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This government is big on fishing. Fishing is administered by the same department that plans roads, trains, trams and buses. This explains why their latest strategic plan has fragments on fishing. Fishing is taken so seriously that there's even a participation target for the sport - Target 1 Million - contrasting with the absence of similar targets for public transport, walking or cycling.
Boosting fishing is a stroke of political genius for state Labor. Appealing to family, suburban and regional outdoors types, it culturally differentiates the ALP from Greens (and vegans). Critically, some who fish also hunt, shoot, and bush-bash. Labor quietly walks a fine line on the latter, tolerating but not warmly embracing them. Vocal support would endanger votes or preferences from the (mostly urban) environmentally minded. Whereas fishing presents no such political problems and can be safely and loudly supported.
What about boating? Andrews Labor loudly spruiks their scrapping of launching ramp parking fees. That's a practical (and not hugely expensive) demonstration that Labor accepts people keeping the fruits of their success and is not pursuing a hard redistributory agenda. While the latter excites party members, it risks scaring the 'middle ground' that decides election results. Eg your suburban home-owning tradie who has (or wants) a boat but doesn't care much for opera or literary festivals.
An eagerness to present as culturally blue-collar mainstream (and not elite) is the context in which policies like love for fishing, free camping and the AFL Friday holiday start to make sense. Now you know why Victorian Labor legalised cage fighting and won't touch gambling, hunting and greyhound racing (which patrician North-shore Sydney Liberals briefly had banned in NSW before a major backlash). The electoral failures of Labo(u)r parties nationally and internationally will only firm Andrews Labor's support for blue-collar recreations, a price accepted through gritted teeth by its degreed activists who withhold sneers in return for power.
It's the 'bread and circuses' thing practised by both sides of politics. On the Coalition side, premier Denis Napthine's passion was horse racing, especially country racing. It showed through the attention it got in media releases. I think there were some special public transport services put on for country races. With stakes in multiple horses, Napthine was possibly the most racing-oriented premier since Henry Bolte. One of the tales about Bolte (not sure if true) is that he approved the Melbourne Underground Railway Loop (in an otherwise lean time for public transport projects) when it was pointed out that it would speed access from Parliament to Caulfield Race Course. The point is that popular sports like fishing and racing can possibly shape public transport networks, services and promotion.
Apparently PTV didn't get the memo. Unlike entrepreneurial UK private rail operators they are commercially pallid with no apparent patronage growth target. And rarely does the passenger information and marketing that is done embrace many ordinary peoples' pastimes, especially those enjoyed away from the CBD.
Hence there's no Fishing Network Map on the website. If London can do a map showing where the cheapest pubs by the Tube are, we should be able to show where you can get to fishing spots by public transport. Especially given that they're now administered by the same department that has a growth agenda for the sport.
Then there's the service aspects. If you go back to Melbourne on Transit posts from a decade ago you'll see things mentioned there (like some bus route reforms) that have happened.
It's in this spirit that I devote today's Useful Network to service improvements that support participation in fishing. The Fishing Useful Network. You never know some things mentioned today might eventually happen. Possibly led by interest in fishing participation more than transport.
This is not to be sneezed at. After all public transport service isn't something run for its own sake but rather an enabler that helps people do more of what they wish to do. Today I'm talking about fishing. But if you substitute jobs and education these too can be enabled by good transport services such as I covered here.
A fishing transport study
A fishing transport study requires us to look at where and when people fish. The latter seems easiest so we'll sort that out first. Walk down any popular pier and see when it's hardest to find a space amongst the rods and bait boxes. Visit again at dusk and early morning. You'll still see fisherpeople there. So a transport system that meets fishers' needs must operate frequently at those times. It's all about movement and plaice.
Remember Target 1 Million? Target 1.5 Million would be better. We are seeking to dramatically grow fishing among all age groups. And that means a war on the impediments to it. With cars likely to queue half way to Dandenong since they scrapped boat launching ramp parking fees, public transport is key to boosting participation further.
What about location? Where are the best fishing spots around Melbourne? Everyone's got an opinion so we didn't need to do much work. Weekend Notes presents ideas here. More from We are Explorers. Also Fishing Mad.
