Frankston line: the big dig

So this is what it looks like when hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure gets built rapidly in your neighbourhood.

Here are some photos and video of the first week of major works on the Bentleigh/Mckinnon/Ormond level crossings.

(Click any photo to view it larger at Flickr — or click here to view the entire album of photos as a slideshow.)

The end result will be three stations below road level, but first all the dirt has to be dug out.

150 (double) dump trucks are doing an hourly circuit between the work sites and a quarry in Dingley, taking away the dirt. Here a queue of trucks on the north side of Ormond station.
Ormond station, 28/6/2016

The view on the south side of North Road, digging out the rail line between Ormond and Mckinnon.
Ormond station, 28/6/2016

Loading up trucks between Ormond and Mckinnon.
South of Ormond station, 28/6/2016

Some people want a crossing at Murray Road, midway between Ormond and Mckinnon. For now, there is one, for loading up more trucks. This is smack bang in the middle of a residential area. Accommodation has been offered to those most affected by the works.
Murray Road, 28/6/2016

Temporary traffic lights are up at the end of Murray Road, to stop traffic so trucks can turn onto Jasper Road. Gotta keep the trucks moving.
Temporary traffic lights at Murray Road/Jasper Road, 28/6/2016

The hole in the ground formerly known as Mckinnon station, on the north side of the road.
Mckinnon station works, 28/6/2016

No shortage of interest from the locals, and from what I hear, many visitors from elsewhere around Melbourne are coming to have a look.
Onlookers watch the Mckinnon station works, 28/6/2016

Some shops have been affected so badly by the works that they’ve virtually given up.
Mckinnon shop, 28/6/2016

The view from near Mckinnon, looking south down Nicholson Street towards Bentleigh.
Nicholson Street, Mckinnon, looking south 28/6/2016

Nicholson Street, parallel to the railway line, is currently One Way so trucks can enter from the north, be loaded up with dirt, then head south and then east down Centre Road. I wonder how the garbage is being collected? Wouldn’t the garbage trucks only have claws on the left hand side?
Bin day on Nicholson Street, 28/6/2016

At Bentleigh station.
Bentleigh station, 28/6/2016

Part of the deck at Bentleigh station was built after the third track closed and the old station was demolished.
Bentleigh station looking north, 28/6/2016

Bentleigh station, 28/6/2016

Traffic controllers stop westbound cars on Centre Road to allow the trucks (with their large turning circle) to turn out of Nicholson Street (north side) and Burgess Street (south side) to turn in and head towards the quarry.
Centre Road, Bentleigh, 28/6/2016

The trucks come through every few minutes on the truck routes. Here a convoy comes through Bentleigh shopping centre, where parking “adjustments” (eg restrictions) have been in place for about a week, as have traffic light modifications to help keep the trucks moving.
Trucks rolling through Bentleigh, 28/6/2016

Despite the noise and road closures, the workers are getting on well with the locals. This bloke was asking the lady about her garden.
Burgess Street, Bentleigh, 28/6/2016

Queuing dump trucks in Burgess Street, south of Bentleigh station. I think if I lived here, I’d have taken the accommodation offer.
Burgess Street, Bentleigh, 28/6/2016

Nice to see a Hitachi on the rails again. The view from Brewer Road, south of the three stations, looking north.
View from Brewer Road, looking north towards Bentleigh 28/6/2016

On Wednesday night there were plenty of onlookers at Bentleigh. Some parents bring their kids out for an evening walk in their pyjamas to have a look. Buses aren’t currently diverted, but some overnight road closures have occurred.
Bentleigh station, south side, 29/6/2016

Looking south from Bentleigh towards Patterson.
Bentleigh looking south, 29/6/2016

Looking north from Bentleigh, as yet another truck passes by.
Bentleigh station looking north, 29/6/2016

North side at Bentleigh, where the station will be.
Bentleigh station looking north, 29/6/2016

The trucks are having a noise impact along the routes to Dingley:

We cannot sleep with the constant noise of trucks during the night. They need to stop these trucks during the night or reroute to alternate roads on every second night so that we can at least get a decent nights sleep occasionally. One day I was sitting at the East Boundary Rd. / South Rd corner traffic lights and counted 28 trucks going in all directions during a minute duration. It is unbearable!K Hills

And inevitably, dirt and dust is getting everywhere. The project team has promised they’ll clean up the roads… I wonder if that extends to cleaning cars as well?
A dump truck passes parked cars in Bentleigh, 29/6/2016

But the good news is that progress has been significant. If all goes to schedule, most of the digging should be finished early next week.

Finally, for all the construction geeks and their kids who love watching this stuff on Youtube, here’s 90 seconds of digging… view it full screen at Youtube to see it in all its glory.

