Isaac just turned 18. (Yeah, I know.)
Anyway, I was talking to him about getting a photo ID that shows his age, so (if he should choose to) he can exercise his rights as an adult.
Many his age would get a Learner’s permit as part of learning to drive. But he has zero interest in doing that — in fact he has firmly said he doesn’t want it. And I’m not about to argue against that. Not me, who likes to avoid driving, and who didn’t get a driver’s licence until the age of 27.
I wonder if not being interested in driving is becoming a Thing?
Looks like it might be in some circles.
Young people are shying away from getting their driver’s licence because they are keeping in touch with their friends online rather than in person, a new (US) study has found.
– Fairfax Drive: Young people choose computers over cars
What, Facebook is killing cars? Surely not — at least, not on its own — though it does seem that my kids go and visit their friends less than I used to when I was a teenager.
The article continues:
The figures tally with some recent Australian findings, which show that public transport use is booming as car use declines.
Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.
Social analyst David Chalke says that in Australia the increasing number of young people attending university for long periods of time in major metropolitan areas means that cars are more of a hassle than a convenience.
“With kids staying at university for longer, they’re more likely to want an iPad than a car,” Chalke says.
He says mobile devices mean people can also use their travelling time more effectively on public transport.
Good point, that last one. And Mr Chalke also notes that university life doesn’t mix well with cars — at many campuses, parking is expensive or scarce or both.
This trend ties in with some parts of the USA:
The latest generation of young adults has more alternatives to the car, Sheryl Connelly (Futurologist at Ford) suggests. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have successfully encouraged far greater bike use, while public transport is far better in some places than 30 years ago.
“The car doesn’t hold the same imagery that it did in the Sixties or Seventies,” she says.
…and it seems to be borne out in other western countries as well:
The ﬁndings indicate that since the turn of the millennium, access to cars, measured in terms of drivers’ licences and household car ownership, has decreased in most study countries—especially for men. Moreover, average daily car travel distance has decreased in most study countries, again especially for men. In France, Japan, and most signiﬁcantly in the USA, the decrease in car travel has led to a reduction in total everyday travel by young travellers. In Great Britain, the decline in car travel was partly, and in Germany fully, compensated by an increased use of alternative modes of transport.
Obviously there are a lot of factors, and it’s only a specific demographic, but I think this makes some sense.
If you live in a walkable neighbourhood, if your friends and the places you go are either local or easily accessible by bike or public transport, then why would you be interested in cars, especially given the costs of running them?
Opting out of using a parent’s car as well? That’s a step further that I find that really interesting.
In many cities, including Melbourne, of course it’s going to be different in different areas. We in Bentleigh do have a walkable suburb, with no roads more than 4 lanes in total (certainly no freeways), mostly straight and easily navigable streets, few cul-de-sacs and while the buses are nothing special, the trains run every 10 minutes every day of the week.
But some suburbs are really pedestrian-hostile, with very wide fast roads to cross, little within walking distance, and appalling public transport. I really doubt the reluctance to join motordom is a Thing in most outer suburbs.
- A previous blog post on this topic — where one commenter thought that by my documenting of a possible pattern, I was somehow trying to convince him to stop driving. Ummm…
- And the ID card? I’ll post about that next.
The Frankston line is to get upgrades worth $100 million — signalling changes to allow X’Trapolis trains to run, more shelter at stations, better CCTV, and better passenger information, including about connecting buses and trams.
The Premier, Public Transport Minister, local (Coalition) MPs, heads of PTV and Metro and even the Mayor of Glen Eira were at Bentleigh station this morning for an announcement.
I heard it was happening, so decided to ambush the press conference and listen in. (Just like old times.)
The press release details what’s included:
“Frankston line passengers will also benefit from improvements to station lighting, the installation of extra CCTV cameras, the extension of station platform canopies to provide more weather protection, additional myki readers and disability access improvements.
“Frankston line stations will also have new passenger information screens installed which display real time updates for trains, trams and buses, providing improved information for commuters as they arrive at stations.
“The Coalition Government’s doubling in train frequencies to every 10 minutes during the day on weekends on the Dandenong, Frankston and Ringwood lines has been successful, and now it is time to roll out further improvements,” Mr Mulder said.
This all sounds pretty good.
In fact, it sounds like precisely the sort of upgrade which should be carried out on lines across the network.
Along with the ten minute trains now seen on the line every day, a good amount of shelter, good lighting and CCTV and real time connection information is not unreasonable to expect on all our rail lines.
