Glenhuntly level crossing and the vanishing petition

Liberal Caulfield MP David Southwick has a campaign running to get the Glen Huntly level crossing grade separated. I somewhat cringe at the “Blame Labor” rhetoric, but the rest of it I agree with completely.

A 2014 report by VicRoads found the Glen Huntly Rd level crossing to be of the highest priority for removal with boom gates expected to drop for 82 per cent of the morning peak between 7am and 9am within seven years, rendering the crossing virtually impassable. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing is also traversed by trams on route 67 between Melbourne University and Carnegie that are also subjected to significant delays. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing needs to be removed for safety and to prevent gridlock.

Remove Glen Huntly Road Level Crossing from David Southwick on Vimeo.

I lived in the area for 8 years, and know only too well that the train/tram crossing causes suburban and freight trains to slow to a crawl, delaying pedestrians, trams, cyclists, buses (on nearby Neerim Road), ambulances (there’s an ambulance station further west on Glen Huntly Road) — as well as train passengers both trying to get in and out of the station, and on the trains themselves. Even express trains have to slow down to 20 km/h.

So I went to sign the petition… onto David Southwick’s web site:
David Southwick web site: Glenhuntly level crossing petition

At the bottom it says: Sign the petition here:

But clicking through, what do we find?

It’s the Liberals’ anti-Skyrail web site:
Double Crossed web site, February 2016

That’s not what I want to support. I want to support removing the Glen Huntly level crossing.

Indeed, thanks to the reclaimed swampland in the area, it’s possible that the only practical way of doing it might be to use elevated “Skyrail”.

So what’s happened here?

It seems when David launched his campaign, the initial Double Crossed web site was indeed a petition in support of more level crossing removals:
Double Crossed web site, mid-2015

Early this year when it was revealed the government planned the Caulfield to Dandenong crossings to be elevated, the Libs changed tack and the Double Crossed web site became the “anti high rise rail” petition you see today.

But nobody updated David Southwick’s links. And I wonder how many other Liberal MPs have similar campaigns now inadvertently linking to anti-Skyrail petitions?

Perhaps not many. The only one I could find was Christine Fyfe (MP for Evelyn): “Sign the petition if you want your local level crossing removed – instead of a broken promise.”

Other Liberals have links to it, but they are clearly about Skyrail.

So where do I sign in support of removing the Glenhuntly crossing, but keeping a neutral stance on Skyrail? Perhaps I’ll need to go into his office to sign.

Blog template

After the mess of the last attempt, and noting the large number of people reading on mobile devices (phones 39%, tablet 10%), I’ve switched to a plain but hopefully more mobile-friendly blog template.

Here is a photo of some people doing geeky things to test the pictures.

Computers at Pax

I’ll probably do some tweaking, but any feedback on how it looks (particularly on phones and tablets) is very welcome!

Update: Testing a photo from Flickr:

Melbourne city, viewed from Regional Rail Link near Tarneit

11/2/2016: The ads aren’t really in good spots on mobile — this requires some customisation. But most of the other mobile layout looks pretty good.

14/2/2016: Via a child theme and a plugin, I’ve enabled numbering on the comments. This was nowhere near as straightforward as I thought it would be. The instructions for creating the child theme in particular to keep the modifications separate from the parent theme were particularly geeky, but it seems to have worked.

The need for speed part 1: Internet uploads

Not to pre-empt anything, but this year I expect to have two film and television students in the house.

For this, I’m considering upgrading my Internet.

We’re currently on iiNet Naked ADSL2+ costing $69.99 per month (for 1000 Gb of data, of which, to my surprise, we’re using about a quarter). Actually I’m paying an additional $10 for VOIP, but I’m planning to ditch it because we rarely use it, and it seems quite unreliable — the handset frequently can’t get a signal. I don’t know precisely where the problem is, but given everyone in the house has a mobile phone, it seems an unnecessary cost.

Why upgrade the Internet? Well one of the things the boys have highlighted is the relatively slow upload speeds.

This is important for film students, because these days everything is digital, and moving big video files around quickly is important.

Computers at PAX 2014

Current speeds

Our download speeds are okay. Our upload speeds… aren’t.

Using the iiNet broadband test:

  • Latency 12ms
  • Jitter 3ms
  • Download 7.63 Mbps
  • Upload 0.68 Mbps

Using the Department of Communications My Broadband test:

  • Latency 15ms
  • Jitter 0ms
  • Download 7.54 Mbps
  • Upload 0.53 Mbps

This isn’t good. By my calculations it means that a 50 Mb file (which is not that big by modern video standards) would take 12 minutes, and that’s assuming no other bottlenecks.

