I had been writing a blog post about proposed rail lines, and even went to the trouble of drawing a map of what was known about the various proposals floating around. Yesterday a very detailed PTV Network Development Plan for the rail network was released with lots of much prettier and more comprehensive maps.
The portents of its release have been there. In the past few weeks, several studies into proposed rail lines have been released: Doncaster, Rowville, and the Airport. The PTV document incorporates these, and lays out how they would build them, and a few more besides.
What some people hadn’t registered until now is that the wish list now includes not one rail tunnel, but two.
The “metro” (north-south) rail tunnel has been proposed for a few years now — that’s the one leading from the Sunbury line at South Kensington via Parkville, the city to Domain, then to South Yarra to connect with the Dandenong line. The Rowville and Airport studies both conclude that their new lines rely on this for capacity through the CBD.
The Doncaster study had flagged the theory that second a tunnel — re-routing the South Morang line from Clifton Hill via Fitzroy and Parkville to Flagstaff — is necessary to provide enough capacity for the Doncaster line to run into the city via Jolimont. The PTV document says this should then extend to Southern Cross and eventually to the new suburb at Fishermens Bend.
Wishlist maps for the Melbourne rail network are a dime-a-dozen. Every gunzel has drawn one. But it’s rare to see something official, and PTV are to be congratulated for publicly putting out the Plan.
Forward planning is essential. Vicroads do it all the time, and put their proposed motorways into the Melway. It’s been lacking in public transport, leading to debacles like the Footscray pedestrian bridge being partly demolished only just after it had been built.
And there’s a lot to like in the document. It explains how each project will build on the overall capacity and reliability of the network. The overall strategy is a good one — to move towards self-contained lines, with a minimum of junctions and interactions with other lines that limit train throughput.
Even stage 1, the 2016 service plan (basically “how do we run the trains once Regional Rail Link is built”), includes some great outcomes for passengers, including seven day services every 10 minutes from the city to Newport, Dandenong, Ringwood, Glen Waverley, Sandringham, Sydenham and Craigieburn (joining Frankston, which already has it).
Governments might baulk at the cost of some of the later more expensive upgrades, but those initial service upgrades should be a priority for funding. They bring great benefits for little cost.
The Plan also includes things you don’t normally hear about, like modern in-cab signalling systems, which allow up to 50% more trains to operate on a line, for a relatively low outlay.
And while it only covers Rail (apparently the Bus and Tram plans will be out later), it does have a section talking about connections between modes, including timetable coordination.
There are heaps of good ideas in the Plan. If I have anything bad to say about it, it’s that the running theme with both it and the Doncaster/Rowville/Airport studies appears to be along the lines of: there won’t be enough central core capacity in future year X, therefore we can’t build any new rail lines until the metro and/or Fitzroy rail tunnel have been built first.
It’s a kind of innate conservatism in the planning: that new lines have to be built with all possible future growth catered for, and if we can’t do that, we shouldn’t build them at all.
This is quite unlike the road lobby, who will happily build virtually anything, knowing that if later growth blows the capacity, it will just provide the political impetus for the next big project (and in the mean time it will still provide some “benefit”).
For instance, the Eastern Freeway was built knowing full well it would terminate at Hoddle Street, creating a snarl there.
The risk of wanting the multi-billion dollar tunnel before anything else can happen is that if funding for that is delayed, everything else is delayed.
In reality, there is scope for building lines and extensions now. Extending South Morang to Mernda, for instance, should be a no-brainer. Dipping a toe in the water towards Doncaster, by building the first, easy bit to Bulleen, would get scores of buses and their passengers out of inner-city traffic. The line to the city would cope for a good few years yet, especially if high capacity signalling was included.
The Plan has the Altona Loop duplication waiting until stage 4. It could easily be done earlier. Even much of the signalling won’t get upgraded until after the metro rail tunnel is built — when the signalling would deliver similar benefits in terms of capacity, but years earlier and at a fraction of the cost.
The Road Lobby knows all about salami tactics. The Rail bureaucracy need to learn the same strategies.