See also:

Use other footpath

Pedestrians — Use other footpath.

Haha just kidding, there IS no other footpath!

You’ll have to use the road or the (possibly wet boggy) grass.

Use other footpath. What other footpath?

Silver lining: it’s not a very busy road.

(Ward Street, Bentleigh. The footpath is blocked for building construction. Not many streets in this area have only one footpath, but a few do.)

Impact from road and rail shut downs

We survived! Ten days of bustitution is over… well, almost.

Just to be clear — because some of the information is either vague, misleading or missing:

  • The Frankston line is running again, including to Bentleigh station.
  • Bentleigh station will close for demolition and rebuilding in June.
  • But Mckinnon and Ormond stations are closed and demolished. There are still buses for them every 5 minutes in peak, 10 minutes daytime, 20 minutes evening. (Oddly they don’t stop at Glenhuntly or Patterson).
  • Mckinnon Road is closed today, but will re-open to road traffic tomorrow.
  • Centre Road re-opened at lunchtime on Monday, earlier than expected.

This ten days was the second major shut for the project. The third (and longest) begins in late June, for five weeks. Originally it was scheduled for January, but was brought forward in part because of work proceeding on other parts of the network.

Impact on business

During road and rail shut downs, naturally some areas need to be fenced-off for safety. In Mckinnon, to my surprise, some sections of footpath immediately to the east of the station were completely closed off, on both sides of the street. At least some of the properties there appear to be vacant, but I didn’t think it was all of them.

Footpath closure during level crossing removal works at Mckinnon

In Bentleigh, this real estate agent on the western side of the station was basically isolated. You can navigate a way into their office, but any passing trade would have fallen to zero.

Footpath closure during level crossing removal works at Bentleigh

Some businesses are at a dead end, but are doing okay – for instance at Bentleigh on the SE side, cafes like Noisette and Mama G’s seemed to have a reasonable amount of trade, in part thanks to construction workers on the project. But some local traders have said that — despite considerable efforts to promote them being open — they are at risk from going under due to lack of revenue during closures. Mad Flowers in Mckinnon claimed it was threatening their viability, and clearly the Paint Spot in Bentleigh is feeling the impact:

Paint Spot, Bentleigh - not enjoying the level crossing works closures

Given these are both reasonably busy shopping streets, this seems a little more serious than the complaints from traders when the Gardiner crossing was being removed — Burke Road has long been a traffic sewer, with few shoppers around.

Route buses

Bus routes 701 and 703 returned to their normal routes early. Potentially confusing? Not really — the alterations meant they missed some stops. It’s no big deal if they now serve them again.

Bentleigh bus stop 703

Route 626 returns on Tuesday morning when Mckinnon Road re-opens.

For this period, these three routes plus Night Bus 979 all diverted around the works zone. From what I’ve been told, none were able to pick up or drop off passengers in the diversion section — even where there are existing bus stops. This meant for instance that bus 626 didn’t serve any stops on Mckinnon Road between Jasper Road and Thomas Street, a distance of 1.6 km. For a local route serving, in part, people with limited mobility, that’s a long way to walk for a bus.

Rail bustitution

The replacement buses have gone about as well as can be expected. With my PTUA hat on, I’ve given a bunch of feedback to the organisers (including issues from further down the line than me), but clearly significant resources went into bus operations.

There were up to five staff at replacement stops such as Bentleigh, and far more at interchanges such as Caulfield. And around 80-100 buses were operating every peak. By contrast, Melbourne’s busiest tram route 96, which is about twice as long, operates with about 20 trams in peak.

Rail replacement buses at Caulfield during level crossing works

Rather than use the buses, some people migrated to other lines (including me, on one day). Some drove to Caulfield to use the paid parking ($4/day) there, delaying buses further.

Overall it wasn’t as slow as in January when North Road was closed, but trip times from Bentleigh to Caulfield (4 stops) were up to 15 minutes longer than by train.

Workable? Just about. But I would think most people were eagerly anticipating the train service getting back to normal. And few would be looking forward to the long five week shut down scheduled for June/July — most of which isn’t during school holidays.

Remembering of course that Ormond and Mckinnon station users are on buses (or seeking alternative routes) for the next four months.

Rail replacement buses at Caulfield during level crossing works

My conclusion from all of this: it’s really really difficult to replace busy train lines with buses, even when well planned, will lots of resources.

Buses as a mode are very good for some things, but there’s a huge difference in capacity compared to trains. You get to the point where there are so many buses flowing through the road system, they’re even delaying each other.

Particularly in an urban environment where a dedicated right of way and priority can’t be provided, and longer articulated buses aren’t available, they just can’t cope brilliantly with Frankston line-sized crowds.

Now consider this: the Dandenong line is about twice as busy.

