WHEN the good citizens of Springfield decided to build a monorail on the advice of a slick conman, Marge Simpson was understandably dubious.

”It was the only folly the people of Springfield ever embarked upon,” she mused later. ”Except for the popsicle stick skyscraper. And the 50-foot magnifying glass. And that escalator to nowhere.”

Pledges made during council elections have a similar propensity towards hyperbole – big promises, grand schemes and no budget or jurisdiction to deliver.

In the Melbourne council race many hopefuls have put forward policies they claim will improve transport – a perennial bugbear in an increasingly congested city.

Gary Morgan and running mate John Elliott favour a light-rail link to Tullamarine, the removal of car parking from arterial roads into the city to free up traffic and large underground car parks in the CBD.

Contenders Gary Singer and John So have slated a free Swanston Street tram and 24-hour public transport on weekends while incumbent Robert Doyle’s first policy – the only one announced to date – is a free, weekday ferry service between the North Bank and Docklands.

The light-rail proposal has been dismissed by some critics as fanciful and uncosted.

Melbourne University transport planning expert Dr John Stone says a light-rail line is unsuited to the distance, would come with a $100 million-plus price tag, and was the responsibility of the state government.

”The zeitgeist in Melbourne is that we need public transport fixes – even people like John Elliott recognise we need answers,” he says.

Public Transport Users Association secretary Dr Tony Morton said underground carparking was hideously expensive and cost an estimated $100,000 per parking space.

”Is Gary Morgan rich enough to pay for it himself?” he asked. ”It seems silly when only 10 to 20 per cent come in to the city by car, anyway.”

But Mr Morgan vigorously defended his policies, saying all were feasible under public-private partnership arrangements, which had been used successfully in Melbourne.

Mr Morgan believes the biggest challenge facing the city is drug use, hence the pair’s proposal to force nightclubs in the city to close at 1am.

One left-of-field policy to emerge is a proposal by lord-mayoral candidate David Nolte, a pharmacist in Carlton, Liberal Party member and an indigenous man from the Hunter region of New South Wales.

Mr Nolte wants to revise the Melbourne City Council coat of arms to include symbolic recognition of Melbourne’s Aboriginal history.

He says many residents know little about the treaty made between the Wurundjeri and colonist John Batman in 1835.

The present coat of arms features a fleece, a black bull, a whale and a three-masted ship and Mr Nolte would like to include images such as a scarred tree and the Batman treaty.

”I want people to have a look at all the candidates, work out who are the silliest contenders and then ask themselves if they want them running the city,” Mr Nolte says.

A Greens policy to introduce separated bike lanes in Elizabeth Street and close the street between Flinders Lane and Flinders Street got a cautious thumbs up from transport experts and motoring lobbyist the RACV.

RACV spokesman Brian Negus went a step further and said Elizabeth Street should be closed between Flinders and Bourke streets – creating an area for trams and pedestrians.

While separated bike lanes were good for safety, road space needed to be preserved for other road users, he said.

PTUA secretary Dr Morton was doubtful about Gary Singer and John So’s proposal to provide a free tram up Swanston Street.

He said it would cost about $3 million a year and would advantage only those who had driven and parked in the CBD.

But Mr Singer said that if he was elected the council would work with all levels of government to introduce his policies.

With just three weeks until the elections, city residents and business owners face an avalanche of flyers in their letterboxes advertising team pitches.

Let’s hope the policies put forward are more considered than the Springfield monorail.

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