#Myki topups coming soon to buses (but will they avoid the issues of slow transactions and security?)
Leader Newspapers is reporting that Myki topups will be allowed on buses from next month. A maximum of $20 will apply.
Well, that’s about time. This is good news for passengers.
Firstly, it means the Myki consoles will be activated, with Metcard equipment removed. The coexistence of the two systems has caused a lot of glitches, particularly crashed readers unable to be easily restarted, and incorrect zone detection.
Secondly, it resolves issues for middle and outer-suburban users with topups. Bus drivers do carry preloaded Myki cards for sale, but with no short-term tickets, and many suburbs having few retail outlets, and online topups being quite slow at times (because transaction has to be loaded onto bus readers for collection with the card), this is an important option for many, particularly those who don’t use trains, and those who don’t want to use Auto Topup (which does avoid these issues).
There are two issues that have been highlighted with topups on buses.
First: that it’ll slow down buses. That one is easy to solve: don’t give change. This will cut the time taken for each transaction, but it’ll also encourage users to load up more than a trip and/or day’s worth of Myki Money in each transaction.
After all, we’re stuck with no single tickets for now — we might as well make the most of it to speed up bus services, which unlike the other modes have suffered greatly in the past from delays caused by on-board sales.
What should be permitted though is to split the topup across multiple cards, so that for instance a family boarding can give the driver a $20 note and have $10 of that loaded onto the parent’s card, and $5 onto each of the two kids’ cards.
Secondly, some bus drivers have grumbled about possible security issues from carrying large amounts of cash.
I would think it wouldn’t be a larger amount of cash than previously under Metcard, but it is likely to be higher denominations — people will topup less often than they bought tickets, but are likely to chuck $20 at a time onto their card.
The security risk is easily solved by using the method that has been used by many North American bus systems for decades: give no change; all cash goes into a locked box which can only be opened at the depot.
So, I think both issues are easily solved — but it’s not yet clear if they have been addressed by PTV for the April rollout.
It’s not clear when trams will have their Metcard equipment removed and headless mode will be fixed… I don’t think I’ve seen a single tram which doesn’t still have a Metcard machine fitted.
When it eventually happens, it won’t mean topups are available, but at least other issues should be resolved.
For the second time in a week, I’ve watched as tonight’s 6:31pm route 703 bus pulls out just as the train
(due at 6:30pm) departs Bentleigh station and a crowd of people off the train approaches the stop.
Now, I accept that buses should run to time. And the operator contract probably penalises late-running (bearing in mind only around 5% of bus services actually get monitored).
But I think most people would take the view that the bus could wait another — perhaps — 30-45 seconds to allow the approaching (and very visible, even in a mirror) crowd of people to board.
Given most (if not all) those people already having a valid ticket, I’d be surprised if the schedule couldn’t be made up on the way to the next timepoint.
Not that it matters a great deal, given this specific bus service is timetabled to terminate at South Oakleigh depot at 6:44pm and go out of service.
Me? I didn’t want that bus. I am lucky enough that I can walk home from the station. But it’s common to see a dozen or more boarding each bus from the station in peak hour, and each person on the bus means one less car clogging up the station carpark and local streets.
Yes, it’s true the next bus was only 15 minutes away. But that’s 15 minutes needless waiting for those people, and just the type of bad customer service that leaves people wondering if perhaps they should abandon PT and head back to their cars instead.
Ventura, you can do better.
- For bonus “grade-separation is needed” points, check the ambulance — again — delayed by the boom gates.
- Correction: the train wasn’t the 6:30pm; it was an earlier one running late. This isn’t significant — the bus driver should still not leave when he’s not late, and a big crowd of people is approaching the stop.
Update Thursday: Feedback from Ventura Buslines (via Twitter):
“Daniel the company policy is to look around for any passengers that are wanting to board the bus.”
“The driver has been spoken to & the time for waiting has been changed to 1835 to ensure passengers can get to the bus.”
It’s long been a bugbear of mine that a vehicle that has correctly stopped in a legal parking/stopping position should not use its hazard lights.
Some buses do this, despite being stopped in proper bus zones. Melbourne Bus Link appears to be one company whose buses mostly do this. Most buses from other operators seem to just use their left indicator.
I reckon this is not only pointless, it actually causes problems when the bus driver wants to pull out.
Motorists are obliged by law to give way as a bus pulls out from the kerb, but the change from “hazard lights on” to “indicating right” is pretty much indistinguishable, because the motorist would have to be checking the bus’s left indicator and notice it stop flashing.
It also can cause problems if the bus driver forgets to turn off the hazard lights, and the bus continues down the road with them flashing.
Yes, the bus in the video above isn’t entirely within its lane — it looks like the lane simply isn’t wide enough. But the use of hazards happens everywhere with some bus companies. I don’t think it makes much sense in most cases.
Many years ago the German city of Munster set up a photo comparing the road space taken by people in a bus, on bikes, and in cars.
Earlier this month the Cycling Promotion Fund recreated that picture in Canberra, and yesterday they released it.
On Sunday 9th September 69 volunteers, 69 bicycles, 60 cars and one bus gathered in Canberra to recreate a world-renowned photograph taken more than 20 years ago to demonstrate the advantages of bus and bicycle travel in congested cities.
The captured image shows the typical space occupied in a city street by three common modes of transport—cars, bicycles and a bus —- and is being made available free of charge to organisations, group and individuals to help promote the efficiency of public transport and cycling in congested cities.
The project used 69 people, as this is the capacity of a standard Canberra bus, and 60 cars, as this is the number occupied on average by 69 people.
Like the old photo from Munster, it very clearly shows how moving large numbers of people by car around cities is not efficient — something people sometimes seem to forget when praising such developments as electric cars.