Priorities for the Fishing Public Transport Network (FPTN)
1. Metro train service upgrades. More than any other capital, Melbourne's train lines hug the coast and thus fishing spots. Train carriages are great for accommodating long fishing rods and tackle boxes. And the coming Melbourne airport rail will deliver fishing tourists from plane to pier within an hour.
A Fishing Public Transport Network plan should see the following high priority service improvements:
(i) Early Saturday and (particularly) Sunday morning trains upgraded from every 30, 40 or 60 minutes to every 20 minutes, starting at 5am, on the Werribee/Altona, Williamstown, Sandringham and Frankston lines.
(ii) 6 - 10pm Saturday and Sunday evening frequencies upgraded from every 30 to every 20 minutes on the Werribee/Altona, Williamstown and Frankston lines. This will make it easier to get home from those summer solstice fishing expeditions.
2. V/Line train service upgrades. There's some great fishing spots in regional Victoria. Improved trains will help people get there. Here are some:
(i) Better travel to Cunningham Pier with Geelong trains upgraded to run every 20 minutes on weekends. This is a doubling of the current 40 minute weekend frequency that often sees people crammed in like sardines.
(ii) Improved access to the Port of Sale. Instead of terminating at Traralgon, more weekend trains will extend to Sale and Bairnsdale. Connecting buses to the 90 Mile Beach will also be improved to connect with each train.
(iii) Five trains per day (including weekends) to run to Warrnambool.
(iv) More trains and connecting coaches to the Murray River. In conjunction with Bendigo line upgrades, Echuca Fast Rail will cut Murray River to Melbourne travel time by an hour and boost frequency to six trains per day. Another six will run to Swan Hill as an Integrated Transit Solution for Mildura (which will get coaches meeting each train). More trains will improve regional travel and save people from being stung by high fuel prices.
3. Upgrades to key bus routes to fishing spots:
(i) Major upgrade to Route 788 on weekends serving most of the Mornington Peninsula. Weekend frequency boosted from every 80 to every 20 - 30 minutes year round. Longer operating hours, with earlier starts on weekends.
(ii) Route 782 extended to Flinders 7 days per week
(iii) Upgrades to cross-Yarra bus routes to permit easier access to the river from surrounding suburbs. We discussed how to do this a previous Friday when we upgraded La Trobe University's buses.
(iv) Doubled weekend frequency and longer hours on Bellarine Peninsula and Great Ocean Rd buses to increase travel options. The changes recently introduced are good but don't go nearly far enough.
(v) Route 439 bus improved operating hours and higher frequency for access to Werribee River and beach.
(vi) Route 708 doubled weekend frequency and an extra stop near the National Watersports Centre to improve access to Patterson River.
4. Stony Point Phillip Island French Island Integrated Transport (SPPIFIIT). Upgrades to Stony Point Train Line and interisland ferry to provide more and connected trips with every ferry connecting with every train. This will create a new Westernport Wonder fishing experience, connecting piers at Hastings, Stony Point, Tankerton and Cowes.
5. Increased frequency, 7-day service, a larger vessel and improved marketing for the little-known Herring Island Punt: Allows improved near-CBD Yarra River fishing opportunities.
6. Cheaper weekend fares and myki fare integration on the West Gate Punt: Potential weekend CBD extension to a new Flinders St Pier near the station. Latter will also allow a Catch Train, Catch Fish school holiday program for kids, with free travel available to participants. Patronage will be monitored to determine whether a bigger vessel or higher frequency is necessary.
7. Half price travel for anyone with a fishing rod on the Sorrento - Queenscliffe ferry: Timed to connect to buses to Geelong for the ultimate pier to pier fishing and travel experience. Additional trips will see frequency rise to 20 minutes with connections to buses on both sides.
The more important FUN upgrades around Melbourne are summarised below:
In addition to the above the following exciting initiatives should be sufishent to achieve the revised aspirational target of 1.5 million fishers:
1. Turn up & Catch: Restocking allows enough stock for baited hooks to get a bite within 10 min 90% of the time at 90% of designated locations. The Fisheries website will report performance each month. Then there's Victoria's exclusive No Fish, No Pay policy that gives holders of fishing licences refunds on each month that restocking performance is below standard.