The way forward
Criticisms aside, it’s great this plan is out. If the relatively cheap upgrades that are part of the 2016 stage haven’t yet been fully funded, the government should show it’s serious about the rail network, and fund them pronto. (Yes, Southland station is included in that.)
It’d be nice to see signalling upgrades across the most congested parts of the network in the short term. It’s cheaper than building tunnels, and although there’s some complexity in ensuring all trains on those sections have the right equipment, the capacity benefit of up to 50% is obviously beneficial.
Whatever the precise order of implementation, the government (and politicians on both sides) need to start pushing these projects. In particular, the current government would do well to remember that they were voted in on the back of public transport issues — not the proposed east-west road which was barely mentioned during the election but somehow has morphed into their top infrastructure priority.
As for plans for the rest of our multi-modal network, while the tram and bus Plans haven’t yet been released, let’s hope they’re not too far away… and that they’ve been prepared in tandem with the rail Plan!
- Alan Davies at Crikey: What’s the long term rail plan for Melbourne?
- The Age’s Adam Carey: A terrific, ambitious plan that just needs someone to fund it
- PTUA: Plan will sit on shelf unless priorities change
Here’s something I didn’t know: Perth’s Transperth transport system has some paid parking, and you can pay for it with a Smartrider card.
Pay ‘n’ Display car parks are also fenced, but are patrolled by car park attendants between 7.00am and 9.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. A flat fee of $2.00 per day, or part thereof, applies. — Transperth web site
Bear in mind that provision of new parking spaces costs on average over $15,000 per space.
For multi-level parking, it can cost 3-4 times that amount. For the recent WA election, there was a promise by the Liberals of $47 million for a new multi-storey carpark at Edgewater station, providing 560 spaces. That’s about $84,000 per space. If every space was filled 365 days a year, paying $2 per day, it would take 115 years of for them to make the money back (and that doesn’t count the interest bill for borrowing the capital cost).
It appears that many Perth stations have between 30% and 60% of their parking with a $2 fee attached. I guess having at least some paid is to increase the likelihood of people arriving after rush hour being able to still find a spot. It may also be that the paid spots are those that have been added more recently, so the fees have helped pay for them. Bear in mind that because many Perth stations are in the middle of freeways, walk-up patronage is much lower than in Melbourne.
Another interesting one in Perth is they have some parking spaces which are locked-up between 9am and 3:30pm each weekday. Perhaps car theft is a big problem there.
It raises an obvious (but probably controversial) question: should they charge for parking spaces in Melbourne?
You could have a charge for all station car parks, probably on weekdays only (as in Perth) when demand is high.
Or you could charge more in zone 1. Or have a charge in zone 1 but none in zone 2. That would help reduce the current zone fare difference, discouraging people from driving to zone 1. Plus typically (but not always) at zone 1 stations there are more and better feeder services available, which people should be encouraged to use.
Or you could only apply it to specific stations where there is very heavy demand, particularly around zone boundaries (hello Laverton!)
Or some free, some paid parking at each station like in Perth.
You might be talking boom gates (more infrastructure required), or you might use pay-and-display tickets (more staff required).
Given the government decision that every traveller is expected to have a Myki, I would think you’d want it possible to be paid using that, to avoid having to have cash collection and so on, though also allowing payment with coins might help for occasional users.
Given tight budgets at the moment, it could fund extra services, particularly feeder buses so more people can get to the station without driving at all. (After all, you shouldn’t have to own a car to be able to use public transport.)
It could help defray the huge cost of providing parking (though at $2 a day it would take at least 20 years to do so). And given that huge cost, user-pays is not inappropriate — remember, despite how it seems, most train passengers don’t drive to the station — and land around stations is some of the most valuable in Melbourne.
It would discourage non-passengers from using those spaces. At some stations such as Camberwell, local office and building workers are known to fill up commuter parking. (What might be practical to solve this, without actually charging, is to make entering and/or exiting a carpark dependent on a touch from a Myki, with the system treating it the same as a fare for that zone… thus actual PT users would be charged no more, but non-PT users would be charged.)
