Council has produced a survey seeking community input on its proposed multi-storey car parks in Bentleigh & Elsternwick. Whilst this latest effort is a vast improvement on recent surveys, there remain a few glaring problems. (see: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/glen-eira-multideck-car-parks)

There is now much background information on the entire process and council receiving a promise of $20M under the Commonwealth Government’s Urban Congestion Fund. The claim is that the car parks will therefore be fully funded by this grant. Readers will remember some councillors’ recent media comments regarding the ‘tainted’ nature of this funding given the alleged political rorts that accompanied the handing out of the grants. That aside, residents are now invited to proffer their views on whether or not these car parks should proceed.

In order to fully understand the issues, the problems, and the potential benefits, council has this time included a lengthy blurb as a ‘starter’. Unless residents bother to read the accompanying reports in full, we have to conclude that they will not have a clear idea of all the information required in order to come up with some reasoned decision.

For example, what residents are not told up front is that the consultant’s report noted:

  • For every 3 extra car parking spots created, there will only be one more use of public transport. We are told that for the Elsternwick site  (a)ll 78 car parking spaces at the site would be retained.  It is estimated that an increase of 82-122 spaces can be achieved, for a total of 160-200 car parking spaces at this site. With 82 extra car spots, this would then lead to an increase of 27 public transport trips. With 122 spots, there would be 41 extra trips. Applying the same formula to Bentleigh, would create either 52 or 69 trips. Hardly earth shattering for the expenditure of $20M!
  • Nor do the various blurbs mention the consultant’s findings that increased local road congestion is also a possibility, especially for Elsternwick.

THE SURVEY

Since the survey’s objective is to determine whether or not residents are in favour of proceeding with the building of these car parks, one would have thought that this aspect would have and should have been the focus. Council admits that its related ‘congestion busting’ ambitions are dependent on further and different grants from government and hence some way down the track. The $20M is ear marked for ‘commuter’ transport primarily and council’s own terminology repeatedly refers to ‘commuters’. Given this emphases, then surely some questions relating to current public transport and car use was essential.

What’s wrong with some simple questions along the lines of:

  • Do you drive to work outside of Glen Eira?
  • Do you drive to work in Glen Eira?
  • How many times a week do you use public transport (pre-covid)
  • Post-covid, will this frequency increase?
  • Do you find car parking is sufficient in Elsternwick/Bentleigh?
  • Where do you work?
  • Do you drive to shop in Bentleigh/Elsternwick?
  • If you drive to shop do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks? Why?
  • Do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks at night?
  • What would make you feel confident about using these car parks at night?
  • As a trader, how many of your staff (including you) drive to work?
  • How many staff use public transport?
  • Would you be prepared to pay for car parking?

There are undoubtedly plenty more questions along these lines which would provide a clear picture of residents’ needs and their views. Instead we get the following as part of the survey which concentrates on ‘congestion reduction initiatives’ – many of which council has absolutely no control over!

What other types of congestion reducing initiatives should Council seek further federal government funding for under the Urban Congestion Fund? Select all that apply.

On-call shuttle buses to take commuters to train stations

Repair of footpaths

 Optimise traffic-light management

 Use CCTV to monitor road conditions

 Enforcement of existing road traffic laws

 Improve perceptions of buses

Extend residents’ parking zones

Charge for workplace parking

 Improve cycling infrastructure (e.g. protected cycleways, safe cycling zones around schools, etc.)

 Improve bus services

 Develop and refine park-and-ride

Existing rail network

 Light rail

 Strategic Road Network resilience

 None of the above

 Other (please specify)

Even more ridiculous in the above list is the inclusion of jargon that we guess is totally nonsensical to the majority of residents – unless they happen to be traffic engineers. What on earth are we to make of: Strategic Road Network resilience? Or even Existing rail network? Nor does council inform us that road repairs have very little to do with ‘walkability’ or increased public transport use!

Council has also not provided any information as to what might happen if, for example, Elsternwick responses are in favour of the multi-storey car park and Bentleigh respondents are opposed. Does all the funding fall away, or will the government simply halve the grant and allow one to proceed? Surely this possibility would have already been discussed with the funders?

We are guilty of continually criticising this council’s consultation methodology and in particular their sub-standard surveys. Our solution(s) to these problems are simple:

  • All surveys MUST undergo a comprehensive ‘test run’ with councillors, community engagement committee members, and residents before they are put into the public domain.
  • Background information that is succinct, accurate and provides all the relevant data must accompany all surveys.
  • Those responsible for the creation of surveys be named and accessible to the public for continued feedback on their performance.
  • Reports on surveys be consistent in detailing all responses, number of respondents and publishing all comments. This does not happen with Community Voice!

Until we have such protocols, then residents have every right to be critical of council’s consultations and the adopted methodologies and purported outcomes.