Monday, April 22, 2013

My Transport Suggestions - Part one

So I recently decided that I think its about time I put my two cents in and provide some insight into what I honestly think is do-able in the sense as a commoner, without any background or degree in transportation, engineering or planning.

With that said as a sort of disclaimer, I thought I might start off with my suggestion for Sydney's second airport, being not Holsworthy or Badgerys Creek, but utelising existing infrastructure under Richmond's RAAF base.

Now before I hear you all want to lynch me up crap creek, just hear me out.

I am saying that why not use Richmond RAAF Base like they do in Newcastle Airport, being it is an existing RAAF that also shares with domestic flights. I honestly think this should be the same for Richmond, as such a civilian or public airport would provide the Federal Government additional revenue as they would lease part of the land for terminal and serving buildings, as well as provide Western Sydney, which is crying out for more jobs considering that we are somewhat within, well recession (yes thats right, its true we are).

But I think the best arguement for Richmond to be converted from full RAAF to Half RAAF/half civilian airport purely because of the existing infrastructure around Richmond, being there are at least two CityRail/Sydney Trains stations nearby, main road access on both sides in and around the base, existing runway, lighting, tower and aviation infrastructure, it would be in pretty much every sense, the better if not more viable option.

Now I am lead to believe that another runway would be needed to be built if Richmond was to be somewhat converted over, to combat crosswinds, but this can be done at considerable little cost compared to undertaking construction from scratch for a whole new airport.

It would also require less Government funding from both the Federal and State (NSW), who are arguing about their budget bottom lines and calling out poor.

Really when you think about it, the sound yes would probably be an issue, but Richmond and most surrounding suburbs are already used to this given they continually get RAAF aircraft flying over through the day and most nights.

I do believe that this is the only real solution, other than doing a high speed rail link from Sydney to Canberra in which would be a far more costlier option, being the rail line, from the sleepers, the rails themselves, signalling, to locomotives or EMU's would be required to be upgraded and/or built.

So as you can see, Richmond is honestly the best option when you compare the real facts at the end of the day. But I would like to hear your thoughts. So please comment below because I think open discussion is the best policy if not the only way real solutions can be found!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just a ponder or thought

I was on the train the other day travelling to the city with Brett, to see my Dad who was having an angiogram at RPAH (Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) and I just had a random thought because of a fellow commuter or mother with two wonderful kids, one them having Downes Syndrome.

No I know most of you are thinking, yeah what is so special about this kid, but its not so much as to what his disability or ability that make him unique per say, its more the reaction of other fellow commuters who just saw this little kid who could be no more than 2 or 3, who was bouncing around in the pram while is twin brother just sat behind him (they were in a double pram) quite content trying to watch what was happening.

But I digress, the main thing was how the commuters reacted, as the kid waved at people, made cute comments and they where happy to react and make wonderful comments to the mother how cute they both where or how actively wonderful the kid with Downes Syndrome is and the mother was happy.

Now it got me thinking, rewind to say about 10, 15 heck even 20 years, would this even be something that would have remotely could have happened, where compliments where given versus just silent glares of horror or worse, words of discouragement, because I can tell you that was the case. I mean I should know, my mother, heck even family got horror looks from people or worse, rude and quite absurd remarks/comments. The worst I had was when I was shopping once in my wheelchair and this kid was watching me with some confusion but happiness as I heard him say to his mum 'I want a chair like that' to which the mother replied 'No your won't ever because he has a disease!!'.

So what happened to make change happen all of a sudden I hear you ask. Well it would more than likely be a combination of things of which one main thing stands out to me - the Paralympics.

But why the Paralympics, I mean they are no different at the end of the day, why would they cause changes and thats simple - with the Paralympics being telecast nationally and over the web or through print media on the medals won or how how a Paralympic Athlete has beaten all odds to win or progress to the next step and how that is achieved have, in my opinion, made society realise that at the end of the day, we are all the same regardless if we need walking sticks or a walker or even use a wheelchair part time or full time, we are all the same.

