From the (hopefully) easy to change, but quite beneficial department:
What if they ditched the rule that to touch-on a Myki (without an active Pass on it) you need at least 1 cent, and made it zero instead?
Why would they allow touch-on with $0.00? Well…
Myki cards would become a de facto single use ticket: You could touch-on, make a single trip, then touch-off, sending the balance into negative. You’d have to top-up if you wanted to use it again. So a single trip becomes $6 for full fare, $3 concession — in other words, a premium from the typical Z1 2-hour full-fare of $3.50.
(It wouldn’t resolve the problems of no single trip ticket on trams, given no sales on-board, and only a minority of tram stops having vending machines, but would help passengers on trains, and buses — assuming they’re still selling cards on buses; this was done at the start of the year but isn’t mentioned on the official info now.)
It gets around the exact fare top-up problem. It’s incredibly confusing that when buying a new card, you have to top-up with a little bit more than the fare. For instance if you have $3.50 on your card, you can’t use the weekend daily $3.50 fare all day, because it stops working when the card balance falls to zero, which might be as soon as straight after one trip.
It would resolve the free travel on no balance problem which famously resulted in thousands of Seniors Myki cards (valid for free weekend travel in Melbourne) being withdrawn and re-issued with 1 cent of balance. This issue also affects others, for instance those with a full fare Zone 1 Myki Pass trying to travel into zone 2 on weekends (which should be free) have problems if their balance is zero.
People might throw the cards away after one trip. That means wasted cards/lost revenue. How much do cards cost? Not clear, though this web site quotes numerous manufacturers in China supplying MiFare DESFire EV1 cards at under US$1 each if bought in bulk. (Is that legit? Are these unauthorised clone products based on that from the NXP/Mifare people, or do NXP just supply a reference design which anybody can manufacture?)
Cards thrown away may not be too much of a problem though, if people are aware that their subsequent trips are cheaper if they hold onto it.
The card cost will need to stay above the cost of a two zone 2-hour fare (currently $5.92), which probably means a price rise this coming January. But I’d expect it to go up anyway, as currently you can run down the balance to as little as one cent and still make one trip.
Am I missing anything?
Half the gunzels in Melbourne are chattering about this: through the wonders of green screen and stock footage, the most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother (which aired last weekend in the USA, and on Thursday night in Australia) featured a Melbourne Comeng suburban train in Connex colours.
The stock footage appears to have been shot from another platform; it’s not necessarily a 3+ platform station. The building seems to be one of Melbourne’s newer ones; probably the “down” (away from the city) platform, but as-yet I haven’t been able to identify it. Anybody want to have a go?
Update Sunday 9:45pm: I think I’ve worked it out. Will be interested to see if anybody reaches the same answer I did.
The answer is… Brighton Beach
Update Monday 12:30pm: Rather than spend hours scouring the net for pictures of stations and doing painstaking comparisons, I thought about this laterally.
As Stephen said in the comments, the question is why is a Melbourne train in a US TV show? It’s stock footage – someone’s needed to save time and/or money in getting footage of a moving train to put on the green screen, and they’ve looked through available footage for something that matches the studio shot they were setting up.
So I did a quick bit of searching stock footage web sites to see if I could find it. And I found it – 23 seconds of glorious 16:9 HD vision, shot at Brighton Beach:
MELBOURNE – CIRCA OCTOBER 2009: Suburban train arriving Brighton Beach Station (click through to watch the vision)
The HIMYM producers have cropped it and carefully placed it in the completed programme to mostly hide the people on the platform, but if you look closely, it’s a match.
The Metro app is quite handy for finding out what’s happening on the train network, and can send notifications/alerts to tell you when something’s affecting the line(s) you use regularly.
As previously noted, it’s not perfect — the SMS alerts that it replaced were customised to your specific station, so you didn’t have to try and work out if the 7:21 stops at your station — and at what time.
But anyway, I was puzzling over how to make the notifications stop. Unless your phone is silent, they cause a beep (which apparently can’t be turned off) and fill up your status bar thingy if you don’t keep attending to it.
If you try and add the same line again, it ignores the option to turn notifications off. I asked around on Twitter, and other people were having this problem too.
After some experimentation, it appears there are two solutions:
Not so good: Take the IT Crowd’s catchcry of “turning it off and on again” to the next level: Uninstall the app, then add it again. You’ll have a clean slate, and you can add your line(s) again.
Better: go to My Alerts, press and hold on the line you want to change. After a second or two you’ll see an option to delete it. Do so. Then go back and add it again with your preferred options.
There’s been some suggestion from one user that a network-wide alert might sneak through with a notification even if you have all individual lines turned off. Not sure about that.
While the app does provide welcome information of problems (I’d rather know than not), they probably need to do some work on it, particularly around options for specific station times and alert tones (or not).
Meanwhile, tram users have Tram Tracker of course, and bus users… well, they’re still waiting.
Long term PTV should probably be taking the lead and being the conduit for all service information, regardless of operator, perhaps organised by area instead. For instance it would be useful to know if that power fault affecting train signals and boom gates has also affected the local buses you might use as an alternative way home.
