The new rail map is finally coming

Below you can see the current rail network map. As maps go, it’s pretty useless, because it tells you where the tracks go, but not where the trains go.

Looking at it, you might assume that trains run from Sunbury to Upfield — but you’d be wrong, of course. (The latest version does at least have Wyndham Vale and Tarneit added.)

PTV Metro train map, 2013

Back when there were three zones in Melbourne, and you had to buy your ticket in advance to cover the zone(s) you wanted, it might have made sense to emphasise this at the expense of route information, but with changes meaning most trips are a flat fare, zones are much less useful now.

You’d recall that during 2014 there were several drafts of a new rail map.

It’s a huge improvement, because it does a much better job at showing where the trains actually run.

PTV rail map concept design, October 2014 (cropped)
(Click to see it larger, and uncropped)

But apart from a handful of locations which got them temporarily for the purpose of soliciting comments, it’s never been rolled out.

It’s expensive to do that of course… to replace every single map on every single station and every carriage…

And yet, they’ve managed to replace all the signs on the trains about Authorised Officers. See, they have the new name of the government department that oversees them, the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure:

Melbourne train, authorised officer notice

So why not distribute the new map?

Possibly they were waiting on other developments: the opening of new stations such as Caroline Springs (coming in January), the timetable changes that were to reduce variations in operating patterns (originally planned for 2015 when Regional Rail Link opened, but postponed), and even a proposal to colour-code platforms at big stations such as Flinders Street.

It’s unclear how the latter points are progressing, but there’s good news. I’m told the new map starts rolling out in January.

It’s no doubt had tweaks since we last saw it in 2014, but it really will be a vast improvement, and it’ll be great to see it replace the old one.

Public transport fares rise in January (The things I couldn’t fit into The Age article)

Another comment piece in The Age:

Myki fare hikes favour some users, punish others and increasingly encourage driving

Yes, fares are jumping by about 4% in January.

This is a CPI plus 2.5% (eg 3.9%) rise that was devised by the Coalition in their December 2013 budget update, and delivered by Labor. So a big thank you to both sides for that.

There are numerous things I couldn’t fit into the Age piece.

Firstly, there is some good news:

  • 4 year-olds won’t have to pay a fare anymore, bringing Victoria into line with other states, and ending an anomaly where kinder kids couldn’t get a Student Pass, with those travelling every day paying more (standard concession fares) than Primary and Secondary school students (Student Pass). This was the subject of a PT Not Traffic campaign earlier this year.
  • Concessions will also be granted automatically to 17 and 18 year-olds, meaning apprentices and others who have left school can continue to get concessions. It sounds like it’ll also mean an end to high school students having to get forms filled in just to get concession fares… however the PTV page does say they’ll need another form of government ID proving they are under 19 — and it sounds like a school ID won’t cut it.
  • The weekend cap remains at $6 for adults, and is dropping to $3 for concessions.

Myki billboard advertising, February 2014

And it’s also worth looking at the government propaganda:

This claim: Public transport fares continue to represent good value, with Zone 1 myki money users paying $4.10 for a 2 hour fare. This represents a fare increase of just 30 cents in five years, when compared to the same Metcard fare in 2011. — That’s comparing apples and oranges. The Myki fare is a prepaid bulk fare. It was $3.02 in 2011, so from January it will have gone up $1.08, or 36%.

They also claim that Melbourne’s daily fare compares favourably with Sydney’s $15 daily cap. The problem with this is most regular Sydney commuters don’t get anywhere near spending $15 a day. For instance from Hurstville to Sydney Central (15km) costs $4.20 each way on Opal in peak (but only $2.94 off-peak).

It’s actually quite difficult to directly compare fares. Overall, Melbourne is cheap for long distance journeys, but expensive for short distances (10km and less) that aren’t covered by the Free Tram Zone.

The Free Tram Zone debate

In theory the rise is 3.9%, but in practice the most popular fares are jumping about 5%. The standard two-hour fare will go from $3.90 to $4.10 — a daily is twice that amount. One reason supposedly cited was rounding. But nobody can pay cash for these fares, so that doesn’t make sense.

Quite rightly, regional fares aren’t being rounded in this way. For instance a Geelong to Melbourne off-peak fare next year will be $8.82.

Oh yeah, don’t get fares and tickets confused. Despite my use of Myki imagery on this blog post, they are at arms length. While fares policy is influenced by what is possible in the ticket system, much of the fares regime we have now was brought over from Metcard, and in turn inherited from the paper tickets of the 1980s.