Sure things can be a little different when it comes down to daily chores, but not every one does the same things the same way, we all have our different ways of doing things and really we are all the same regardless.

I certainly believe this is what has cause society to realise where its problem is and made change happen for the better, at least to a certain degree.

I just hope that this kind of spririt of thinking can continue and that it develops and becomes more accepting at the end of the day.

All I can say is that at the end of the day, regardless if you have a disability or not, you will achieve greatness in your own way and that is what makes you and everyone else unique.

So as I finish off my little pondering session of which I have made you think about what I have said, I am curious though, what would you think or do if you saw or know or knew of someone with disability, what would you think of them and what would you do at the end of the day? Would you talk down to them or would you help them or would you avoid them altogether.

Leave your comments below because honestly I would like to know what you would do or give suggestions on how you would deal with these scenarios.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Coming Out Story

Recently I have been watching and reading stories about young and well mature men and women coming out of the closet and finally accepting who they are, but what has been more alarming is the stories of young people who have their whole life a head of them taking the option of ending their life because of all the hate that seems to be about.

Now most of these stories have been coming out of the US but I have read a few that have come from our own backyard, yes down here in Australia and it just saddens me to think that this is the only way they can finally end painful suffering they have gone through because of these narrow minded people who continue to make their life a living hell through their bullying and berating tactics.

What I don't understand is how very little any government is not willing to step in and try to help end this sufferring. Yes we do have Sydney Mardi Gras this year, which aims to try and say to the whole community in a whole that we are here, we are queer and we are proud, but for me this is not the case this year because the organisers and committee of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (formerly New Mardi Gras after the collapse just a little over 10 years ago) decided to change the event name from Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival to Sydney Mardi Gras!

This to me is a bit of a slap in the face the organiser dropped what is essentially a parade and a campaign for awareness and civil rights movement for the GLBTQI community. this to me would help fuel some hate campaigners because they, in my belief, would try to drown out the support most of the community have given to the GLBTQI community for years.

I know it seems like I am ranting, in which I am about the lack of support or even recognition of these problems by governments and organisations, yet there have been some progress in certain areas to change and make same sex relationships recognised under certain laws, but it is essentially not enough. More has to be done.

The problem is what? How do we try to rectify these matters of bullying and harrasment and if anything how can we support the victim and punish the offender in a matter that would help them change their ways and if that doesn't work, how do we make sure that the offender does not make the same offense again with a new or in some case the same victim?

There are options, in which Mother Moster aka Lady Gaga has tried with President Barack Obama in trying to convince the president to introduce law for the introduction of tougher discrimination laws within the USA, but here in our own country such discrimination laws are state based legislation and if anything they either have big gaps or wholes in which victims of same sex bullying or harrasment will fall through and be let down by an undersighted problem.

The question is now, how to we change it to ensure no one falls through these gaps? Well again that is a good question as it does depend on whether state governments are willing to take the time and effort to support and make change, but this again take in most cases to much time!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Opal card not so useful for all

Ok so yesterday I noticed at Town Hall Station that one of the barriers (by the name of " Charlie Barrier" near the lifts for platforms 1, 2 & 4) had the new opal card readers. Now it looked quite impressive being all shiny, new with a opal coloured light above, but I noticed instantly a huge if not major big stuff up by the transport minister, Cubic Transportation Systems and Transport for NSW.

What's the issue I hear you ask, well let me put it this way, if you were in a wheelchair and could not properly usetilse your arms (or legs in some instances), relating to your disability, then you honestly could not touch on or off your Opal Card without having someone either go rummaging for your opal card through your personal belongings let alone have a carer have your OPAL card with them.

So why would Cubic Transportation systems let alone the NSW Government or Transport for NSW have not thought about how this will impact the disability community and commuters who travel in most cases by themselves for work and want to maintain their independence completely baffles and surprises me.