Minimising closures

The issues for traders and for passengers are a reminder than anything that can be done to minimise rail and road closures is a big help to the community.

No wonder there is a push for “skyrail” on the Dandenong line. With far fewer rail shut downs needed, all the benefits of grade separation can be achieved, while markedly reducing impacts during construction.

Melbourne CBD traffic light ‘upgrade’ – pedestrians lose out again

Excuse the wobbly phone footage, but I spotted this a few days ago and thought it was worth noting. (You’ll miss little by muting the sound.)

This is the corner of Elizabeth Street and Little Collins Street in Central Melbourne, on the eastern side of the intersection.

We are looking south along Elizabeth Street. Cars come one-way from the left of the screen, heading west along Little Collins.

Many of these “Little” streets currently have no red/green man (“pedestrian lantern”) fitted, but there seems to be a program to fit them — I recall mention of it in the City of Melbourne Walking Plan.

It’s the timings I have a problem with:

  • 00:01 Green man and main traffic light green starts
  • 00:09 Red man starts flashing
  • 00:13 Red man stops flashing, stays lit
  • 00:28 Main traffic light goes yellow
  • 00:31 Main traffic light goes red

You only get 8 seconds to start crossing. There’s 15 seconds of the sequence that could be used to allow more pedestrians to cross, which isn’t used.

I can’t see any reason to time it like that. The red man flashing should be at the end of the main traffic green time.

Possibly it’s timed identically as the eastern side of Elizabeth Street in order to prioritise turning cars into Little Collins Street. This is a questionable use of sequence time given pedestrians should have priority over vehicles in the CBD, but it makes no sense to use identical timings on the western side of the street.

Little Collins St and Swanston St, Melbourne CBD

Also notable is that this section of Little Collins Street is closed to traffic for several hours a day over the busy lunchtime period. During that time there is almost no traffic coming out here at Elizabeth Street; only a vehicle that entered before the closure and parked would be here.

The end result is that for a majority of the time, the red man is lit for no good reason.

And assuming the green time for traffic hasn’t changed, the green time for pedestrians has dropped by about three-quarters.

The way this is at present it’s practically inviting people to jaywalk — as shown in the video.

The City of Melbourne and their traffic engineers really should know better.

Update 31/3/2016: I did contact the Council about this. Going past today, I notice the timings have been amended… it looks like the Green man is now there for about 25 seconds every cycle — a vast improvement.

The seagull incident

You’ve probably heard all about this by now.

From Facebook:

Guys this is the true crime story of the decade:

Yesterday a friend told me what might well be the best story I’ve ever heard. She had caught the train in from Frankston. And while she was waiting for the train to come, she noticed a man sitting down on the platform with a bag of fish and chips. But he wasn’t really eating them. He was just sort of letting them air.

This attracted a few seagulls, who began to circle the platform. Instead of shooing the birds away, the man offered them a few chips. He’d toss one a foot or so away from him. It was like he was beckoning them to come closer. He kept doing this, eking the chips out slowly, until there was a big group of seagulls in front of him, 15 or 20. A tiny army. He’d throw them a chip every now and then – just enough to keep the birds interested, but not enough to sate them. It was frustrating. They were getting angry. Squawking. It was like he was rearing them up for… something.

Then the train came, and everyone got on. But the man stayed on the ground with his chips. Just when the train was about to leave. It happened.

Right before the doors closed, the man threw the entire bag of the fish and chips into the train. The entire flock of seagulls followed the bag. And the doors closed. Inside the train: pandemonium.

The next train stop was five minutes away.

It’s a great story. And as I recall, there are certainly plenty of seagulls around Frankston station.

A ferry comes into Circular Quay, Sydney
Note: this is not one of the alleged seagulls. Nor is this Frankston station.

You can call me a cynic if you like, but apart from the fact that it’s being told second hand, there are a few holes in this story that leave me doubting it’s true.

  • It’s two minutes to the next station at Kananook, not five. Yeah, maybe not a big deal. If it were real, it might seem like five.
  • If the miscreant threw the bag into the carriage as the doors closed, few if any seagulls would have time to react and follow it.
  • If he threw the bag in earlier, he wouldn’t know the doors would be about to close, because it’s a terminus station.
  • Here’s the clincher. It’s 2016. Do we really believe this could happen and nobody got mobile phone video or photos of it?

I’m prepared to be proven wrong, but I suspect it’s all fictional.

  • Update: Mashable has identified that the story is identical to a joke told by the late Maurie Fields on Hey Hey It’s Saturday circa 1989
  • Triple J have an interview with someone claiming to have been there, and saying it actually happened around 2007. If that was true, it would explain why there’s no smartphone footage of it, but it doesn’t explain the other issues with the story.

Update 5/2/2016: Well played Metro, well played.