If you travel 5+ times per week, one of the best ways to beat price rises is to load up with Myki Passes before January 1st. The ultimate is to buy a Commuter Club discounted yearly. Unfortunately the deadline has passed if you wanted the 2016 price — it’s best organised in November. But it’s still good value compared to paying every month, provided you can afford the up-front cost.

Anyway, go read the article!

Why is this road rule never enforced?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I see a lot of motorists blocking intersections, including pedestrian crossings.

Here’s road regulation 128:

Entering blocked intersections

A driver must not enter an intersection if the driver cannot drive through the intersection because the intersection, or a road beyond the intersection, is blocked.

Penalty: 3 penalty units.

At the time of writing, a penalty unit is $155.46, so this is a fine of $466.

A separate regulation, 59, talks about where vehicles coming to a red light must stop:

(1) If traffic lights at an intersection or marked foot crossing are showing a red traffic light, a driver must not enter the intersection or marked foot crossing.

Penalty: In the case of a natural person, 10 penalty units; In the case of a body corporate, 120 penalty units.

(A similar rule applies to entering the “bicycle storage area”.)

So, the rules are pretty clear.

But it happens all the time in the city centre, and there’s no visible policing of it.

Little Bourke/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Latrobe/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Flinders/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Spencer Street - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Of course, in a lot of cases, the errant vehicle(s) will end up blocking other traffic, including private vehicles, freight and public transport.

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Note: The above instances are all from the last fortnight.

You would think that in the city centre, drivers would be more conscious of not blocking intersections, since the chances of traffic congestion are much higher.

You’d also think that given the huge number of pedestrians (the area is dominated by public transport and pedestrians, far exceeding motorists), authorities would put more care into ensuring that vehicles don’t encroach on pedestrian space, for safety if nothing else.

Nope. No visible enforcement. Not even — as many of these photos are — in the middle of the legal precinct.

In contrast, police “blitzes” on pedestrians are very very common — yesterday morning they were busy doing it in at least two locations in the CBD alone.

Even while police are on the scene practicing traffic direction or watching for jaywalkers, they ignore vehicles blocking crossings.

Along with motorcycles parking in pedestrian spaces, and advertising and vehicles blocking footpaths, this is one of my pet hates. And the common theme is that pedestrian space is being constantly encroached upon, and almost nobody cares.

And how is it that the excesses of people in their metal boxes are condoned, while those walking around on their own two feet are marginalised?

Ripponlea heritage: Brinsmead’s Pharmacy

I’m not sure if it’s new, but I noticed the other day that the old Brinsmead’s Pharmacy in Ripponlea now has a plaque marking its significance.

Plaque for Brinsmead's Pharmacy, Ripponlea

When I was a kid, this was still a chemist. Its survival as a chemist for so long, over sixty years, probably helped the original features stay intact.

Former Brinsmead's Pharmacy, Ripponlea

Nowadays it’s a florist, but still gorgeous inside.

Former Brinsmead's Pharmacy, Ripponlea

Apart from the period features of the shop itself, the sign painted on the eastern wall (facing a laneway) is also notable.

Ripponlea, sign for Kodak film on the side of old chemist

Despite all-night trains, SoCross Station opens late on Sundays

The Night Network trial, in particular running the trains all night on weekends, isn’t perfect, but has solved a lot of problems.

  • No “last train” that revellers have to rush for
  • No long wait until dawn if you miss the last train (this was said to be an issue contributing to CBD night time violence)
  • Shift workers can get to and from work on Friday and Saturday nights
  • Relieving the load on taxis, meaning an alternative to the long queues
  • The hopelessly late 8am start (first city arrivals) for trains isn’t so much of a problem anymore – you can get to events like fun runs much more easily

But there’s one problem it hasn’t solved: connections to Sunday morning V/Line services.

Take for example the 7:05am from Southern Cross to Seymour and Albury. Before Night Network, you couldn’t catch a Metro train to connect with this service — the first trains arrived about an hour later.

This problem isn’t fixed. Why? Because Southern Cross Station doesn’t open for suburban passengers on Sunday morning until after 7:30am.

The Metro suburban trains run all night, but they don’t stop there.

Southern Cross Station - no Night Trains here

What exactly are Southern Cross Station’s opening hours?