It just goes to show how literally top management/ceo's of transport departments, current government representatives in NSW and the private sector are so far out of touch. Yeah ok its great that our transport systems are somewhat wheelchair accessible, but we are talking about a system that by 2014 will be fully in force, with tickets no longer in use and the only way to pay for fares is via this OPAL card its any wonders why people can't think what EVERYONE'S requirements when it comes to implementing transport requirements instead of just implementing and thinking about the actual issues later.

I am sorry but it's just plain stupidity and not acceptable at all. Not at least in this day and age when you think about it. But instead I am going to offer a suggestion I did put to a couple of my friends at CityRail, who I might add, reckon it could be some feasible if not looked at as an alternative additional option.

My suggestion/option is to have like an etag thing that is the exactly the same thing as the OPAL Card, but has a slightly stronger signal that can be read by a scanner (somewhat like the etag system for cars but for wheelchair passengers) that is only applied for by people who actually require them (so people with disabilities that require the use of a wheelchair, walking sticks, crutches and or/a walking frame). The card would be put on a lanyard or kept in the pockets of the passenger and the scanner would be located at the top of the wide gate prior to openning with a loud beep given to indicate the pass has been accepted. There would also be a little screen either at the top if not at one side where the passenger can see the balance display.

Of course this is merely a suggestion, but one which in all honesty should be looked into as a matter of urgency and I would love for the Minister for Transport NSW, Gladys Berjiklian, to either talk to the disability community about these issues and find out suggestions how to better plan instead of looking like a right old mess - which in someways she actually does quite well on her own, don't you think ;)

Below is an example of the new Opal Card scanner located right next to the wide gate at Town Hall Station.

Transport for all - Not really for all

Ok so first off, I want to point out that this is in now poking or having a go at the honest and wonderful staff that actually do care and help people with disabilities, assisting them get on the various forms of public transport in and around NSW, but more so having a go at the incompetent staff who don't care and are honestly rate just bum around mostly.

Back in March, I attended a public transport forum called Transport for All, at Parliament House after speaking in late 2012 with the shadow transport minister, Penny Sharpe (NSW Labor) in which the forum talked and had general discussion regarding the lack of transport facilities and accessibility not only on the CityRail/CountryLink rail services, but the various ferry, bus and taxi operators and the issues which are having a profound affect on anyone with a disability trying to utelise the somewhat ok public service systems we have.

I have to say that whilst the discussion where productive and some pretty fantastic solutions were suggested, that the issues will still remain. Don't get me wrong, Penny Sharpe and her Labor colleague/Party have vowed to improve services for people with disabilities, but the current NSW Liberal Government seem to be hell bent on sticking to a disability action plan that had no or absolutely little consultation with community.

Yet to them this is all part of their fixing the trains, which honestly, If you ask me, isn't being fixed at all. Why? well it all comes down to $$$ and whether or not politicians of the current government really want to shake up services that could lead to strike action and voter dis-satisfaction that could see their seat gone to the other party. to me, that is just sad policy.

The old saying 'build it and they shall come and be happy' no longer works because its more than just about building some lifts and revamping or refurshing and completely rebuilding a station to make it accessible.

No there is a lot more that come down to it, such as staff training, trains becoming more wheelchair accessible, signage much more clearer and somewhat cleaned up so there isn't as many what I cann information overload, which only leads to confusion and frustration.

Now I hear you say that it all does cost $$$ and that money is better spent elsewhere, and whilst I may agree slightly, public transport for people with disabilities is an essential service because they can't drive and need to either go to work or go to hospital or various health specialist appointments.

What is also needed is campaigns advising fellow commuters about people with disabilities and to give up their seat for those fellow passengers that need them, or to stand clear of ramps that station staff or guards place down so someone in a wheelchair or scooter can get on and off a train safely without causing harm to staff, fellow commuters and themselves.

We also need clearer audio announcements on older trains regardless of costs, as well as continuing the refurbishment program of that Tangrara fleet to remove roles that are in the way of wheelchairs and scooter. Also tactile tiles need to placed at all stations, more covered awning areas and lighting.