But unlike that old photo (and a similar photo I recall being done on Melbourne’s Swanston Street which seems to have never been seen since), CPF have made the photo freely available at high resolution.
They also did a short video showing the photo shoot:
Good work CPF.
The 903 is only half-hourly on Sundays, but clearly the demand is there.
It’s the same with many bus services across Melbourne — there are plenty of buses to spare, but no funding to run extra services to cut waiting times and overcrowding.
How can they encourage more people out of the traffic and onto buses if they have to wait up to half-an-hour and they still can’t get a seat when the bus arrives?
We’ve seen some great improvements in weekend trains (on the longest lines) — the major bus routes have to get more services too.
(I’m not singling-out Ventura for this — it’s up to the government to fund the services.)
There used to be realtime train information displayed on the Smartbus sign outside Bentleigh station (as there is at many other Smartbus stops near railway stations around Melbourne).
The information was provided partly for the benefit of bus drivers, so they could see if a train was imminent, and if so wait for passengers (though it was never clear if they’d been instructed to wait a bit longer if they were due to depart).
But of course, the information was useful to the general public as well — the countdown timer was a prompt you might need to walk faster to catch your train… and it’d be good advertising for the frequent (ten minutes or better) we now get every day on the Frankston line.
About a year and a half ago, around the time of the last fatal accident at Bentleigh station’s level crossing, the train information on the sign was turned-off.
Last year it was also the case that some other similar signs elsewhere in Melbourne didn’t properly work, though others continue to work fine.
It was switched-off because the Department of Transport believed the information on it was sometimes wrong (though I don’t actually recall spotting any glaring errors on it). A notice was placed at the stop explaining why.
…months flew by…
Just in the past few weeks, there’s finally been progress. What progress, you ask?
A new notice! With the Metlink logo replaced by a PTV logo! Hooray!
In all seriousness, I’ve checked — they’re still working on a solution, but they don’t want to use the old apparently dodgy data feed (I think it may have been provided by insane monkeys hidden away in some basement underneath Flinders Street, pressing and listening to green buttons before bashing the information into keyboards to display on the screen).
Instead they’re going to switch to a shiny new rocket-powered, laser-guided data feed that apparently also feeds the information provided on the platforms — in this case, the green button, I guess.
(I hope this doesn’t mean it’s waiting for the repeatedly delayed Metrol upgrade project to be completed.)
And there’ll be another improvement: it used to be that after the last bus had gone, the entire sign switched itself off, even though trains keep running for several hours afterwards each night. I’m told that when the sign is working again, the train times will still be displayed when buses have finished for the night.
When this will all happen, however, is unclear.
And so, we wait.
A few pics from recent days.
…Alas, you can’t read the tiny names unless you click through to the giant size — in particular the oddly miniscule names of the dignitaries on the middle one are:
His Excellency The Governor of Victoria
Sir Henry Winneke K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.St.J., Q.C.
The Honourable R.J. Hamer, E.D., M.L.A.
The Minister of Transport
The Honourable R.R.C. Maclellan, M.L.A.
Hmm yeah okay, maybe the font is so small on those so they could fit in all of Sir Henry’s honours and appointments.
Another in a series of posts about Perth PT and how it relates back to Melbourne.
Perth’s city centre (and town centres of Fremantle and Joondalup) have CAT buses — Central Area Transit — free services running (reasonably) frequently in loops that people can hop on, hop off to get around.
They are very popular; those I saw in Perth and Fremantle were often busy, and one Red CAT we caught in Perth got close to capacity at one point.
Alongside the CAT buses, central Perth also has the Free Travel Zone, which gives you free travel on any train or bus within the central area using a SmartRider card.
Those who rave about CAT buses reckon they’d be terrific in Melbourne may have missed some vital points about why Perth has them (and the FTZ):
Firstly, they are used for high-volume hop-on, hop-off trips. If the drivers had to check or sell tickets, they’d be too slow. In Melbourne this isn’t a problem, because almost all CBD travel of this kind is performed by trams, where drivers don’t have to attend to tickets.
In fact, many of Melbourne’s trams are much higher capacity than Perth’s CAT buses, the main CBD routes run more frequently (about every minute in some cases, compared to every 5 minutes for the best CAT buses), and are consistently busier.
Secondly, Perth has no daily fares like Melbourne. In Melbourne a suburbs to CBD commuter or visitor pays no more than two journeys thanks to the Myki daily cap (the same applied with Metcard 10×2 hour tickets) or you use a Weekly/Monthly/Yearly Pass which includes travel all day.
So if you’re paying for your trip to and from work, then travel around the CBD at lunchtime costs no more. In Perth this doesn’t apply, unless you hit the DayRider cap — but this only applies for travel after 9am. So Perth commuters would pay extra to travel around the CBD during the day if they had no free services such as the CAT and the Free Travel Zone.
Thirdly, if as in Melbourne you can provide CBD travel which gets around the above problems, then who would benefit from providing free services? I’ll tell you who: motorists who have driven to the CBD. (Tourists benefit too, admittedly.)
Indeed, I suspect that one reason Perth retains CAT buses is because of a long tradition of welcoming motorists into the central city — the slogan at one stage was “Your car is as welcome as you are“. I think we know Melbourne’s public transport system has its faults, but frankly, motorists who have driven to the CBD don’t deserve a free ride.
Of course, Melbourne has the City Circle tram, and the Tourist Shuttle (which isn’t actually a shuttle). Doesn’t mean we need more free services though.
I’d rather see that money go towards the outer-suburban areas where most PT services are unusable.
We have a lot to learn from Perth — some ideas would work brilliantly; free CBD services aren’t one of them.