2. PT2Fish: 90% of metropolitan and major regional fishing spots to have 7-day public transport within 400m. Community groups will be able to nominate network gaps and bid for local tailor-made transport solutions grants in a 'Pick my Project' style program managed by John Dory. Results announced before the next election.
3. Mybait: Train stations near rivers and bays to have bait vending machines, payable with myki money by 2021. Unfortunately an earlier proposal to allow unused burley to be converted to myki money clogged up the machines so will not now proceed.
4. Space for rods: Last carriage of trains will have dedicated spots for fishing rods. Exact location up for public debait. Contact Ray to learn more.
5. Fish & Go: Showing a fishing licence entitles free Sunday travel on regional coaches as a regional tourism initiative. Special day fishing licences shall be available for a gold coin fee ($2 full, $1 concession) at all staffed train stations. No Fish No Pay refunds available at the station on the way back if you catch nothing.
6. Drive 'n' Fish: Fishing from your car. 2021 State budget will fund 20 pilot drive 'n' fish sites around the state to be operational by spring 2022. Fishers will be able to fish without leaving their car. Free barbecue hotplates at car window heights will also allow cooking without leaving the car.
7. Kidfish: It's good to start them young. There will be free fishing licences mailed to every child who attends 3 year old kinder (another signature Andrews government policy). Accompanying parents or guardians will qualify for half price licences. Even if this does not increase participation it will boost the number of licences which is worthwhile for data keeping and reporting purposes.
8. Taste of Fish: Those physically unable to fish will be mailed two Free Fish vouchers per year. They will be redeemable at any fish and chip shop in the state. Please explain. The idea is that when more people see their friends eating fish they will get the urge to go fishing themselves, thus aiding Target 1 (now 1.5) Million objectives.
9. Transbay Hovercraft Metro: This is truly transformative. It caters for those who would like to fish at multiple locations around the bay in a day. And the air shuttle component makes it possible to offer Melbourne weekend fishing holidays from Singapore and Shanghai especially if no-terminal tarmac transfers are available.
How does it work? We first of all buy end-of-service aircraft carriers to moor in the middle of Port Phillip. Ideally we'd want them to throw in the planes as these will be useful to provide air shuttles to Avalon, Tullamarine and Moorabbin.
The carriers will have piers constructed to allow direct fishing from them. They will also form a mid-route terminus for a hovercraft metro serving multiple locations around the bay. There would eventually be six express hovercraft lines and a local Mornington Peninsula line. Each line would operate every half hour, with all arrivals at :25 and :55 and all departures at :30 and :00. This efficient timed transfer network will allow easy connections to any destination.
The aircraft carrier will host all-weather entertainments and a fishing discovery centre. Accommodation could be made available for school, youth and tour groups at subsidised rates. People with private boats and helicopters will be able to dock. There will be swimming trials. There is potential to use the hub for a weekday CBD, Geelong, Bellarine and Mornington Peninsula commuter network. And departing the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race from the hub is guaranteed to set time records tumbling.
The Transbay Hovercraft Metro is a long-term project for the 2030s and beyond. But it's the sort of thing we should be thinking about if we are serious about achieving a revised target of 3 million participating in fishing.
Increasing fishing's take-up is a key government objective. Its success requires a concerted whole of government approach. Or at least a whole of department approach. Cooperation up and down floors and across partitions is critical.
Given that it already goes near many fishing sites, public transport is a major untapped resource in helping to get 1.5 million Victorians to fish. The Fishing Public Transport Strategy and the Fishing Useful Network proposed here are core to the delivery of key strategic goals of higher fishing participation.
Better public transport service is a welcome byproduct. In this regard it will be seen that this whole-of-department Fishing Public Transport Network Plan is both bolder and has a higher chance of government buy-in than any other transport strategy issued to date. The best thing a departmental transport planner can do this holiday break is to grab a rod and drop a line. Then they can return next year breaming with ideas with the sole purpose of making the Fishing Useful Network a reality.
PS: This is the last 'Useful Network' for 2019. It will resume in 2020. Other postings here, like some bus routes, will be at reduced frequency until mid-January.
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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