I had a quick chat to Andrew Lezala from Metro — it seems the acceleration of the X’trapolis and Siemens trains are similar, so they’d like to predominantly run those on the Frankston line, and tweak the timetable to match.
Presumably this means Comeng trains will go elsewhere — and it would also mean the Williamstown and Werribee lines will also get X’trapolises, since most Frankston trains through-route to there.
What wasn’t announced?
More services — we’ve already seen ten minute services every day on the line during off-peak (though few people know about them) — better than any other line in Melbourne, so I think it’s fair enough to let that be for now. But peak could do with a boost to cope with crowding and a clean-up of peak shoulder would help too.
Grade separation — North Road grade separation is coming along (though is not quite “delivered” yet, as a flyer from the local member recently claimed), but no others on this line are proposed at present. The Premier and Minister had caught the train to Bentleigh, and when I had a chat with him, the Premier noted the extremely slow speed over the Glenhuntly train/tram crossing. I think he may have made noises about improving it, but I’m assuming this does not amount to a promise to grade separate!
Southland station — One of the journos asked about Southland. Terry Mulder said that because it involves building on land owned by the shopping centre, they are in negotiations over that. He seemed to also say that it would happen soon, without giving a firm time line, but it did say it would definitely happen.
Station staff — Nup. They’re still pushing the PSOs policy, even though much crime happens before 6pm, and many stations see little or nothing happen.
Connections — The upgrade will include real time information about connections, but of course one of the things lacking is the frequency of those connecting services. Passengers in Glenhuntly are lucky enough to have trams every 10-15 minutes every day, but those relying on buses see mostly hourly weekend services, and some (such as the Bentleigh to Brighton end of the 703) don’t run on Sundays.
The gunzel version
X’Traps to replace Comengs on the Franga line! Get photos!!
When will things start to happen
It’s hard not to see that this package of upgrade works is aimed squarely at the row of marginal seats along the Frankston line. As such I’d be surprised if some of the more visible changes don’t start to happen in the next 12 months, well in time for the election in November 2014.
With trains every ten minutes, better realtime information and station shelters, enhanced CCTV, more reliable services… sounds like just the sort of thing that should be rolled-out across the rail network.
But $100 million is also a lot of money. For instance, yesterday it was announced that a new high school in the Mernda/Doreen area would be built… costing $11.5 million. Some are pointing out that $100 million would pay for duplication on some of the single-line sections of other lines, which would make a huge difference to reliability.
A regular suggestion that pops up is that Melbourne’s zone 2 should be merged with zone 1, making the whole metropolitan area a single zone.
No surprise that everybody wants cheaper fares… but is it a good idea?
Price cut: The biggest beneficiaries would be weekday travellers who cover both zones, particularly those coming from the middle and outer suburbs into the CBD, saving $4.84 per day if on Myki Money, or about $760 over a year if using a Commuter Club yearly.
Car park pressure: It would remove the problem of zone boundary stations having the heaviest demand for car parking, as some people drive to zone 1 to avoid the higher fare.
(This is a very visible problem. But is it a widespread one? Not sure. By my quick count there are about 6500 parking spaces at the stations on the zone 1 boundary or a little further along — even if you add people parking in nearby streets, it’s a tiny proportion of the roughly half-a-million people using the train system each day.)
Myki: It would remove touch-off from trains and buses. This would have particular benefits at suburban railway stations in evening peak. (It’s already not needed on trams for almost all trips, as zone 1 applies.)
Price rises: The biggest issue is that it benefits some passengers but badly disadvantages others. Making all fares the zone 1 fare would mean that local zone 2-only trips would jump in price by about 45 per cent — for instance a daily fare would go from $4.84 to $7.00.
Lost revenue: Assuming there are more two-zone passengers than zone 2-only, there would be a big hit on fare revenue. How much? I don’t know; but I did work out using old railway station boarding figures that there are around 211,000 boardings in zone 2 each weekday. If for the sake of a rough estimate that we assume 60% of those travel to zone 1, that half are concessions, and that many are on Myki Money (none of these assumptions are necessarily true) then you’re looking at lost revenue of over $100 million a year. That’s a lot of money.
Equity: Is it equitable that someone travelling two stops on St Kilda Road should pay the same as someone travelling from the city to Pakenham?