I noted this tweet from my local state MP, boasting of improved punctuality on the Frankston line since she and the Coalition came to power in November 2010:
Frankston line punctuality in Nov 2010 86% & Aug 2013 93% =7.6% improvement. Vic Coalition delivering 4 #Bentleigh &Frankston line commuters
— Elizabeth Miller MP (@EMillerMP) September 17, 2013
But are these two figures really showing an improvement? Tony Smith on Twitter replied, pointing out that two data points aren’t a trend. (And I think he wants me to run for parliament.)
— Tony Smith (@ynotds) September 17, 2013
Funny thing is, my records show punctuality was actually lower than Ms Miller quoted in November 2010 — at just 73.5% (arrivals within 5 minutes). I suspect she was looking at the November 2011 figure.
Here’s the period in question on a graph, with a trend line added.
So yes, the trend is up.
But there’s a problem with the Coalition claiming credit for it. The biggest boost in punctuality in mid-2011 was when a timetable re-write was introduced, separating out most weekday services from the Dandenong line. It also cut the myriad of stopping patterns. But that timetable was largely prepared while Labor was still in power.
The other relevant changes during the Coalition’s term (apart from very welcome boosts in weekend frequency) were timetable tweaks providing a longer running time on the line (in some cases leaving multimillion dollar trains sitting idle waiting for the timetable to catch up), and Metro’s new habit of skipping stations (either bypassing them completely by running direct instead of via the Loop, or running express where scheduled to stop) to catch up time.
Metro would claim that this is to keep trains in position by ensuring one service delay doesn’t cascade into the next, but on occasions they have been found to be doing this where it didn’t make operational sense — such as this example, where an evening shoulder-peak train was altered to stop at just a handful of stations, despite plenty of trains being available for its return run.
Network-wide the punctuality trend is also up, though it’s less pronounced:
So overall, there’s no denying the punctuality stats have improved since November 2010.
But what about…
But what about a graph of that other big election promise for the Frankston line?
I found myself at a party recently chatting about public transport. Not just late trains and packed trams, but specifically buses.
Who said buses aren’t interesting to anybody?
It was in the broader context of sustainable transport in the inner-north, but one of the anecdotal snippets was this: one of the people I was chatting to lives in Brunswick and has a friend in the Edgewater estate at Maribyrnong. While she is an avid cyclist (rides every day to work in the university district), when she goes visiting this friend, she inevitably drives (about 15 minutes), because the cycling routes are limited (and not very flat), and it’s not really viable to do the trip by public transport either.
For trips like this by public transport, buses are the only option. Inner-city orbital routes like this aren’t going to have trains any time soon, and while there are three orbital tram routes, more are unlikely.
Buses – the poor cousin
The problem is that, as we all know, buses of are the poor cousin in Melbourne. They are often infrequent, and have shorter operating hours than the other modes. While weekend trains typically run every 10-20 minutes, and trams every 8-15, most buses get nowhere near that.
For Brunswick to Edgewater you’d be looking at the 508 bus, then the 472. The 508 runs half-hourly on Saturdays and every 40 minutes on Sundays. The 472 runs every 20 minutes on Saturdays and every 50 minutes on Sundays. The time spent actually travelling might be okay, but the mismatch in frequencies means the chances of a good connection between the two are almost zilch.
And we wonder why crosstown road routes like Alexandra Parade get congested. Even for short trips (most Alexandra Parade trips aren’t a full east-west journey that would be helped by the proposed tunnel), the parallel PT routes — all buses — are hopeless:
|Route — major road||Frequency peak hour||Off-peak||Saturday||Sunday||Evenings|
|504 — Brunswick Road||30||30||40||40||30-40|
|506 — Glenlyon Road/Dawson Street||12||20||20-25||None||40 (weekdays only)|
|508 — Victoria Street||15||20||30||40||30-60|
|503 — Albion Street||20||25||25||None||None|
|510 — Moreland Road||20||20||30-35||40||40-50|
The 57 tram and 402 bus are also in that area, and aren’t too bad most of the time, but aren’t really crosstown routes; they both originate in or on the edge of the CBD.
While people will gravitate towards the most usable services (just as motorists often gravitate towards arterial roads and freeways), unfortunately it’s not as simple as merging all those infrequent routes from a vast geographical area into one single frequent service and expecting people to use it. Some consolidation can help, but you still need a usable grid of frequent services, within say 400-800 metres of trip sources and destinations.
Better buses work
The patronage growth on more frequent orbital Smartbus services shows there is huge potential for more people to make this kind of trip by public transport if decent services are provided.
In fact, one of the orbital Smartbus routes – the Blue orbital – would have just about served the very trip from Brunswick to Maribyrnong we were discussing. The Blue orbital was proposed by Labor, but they never implemented it. The plan — as with the other Smartbus routes — was it would have combined several existing routes, adding in service upgrades, to provide an option for cross-suburban travel in the inner-suburbs, avoiding having to go into the city and out again.
