I always thought it was the beginning of the end for Dick Smith Electronics when they stopped selling… well, electronics, and got into consumer goods like kettles and fridges.
PTV are trialling a new train network map. They’re seeking feedback on it, and you’ll see it at some stations now (Bentleigh, Malvern and Moorabbin, I think).
Note, just to remove all doubt: unlike the PTV network plan, it’s not a concept for new rail lines; it’s a prototype of a map of the existing network.
My initial impression: I quite like this.
Colour-coding the lines helps make sense of the way the network actually runs (or will run in the near future). It allows them to add detail such as the stations usually skipped by expresses on particular lines, which lines run via the City Loop, and which sections run as shuttles. This helps people navigate — for instance if you’re coming from the Dandenong line going to Armadale, you’ll probably have to change trains at Caulfield.
The caveat here is that the train network is not currently operated consistently. Loop operations (even leaving direction aside) are very confusing. Express stopping patterns are all over the place on some lines. The Frankston and Newport lines are connected… but only on weekdays.
The operational variations on the various lines might need some work. See the difference between Williamstown and Alamein, for instance; potentially confusing.
A big difference is this map also adds V/Line services. With Myki now phased-in for short-distance (commuter-belt) V/Line services, one barrier to city people using them (the need to buy a separate ticket) is gone. This is an interesting move. It does take extra space, thus makes everything smaller — is the benefit worth it?
The part-time Flemington Racecourse line is shown prominently in black. I suppose that’s a good (for occasional users) and bad (implies it’s fulltime). I’m told it’s showing terminating at Southern Cross because that’s how it’s likely to be (at least on weekdays) in the near future, due to rail viaduct capacity issues, so they’d rather encourage people to change there instead of Flinders Street.
Somehow the order of lines shown at Flinders Street seems wrong, but I think that’s because I know Glen Waverley direct services don’t actually terminate next to Sandringham services.
The Skybus connection is shown, but the Broadmeadows to Airport Smartbus connection isn’t. Neither are the 401 and 601 university weekday high-frequency shuttles, specifically designed to connect to the rail network.
In the first version of the map that got out in the wild over the weekend, there were at least two errors: Violet Town and Euroa had been transposed, as had Ballan and Bacchus Marsh, and the colours indicating Myki validity had crept beyond where they should have. The stations have now been corrected (though Myki still creeps beyond Wendouree, Eaglehawk, Marshall and Traralgon) and PTV expect to do quite a few more tweaks over coming months as a result of feedback.
They don’t expect a more general rollout of the map until Regional Rail Link opens next year. It costs a small fortune apparently.
But what’s wrong with the current train map?
It doesn’t show where the lines go. Someone unfamiliar with Melbourne might assume there’s a line from Sunbury to Upfield, for instance. And it doesn’t show any operational detail; the map implies all trains run via the Loop, for instance. It gives little hint as to where the best places to change trains are.
Meanwhile, we’re losing two-zone trips next year, so there won’t be a huge need to show zones as at present. The new map started being designed well before this, but it’s good to be able to take advantage of it to show other useful detail.
What about multi-modal?
I think the new map is a good step in the right direction.
But if they’re starting to mix things up on a map (Metro and V/Line), I think another thing they should be looking at is showing the network frequent trams and buses that back up the train network… though of course, that would be a much more complicated and difficult visualisation to get right.
But other cities are moving into this, and you can see the benefits from it, as described by Vancouver’s Translink:
People traveling along FTN (Frequent Transit Network) corridors can expect convenient, reliable, easy-to-use services that are frequent enough that they do not need to refer to a schedule. For municipalities and the development community, the FTN provides a strong organizing framework around which to focus growth and development.
(My emphasis. That’s the most important point. For public transport to be competitive with cars, this is essential. It’s not like, as Jarrett Walker describes, you can only drive out of your driveway every half-an-hour — but that’s what most PT users face.)
The train-only network map is still useful — good for showing the mass transit, backbone of the public transport network. But a frequent network map would be great for showing all the places you can easily get to in Melbourne on public transport — which is a lot more than just the rail network.
Also: the status board, and the bigger picture
Are maps even in important?
Sure they are. Good maps mean people can navigate their way around more easily, so they’re more likely to use the system. More passengers means more impetus to keep upgrading services.
But this is about more than just a map. Related is the trial rollout of “rainbow” network status boards, installed this week at Moorabbin, Bentleigh, Malvern, and in the PTV Hub at Southern Cross. The colours on the board match those on the new map… including Alamein, which has a distinctive colour on the map to draw attention to the fact that you usually have to change at Camberwell.