Fare rise pressure: If experience from elsewhere is anything to go by, a single zone might well result in upward pressure for the flat fare to increase. Which big Australian city has the highest fares for trips up to 15 km? When a comparison was last done, it was Adelaide — which is also the only big Australian city with a single zone/flat fare system. (I had a quick look at latest fares — Adelaide is still highest for cash fares: $4.90, though for smartcard fares, Brisbane beats it by a small margin).
It wouldn’t make Myki a one-zone system: People forget: Myki isn’t just Melbourne. You might get rid of touch-off in Melbourne (which would in turn lead to confusion because of the way default fares are processed, unless more was spent on revising the software)… but Myki is about to cover the V/Line commuter belt as well, out to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour, and the Latrobe Valley, as well as the local town bus services along the way. There will always need to be zones.
My view is it’s not worth it.
It does sting badly to have to pay for two zones when you’re only 1-2 stations out from the boundary — I know this pain — when at uni, I used to pay a two-zone fare to travel between Moorabbin and Caulfield.
But it hasn’t stopped, for instance, the new Williams Landing station (2 stops/2km into zone 2) from being used. Apparently yesterday, the first weekday of operation, the big 500-space car park was already half full.
There are definitely problems with the high price jump as you cross the zone boundary, but making one Melbourne zone is not the way to fix it.
In fact, having more (but cheaper) zones, not less, might be a solution. That could mean a more gradual step-up. In this respect it’s a shame zone 3 was removed in 2007… a better idea might have been an across-the-board fare cut (which is what happened on V/Line that same year). The issues with this are that more zones is probably politically unpalatable (because it sounds retrograde, and might be difficult to explain the benefits) and it might mean the current issue of driving to zone boundaries actually spreads to more locations.
Considering a parking fee at zone 1 stations (particularly those near the boundary) is worth considering to help reduce the instances of people driving further to get cheaper fares — but is also somewhat politically unpalatable.
There is an argument for making buses zone-free, similar to trams. I’ll explore that in a later blog post.
As ever, I’d be interested to hear what others think about this issue.
- Remember, on weekends, zones aren’t much of an issue, because of the $3.50 weekend daily cap
- And Seniors have a $3.80 cap every day
The Phase 2 Report from the High Speed Rail study was released last week — predicting that although HSR would cover its recurrent (running/maintenance) costs, it’d first take some $114 billion and 45 years to build it.
As I’ve said before, I think a 3-ish hour trip from Melbourne to Sydney would be time-competitive with flying.
$114 billion is obviously an incredible cost, and taking decades to build it is a totally unambitious timeframe. I’m sure if you outsourced it to those who have built such lines elsewhere, they could get it running much more quickly and cheaply. Or if they got tough on the airlines and proclaimed a forced heavy future reduction in emissions, and particularly if oil prices skyrocket and a second Sydney airport is put on hold, they could coax Qantas and Virgin into the railways business.
(It’s interesting that much of the debate since the report was released has ignored emissions issues, and focussed on the benefits to existing rail passengers, not those currently travelling by air.)
But even if you assume it could be built quicker and cheaper, the question is: should one heed the calls of the optimists and start building it now? Or follow the cynics who say it’s all too expensive, that we don’t have the population, and we should forget it?
I’m not sure. Fact is, across the country, there are probably a lot more important infrastructure projects that need building first. That money (even if you assumed it could be built for half that cost) could solve a lot of other problems.
And realistically, the political and economic climate means there’s no hope of it being built right now.
All that said, it seems prudent to plan and protect a corridor. It’s not overly expensive to work out a detailed alignment and preserve it from incompatible land development. This does little harm and ensures we can move forward if and when circumstances change and/or the time is right.
This is a must. Not doing so — even if actual construction work isn’t to start in the foreseeable future — could make it impossible for it to ever happen later.
- Insiders on High Speed Rail — a great watch
A lot of the unfortunate jellybean characters are depicted around CBD railway stations at the moment as part of Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die campaign. I was amused at the placement of this one:
…but this one is even better. (Only a short video — don’t bother with the sound; it adds nothing.)
Perhaps I’m easily amused, but that did make me laugh. Very clever.
It’s inevitable that the passing of Margaret Thatcher would provoke mixed responses. Such polarising figures often do.
She may have been a trailblazer for women in power in the western world, but I don’t remember her time as Prime Minister fondly. I was young and perhaps it was a naive viewpoint, but I remember the early-80s under her and Reagan as a time of real fear from nuclear war.