A 500 Mb file would take over two hours.

Theoretical speeds

This explainer web page from Optus compares theoretical speeds, and notes that the limit of ADSL2+ upload is 820 Kbps (eg 0.82 Mbps).

The ADSL upload speed is so slow that when Isaac wants to send a big file to Dropbox (or whatever), it’s often quicker to go into campus (about an hour’s trip away) and do it there, then come home again. I suppose it gets him out of the house, but it’s not brilliant, is it.

It’s not just study. He’s starting to do post-production work as a part-time job. This is the kind of agile digital economy PM Turnbull often drones on about.

Cable internet is faster; around 3 times faster for uploads. DOCSIS theoretically allows faster upload, but queries from customers were answered in a vague way by Telstra. The speculation is the Telstra and Optus cable internet networks are set up for cable TV, which are pretty much all download.

If only we had some kind of universal super-fast internet service providing a future-proof fibre connection to everywhere. Some kind of Network of Broadband right across the Nation.

Well, I checked. NBN (especially proper NBN, fibre-to-the-premise/home, but even fibre-to-the-node) would be great, and would improve upload speeds by up to 50 times, but isn’t getting to my area anytime soon.

So what are the options?

Given their enlightened social media operative Dan, I’d be more than pleased to sign up for Optus Cable… if they serve my street. This is confusing as their web site variously says Yes or No depending on how I enter the address. I suppose I’m going to have to ring them up.

Also notable: complaints about speed from local Optus cable users.

Telstra cable does serve my street. Theoretically may get me about a threefold increase in upload speeds (around 2.4 Mbps), for $95/month for 500 Gb or $115/month for 1000 Gb — and appears to include a home phone service.

Importantly, with cable there are no guarantees about speed — it depends on network congestion.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. Assuming I don’t want to pay a heap of money for a fibre connection myself, are there any other options?

Update 22/3/2016:

I finally made the switch, to Optus Cable. Comparing the My Broadband test old and new results:

Old: Latency 15ms / Jitter 0 ms / Download 7.54 Mbps / Upload 0.53 Mbps

New (at lunchtime): Latency 1 ms / Jitter 12 ms / Download 27.61 Mbps / Upload 1.96 Mbps.

New (at 6:15pm): Latency 78ms / Jitter 24 ms / Download 19.80 Mbps / Upload 1.29 Mbps. So download and upload speeds have both increased by about 3-4 times.

Some blog stats for 2015

Here are a few blog stats from 2015…

Posts: 166 — more than I thought, but I suppose there’s been a post every few days.

Comments: 1,692

Top ten commenters:

  • Daniel 176 (seems I still like commenting on my own posts)
  • Roger 132
  • TranzitJim 69
  • Llib 52
  • David Stosser 48
  • Andrew 47
  • enno 45
  • John of Melbourne 44
  • Tom the first and best 44
  • Kiwi Nick 41

The following are from Google Analytics…

Google Analytics graphs

Across the year: 470,650 page views / 347,223 sessions

Per day that’s an average of 1289 page views per day, up from 986 the year before. More than I’d expect.

Busiest day of 2015 was March 24th: 13,754 sessions (15,123 page views), with 11,000 of them coming from Social Media — and almost as high for each of the following two days. It appears I got a lot of hits from Facebook that day onto the Hidden message in train seats post… I assume the post got linked from somewhere popular. (It currently has 1100 Likes in Facebook)

English language users: 95.71%

Countries: Australia 86.12%, USA 3.88%, UK 2.21%

Cities: Melbourne 68.23%, Sydney 8.60%, Brisbane 2.92%, followed by Perth, Adelaide, London, Canberra


  • Chrome 42.75%
  • Safari 23.73%
  • Safari (in-app) 11.26%
  • Firefox 10.72%
  • Internet Explorer 7.34%

Operating Systems:

  • Windows 37.91%
  • iOS 30.29%
  • Android 17.15%
  • Mac/OSX 12.16%
  • Linux 1.15%

— that seems to indicate a huge number of users on mobile, which reminds me that I need to fix the quirks in my small screen blog template.

In fact, Google Analytics also tells me that desktop is 51.14%, mobile is 38.85%, tablet is 10.01%.

Most popular pages (apart from home page): Hidden message in train seats 10.82%, Identity card options 2.48%, How much power a kettle uses 1.89%. Some of these old pages seem to live on via Google.

