Visually awful, make a lot of noise

Abbott and Hockey dislike the aesthetics of windfarms, describing them as “visually awful” and “making a lot of noise”. Funny, I think the same about motorways.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

But motorways certainly have problems with noise, with pollution causing health problems, and with the space they take up for what they do, and cause dispersed travel patterns rather than assisting the centralised dense city cores needed to grow economies based primarily on information workers and the “knowledge economy”. They also often cost more than the benefits they produce, and almost any mobility benefits for individuals are limited to those who can drive — and peak-hour congestion/time benefits are short-lived.

The PM wouldn’t see it this way of course, but then he has a blinkered view, an irrational dislike for alternatives such as public transport. (He does cycle, but only for sport, not for transport.)

Joe Hockey is calling for a mature debate about the budget. Fair enough.

Perhaps he and the PM could participate in a mature debate in other important areas, including power generation and transport — assessing the options on their economic and environmental merit, rather than subjective attributes such as aesthetics.

The CBD bus ride that #Myki thought was in Brighton

So apparently the installation of GPS equipment to track buses stop-by-stop in realtime hasn’t helped Myki zone detection at all.

On Tuesday at lunchtime I caught a bus from Queensbridge Street (aka Casino East, the brand new tram/bus platform stop) to Queen Street.

Tram/bus stop, Queensbridge Street, Casino East

It’s all within 1 kilometre of the city centre — about as far from zone 2 as you can get. And it’s on a route with realtime information, so at least some of the equipment in the bus knows almost precisely where it is.

So, what happened? Myki charged me for a zone 2 fare.

It thought I was in Brighton, in the zone overlap area.

Myki charging: I was in the City, but it thought I was at Brighton

It seems to have got the route number right. “out” indicates it thought it was an outbound trip, though given it’s a crosstown route, I have no idea that’s correct or not. Perhaps they should have different indicators for crosstown routes, such as “se”/”nw”?

The silver lining is that the zone 1 fare cap meant I was charged the correct amount for the day’s travel: a total of $7.52.

(I normally use a Yearly Pass, but it’s run out, so I’m using Myki Money for a while.)

Zone detection on buses (and trams) has been a problem for years, and it’s only the zone changes in January that have hidden the issue for Melbourne users, but it remains a problem on regional town buses — there are regular reports of overcharging.

Clearly it’s is something they still need to work on.

Oh, and the new platform stop? Nice, though some of the bus drivers seem a little uncertain about how close to the platform edge they should stop. The bus/tram lanes seem quite effective at helping them get past the traffic.

And I wonder if, when commissioned, the realtime screens there will show bus as well as tram?

Sense8’s public transport. Can you name the cities?

I’m always interested to see portrayals of public transport in popular culture.

I’ve been watching the Netflix series Sense8 — I’m a bit over halfway through it. (And I just realised the Wikipedia article includes spoilers, so watch your step if you’re planning to watch it).

It’s pretty good — at least, I’m intrigued enough by the story to keep watching. It’s scifi, created by the minds behind The Matrix and Babylon 5, and set in the present day, with eight (hence the name) main characters in different cities around the globe.

In the title sequence they seek to highlight different parts of the world with lots of different shots from the cities featured. Here’s the video if you feel so inclined (it’s about two minutes long).

If you’re trying to highlight different cities, what helps distinguishes them apart from their skyline and famous buildings? Their public transport systems!

Public transport can visually differentiate cities a lot more than, say, freeways, given that motorway signs and cars look pretty much the same across the (western) world.

Perhaps they (at least subconsciously) thought a bit about this, because in the title sequence there are numerous shots of public transport. … Or perhaps there aren’t really that many, and it’s just me that notices them. (Actually there are shots of freeways and road bridges as well.)

Can you guess the cities? Some of them are pretty easy. They’ve doubled up on some, and I think they’ve missed one of the eight cities here.

Here they are in the order shown in the titles:

1.
PT in the Sense8 titles 01

2.
PT in the Sense8 titles 02

3.
PT in the Sense8 titles 03

4.
PT in the Sense8 titles 04

5.
PT in the Sense8 titles 05

6.
PT in the Sense8 titles 06

7.
PT in the Sense8 titles 07

8.
PT in the Sense8 titles 08

9.
PT in the Sense8 titles 09

10.
PT in the Sense8 titles 10

Those who have actually watched the series would know that one of these actually features heavily in the plot.

What are some other TV shows or movies that have prominently featured the PT systems of their cities (without it necessarily being the basis of the plot, such as Pelham 123) ?

Oh damn. Someone’s catalogued all the locations in the Sense8 titles (with assistance from the program makers).

Never mind — have a guess. No cheating now.

You can check your Opal card balance on a phone. #Myki? Don’t hold your breath.

Outside Australia, numerous public transport smartcard systems have apps that let you instantly check the balance of a card using a phone that uses Near Field Communication (NFC).

Most such phones are Android, but the Apple iPhone 6 and later also has it.