The real situation probably wasn’t that fraught (people cleverer than me could theorise how tough-talking from the west helped bring down the iron curtain), but some have pointed out that Thatcher was against German reunification and did not support sanctions for South Africa against Apartheid.
In terms of lasting legacies, the one that sticks out for me was that her privatisation of numerous nationalised industries.
Thatcher always resisted rail privatisation and was said to have told Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley “Railway privatisation will be the Waterloo of this government. Please never mention the railways to me again.” Shortly before her resignation, she accepted the arguments for privatising British Rail, which her successor John Major implemented in 1994. The Economist later considered the move to have been “a disaster”.
Disaster indeed. My mother recounted how, on a visit to Britain after it happened, at a railway station a staff member couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give her any information about a different train company that also happened to serve that station.
In transport and in other sectors, this mess was later replicated here in Victoria — perfectly illustrated by this on-board train map from the early Connex days. It not only excludes the half of the network that Connex didn’t run, it also excludes the underground Loop stations where Connex did run, because these stations were managed by the other operator.
Later reforms, both here and in the UK, fixed many of the issues around privatisation.
Some industries, including public transport, can’t rely on companies that only compete, and never co-operate. PT operators need to work together to form a network — because their real competitor is the private car.
Anyway, I’m rambling a bit off my original topic. But that’s blogging, right?
“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.
“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
– The Age
Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.
Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:
Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.
Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.
Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.
Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.
In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.
Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.
Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.
These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.
Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.
The Commonwealth can fund what they like
It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.
I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.
Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.
It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.
In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.
Guess what? Another bug has been found in Myki.
(No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.)
You know how you can load a Pass (weekly, month, yearly etc) onto your Myki, and use it, and load a second Pass which won’t activate until the first one has finished?
Well there’s a bug which sometimes causes the second one to activate before the first has finished.
I know this, because my new Yearly activated 13 days before the old one had finished, leaving me with two active Yearly Passes.
So far PTV is saying three people have contacted them about it. I did… at least one person reported it on Whirlpool, and possibly even a second — surely that couldn’t be the only three people it has affected?
Or are there more people who haven’t yet noticed? It’s unclear if this happens to everyone who (quite legitimately) loads two Passes onto one card.
What is particularly surprising is that this is a part of Myki that has worked flawlessly since I’ve been using Passes on it in 2010. For something so fundamental to go wrong smacks of a new software version being rolled-out without having been fully tested.
If you use Myki Pass, now would be a good time to check your transaction records and the card status and make sure it’s doing what it should be doing.
We are writing to provide you with some important information about a matter that has affected some of your Commuter Club customers.
As you are aware, when a Commuter Club customer renews their annual myki pass for another year, we add that second pass to a myki a few weeks before the current pass expires, so it is ready to use straight away.
For a small number of customers, the second myki pass loaded to their myki, started before the first had expired.
We are contacting those affected customers to make them aware of the situation and advise that a reimbursement for the number of days the pass activated before it should have is being refunded to them via cheque.
Please be advised this matter has been corrected.
Update 13/4/2013: Yesterday they finally came back to me by email and said a refund is being issued for the lost 13 days:
Our records indicate that the second pass loaded to your myki card [removed] started before the first had expired.
Our investigations confirm that your second myki pass activated while you had 13 days remaining on your first pass and as such a cheque reimbursement of $70.00 will be mailed to you within the next 10 business days.
$70 is enough to buy 2 x 7 day Zone 1 Passes ($35 each), making up the 13 days lost plus one. However, given the current Yearly Pass I’m on expires next year, after next January’s price rise, it may not cover those 13 days.
At least some others affected are getting their refund as Myki Money loaded onto the card instead of a cheque.
It’s still unclear how many people have been affected, and whether they have proactively sought them out, rather than just waiting for complaints to come in.
Update 18/4/2013: The last communication to me said they’d refund me $70, which sounded about right. But today I got an email saying:
After considering the details of your special consideration claim, a reimbursement has been granted and an amount of $ 35.00 will be posted to you as a cheque within the next 10 days.
Ummmm.. Hmm. Better get in contact, I suspect.
Update 29/4/2013: A follow up email acknowledged that the one quoting $35 was wrong, and said I’d get a cheque for the full amount (eg $70).
Then a cheque arrived for $35. It was mailed before the last email though.
Better contact them again.
Update 2/5/2013: They’ve acknowledged the error and are sending out a second cheque for $35, making a total of $70.