SCS is a privately run station. The contracts are here, but all I could find with regard to operating hours is that they are set by the Southern Cross Station Authority… not what they actually are.

The SCS web site doesn’t have useful information like opening hours. But it does promote their latest parking special offer (!). Supposedly their Lost Property office is open from 6am.

The PTV web site has a detailed page about the station and its facilities and services… but also doesn’t specify opening hours. Ditto the Metro page. V/Line reckons 6am, but as we’ll see, trains don’t stop there that early.

Obviously at least some platforms must open by the time the first trains are due to depart.

What time are the first Sunday morning trains from Southern Cross?

First V/Line Sunday trains out from Southern Cross:

  • Seymour/Albury 7:05
  • Geelong 7:50
  • Traralgon 8:04
  • Ballarat 8:15
  • NSW Trainlink to Sydney 8:30
  • Bendigo 8:36

(From January there will also be a 7am train to Warrnambool.)

There are also morning coaches to Halls Gap at 8:15 and to Nhill/Horsham at 8:15, from the coach terminal, which is also where Night Coach services depart at 2am to regional destinations. (You can’t connect to those via Metro train either.)

Southern Cross Station - Night Coaches sign

First Sunday morning Metro trains to stop at Southern Cross

These times haven’t changed with Night Network. From 1am until these times, suburban trains run direct into Flinders Street, and those lines that do run via Southern Cross all night (Werribee, Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield) don’t stop there.

  • Belgrave/Lilydale/Alamein 7:39
  • Sunbury 7:42
  • Werribee/Williamstown 7:50
  • South Morang 7:51
  • Frankston 7:52
  • Upfield 8:06
  • Sandringham 8:05
  • Craigieburn 8:15
  • Hurstbridge 8:01
  • Cranbourne/Pakenham 8:02
  • Glen Waverley 8:02

Journey planner confusion

The PTV Journey Planner appears to want at least a 15 minute connection to V/Line services, so if you ask it to plot out a journey from Sandringham to Ballarat on a Sunday morning, it tells you to catch a 7am train from Sandringham, arriving 7:30 at Flinders Street, then catch another Metro train to Footscray arriving at 7:50, and change there for your Ballarat train at 8:23.

In contrast Google Maps says you can catch the 7:30 train from Sandringham, getting to Southern Cross at 8:05, changing to the same Ballarat train leaving there at 8:15. You just saved 30 minutes and one change of train by using Google instead of PTV.

That’s just one example. If you wanted to catch the first train to Geelong (7:50) there are similar challenges coming from most of the Metro lines.

Southern Cross Station - Night Network promo

Other alternatives

If you’re trying to get to Southern Cross but your Metro train skips it, you have to change services somewhere else, and either walk or catch a Night Bus or Night Tram through the CBD to make the connection.

The most obvious connection point would be Flinders Street, but none of the Night Trams connect from there to Southern Cross. (That’s the same in daytime too, but obviously there are lots of trains for that trip during the day, so it’s easy.)

You can use the 941, 942 or 952 Night Buses from Flinders Street to Southern Cross Coach terminal (about a block from the Bourke Street entrance for trains).

What about… opening Southern Cross earlier?

It’s astounding that as part of Night Network, they organised to run the entire electric Metropolitan train network all night… except for Southern Cross, the second busiest station on the network.

Could it be the private operator wanted a fortune to open it all night? Is this yet another warning sign that PPPs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be?

Or did the government just not get a contract variation organised in time for the trial to begin at the start of 2016?

Note the City Loop underground stations (run by Metro) are also closed during all-night service.

Perhaps it makes sense to funnel all-night travellers into Flinders Street, to centralise things like security and customer service.

But at the very least, trains should stop a little earlier at Southern Cross on Sundays to make connections to V/Line, and access to Docklands and the western end of the CBD easier.

Even if it’s too hard to divert direct trains from the southeast/east/northeast through the station, the north/western lines already running through Southern Cross should stop there after 6am, when supposedly the station is open.

  • From Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:48, 7:29. To Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:12, 7:10
  • From Sunbury approx 6:13, 6:58. To Sunbury approx 6:42
  • From Craigieburn approx 6:25, 7:20am. To Craigieburn approx 6:28, 7:23
  • From Upfield approx 6:45. To Upfield approx 6:57

I really hope Night Network is made permanent, but it does need tweaks to make it more financially sustainable (more about this later), and more useful for passengers.