Because the “master record” for this data is kept on the card itself, only checking via NFC can guarantee details that are completely up to date — unlike checking via the web or other apps which can’t read the card (such as Myki Plus* and Pay 24). Reading from the web site means it may take several hours or even longer to update.

It seems NSW’s Opal Card has just joined the NFC app club… for Android only at this stage, it appears.

So I just checked my Opal balance on my phone. Neato.

Opal NFC phone appOpal NFC phone app

I think Opal is the first Australian public transport smartcard to offer this.

How long will we wait for Myki to provide this? The web site has barely changed in 6 years, so I wouldn’t be holding my breath — though the tendering to a new operator for the ticket system may mean we’ll see these types of improvements. Indeed, the operator of Opal, Cubic, is one of the short listed companies to run Myki.

Already the Vix-provided gates/readers are appearing at more stations, with response time much more in line with other systems around the world. Just shows how we benefit if the ticketing system is run by a company that actually has some experience at it.

  • Transport for NSW: Opal apps
  • Previously on the blog: What can you see on a Myki card by using an NFC app? — not very much. It’s all encrypted.
  • *Myki Plus’s description misleadingly implies it does use NFC to read the card. It doesn’t. In the fineprint on their web site, it says: “Myki Plus displays the information retrieved from the myki website. This may mean there is a delay between when you touch on and when your balance is updated.”
  • Of course, one should always be cautious about financial transactions such as topping-up your Myki when using an unofficial app. I’d rather stick to the clunky web site, myself.

How to go shopping by public transport in Malvern

I found this flyer during a clearout of the PTUA office last week.

Judging from the text it appears to be from late 1992 — perhaps around the time Jeff Kennett was elected in October 1992.

How to go shopping by public transport in Malvern and surrounding suburbs (1992) - 1/2

How to go shopping by public transport in Malvern and surrounding suburbs (1992) - 2/2

What’s changed since then?

Tram routes

Route 69 is now route 16, connecting via St Kilda Beach through to the City/Melbourne University.

The other tram routes are much the same, though route 8 currently runs through to Moreland. There is a proposal for this to connect instead at Domain to route 55, running via William Street, the hospital precinct and the Zoo to West Coburg, forming route 58. PTV want feedback on this.

I think it’s a good idea. It’s part of a plan to better balance out large and small trams where the former are needed, and (if I understand this right, is yet again completely undersold by PTV) is associated with a frequency boost to 10 minutes across the entire tram network. Even if it’s not quite all of the network, they should be shouting about this from the rooftops.

I’m less sure about the route number. If you want to confuse people on the northern end, replace route 55 with route 8. If you want to confuse the people on the southern end, replace the 8 with the 55. Seems to me calling it 58 just confuses everybody.

But I digress.

Frequencies

Tram frequencies are mostly the same, but on Sundays they’ve improved a lot, particularly on Sunday afternoons, mostly to every 12 minutes.

Of course the imagery of tram conductors selling you a ticket isn’t something you’d see now! In fact these days you can’t buy a ticket (or top up a Myki) on a tram at all — both options were originally planned for the Myki system, but removed in the 2011 “de-scoping” by the Coalition state government.

No tram museum in Malvern anymore — you want the Hawthorn tram museum, up the road.

Fares

A footnote says a “small increase in fares” is due 1/1/93.

The $1.90 zone 1 2-hour base fare is now $3.76 on Myki.

The 2014 price for Z1 was $3.58. The RBA calculator only goes as far as 2014; it says if the $1.90 in 1992 had gone up only by CPI, it would have been $3.37 in 2014. But remember there was a slight price cut in 2013 when everyone was forced off single tickets onto Myki.

Due to the removal of zone 3 (2007) and the capping of zone 1+2 fares to the zone 1 rate (2015), the $4.50 quoted for zones 1+2+3 back then is now $3.76 as well. (With CPI rises, this would have been $7.97 in 2014. It was actually $6.06 then.)

This reflects what we know about fares — over the years, the removal/capping of zones has meant a real terms cut for those travelling in 2 or 3 zones. But zone 1 has increased in real terms. ‘Cos everyone in zone 1 is rich, right?

Other changes

I’m not sure why they list South Yarra and Malvern as being only on the Dandenong/Pakenham line. (The Cranbourne line didn’t exist then.) The Frankston line served both of those, though maybe they didn’t want people confused by expresses. These days it’s mostly the Dandenong line trains that run express.

The flyer doesn’t mention train frequencies, but outside peak, these have increased a lot since 1992. Back then most trains were every 20 minutes on weekdays, 40 on Sundays. Across the network, Sunday frequencies mostly doubled in 1999, and more recently the Frankston and Dandenong lines got upgraded to every 10 minutes or better, 7 days a week.

As for the shopping centre itself — how has that changed? Others might know better than me, but my guess is Malvern Central (which isn’t really in central Malvern) might be the biggest change there — as well as the de-regulation of shopping hours under Kennett.

Happy shopping!