It’s a little early to judge these, though I note that they don’t show next train departures — this is present on other displays at Malvern, but not at Moorabbin and Bentleigh and most other stations.
I’m told they can modify the design based on feedback, so it’ll be interesting to see how this evolves. One issue I think is that line-specific info is shown at the bottom — only a “traffic light” indicator is shown at the top, which means the information you need may not be easy to find.
I’d hope that once these boards are running well, they roll them out quickly to the bigger interchange stations, where they’re likely to be most useful.
Both the map and the status board are part of measures to standardise train operations: the slow move towards more predictable routes, consistent stopping patterns, consistent platforms at the larger stations, and “metro”-like frequent operation on dedicated tracks. And there are also moves to improve the flow of information from operators (on all modes) through to PTV so a better view of the overall network is available, including online.
Clearly they’ve got a long way to go, but this is a step forward.
- PTV map from their rail network development plan
- City Loop, excerpt from a 1981 map
- Campbell Wright’s frequent service map
Victorians will be able to catch a train to the airport with Premier Denis Napthine today announcing that the upcoming State Budget will outline the Coalition Government’s commitment to build a new rail link from Southern Cross Station to Melbourne Airport.
Really we’ll have to wait for the Budget to see the detail, as it’s pretty vague at the moment.
Here’s the route:
Rough route for airport rail promise. No financial details. In May budget. pic.twitter.com/R5ygNvdeN4
— Brendan Donohoe (@BrendanDonohoe7) April 13, 2014
Given the track will run via Sunshine, presumably it’ll use the RRL tracks, which include provision for future electrification.
They haven’t stated a fare cost, but I’m hearing it won’t be standard Myki fares. All they’ve said is it’ll be “affordable”. It’d better be. Skybus is now $18 one way — it’s still cheaper than a taxi for a single person, but a big discouragement for groups.
They haven’t said when it’ll be built, or how much it’s costing.
The airport station will be elevated. I’d been under the impression for some time now that there was existing provision under the terminals for the station. Oh well. Hopefully that means easy level access to the Departures level of the main terminals.
Travel time of 25 minutes is slightly slower than Skybus in off-peak, but considerably faster than peak. And capacity will be much better — Skybus currently gets overloaded at peak times, and it’s very common to see full buses at off-peak times.
25 minutes is not actually that fast for a 30ish kilometre journey. Given the City to Albion section of RRL should be capable of 80kmh, does this mean the train will trundle along at low speed the rest of the way to the Airport? Does it mean a later upgrade could improve the overall travel time, if the Albion to Airport section is upgraded to 130 or 160?
Frequency 10 mins in peak is good. What will it be off-peak? Not sure. There seems to be some talk of also 10 minutes in daytime, which is promising.
They’ve decided the Metro tunnel does not need to be built first. The existing (but unconfirmed) RRL service plan says initially 16 trains per hour from Geelong/Ballarat/Bendigo in peak, and the capacity is 24, so there’s space.
True, it doesn’t allow for much future growth in train numbers, but that’s a problem to solve later. Waiting for a multi-billion-dollar rail tunnel nobody seems willing to fund shouldn’t hold up other projects indefinitely. There are measures you can take when capacity runs out: upgrade the signalling, run longer/higher capacity trains, and of course build more tracks.
Anyway it makes more sense to use express tracks for an express service than fit them onto suburban tracks into the tunnel which have stopping trains on them. It also allows airport trains to be a dedicated fleet, designed specifically for passengers with luggage. (Counterargument: running via the tunnel would provide better access to the CBD, and better connections to other rail lines, assuming it runs down Swanston Street.)
But it’s not clear where they’ll terminate at Southern Cross. Given a premium fare, they might want dedicated platforms to isolate those users and do proper ticket checks, though this would still be a problem at Footscray and Sunshine.
Stopping at Footscray makes sense. I’m not sure about Sunshine, 6-10 minutes away. With each stop taking an extra minute, if most other RRL trains end up skipping Sunshine, it might make better sense not to stop there — though doing so would improve accessibility to the airport, particularly for workers (who hopefully would get fare discounts).
The whole plan has all come out of nowhere, of course. One observer said it sounded like they’d figured it all out on the back of an envelope.
But the politics is encouraging. A few months ago their only major transport pledge was the toll road. Now they’re talking about PT, and the Dandenong package in particular includes real money. It seems they’ve finally realised promising a tollroad when the majority want PT wasn’t going to win them the election.
Oh, and the fact that they mention frequency in the press release? That’s also a good sign that the past myopic focus on infrastructure (with little regard to service quality) might be starting to change.
