St Kilda Road and Swanston Street

I for one welcome our new public-transport-loving overlord.

As recently as Friday, new Prime Minister-designate Malcolm Turnbull was riding trams in Melbourne:

It’s great that — unlike Tony Abbott — we now have a PM who understands the importance of public transport, as well as other issues such as carbon emissions — though Turnbull has notably said he won’t be changing the government’s stance on the latter.

Here’s a view from later on Friday, around lunchtime, looking north along St Kilda Road and Swanston Street.

For those who aren’t local, that black and white building forming a face is the William Barak building, named for the elder of the Wurundjeri, traditional owners of this land.

Swanston Street/St Kilda Road, looking north from the Shrine, Melbourne
(See it bigger)

This corridor will change markedly in the next ten years, partly aboveground, partly underground, as the Melbourne Metro tunnel gets built. In the short term particularly, much of Swanston Street will be re-routed and closed during construction.

Perhaps with a new PM who is not so roads-focussed as Abbott, it might even get Federal funding.

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Just another ambulance stuck at a level crossing

Grade separating level crossings has numerous benefits: it allows more trains to run without impacting on others, it cuts delays to motorists, bus/tram passengers, pedestrians (including train users) and cyclists.

And emergency services.

Clayton is particularly bad for this, because it’s so close to Monash Medical Centre, but it’s not uncommon to see ambulances or other vehicles waiting at suburban boom gates… here’s today’s in Bentleigh, a short time ago:

In this case the total delay was perhaps about 2 minutes, while a freight train passed. Hopefully it didn’t make a bad difference at the emergency.

Thankfully Bentleigh is of course one of numerous crossings being grade separated in the next few years. I’m told locals can expect a project update in their mailboxes (real and email) in the next week or two.

Getting around the CBD without the trams

The tram stoppage is on today. From about 8:30 trams start heading back to depots, and won’t resume fully until about 3pm. Full details on the Yarra Trams web site, including precise last/first times, replacement services and alternative services.

As I’ve written before, getting around the CBD is actually not too hard without trams. Even on the best of days, it’s a good option if you don’t like the Free Tram Zone crowding.

I’ve tried to draw a map of the main routes — that is, a combined frequency of ten minutes or better (on weekdays… frustratingly, weekends are different).

Melbourne CBD - main PT routes (except trams)

(Also: view it on Google Maps)

Around the edge of the CBD are the trains — obviously limited to stopping at the stations, but providing the quickest way to zip from end to end. The complicated bit is Loop direction, which changes for most of them in the middle of the day, but this PTUA guide summarises the changes quite nicely. (The Clifton Hill trains are the only ones that are consistently clockwise.)

What most people don’t know about is the buses. Along Queen Street, Lonsdale Street and several others, high-frequency buses operate. They’re all on routes with real-time information via the PTV and other apps, and at some stops as well. Even when the trams are running, they provide useful links across the CBD.

(Just today, during the tram stoppage, there are some special replacement buses. I deliberately haven’t put these on this map.)

Bus in Queen Street

Of course the other alternative is simply to walk. On a nice day, it’s not so much of a hardship. The CBD is probably best seen on foot anyway, and it’s only about 20 minutes walk across the Hoddle Grid from Spencer to Spring Streets.

A 30 minute nugget of ideas

This podcast from ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live a few months ago is a 30 minute nugget of transport and city ideas:

Why fund rail when roads are our future?

Ignore the thoroughly incorrect title and the first minute or two from the host, previewing the later parts of the program.

Kings Cross, Sydney, looking towards the CBD

The participants throw in lots of things to think about, including:

  • The nature of the democracies that led to the public transport nirvanas of Switzerland and Germany
  • Political cycles, starting a momentum
  • Capacity of road lanes vs rail – the rapid deterioration of road speeds as they get busier
  • Congestion on roads is determined by how good the public transport is, and even that better PT results in better roads
  • Hobbling of Infrastructure Australia
  • Freedom of movement in great PT cities
  • Access vs mobility
  • Building city centres relies on transport capacity
  • Smart phones as personal travel assistants
  • Tech driving timetable and operational efficiencies
  • Developing world, mixed success

Definitely worth a listen

(I confess, I’ve listened to it three times so far.)

A minor Myki mystery solved

I’ve solved a little Myki mystery.

For years I’d been asked about this scenario:

Assume you have paid your daily fare on Myki Money (eg pay as you go), if you load a Pass (eg a weekly or monthly) onto the same card, will the Pass activate immediately, or wait until your daily fare has finished?

If it started immediately, you’d be paying twice.

Some people had given me various answers, but nothing really solid.

I finally got around to testing this scenario. The answer is: it’s okay. It works the way it should.

Myki transaction history

I travelled on Monday morning (31st August) on Myki Money (highlighted in red above), and then took a couple of (non-free) tram rides at lunchtime, which brought me up to the Daily Cap of $7.52.

Then I loaded a 32 day Pass (to last from Tuesday, for almost five weeks, to Friday) onto the card (highlighted in blue).

After travelling home in the evening, I checked: the Pass had not activated. My trip home was under the existing Myki Money fare I’d already paid.

Myki Check: status of Pass

It was only when I travelled on Tuesday that the Pass activated. The web site confirms it runs until 3am on Saturday 3rd October (eg the end of the public transport “day” on Friday).

Mystery solved. That bit of it works.

(Note that you can load two Passes onto a single Myki card. The second one will only activate once the first one has expired.)

What’s still wrong with it?

Of course, other ongoing problems with Myki remain, of course… including:

  • generally slow response times (except where readers have been replaced by the new Vix units)
  • equipment unreliability
  • often slow online top-up
  • no short term ticket option — originally planned, but scrapped by the last government in 2011
  • no purchase/top-up options on trams — ditto
  • issues hearing beeps
  • screens that are often unreadable in sunlight
  • inaccurate location detection on buses and trams (which continues to cause incorrect charging, not so much in Melbourne where the zone structure largely hides it, but in regional cities it’s still an issue)
  • printing of unnecessary receipts
  • user-unfriendly interfaces (check the green highlight in the transaction history above… LR067?? I assume it’s describing tram 67 as “light rail”)

…and these types of issues, combined with a fairly rigid anti-fare evasion regime is leading to some well-documented cases of misdirected fines, resulting in some very unhappy passengers.

Over the years they have fixed a few Myki problems, such as the ridiculous locking of cards if your Auto Topup failed. But there are still a lot of issues for a ticket system serving such a big city.