Photographing the moon

(No time to write a new blog post; scrabbled around and found a draft I never completed.)

There’s been a full moon again this week. It was very impressive last night. I didn’t snap it, but here’s a photo from last year when I was first dabbling with my (then new) DSLR camera:

The moon

It requires a bit of fiddling to get good photos of the moon. This page summarises what’s needed.

My first go isn’t bad, but doesn’t show the detail of professional shots. One of these days I’ll buy myself a better zoom lens and try it again.

Bourke/Spencer tram stop not fit for purpose

If ever you want to see what the priorities really are, look at the resources they’re given.

At this tram stop — Bourke/Spencer Street westbound — the few in cars have clearly been prioritised over the many in trams. While passengers are squashed into a narrow pathway, motor vehicles (if any turn up) are given two spacious lanes.

Bourke St/Spencer St tram stop

Who on earth designed this tram stop? And who approved the design?

It opened in 2007, with Yarra Trams (under its previous operating company) saying at the time:

The new platform stops comply with Disability Discrimination Act requirements and include ramps for wheelchair and pram access, as well as passenger shelters, lighting and real-time tram information.

“We want to ensure that reliable, accessible and sustainable transport options are available across Melbourne”

That said I expect it would have been a collaboration between the tram company, the Department, VicRoads and the City of Melbourne.

Bourke St/Spencer St tram stop

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s clear the stop isn’t fit for purpose. Yet they knew it would be a busy stop, because it’s been designed to be two full tram lengths wide. (Connect two of Melbourne’s busiest tram lines with a huge busy station serving almost every suburban line, all the regional trains and coaches, and the Skybus — of course it was going to be busy!)

The width of the platform isn’t ideal, but the real problem is the main exit ramp, towards Southern Cross station, as well as the sequencing of the traffic lights.

As you can see from the video below, crowds coming off trams get caught on the ramp. This clears so slowly that often not all the people can exit during the green phase of the traffic lights.

Once people have crossed the road to leave the stop, the majority of them have to wait for another green phase to cross Spencer Street to enter the station.

If you sit through the entire clip (yes it’s a bit monotonous; that’s what alighting tram passengers get every day) you’ll see numerous people are tempted by the design to jaywalk.

Or jump to 3:30, where you’ll see a large number of people walk across against the light. A few seconds late you’ll see some people try to cross parallel with the westbound green phase, risking being hit by turning cars.

It’s not the only super stop with these types of problems. But clearly in this case design is flawed.

A wider platform (at the expense of a car lane) would help. So would better traffic light sequencing — perhaps a pedestrian scramble so people get a green sequence to cross directly into the station.

With the trams getting ever busier, it can’t stay the way it is.

Sydney day 4, and wrap-up

Backdated. Posted 17/11/2014.

Day 4 — Sunday

Not much to report. Breakfast at Darlinghurst’s Jekyll & Hyde — which was a bit meh. M’s order came with unwanted eggs, which I adopted. Afterwards I realised it was one of the breakfast places I’d ruled out because some of its Urbanspoon reviews didn’t sound that great (though it had a respectable score of 89). I’d happily go back to The Bunker or The Royal, but not this one.

After that, packed up, got a taxi to the airport (M had a Cabcharge). The traffic was okay, though going the other way it was jammed up due to a crash.

Got to the airport in plenty of time. Checked-in the night before online, and used a boarding pass on my phone for the first time. Flight and Skybus/train back was uneventful (though I must remember to walk to the Qantas Skybus stop in future to save time) — back home by mid-afternoon Sunday.

Loading our plane home, Sydney airport

Virgin boarding pass on mobile phone

Short holidays

Long-term blog readers would know I’ve taken a few short 4-5 day breaks over the years. I quite like that style of holiday.

You’re not going to see everything, but you’ll get a good taste of a place without having to organise things like laundry.

I like having a few things planned each day, but nothing absolutely essential, and the flexibility to change things around — add stuff if you find there’s extra time, skip things if it feels rushed.

I’m also a fan of the centrally located hotel. It’s good to have a base that’s close to the action, making it easy to stop back past there during the day if desired. Walking distance to a supermarket and cafes/restaurants is also a great thing for breakfast and dinner. Hotel breakfasts are often an option, but generally quite expensive compared to a local cafe.

In our case, this time the hotel wasn’t right in the CBD ($$$), but a very short walk from a nearby railway station that has frequent services — every 10-15 minutes every day until midnight — and as often as every 3 minutes in peak hour.

The transport system

Which brings me to some random thoughts on Sydney’s public transport system, which we used fairly extensively while visiting. (See here for the blog post all about the Opal card.)

The trains have impressive capacity. They never seemed too crowded, though our use was mostly outside peak hour, and I did see other trains passing that looked pretty packed. (It’s unclear if double-deck trains overall can carry more people, due to generally slower dwell times — see this ABC Fact Check article).

The rail network as a whole seems very staff-heavy compared to Melbourne. Guards on trains, and on one platform at Central in peak hour I counted about a dozen staff… to assist with boarding?

It’s a shame the City Circle direction isn’t shown on train maps. That would have saved me some time.

The buses are extensive, and at least in the inner-city, are impressively frequent. But as noted, they often duplicate train routes, and at key locations such as Bondi Beach, are clearly inadequate for the task they’re given.

The ferries were a lot of fun, and quite practical given the geography (the same reason they don’t really suit Melbourne) though I suspect some routes are much more economically viable than others.

333 buses following each other, Paddington, Sydney

The new(ish) numbering of all modes and routes is interesting, and makes it much clearer when trying to remember which route you have to take, rather than memorising a lengthy line name (eg line T4, rather than the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line). At present there’s still a fair bit of confusion with inconsistent signage though. And it does result in some slightly confusing overlaps with F being used for ferries and freeways, and T being used for trains and airport terminals. It’s all about context I suppose, though a sign mentioning T1 and T3 at the airport that appeared to be pointing down to the trains threw me momentarily.

Airport rail is terrifically convenient, thanks to it being fast and frequent. It’s expensive given the surcharge, but even at that near-exhorbitant price, I’d rather have it than not. Being able to get to a major destination such as the airport without being at the mercy of traffic is a godsend.

The monorail is gone. I used to ride it as a visitor, but honestly, can’t say I miss it, and nor do I suspect does most of Sydney.

In conclusion

I really enjoyed Sydney… again. Can’t wait to go back!

Where’s my phone? (New levels of dopiness)

Need to leave. Where’s my phone?

Not on the counter. Not on my bedside table. Not on the desk. Not on the kitchen table. Not on the dresser. Not on the couch.

Look again in all those places. Not found.

Really need to go.

Reach for home phone. Dial mobile number. It rings.

It’s in my pocket. Oh man. Not good.

* * *

Later…

Oh. My mobile says a missed call. From a private number.

No voicemail was left. Why do these people not leave a voicemail so I can ring them back?

Oh, wait…

It was me.