- For the record, no, the Citylink contract doesn’t prevent airport trains
- A good read (though I’m not sure I agree with it): Should a rail line to Melbourne Airport be the priority?
- Herald Sun: Napthine Government promises rail link from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station in State Budget — yes, I’m doing PTUA media again, to back-up Tony and make sure the message is loud and clear during this election year.
For some reason, while the government have been crowing about train punctuality this week…
— Terry Mulder (@TerryMulderMP) April 9, 2014
…they haven’t been talking much about Service Delivery, aka Cancellations.
I wonder why not?
Oh, could that be because it’s barely changed in 5 years?
There’s certainly been a lot of work on the train network, including more concrete sleepers and track relaying to prevent buckling, better air-conditioning in the Comeng fleet, and additional maintenance capacity.
But cancellations still hit the trains regularly due to other causes — including many this week.
And with more than 50,000 services running every month, even 1% of the timetable not delivered is a lot of cancelled trains, which of course happens most often in peak hours when the system is under stress, generally affecting a disproportionate number of passengers, and causing severe overcrowding.
Overall it’s about the same as it has been for years.
So yes, perhaps it’s not a surprise that they’re not talking about it.
- I deliberately left off a trend line, because one-off events such as the pre-Black Saturday heatwave skewed the result. If the data for Jan/Feb 2009 is removed, the Service Delivery trend is slightly down, but I don’t think this is a good representation of how things are tracking long-term.
- Other lowlights for Metro include February 2011 (major storms), and summer 2012-13 when there were a lot of stolen copper wire incidents, culminating in the February 2013 incident involving the bat.
- The upgrades to deal with heat can’t be over-stated. Lots of track has been re-laid, and air-con faults are now much rarer. I’d expect the resilience of the network in hot weather to be much better than it was pre-2010, though not perfect of course.
This is very cool. Similar to tools Jarrett Walker often talks about that show how far you can get in X minutes on public transport, here’s a map prepared around 1925 or so (I’m guessing) by the Melbourne Town Planning Commission showing how long it takes to get into central Melbourne from various suburbs by tram and train (and walking).
Here’s the area around St Kilda and Caulfield:
As you can see, the areas around railway stations have the quickest access into the city. Trams don’t reach as far in the same number of minutes.
As you get farther away from tram lines/railway stations, the city becomes less accessible.
Here’s the thing: in many ways the timings on this map haven’t changed much, because in terms of fixed-rail infrastructure, there’s not that much extra in 2014.
On the trains, the Glen Waverley line (a late addition, sketched onto this map) and the City Loop are the obvious new lines, the latter providing better access to more parts of the CBD, but not making much difference in terms of travel time, which remain roughly the same as they were. Bentleigh to the City still takes about half-an-hour.
That travel time hasn’t deteriorated is important: as the city’s road traffic has increased markedly over those 90ish years, the train system has isolated those who use it (and the city at large) from growing traffic congestion.
Meanwhile some areas such as Kew have lost their trains, though areas further out such as Pakenham and Cranbourne, which once had only infrequent country trains, are now part of the metropolitan network.
Trams aren’t shown very clearly on this map, but extensions since the 1920s include the 75 out to Vermont South. But some areas such as Footscray have lost some of their trams, as has Elwood/Brighton, and Black Rock/Beaumaris. Travel times for the trams that remain also seem similar to today, though in peak hours they’re likely to be longer on routes sharing space with cars.
If you have a look at the whole map, many of the obvious gaps in the network are still there… only these days they’re filled with houses, not empty as they were when this map was prepared. As I’ve noted before, if a suburb got its public transport back in the 1930s when PT was still being expanded, it probably still has it now.
Some areas have Smartbuses, which help fill those gaps and get to the station with frequent (at least on weekdays) fast (well, faster than walking) services. But many suburbs miss out on frequent PT.
Not that accessibility to the CBD is necessarily what everyone needs nowadays — work places, education and other opportunities are now more widely dispersed throughout the metropolitan area.
But allowing people to get to those places, particularly without a car (eg being able to move independent of traffic congestion, and whether or not they are able to drive) is an ongoing challenge.
See the map nice and big, on Flickr (opens in a new window)
Source: State Library of Victoria — map 4. Other maps there include variations on this theme. I haven’t looked at everything yet — no doubt there are some other gems. Map 2 is similar to map 4, but is in black and white, but shows tram lines more clearly.
Last Wednesday in State Parliament:
The SPEAKER — Order! I have accepted a statement from Minister for Public Transport proposing the following matter of public importance for discussion:
That this house congratulates the coalition government for improving affordability, safety, reliability and punctuality on public transport, and its investment in rail and road infrastructure, and notes Labor’s record of failure during its 11 years in office.
