Old photos from September 2006

Another in my series of ten year old photos… September 2006.

Most of my photos this month were snapped with my phone camera of the time, the Nokia 6230i. Not bad for 2006, but a bit grainy by today’s standards.

Richmond station, before we got the all-over platform cover. Other than that in some ways it hasn’t changed a great deal.
Richmond station, September 2006

A sighting of the Myki truck, at Birrarung Marr near the Tennis Centre. The smartcard project had been running for a couple of years, but this was when they unveiled the name “Myki”.
Myki truck, September 2006

Here are a couple of grabs from Channel 9 (7/9/2006), with then Transport Minister Peter Batchelor launching Myki. It was said to be planned for operation in 2007 (this actually occurred in 2009), with full implementation in 2008 (actually 2013).
Myki launch September 2006 (Channel 9)

And who’s this youthful looking bloke rambling on about the importance of staff alongside automated tickets? He looks a bit like me, but with less grey hair.
Commenting for PTUA at the Myki launch, September 2006

The Manchester Unity Building, with Burke and Wills looking on. This view has barely changed.
Manchester Unity Building, September 2006

Before there were tram platform superstops across the CBD, there were just “safety” zones. This is Flinders Street, eastbound at Elizabeth Street.
Flinders Street at Elizabeth Street tram stop, September 2006

Nearby, the Flinders Street Station centre entrance. Unstaffed and one gate left open, as was common in those days (and is still common at suburban stations).
Flinders Street Station, Centre entrance, September 2006

An old (even then) 404 bus timetable in Footscray, in one of those ancient “The Met” timetable cases. I’d assume this was from the 1980s. Note the bus was every 20 minutes on Saturday mornings back then. Now it’s every 40 minutes.
404 Bus timetable, Footscray, September 2006

Roller coaster rail?

On Tuesday the Level Crossing Removal Authority put out a whole raft of information on options for removal of crossings on the southern end of the Frankston line. If you have any interest at all, particularly if you’re a local, they’re definitely worth a look.

The Opposition’s withering response:

“The controversial ‘Sky Rail’ monstrosity on the Pakenham line has been dumped by Daniel Andrews for a ‘Roller Coaster Rail’ on the Frankston line.

“The Big Dipper belongs at Luna Park, not on the Frankston line.”

David Davis reported in the Herald Sun.

Three things on this:

1. The Big Dipper at Luna Park closed and was demolished in 1988. (The remaining original wooden roller coaster is the Scenic Railway.)

2. Unless there’s an extended section of elevated rail or trench, you do end up with rail lines going up and down like a roller coaster. It’s inevitable.

Extended sections of elevated rail between crossings are clearly not what the Opposition want, because that’s “sky rail”, which they’ve decided is evil (or at least, a chink in the Andrews Government’s political armour).

Extended sections of trench are impossibly complex and expensive and disruptive to build. The longer the trench, the more underground services have to be moved, and this takes a lot of time and money to do properly.

The three level crossings recently grade separated at Ormond-Mckinnon-Bentleigh are in relatively close proximity to each other, but between each, the rail line comes back up to ground level because it wasn’t practical to do it any other way. For instance between Ormond and Mckinnon there’s a massive storm water pipe (at Murray Road) just below ground level, so the rail line goes over it.

As shown in this video, and the top photo (snapped from Bentleigh, looking towards McKinnon), the ups and downs are very visible.

But — despite suspicions from myself and others that it would feel like a roller coaster, it really doesn’t when you’re on the train, thanks to only very slight grades (typically no more than 2%) and the natural topography of the area.

(Heading north out of Ormond is slightly steeper, and is more noticeable. This was done to preserve the Dorothy Avenue underpass, which is also part of the old Rosstown Railway line.)

This sort of thing happens all over the place without anybody noticing — except perhaps the train drivers.

Riding the trains, you might think it’s flat from Caulfield to Malvern… but it’s not:

Looking towards Melbourne, from Caulfield station platform 1

If this is “roller coaster rail”, then we’ve already got it, lots of it.

Finally, something to always keep in mind whenever a politician opens their mouth:

3. This is the Opposition doing what Oppositions do; criticising government no matter what.

In this case the options documents that have been published are a really good step to help locals understand the design decisions to be made, and the trade-offs of each method.

In fact, it’s not hard to argue that this sort of information should have been provided on all the crossings before designs were finalised.

Bentleigh Uniting Church takes a stand

Many around Australia would know of the Gosford Anglican Church, thanks to Father Rod Bower and his famous signs.

A couple of weeks ago this sign appeared at the Bentleigh Uniting Church. It now seems to have disappeared in favour their more usual list of events.

It pleases me to see messages like this.

Immigration, and the mandatory detention of refugees, is a difficult issue. I’m not going to pretend that I know of a simple answer that both treats people humanely and deters and prevents drownings at sea, but the current position of taking desperate people, locking them up off-shore at arms length from Australian law and responsibility, often ignoring concerns, and particularly the secrecy involved, is something that troubles me greatly.

Right now we as a nation are trying to put past crimes, such as church sexual abuse, in the spotlight. I wonder if in decades to come we’ll be regretting and investigating our current treatment of asylum seekers in a similar way.

I hope the sign got a few people thinking more about this issue, and possible solutions.

New umbrella (again)

Excuse the radio silence. I’ve had a really bad cold this week.

In our last exciting installment of my quest for a durable, reliable, compact umbrella, I was on my third Senz Mini.

The first had been replaced under warranty, the second lost, and the third… sadly, it has started to fail me. As did M’s one last year.

Leaving aside the lost one, that’s two in four years. That’s really no better than standard $30 umbrellas. It’s not as if I use it every day.

I love the Senz shape, and I know they keep refining the design, but I just can’t keep buying them at $70-80 a pop based on this track record. The larger Senz umbrellas might be fine, but I think the compact/folding ones are just a little too delicate.

So I’ve bought myself a Blunt XS Metro (A$89), the same brolly I bought for M to replace her Senz.

The Blunt coverage isn’t as good due to the shape (the Senz wins out on that). And it’s not compact enough to fit into a pocket when folded. But it looks lovely, and hopefully it’s more durable.

If not I guess I’m just going to give up and buy lots of the cheapies.

Do I need an umbrella at all?

Something in my DNA tells me that, as a dedicated walker and public transport user, I need a good umbrella in my work bag. Perhaps it’s my half-English blood. And growing up in the city of four seasons in one day.

But I do see a significant number of people wandering around Melbourne on grey days without umbrellas. I’ve made sure we have a couple of spares by the front door at home, but my kids almost never use them.

I think for now I’d prefer to keep one handy for rainy days.

Would the 67 tram benefit from removal of the level crossing?

I was pondering what benefit would the 67 tram gain from the Glenhuntly level crossing being removed?

Well thanks to the 37 day rail shutdown in July, we know.

Looking at punctuality figures for the last 12 months, this tram route achieved its highest figures for the year in July — in fact my little archive of Track Record figures indicates it’s the best result since at least February 2009.

67 tram punctuality

For comparison I’ve included similar routes in the area: trams 3 and 64, which share much of the track with route 67, but don’t have any level crossings, as well as route 72.

Some other observations from the figures:

  • July punctuality was even higher than January, which is traditionally high due to quiet roads during school and university holidays. There was also a 9 day rail shutdown in January.
  • The second-highest figure was June, which included the early part of the rail shutdown (from 25th June) — which also coincided with the school holidays
  • The rail shutdown period resulted in heavier road traffic in the area. Some rail passengers switched to cars. Also notable were truck movements, and also bus movements, intersecting the tram line at Bambra and Grange Roads — this may have affected trams if Vicroads adjusted signal timing to assist buses. All this means tram punctuality might be even better with the crossing removed permanently and trains running.
  • All the tram routes on the graph show a similar pattern — with July 2015 and March 2016 being particular lowlights. It probably reflects the sections they have in common, along St Kilda Road and Swanston Street.
  • In most months, route 64 has the best punctuality figures. Unlike the others, it has dedicated lanes for most of its route, all the way from Melbourne University to the corner of Hawthorn Road in Malvern. It also doesn’t run through any busy shopping centres; just some minor ones. It’s still not outstanding though (peak from last 12 months is 86.7% in January), perhaps reflecting the lack of traffic light priority along the route — something in common with almost all tram routes in Melbourne.
  • The green line along the top is route 67 Timetable Delivered (aka the inverse of cancellations). This didn’t seem to be affected in the same way as punctuality.
  • Route 72 until January included the Gardiner level crossing, since grade separated. As noted in a previous blog post, this has not resulted in a huge uplift in punctuality, but that route suffers severe traffic challenges along parts of its route, particularly in the Camberwell and Prahran shopping centres, arguably worse than the other routes shown. (Burke Road removal does seem to have improved train punctuality.

We know from route 72 that level crossing removal won’t solve all of a tram route’s punctuality problems, but it does appear that removing the Glenhuntly crossing would help the tram a fair bit. It would also help trains (especially expresses), since they have to slow down when crossing the tram tracks — it’s the slowest single point on the Frankston line.

And of course, level crossing removal also helps pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles — as well as buses (on nearby Neerim Road, which would have to be done as well given its proximity) and motorists.

But to really speed up trams, we still need action on traffic light priority to reduce the red light time affecting trams.

  • Footnote: in the top photo, I broke my own rules about photographing LED displays; need a longer exposure time.
  • Buses along Neerim, North, Mckinnon and Centre Roads would also have been affected (with the latter three permanently benefiting from the project), but we don’t know how much, because no punctuality figures are published for them.
  • Glen Huntly and Neerim Roads aren’t on Labor’s list of 50 crossings to remove by 2022. Personally I hope the community and governments (of both sides) will have got a taste for these projects, and they’ll continue a rolling program of grade separation until all the worst ones, including these, are gone.