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Eight months or so after it opened it's time to call it out.
The new Frankston station is not fit for purpose.
It has major and minor shortcomings that make one query whether what was spent on it provided the best overall value. Or if the money wasn't there to do the job properly could what was available gone towards a more deserving station (like Broadmeadows) leaving Frankston with some cheap and cheerful cosmetic and passenger information upgrades?
Is it possible that Frankston only got done because its voters, unlike the obedient subjects of Broadmeadows, are political swingers, and not because of the merits of the project? The government's own planning authority even says that funds were yanked from Broadmeadows for use on 'other projects'. Broadmeadows is another busy station and effectively a gateway to Melbourne thanks to it being served by the 901 SmartBus from Melbourne Airport.
Am I being harsh? I don't think so. As taxpayers and station users we expect fit for purpose facilities. Here's four reasons why I don't think Frankston station makes the grade.
1. A roof with a hole
The purpose of a roof is to provide shelter. That means protection against the sun on hot days and the rain on wet days. It's a basic requirement that people should be able to wait for and board a train without getting wet. Or have an increased risk of tripping due to a wet floor.
Unfortunately this fact is lost on those who approve the designs for stations. Never mind Henry's leaky bucket, Frankston is a station whose roof has a gaping hole above where people sit. If only those who approved the design were as insistent and inventive as Liza in plugging it! In station design passenger comfort should always trump some architect's vanity.
OK the above may be fairly minor as it's not a large waiting area. However large parts of the northern end of the platforms are unsheltered and it's a fair way to sheltered refuge. Hence Frankston hasn't learned from the botched
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKs4BfYzF1I design, where the northern end of Platform 2 is similarly unsheltered from rain and harsh sun. That's significant, especially given expected more extreme weather events in the future due to climate change.
2. Poor permeability between platforms
Good stations have easy access between platforms. This especially applies for interchange stations (such as Caulfield) and termini stations (like Frankston) where all trains go in the same direction and people normally want to be on the first departure. Because this can be ambiguous (like the Elizabeth St tram terminus near Flinders St) and there is often a train at each platform (as at Frankston) it is essential that two-faced island platforms have a minimum of obstructions to allow people to quickly board the desired departure. This is usually but not always the first if the passenger is after an express.
Frankston only partially passes. The northern end of its platforms are permeable but offer little shelter. Whereas the southern end offers more shelter but has poor permeability. There's continuous wall for about 50 steps in the middle of the platform. Then beyond the small opening (below the abovementioned hole in the roof) is another 35 or 40 steps worth of wall.
Hence visibility between the rear portions of departing electric trains is poor. Not good if you need to quickly get from one side to the other. A better design would have provided more roofed shelter and better lateral permeability so that people have a better chance of quickly boarding the train they need.
3. Patchy multimodal passenger information
PTV (or more strictly the Department of Transport since they're merged these days) is weird. Put simply, they are allergic to maps. Especially the multimodal area maps needed to explain the mysteries of some of the loopy local bus routes that they haven't been able to sell reform of to the minister.
Whether it be describing a temporary service change, publishing maps on their website or having them at stations and interchanges, PTV's attitude to maps is like a small child's to broccoli. This is despite their charter under the Transport Integration Act to promote public transport by making it easy to use by providing information such as maps.
A rebuilt station would not be short of poster cases, such as used to advise of service changes and line closures (of which there'll be many as level crossings get removed). Some could be used for local network maps. A colour A1 copy of the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula local area train and bus maps wouldn't cost that much to print off. Despite this the will to act is lacking. Frankston's need for proper multimodal wayfinding and maps is best exemplified by this makeshift diagram (presumably a local station initiative) spied near the ticket barrier.
What are the official priorities? They've spent a heap on electronic displays, including for buses, which is unusual. The screens show upcoming bus departures by route. However their usefulness assumes knowledge about the network, including where the routes go and which one to catch. And as Daniel Bowen pointed out the first screen passengers see doesn't show the bays where buses leave from. That's a core requirement for a big interchange where going the wrong way could cost you an hour's or more extra wait if a bus has just been missed.
Good wayfinding information and maps would help, but are apparently out of fashion. The privileged Zone 1-based cultural, technological and economic elites that dominate bureaucracies must assume everyone's got a smartphone with bottomless data credit. It's got to turn on in an instant. And have a screen that's still responsive even if wet as might happen when alighting from a rear carriage in a rainstorm with no sheltered platform.
Physical maps help passengers develop their mental maps of the network. That invites usage for a wider range of trips, especially if the more frequent and therefore useful corridors are highlighted. PTV runs a journey planner that helps people plan the next trip but that doesn't broaden minds or market the network in the same way. Much can be learned from cities such as Perth that properly do multimodal information at stations. Despite having supportive legislation and the bureaucratic blather about integration burbled out each time there is a restructure we still don't quite get it.
Then there's the placement of the bus time displays themselves. Station exits are bottlenecks. Especially one like Frankston where (a) there's only one exit point and (b) the station is a terminus with a huge catchment area. Many understandably wish to get out as soon as they can.
Meanwhile those reading next bus displays need time. Especially when there's only one display, multiple routes and key information missing. Having the screen at a place that forces people to stand in the way of those rushing past to exit is not good design. Especially for frail older people worried about getting knocked over in the rush. A better option would be to have information still visible to those exiting but slightly off to one side so there is no pressure on those reading information to hurry.
The problems with bus wayfinding aren't confined to inside the station. The stops on Young St have been a continuing saga. Protracted delays during construction and inconvenient alternative arrangements have resulted in big patronage losses for most Frankston bus routes. And the final result isn't entirely satisfying. If you alight at one stop and need to change to another bus you need to traipse the whole interchange for your stop (including potentially crossing under the railway) since there is no information at each stop telling you where other routes leave from. With key destinations, including Monash University, Frankston Hospital, Karingal Shopping Centre, Savers op-shop and jobs at Carrum Downs being away from the station easy bus to bus interchange is important for many local trips.
4. The lack of a northern entrance
If there was one thing (from a passenger perspective) the old Frankston station needed adding it is this - a new northern exit. Trains are just metres from the closest point to Bayside Shopping Centre to the west and Beach St to to the east. However the single entrance to the south makes walking to catch the train much longer than it should be. The result is that a substantial part of Frankston CBD to the west and the residential area to the east is beyond a reasonable walking distance of trains for the want of a northern exit. And some popular bus stops (eg 788 to Portsea) have been moved to be too far from trains without a northern entrance.
I won't claim that building the required overpass or underpass access will be cheap or simple. However if you were going to do anything substantial to the station then the improved access that this entrance would provide would be high priority. Along with more efficient track layout given how trains currently often crawl into Frankston. These improvements could stimulate (and be stimulated by) by commercial and residential land use intensification in Frankston CBD in the Beach St area that is currently further from trains than it should be.
Frankston Station is the main transport hub as the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula. Thousands pass through it each day. And it has a huge catchment with some feeder bus routes extending to nearly two hours south. This includes both commuters and tourists, particularly on summer weekends.
Insufficient care was taken to build something that properly serves its users, even though the cost of some improvements would have been small. And there's still a chance to fix issues such as inadequate multimodal passenger information.
With the grade separation program in full swing new stations will be built as part of some of these projects. It's important that we get good designs for our stations and learn from past projects such as Frankston.
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This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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