Yes that’s right, the government moved to congratulate itself on transport.
It’s only when you listen to Parliament or read the transcripts that you realise just how polarised the politicians from the two major parties are. Basically no matter who’s in power, it’s:
Government: It’s all good!
Opposition: No, it’s all bad!
Here are some excerpts from the Minister for Public Transport’s speech, and a look at the figures backing them up:
I have the statistics in front of me in terms of the number of overcrowded morning peak trains: in October 2009 it was 42, in October 2010 it was 36 and in October 2013 it was 15. There are more people getting seats on trains now; the trains are far less overcrowded under the coalition government than under the Labor government.
If one looks at the overall network, then indeed the trend on crowding has been down. Here’s a graph showing AM and PM load breaches. (The surveys are carried out each May and October. These figures are from each October.)
I think there are some problems with the government’s claim:
Firstly, the reduction in load breaches was already underway before the November 2010 election.
Secondly, the fixes aren’t instant. You order some trains, they take a few years to arrive and deploy onto the network, and only then do you see a reduction in crowding. To imply Labor did nothing and that the Coalition fixed it all is just plain false. Both sides can take some credit for buying extra trains.
Thirdly, the network-wide figures hide some of the detail. When you dig down (and by the way the Coalition deserves credit for publishing all the data), you will find that the Dandenong and Werribee lines haven’t fared so well: in fact splitting out their figures shows both bottomed-out in October 2010 under Labor, before rising again under the Coalition:
The Werribee line crowding issues are likely to be resolved by the Regional Rail Link, which will take Geelong trains off that line, allowing more suburban trains to run.
The Dandenong line? Well the growing crowding is why the Dandenong line upgrade project is needed. But how long it is until relief comes is anybody’s guess. It’ll be years away — well after this November’s election, no matter who wins that.
What the community has always asked for — and I know that the Labor government spoke about things that were not negotiable — is more punctual trains, and that is what we have been delivering. Year after year we have been working on getting punctuality up.
In January 2010, under the Labor government, 87 per cent of trains ran on time and in January 2014, 92 per cent of trains were running on time.
I blogged about this a few months ago… again, it’s true that punctuality figures are up.
But just like buying more trains, these things take time to prepare. Most of the punctuality improvement was in early in the government’s term, thanks to a timetable introduced in April 2011, the preparation for which was largely carried-out when Labor was in power (and, it’s been suggested to me, that preparation started even before Metro came on the scene in late-2009).
Plus if you have an operator that regularly skips stops, and puts padding in the timetables, then you can expect punctuality stats to improve.
Here’s another graph, showing how the timetables have been padded recently on the Frankston line. Is it reasonable to add running time if trains are always late? Perhaps, if the delays are due to things like consistently greater passenger numbers, and can’t be resolved. But what if the extra time means trains regularly run early or have to sit idle waiting for the timetable? Not so good.
Safety and security
When you look at the satisfaction with personal security on Metro services, you see that the satisfaction surveys that have been carried out show that 50.8 per cent of people said they felt safe in 2009-10 and that today it is 68.5 per cent of people.
He’s got a point here. With deployment of PSOs, I have no problems in believing that many people perceive it to be safer at night than it was before, though those of us who have regularly used trains at night for years might say there’s little real difference. And there is yet to be any clear evidence that it’s resulting in more patronage, as hoped, or that overall crime has reduced.
Major rail projects
The award-winning regional rail link project is being rolled out by the coalition government and is running ahead of time and within budget. There are 23 additional peak-hour services into the west and north-west and 10 additional peak-hour services into Victoria’s regions.
Further improvements will also flow to V/Line as part of the $2 million to $2.5 million Cranbourne-Pakenham rail project — and of course the people of Pakenham get this fantastic new depot the size of AAMI stadium to house and maintain all of the trains.
Regional Rail Link was initiated under Labor, and substantially funded under Federal Labor. Would it have happened under the Coalition? Well certainly not if Tony Abbott had been running the country. What about the State Coalition? We’ll never know — until recently apart from $500 million additional funding for RRL, they had not funded any really big public transport initiatives — the Dandenong line package has at last broken the ice.
The community should never trust the Labor Party with these announcements. It cannot be trusted with its alphabetical list of grade separations on roads it says are going to be grade separated. If members look at these particular figures, they will see that one works out at over $160 million, but the Labor Party is going to do them for $120 million each. This is not about buying fruit; these are grade separations projects. They are tendered, they are highly competitive tenders and they do not cost $120 million each.