There is also a need for the roll out and more accessible toilet facilities that ustelise MLAK or Master Lock Access Key system. Also a much more faster and accessible application prcoess for people requiring the MLAK Key. I mean I got mine through a staff member at one of my regular stations because they said I really do need one, yet I have applied for one numerous times but nothing, not one thing stating if I was successful or not.

Staff training and more clearer signs and audio announcements are required now and whilst some announcements have become better in the last month on my travels on the train, there is room for improvement.

Whilst I know most of these suggestions can't be fixed immediately, they can be fixed over time to help drag the cost out to a more reasonable amount as well as give more time for the issues to be fixed lrogressively without delays (or at least as many delays).

The only thing I now really waiting for the the damned Opal Card to come to the western line, now that should be something to really look forward to and help streamline one part of my travel requirements to say the least, but that too alas seems like it will never come if not be further and further away for the roll out to occur!

Just to also show you an insight to what is a daily occurrence not only for me, but for fellow disabled commuters on Sydney trains, the ABC followed me for a day and this video (kindly uploaded by Penny Sharpe) gives you brief if not somewhat eye opening experience of what it is like to have a disability and travel on public transport.

You can view the ABC News NSW video by clicking here.

You can also view a copy of my video talking about the issues at the Transport for All forum on March 15th at NSW Parliament house by clicking here.

Was Margaret Thatcher really that bad?

Earlier this week, Britain lost it's one and only former female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher but instead of mourning her passing, they are instead partying and rejoicing and this somewhat concerns me greatly.

They are rejoicing because what they believe was and still will always be "the wicked witch" to be finally dead. I mean they have ensured that an old song from the Movie, Wizard of Oz is spear-heading to the top of charts with "Ding, Dong, the witch is dead".

I have to say this concerns me and also make me feel very sorry and upset of the family who have lost such a dearly loved person in their lives, but have to put up with such hatred and utter nonsense. It make me wonder if some people actually have a brain or if they just seem to think that this kind of behavior is acceptable at al..

For me it is appalling, but with that said, I haven't personally been affected nor am part of the country she once ruled over so to speak.

But I do want to, however, reflect on some of the things I think she has done well at for Britian and its fellow countrymen, women and children and how her legacy still somewhat lives within today's modern political underworld I guess you can say.

Looking at what dubbed 'Iron Lady', Margaret Thatcher did in some ways help give Britain the good, well deserve kick in the ass I think it needed back then. I mean Britain was down, crying like a baby who needs their nappy change or to be fed or burped, but no one knew what to do back then.

Yeah she did massive budget cuts in which did cut services and jobs through what was a bad recession, but it doesn't compare to the current recession nowadays that Britain is experiencing and only then that is because the pound is where it should be whilst the Euro dollar is highly inflated, but I digress.

She lead Britain into the 21st century, having cut spending of which needed to be done to bring the country back into the green or black by financial standards. She also stood stedfast and firm against the Argentinians when they tried to invade the Falkland Islands.

She also made it clear that women can do the same job as men and become Prime Ministers or Ministers. She wasn't scared to get her voice across and I think that did in some degree scare the male politicians, because there was a change of the guard.

I do also believe that she wasn't afraid to tell the truth to the people as well and explain her reasons, which in this day and age is lacking quite a bit if you ask me.

So as you can see, I do honestly believe Margaret Thatcher did do some good things and make Britian once again a stronger and more prouder nation, that is until now, with those people who want to be so stupid singing and praising her death. To me that is just wrong and shows how bad their society really actually is.

So I say this, is it really and honestly worth the bad naming, reputation and down right despicable act to praise such a wonderful person's death over some little if not old or previous experience?

I would say in all honesty no, but I shall leave you to ponder that thought deeply.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pass on my sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of the late former Prime Minister of Britain and Baroness Margaret Thatcher. May she finally be at rest and out of any pain or suffering. My thoughts are with you during this hard and extremely emotional time