The most popular 2015 posts were the one with detail on the Bentleigh area grade separations 1.32% (6,226 page views) and the one with detail about the next generation High Capacity Metro Trains 1.01% (4,776 page views) and the updated list of current Melbourne train types 0.84% (3,962 page views).

Search engine referrals:

  • myki top up 33,687
  • melbourne train map 32,827
  • daniel bowen 14,092
  • flagstaff station 6,412
  • melbourne free tram zone 6,329
  • keypass 5,844
  • melbourne airport to city 4,897
  • free tram zone melbourne 4,156
  • proof of age card vic 3,576
  • top up myki 3,501

Social media referrals:

  • Facebook 44,831
  • Twitter 33,649
  • Reddit 18,919
  • Blogger 740
  • Google+ 84

— wow, this really says something about the relative use of Google+, doesn’t it… though of course it’d be higher if I posted links there more often.

I’d love to pull some stats on which categorie(s) of posts are the most popular, but attempts to work that out via the number of comments in each post category had me baffled — WordPress has changed the database design around to make it quite difficult. I’ll keep researching. Certainly in terms of page views, the transport-related posts dominated, but they seem to be most of my posts these days…

What other metrics are worth noting?

Bye bye home phone, hello VOIP

I finally got around to replacing my home fixed line phone with VOIP. I took the easy route of sticking with my ISP, Netspace/iiNet.

Previously each month I’d been paying $59.95 for ADSL2+ broadband, plus for the home phone $22.95 rental, plus $6 for caller ID, plus $2.93 for an unlisted number.

Local calls were costing me 30 cents, but because I only make at most perhaps about a dozen a month, a grand total for net+phone of around $95 per month. With all the phone costs included, each call was costing me about $3. (Some of them can be quite lengthy, which is why I decided not to abandon any form of home phone completely.)

Switching to the equivalent Naked (eg without a home phone) ADSL plan, with VOIP (which doesn’t count towards the plan quota, and includes free local and national calls) is costing me $59.95 per month. On top of that I’ve decided to rent (rather than buy) a BoB2 combined VOIP-capable modem and VOIP phone for an extra $9.95 (on a two year contract — I’ve checked; we won’t get the NBN in that time).

So I’m at $69.90 per month with most calls included — saving about $25 per month.

The changeover

One thing that scared me about doing the change were the warnings that it would take 10-20 days, and that I would be without Internet during this time. As an extremely wired, internet-addicted person (and indeed family), this terrified me, and I ended up timing it for the January school holidays when the kids were away. (I figured I could find ways around it on my own, like using my mobile, though I’d need to take it easy to avoid high fees.)

This turned out to be a furphy. The text might imply you’ll be without Internet for the full switch period, but in fact once I’d signed-up, an email I received said that in fact it would be out for only up to one day.

If I’d known that I would have done it a lot sooner. In fact any outage was barely noticeable — it probably happened in the middle of the day when we were all out.

I think they’ve severely undersold how easy it is to switch.

The catches of VOIP

There are catches of course.

The BoB2 wasn’t quite plug-in and go, as advertised… it seemed to have picked-up the wrong logon info from somewhere; possibly an issue with migrating off an existing account. Easily solved.

I had ummed and ahhed over keeping my old phone number or switching to a new one. In the end I placed the order requesting to keep the old one, but when it was provisioned, they’d actually allocated a new one. I don’t mind — I almost chose it that way — so I won’t bother to get it changed back, though there’s a few people I’ll need to notify.

By ordering VOIP you have to waive your rights under the telephone service Customer Service Guarantee. Basically that means if it doesn’t work, you don’t have much recourse. That’s OK for us — we barely use the home phone anyway; the mobile is much more important, so this is really just a backup (and cheaper option for local calls).

Some complain about VOIP call quality — in the calls I’ve made so far, it’s been okay for me. I haven’t yet tried it with a lot of network traffic going on. Theoretically QOS should ensure it’s okay, but it’ll be interesting to see how well that works in practice.

They note that calls to 13 numbers don’t necessarily go to a local branch of the company you’re ringing, unlike those made from conventional fixed lines.

They also warn about not keeping it as the only phone in the house, in the event of emergencies. Fair enough, we have mobiles for that. And you can’t dial 190X premium numbers at all. (No loss!)

Finally, although you get free national calls to fixed lines, it’s worth being aware that this excludes 1300 and 13 numbers, which are listed at 30 cents each, untimed. What I’ve also found is that some other types of calls cost — I used the 1194 Time service a couple of times to check voice quality without ringing a human. Turns out these cost 35 cents a pop, despite not being listed on the call rates list. Odd.


So far I’m happy, and saving a big heapa money. I wish I’d switched ages ago.