This is something that still puzzles me, because the Middleborough Road grade separation (which included rebuilding Laburnum station) cost under $70 million in 2007.
The Nunawading project in 2010 cost substantially more — $142 million — but was a much bigger, more complex project. Even with the increase in construction costs, it seems silly to claim they all now cost $160 million, no matter how simple or complex.
And given Labor’s plan is to do 50 in 8 years, there would be economies of scale coming into play — the same economies of scale that have resulted in two crossings removed at Mitcham in one project costing $140 million.
The full speech and the reactions are worth a read, but I can’t possibly go into every point here.
There’s no doubt the statistics for some of these areas look good, especially if one cherry-picks — notice no mention of cancellations?
But it’s one thing to read out a bunch of numbers in Parliament and conclude everything’s improved out of sight — it’s another to look behind the figures at the real life experiences of passengers on the network.
Crowding and punctuality may have improved on paper on average, but there are still real problems in these areas on some lines, not to mention other issues such as service cancellations, late and infrequent buses, tram crowding and lack of on-road priority, poor connections, lack of real-time information, dirt and graffiti, late starts on Sundays, disruptions due to equipment and other faults… the list goes on.
There is some good news of course. Cancellations due to track buckling and aircon failures have reduced markedly, and some lines now have more frequent, less crowded services.
But to pat yourself on the back (and I’m not even sure what the point was) just seems a little bit out of touch with reality, and with public perception.
*The Hansard in this blog post is the proof version — I’ll verify/correct it when the final Hansard is published.
Continuing my series of posting ten-year-old photos, I was struck by the fact that many of the photos from April 2004 show some things have changed very little.
Traffic in Collins Street, creeping into the tram lanes. Just recently more visible dividers have been added… I suspect they help, but don’t completely prevent cars on the tracks.
Spirit of Tasmania, seen from South Melbourne Beach. Looking closely, it might be Spirit of Tasmania II. According to Wikipedia, it seems both I and II were built in 1998, and originally served connecting Greece with Italy, though it seems II was involved in a fatal accident in 1999, some years before being brought to Australia.
Interior of a Hitachi train — odds on it’s one of those scrapped in the mid-2000s, as only about 7 are still around (and not in service at present). Obviously this wasn’t a busy service — the timestamp says it was 9:14am on Wednesday 14th April 2004.
Just a little tip — because it seems a lot of people don’t know this:
For metropolitan services, you can touch-on a Myki and travel with any balance which is non-negative, that is, zero or above.
It doesn’t matter if the card balance is less than the fare.
This means if you find yourself needing to catch a tram, with only tiny amount on your card, and nowhere to top-up (thanks to the retrograde step of removing ticket machines from trams) or a long queue, then you can still take one trip and top-up later.
(I touched-off to show how it works. You don’t normally need to touch-off trams.)
Your next touch will send the balance into negative.
You can’t touch-on again (even if you didn’t touch-off) until the balance is brought back above zero.
With a negative balance, you can’t use the remainder of the fare that started when you touched-on, because you haven’t paid for it yet.
And the rules are a bit different for V/Line, where you do need to have funds to cover your trip.
Those gotchas aside, this is useful when you find yourself without the fare you need, and nowhere convenient to top-up — as long as the card balance is zero or above.
By the way, Auto Top-up is pretty neat. A lot about Myki is stuffed, but after some false starts (particularly the one about killing the card if the payment is rejected – WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!) Auto Top-up is one of the things about it that actually works okay.
Update 7pm: The legalities
Following some feedback on this post, I checked back with the Fares and Ticketing Manual to confirm my recollection was correct — which it is:
Minimum requirements for travel
Travel in one or two zones
In order to touch on and commence travel, customers travelling in only one or two zones must have on their myki a myki money balance of at least $0.00.
If a customer’s myki has a valid myki pass or other valid product and a negative myki money balance, the myki is not valid for travel or entry to designated areas in zones for which the myki pass or other product is valid until the myki money balance has been topped up to at least $0.00.
– Fares and Ticketing Manual, Page 55
The Manual is gazetted, so it is a legal document.
What’s interesting however is that the Transport (Ticketing) Regulations appear to contradict this:
A person who is travelling in a passenger vehicle must have in his or her possession a ticket that is valid for the whole of the person’s travel in that passenger vehicle.
and specifically that you’re meant to make sure your ticket is valid for travel, which includes:
to have recorded on the myki sufficient value to pay for the whole of the travel
– Reg 12
Regulation 12 also lists defences to this include the usual taking all reasonable steps. So walking past a working ticket machine may not be defensible, but boarding at a tram stop with no top-up facility (and none nearby) presumably would be.
Still, consider yourself warned.