View Proposed Orbital Smartbus routes in a larger map
My reading of the old maps is that the Blue Orbital would have run from Brighton to Elsternwick (the existing 216/219), then along Punt Road to Clifton Hill (the 246), then west through Brunswick to Moonee Ponds (the 508), then heading to Highpoint and then replacing part of the 223 to Footscray (including just about passing within walking distance of Edgewater) and then replacing the 472 through Yarraville and Newport to Williamstown.
I actually think the Brighton end would not have been that useful — just as the plentiful 216/219/600/922/923 buses are now, it would have been unused. But the section from Elsternwick to Footscray would, I think, have been a great investment in assisting with more cross-suburban trips. (Though I expect it would be a longer-than-necessary trip from Brunswick to Maribyrnong.)
If long orbital routes won’t be provided, then at least the existing shorter routes need to be made more frequent and direct. There’s no real reason, for instance, they couldn’t be as frequent on weekends as they are on weekdays. The buses are available.
Route reform needed
Reform of routes, rationalising and straightening them out to run direct instead of all over the place, would also help run faster more frequent buses — you know, the sorts of services people will actually use.
PTV are actually working on such a plan. While they haven’t yet release a plan for bus routes, word is a bus and tram plan is in preparation. As their demand forecast report flags, bus routes will be re-organised into four categories: Smartbus (up to every 10 minutes), Direct (up to every 15 minutes, running along arterial roads), Coverage (hourly, serving local neighbourhoods, and targeted at people who don’t want to walk a distance to high-frequency services) and Inter-town (hourly, connecting rural-fringe areas to outer-suburban Melbourne).
This is good. The current bus network is a mess — some areas have frequent service simply because they used to have trams, but terminate short of logical traffic generators; some routes that should be primary connections into major centres take ages to get anywhere because they go through backstreets.
They also need traffic priority measures so they don’t get stuck in heavy traffic, as shown in the Punt Road photo above, where one 246 has caught up to another.
Restructuring the network into a grid of more frequent services will help a lot to provide a more usable public transport network overall.
And it’s not necessarily terribly expensive. Buses now crawling through suburban backstreets can run more efficiently if they stick to main roads.
But some extra funds will be needed. Will they get the money they need? The government’s big push on the East-West link has once again highlighted cross-city transport, but if it gets up, swallowing a decade of transport funding, and the only practical option for many of these trips remains driving, then roads will continue to be clogged.
Abbott’s outright refusal to fund urban public transport (while throwing billions into motorways) hasn’t won him any friends here. Make sure your vote counts.
How often does the Myki reader in the middle at the main entrance to Bentleigh station break down?
Thanks to my archive of Tweets, the answer is: at least seventeen times since the start of 2010.
Two of three #Myki scanners at Bentleigh stn this morning were inoperable, displaying this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielbowen/4544311585/
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 23, 2010
#Myki machines at Bentleigh Stn still "starting up" tonight, 10 hours later http://flic.kr/p/7VyMvK
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 23, 2010
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) December 19, 2010
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 4, 2011
Hi @mykimate, yet again Bentleigh station platforms 1+2 entrance, middle reader not responding.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) September 5, 2011
Hi @mykimate, the recalcitrant Bentleigh stn platform 1/2 middle reader is not responding *again*.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) September 7, 2011
Hi @mykimate, Bentleigh stn platforms 1/2 middle reader not working AGAIN. (Suspect it's a dud given how often it breaks down.)
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) October 31, 2011
Hi @Mykimate, yet again the middle reader at entrance to Bentleigh station platforms 1+2 isn't responding. Many times now. Dud unit?
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) January 22, 2012
Hi @mykimate. Bentleigh station, platform 1+2 entrance, middle reader, not working AGAIN. Why is this one so problematic?
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 17, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 27, 2012
Good morning @mykimate, the troublesome reader at Bentleigh station (centre at entrance to platforms 1+2) was "Out of service" again today.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 1, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 3, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 5, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 1, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 30, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 19, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 22, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 12, 2013
Was it more than 17?
I thought there’d be more complaining tweets during 2010, especially as the one in December 2010 (following those in April) makes it clear that particular reader regularly has problems. I wonder if Twitter has lost a few of my tweets.
Of course, I don’t check it every single day of the year. There’s a fair chance it’s been out of action more often.
Early on in the development of Myki, I got the impression that there’d be a degree of automatic detection of out of service devices. Along the lines of: it’s peak hour, there are five readers at this entrance, and the other four have had lots of Myki cards presented, but this one hasn’t — get someone to investigate.
Plus of course, why do they crash in the first place?
What is amazing is that a single reader would be so unreliable. Is it a dud? Who knows.
You might recall a while ago I posted about the lack of awareness of $3.50 cheap weekend fares, and frequent (every 10 minutes) trains on some lines on weekends.
Well, finally PTV are promoting both.
This is a step forward.
It’s a shame the imagery in the frequent trains ad uses the outer stations’ buildings — likely to be unfamiliar to the vast majority of people along the line. I suspect they’d have done better to use something that more clearly articulated that all the stations along those lines will benefit.
Still, hopefully it helps spread the word. The ten minute services are terrific… but we may never see them spread to more routes if patronage doesn’t grow as a result of them.
Update Wednesday: Advert noted on numerous trams: