For anybody with an NFC (Near Field Contact)-compatible phone (such as my new Google Nexus 5), you can use the this little app — Tag Info Lite to read Myki cards.
Not that it’ll tell you very much — see below. All the actual useful information appears to be encrypted.
Apparently in some parts of the world an unencrypted copy of the card balance/status is also stored, allowing apps that will let you check your balance. For instance Farebot works with cards from Seattle, San Francisco, Singapore, the Netherlands and parts of Japan, and Travel Card Reader looks similar.
Shame Myki doesn’t appear to have this option, not even in PTV’s own apps — though I guess in theory they and/or Keane could do it, given they issue devices to Authorised Officers to do card checks.
With the old Metcards, you could easily see the expiry date(s) as it was printed on the card itself.
This is an opportunity, of course. As more phones include this technology, perhaps a future (hopefully minor) upgrade could allow people to check their card balance or fare expiry in this way.
(Some apps claim to do this with Myki, but what they’re really doing is checking your online account, which is not necessarily up to date — the card is the point of truth.)
Oh, and here’s what I get from a Brisbane Go Card:
Another of my collections of ten year old photos, this from November 2003.
This rather striking (I thought) image is from near Seymour. I don’t remember the circumstances, but evidently it looked like a storm was coming across the hills. I’m working on a new blog template, to fix some bugs in the current one (yes, including yours Josh) and make it responsive (eg adaptive to different screen sizes such as on mobile phones) and will include this in there somewhere.
I assume I snapped this one for Tony & Andrew’s Our Fading Past web site of old signs, only to find that Ren submitted a picture before me.
In the early days of being PTUA head honcho, some of our friends in the media couldn’t quite grasp what my name was.
Finally, here’s a snap of Exhibition Street, closed off for the red carpet of the 2003 Australian Film Institute Awards — the local version of the Oscars, but with not quite the same amount of glitz as Hollywood.
This tram is bigger on the inside:
The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is fast approaching, and fans are getting into a fervour.
Normally it’s only sports fans who wake up early to watch live TV. Sci-fi fans? Not so much.
All that will change next Sunday morning, when the special anniversary episode Day Of The Doctor will simulcast in Australia and in 70+ other countries around the world. On the east coast it’s 6:50am AEDT, which is pretty civilised (matching the UK time of 7:50pm on Saturday).
It’ll air again on Sunday night at 7:30pm on ABC1 for those who don’t want to get up early, followed by a dramatisation of the creation of the TV series, airing straight after it (trailer). Then it’ll be shown again on ABC2 on Monday, at 7:30pm and 11:20pm.
The special episode will also be shown in 3D at many cinemas next Sunday, including most Hoyts and Village outlets.
There’s been an early teaser/trailer:
…an actual trailer:
…and I can’t embed it in this page, but there’s also a mini-episode which brought a huge surprise for regular viewers of the show.
Will I be getting up early next Sunday to watch? Oh yes!
Regular passengers using Flinders Street Station will have noticed that while the platforms are numbered from 1 to 14, there’s no platform 11.
It’s not a Harry Potter scenario with a hidden platform. There used to be a platform 11, the twin of 10, facing the river, and commonly used by St Kilda and Port Melbourne trains until 1987 when they were converted to tram lines. But its track was removed — I assume when the pedestrian subway was extended to the river to meet the pedestrian bridge to Southgate, which opened in 1992.
Today, trains to Newport (Werribee and Williamstown and Altona Loop/Laverton, to be precise) depart from platform 10 on weekdays.
Problem with this is that one platform isn’t enough during peak hours, and the trains depart from either 10, 12, 9 or 8, which are mostly quite some distance apart. Passengers tell stories of rushing from one to the other in chaos. If only there were another platform adjacent platform 10…
So could they re-instate 11? It would require some changes to the river-side subway entrance, part of which is where the track would be, but most of the rest of the old track alignment appears to be intact.
But don’t all trains to Newport come through from the east?
Mostly, but not all, at least not during peak hour — a quick skim through the Working Timetable found the the 17:11 and 17:55 Flinders Street to Werribee services both come from Werribee (each followed by a Laverton service a few minutes later from platform 12 or 8/9), and this might increase when Regional Rail Link starts to allow yet more Newport trains. Any trains terminating from the west could easily run into 11 and reverse.
Even so, some trains from the east heading west would be able to run via 13 through to 11, if an effort was made to put Sandringham trains on 12 (which indeed would have more capacity for them if not used by any Newport trains).
Imagine that, Newport train users — all your peak hour trains from adjacent platforms 10 and 11! That would make life a lot easier for peak-hour passengers.
Alas, it seems someone has decided to build a bar or a cafe or something on the site instead.
Other missing platforms
Flinders Street used to have platforms 15 and 16, part of the old Princes Bridge station for Clifton Hill trains, now replaced by Federation Square. But of course their didn’t cause a gap in the numbering.
Box Hill has no platform 1. There’s a placeholder that was used during works, then put aside for future use when the station was moved underground in the 1980s.
Any other stations that are missing platforms?
Edit 15/11/2013: Added pic of the river entrance.
Over the years I’ve tried to avoid being sucked into buying the latest and greatest technology just for the sake of it.
But I must admit being keen to check out the new Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and Google Nexus 5 phone.
What would I need a new phone for? I could put Kit Kat on my old phone!
Seriously though, I’d upgraded my old HTC Desire S to Android 4.0, and while it works, it’s noticeably slower. I was thinking I’d downgrade it back to 2.3 (the ROMs for HTC phones, for both 2.3 and 4.0 are available here), but given I’ve had it a couple of years, what about a new phone?
Having seen Tony’s Nexus 4, over the past few weeks I found myself salivating for the about-to-be-released Nexus 5. It was finally officially announced and released on the 1st of November.
I was pondering this when my tax return came back, and would easily cover buying one. The Nexus 5 is cheap for a flagship phone — much cheaper than an iPhone. The 16 Gb model is A$399, the 32 Gb is A$449. You can’t upgrade the storage in it via an SD card, so choose wisely. Obviously a lot of people went for the 32 Gb, as it sold out quickly on the first day.
Fortunately a bloke I know accidentally bought two 32 Gb models in black — my preferred colour — he’d been desperately clicking through trying to make sure he got one before it sold out, and wasn’t sure his order had been accepted, so kept clicking.
On last Wednesday I met him at Southern Cross Station to exchange cash for a box with the phone in it, like an extremely geeky version of a drug deal.
It’s a bit bigger than the Desire S. Wonder if it’ll fit in my front jeans pocket, which is where I tend to put my phone if I’m sitting down and have no other pocket.
Lovely bright high-resolution display.
The on/off button is on the right hand side, rather than the top as I’m used to, but I’ll adjust. Oddly it feels just a teensy bit loose. Hopefully that won’t be a problem in the future.
I’m thinking I might get a case, or at least a bumper, for it. It looks sturdy enough, but some protection might be good.
The old phone had a mini-SIM. The Nexus 5 takes a micro-SIM. I sidled into a Telstra shop to get it sorted out, and they used a cutting tool to chop it down. Low-tech, but effective.
Android to Android is pretty easy, because all the contacts and so on are kept “in the cloud” as part of your Google Account.
Text messages, pictures etc weren’t brought across. I copied all the pictures and voice recordings manually off the old phone for archiving on my PC at home.
Text messages were easily saved off the old phone using the freeware SMS Backup & Restore. It saves all the messages into an XML document, making it human-readable if I don’t want to import them into the new phone… which I don’t, especially.
Once the new phone was running, it was easy to go into the Play Store and re-install wanted apps onto it. So far I haven’t seen anything I had on the old phone that was labelled as incompatible with the new one, though I haven’t re-installed absolutely everything — I’m being a little more discerning.
Very fast. Good to see.
Display is very nice.
I like the effect when the screen turns off. Looks like an old-style television shutting down.
Camera quality in general looks good, though the old phone was able to adjust the white balance (and focus) to a particular object by touching the screen while lining up the shot. This doesn’t appear to have that feature, making some photos more difficult than in the past.
Micro-USB connection — excellent, compatible with my previous phone, so I have plenty of cables.
As with all Android phones, I love the way you can just copy stuff to and from it — not tied to pushing things through iTunes.
Any new phone will take some getting used to. This is good, but it’s not perfect…
The iPad and my old phone both had an easy way to grab a screen capture. Does Kit Kat not have this?
– People keep telling me to hold down Power and Volume Down… this doesn’t do anything for me. What am I doing wrong?
– 12/11/2013: Okay, figured it out. Unlike with my old phone, you have to press Power and Volume Down simultaneously, not one then the other.
Despite a front-facing camera, it has no mirror app?
I’ve spent years gradually changing all the phone numbers in my contact list to be +61 4xx xxx xxx (4 for mobile, at least) – so the theory was if I ever wanted to dial one from overseas, it would work. Imagine my surprise when incoming texts and calls don’t match up to the names. Only those that are in there as 04xx xxx xxx match up. Seriously?
Text messages are rolled into an app which also handles Google Hangouts. Neato — I guess they’re taking on iMessage. But why when writing a text message, does it not give me a character count, so I know how much I can write without going over 160 characters and paying extra?
More to come
14/11/2013 — I haven’t yet played with Google Now, but this article goes into a bit of detail about how to use it.
Veteran road industry figure Max Lay made something of a startling admission last week in an opinion piece in The Age on the proposed East West Link: that the intent of major road projects isn’t to fix congestion:
Opponents play the congestion card, arguing that previous projects have not eliminated congestion, forgetting that this was never their intent. The link will significantly improve the way traffic moves across Melbourne’s inner north, but there may be times when demand exceeds supply.
It’s a little surprising to hear this, as the government has made repeated claims about the East West Link being “congestion-busting“.
In fact, the newly-released EWL “Comprehensive Impact Study” makes more such claims:
Detailed traffic modelling for the first stage of the East West Link estimates the toll road will reduce peak travel times between Melbourne’s east and west by up to 20 minutes.
- ABC report
East West Link to slash road congestion, says State Government and RACV
- Herald Sun
(For more details, you want the CIS Technical Appendix E, page 45. Just take it with a pinch of salt, as traffic levels on inner-city roads are actually static or dropping; Vicroads official traffic count figures show Alexandra Parade traffic reduced across the board – and by to 34% on one section – between 2002 and 2012.)
Before Citylink opened, the road lobby made bold promises about travel times for that, too. How did they work out?
Here are some claims made by Citylink/Transurban themselves (published in The Age 16/11/1998) for AM peak trips, compared with the actual travel times then, and today:
|Trip||1998: AM peak||Promised AM peak||Promised time savings||2013 AM peak (Google Maps*)||Actual time savings|
|Corner Springvale/Ferntree Gully Rds to Docklands||33 mins||20 mins||40%||30 mins||10%|
|Dandenong to Port Melbourne||44 mins||28 mins||36%||43 mins||2%|
|Corner Toorak/Tooronga Rds to Melbourne Airport||43 mins||23 mins||47%||37 mins||14%|
And here are estimates for AM peak trips from the RACV, also published in The Age (27/5/1999).
|Trip||1999: AM peak||Promised AM peak time||Promised time savings||2013: AM peak (Google maps*)||Actual time savings|
|Oakleigh to City||38 mins||13 mins||66%||28 mins||26%|
|Gladstone Park to MCG||46 mins||26 mins||43%||41 mins||11%|
|Dandenong to Melbourne Airport||87 mins||39 mins||55%||60 mins||31%|
*Note that the 2013 figures use a limited sample size — Wednesday morning, to be precise, when there appeared to be no major road network disruptions. Actual travel times are, of course, highly variable.
And the 2013 figures use default values for some locations in Google Maps, which may not precisely match the intent in the forecasts, though they appear to be close — because estimates made last night at 11pm were very close to the claimed predictions.
In other words, the only way to get anything like the promised times is to make your trip in the middle of the night. The predictions appear to have assumed free-flowing traffic.
While some sections of Citylink have reduced speed limits from 100 to 80 since it opened, affecting travel times, the real difference is that traffic volumes (particularly at peak hour) have ballooned — free-flowing traffic simply doesn’t occur on these roads in peak hour.
So the result is that while there are some time savings, they are nowhere near what was promised. The travel times in AM peak today in most cases are actually closer to the pre-motorway times than the promised times.
Based on this, it’s hard to see how East West Link will meet its “congestion-busting” pledge. Of course, there’s always the chance that it’ll attract virtually no traffic — leaving surface roads clogged… that might mean it’s free-flowing, but with little toll revenue, an even bigger impost on taxpayers.
This recent update on Australian tollway traffic levels shows Citylink is one of the only tollways in the country that has steadily increased traffic since opening. It’s also one of the most profitable. It makes me wonder – could it be that tollways can either meet their trip savings promises or get enough traffic to be profitable, but do not both?
You could argue that it’s unrealistic to expect traffic predictions made in 1998 to be fulfilled in 2013, given the inevitable growth that has occurred in Melbourne, and the unpredictability of traffic. And you’d be right. But that’s precisely what is being done now with EWL with their 2031 predictions. Why should they be any more accurate than Citylink’s fifteen years ago?
The PTV logo is gradually replacing the Metlink and Viclink logos across the public transport network.
It’s just the latest rebranding — remember, some trains and stations have had up to seven different logos in the last 20 years… from the old The Met three-pronged logo, to the newer Met logos, to Hillside/Bayside trains, to Connex/M>Train, then unified all to be Connex, then Metlink/Connex, then Metlink/Metro.
Obviously it all costs money, so hopefully there won’t be any more rebranding in the near future. Could we at least try and go a couple of decades with the current logo?
Unlike the Metlink logos, the PTV ones are much more prominent on vehicles, and for the first time will (eventually) result in common branding for buses. This is not a bad thing — it helps inform and remind people that we actually have one network, rather than a bunch of independent, disparate routes… helped of course if network service planning is done properly.
I was watching a documentary on London Underground the other week, and it remarked that they realised common branding was an important thing back in 1933! We almost got there in the days of The Met in the 80s, but back then, it was only trams, trains and government-owned buses that were in green and yellow. Private buses kept their own colours. This time, they’re included. Here’s a bus run by Transdev (formerly Melbourne Bus Link) spotted last week — at first glance, there is no indication at all of the operating company.
Some people have noted that a lot of passengers use the current differing bus operator colours to easily tell when their bus is coming — unlike trams and trains, buses have for a long time been run by different companies, with different colours.
I suppose passengers will have to start more carefully checking the route number. What would make this easier is if buses consistently had route numbers not just on the front, but also on the side and rear of the vehicle. Some buses have this already, but others don’t. And some front displays are not particularly readable. Improvements can be made.
Melbourne’s first new trams in years — and the first Australian-built trams in about twenty years — were officially launched yesterday, after months of testing around the network.
The first two “E-class” trams, numbered 6001 and 6002 started service. I managed to catch one for a ride at lunchtime.
As you can see from the video, the destination displays look very flickery on camera. They aren’t like that to the human eye — they’re very clear. It’s a problem with LED displays which plagues anybody trying to snap a photo or video of newer public transport vehicles and automated signage.
The tram is pretty nice inside. Low-floor trams often suffer from a lack of seating — the Combino D class trams in particular. This wasn’t too bad, with plenty of open space near the doorways, but what seemed like a reasonable number of seats along other sections of the tram. That said, it was off-peak, and everybody who wanted a seat got one. It’ll be a different story in peak hour.
One thing to watch for, especially if you use a wheelchair or a pram, is there is a noticeable slope in the doorway, unlike previous models of tram which are flat at that point. Not a big issue; it’s quite visible. I assume this is so the main part of the floor can be a bit higher.
Apparently there is external CCTV to catch motorists who try and illegally overtake trams. It’s unclear how these incidents will be reported, but this is a step forward given it’s such a common and dangerous occurrence.
In all, the design looks excellent. One little niggle: the route number has been placed on the left. This doesn’t make sense in a city where at most stops, people wait for their approaching tram on the opposite side — when more than one tram arrives together, it makes it difficult to see which one is yours. On the older locally-made trams, the route number is on the right, making life easier.
If you want to take a ride on the new trams, they’re running on route 96 for now. If you have the Tram Tracker app, you can find them by using the tram-spotter’s feature that lets you search for a tram number: 6001 or 6002.
In all, 50 have been ordered, coming into service over the next 5 years. The older low-floor trams will cascade onto other busy routes such as the 86 and the 19 and 59… if they reach the 59, hopefully that’ll mean at last the hospital precinct has an accessible tram service — it’s been a long time coming.
Update Thursday: Some observers have noted that the acceleration of the tram from a standing start is a bit too fast, leaving some passengers wobbling around a bit; also that the gap between the tram and the platforms is larger than necessary. Here’s a snap of the latter — it does appear to be less flat and a bigger gap than, say, on Perth’s trains.