It might help reduce demand so that people who genuinely need a park at the station are able to get one, even if travelling after 8am or so (earlier at some stations) when they currently fill up.
It means an additional cost for people who may not have any practical choice but to drive to the station… which might encourage some to simply drive all the way to their destination. (When this has come up in the past has been the PTUA position.)
The cost of collecting the fees would need to be taken into account… apart from things like boom gates, it might also require re-modelling of car park layouts, and even a mechanism for ensuring people don’t enter a car park when it’s already full (or perhaps just allow free exit within 15 minutes, like with Myki at stations — also useful for “kiss and ride” drop-offs).
Can Myki handle this type of transaction if it’s not considered part of the zone system, but an additional charge? If not, it might result in additional costs.
Perhaps out of courtesy to the pontiff it’s time to update the signs?
One of the reactions to the news of top-ups on buses was that it would slow down buses because top-ups take too long. Some people claimed it can take well over a minute to do a top-up.
I was doubtful about this, so I tried it. I used a note and a couple of coins (as it will be on buses — cash only) and filmed it.
I make that about 30 seconds. Perhaps it would have been quicker if I was more familiar with the location of the note reader!
Of course on a bus, you’ll just hand your cash to the driver. He’ll need to stash it somewhere, and tap into his console how much you’ve put on, before you touch your card to update the balance. (This happens now in regional cities.)
Myki has a number of problems that need fixing, and the overall usability may affect the top-up times for people, but I’m not sure 30 seconds is too bad from the machines. Hopefully on-board buses it’s faster.
For comparison, buying a Metcard with cash from a vending machine also took about 30 seconds.
#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.
I recall a Yarra Trams person telling me that while they love Melbourne’s leafy streets, some of our local trees drop the wrong leaves (I’m paraphrasing mind you, these are not her words), which does cause slippery rails, particularly in autumn — which is why, particularly at this time of year, you’ll see this beastie out and about, cleaning them up.
Similar perhaps to a conventional street-sweeper, it’s got special wheels that go into the groove of the track to clear it out.
It moves slower than the trams — on the morning I snapped it, it manoeuvred itself onto the opposite track when a tram came along, then moved back and followed it onward.
Overheard near Nagambie, about travelling to Melbourne:
“A lot of people go to Seymour to catch the train. There’s one once an hour from there.”
At stations beyond Seymour, where the Shepparton and the Albury line branch off, there’s usually only about 3 trains each way per day.
But at Seymour, there are 20 to Melbourne on weekdays, and 13 on Saturdays and on Sundays. The more services, the more options, more freedom.
Some people will drive to Seymour to get that… just as in the past some people would drive to junction stations like Caulfield — I suspect this happens less now that the Frankston and Dandenong both run every 10-15 minutes, 7 days-a-week (at least in the daytime).
A while back I was talking about train load standards, which as you’ll recall is 798 per train (or 133 per carriage).
Similar desired load standards exist for trams, but they vary much more widely because the tram fleet is much more diverse in size.
These are found in volume 2 of the tram contract, schedule 6, page 40… and as already noted, they are not total capacity figures — exceeding these is meant to trigger action to manage patronage growth.
|Tram type||Load standard|
(modified “Apollo” design, with fewer seats)
|C-class (Alstom Citadis)||110|
|D1 (3-section Siemens)||90|
|D2 (5-section Siemens)||130|
The above figures are all “CBD” figures — there’s a lower limit for “non-CBD” of 10 fewer passengers.
You can find the May 2012 load survey here — a number of routes do breach the load standards.
One obvious solution is for the government to buy more and bigger trams — which is happening: an order for 50 is underway, though it’ll take about 4-5 years for them all to rollout.
A less obvious solution is improved traffic priority, which means faster trips, which means they can run more services with the fleet and drivers they already have.
Plus of course where crowding exists outside peak periods, more services can be run with the current fleet, the only additional costs being extra drivers, maintenance and power.