take for example, Jennifer from a community group in Altona, whose train line to her job in the city is "legendary" for its signal faults. She’s worried that this toll road means they’ll be no money for public transport upgrades and suburbs like hers will lose out.

We’ve also been surveying Melbourne residents, commuters and road users alike about what public transport infrastructure their community needs and why. The responses have been astounding and impressive in their sophistication and understanding – Melbourne residents are a smart and savvy bunch.

They have seen world-class public transport in their overseas travels and know Melbourne doesn’t have it. The top priorities, as listed by those surveyed, were more rail lines, more services, signal upgrading and better connectivity between services.

Another example is Cynthia from Lower Templestowe, who uses both car and bus to get to her shift-work job in the city. If given the option of a train service, she says it would cut her travel time by half and means she wouldn’t have to "slug away hours in traffic on the Eastern" every day.

Community groups and residents also realise the enormity of the situation here: if we let our government blunder on this toll road – and it is a giant blunder – we will all be burdened with the consequences for decades to come.

From the intensity of debate around this issue, we know it is about more than a road, an expensive one at that. It’s about Melbourne’s future and what sort of city we want to live and work in, and for our kids to grow up in. We can choose a city of mega roads, traffic and smog or we can opt for a city of interconnected community hubs, workplaces closer to home and where our kids can safety walk to and from school each day.

World-class public transport cuts down traffic and makes our roads safer. It opens up educational and employment opportunities for all through greater access to schools, universities and business hubs.

Public transport provides for people – including young students, senior citizens and those not lucky enough to afford a car – real choice about how they commute and travel around their city.

Melbourne residents deserve nothing less than world-class public transport and 2014 is going to be the year we stand up and demand it.

-- Danae :)

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