Last night’s AFL match result – nowhere to be found in The Age paper edition?

I get The Age delivered on weekends. On Saturdays in particular it’s good to lazily read its numerous sections in the morning.

So I picked it up wanting to know who won the football last night: Richmond or Fremantle? I just want to know if I tipped it right.

Sometimes they have the score on the front page. Not this time.
The Age front cover 27/4/2013

OK, so I flick to the Sports section. Not on the cover of that either.
IMAG0639

Then I flick through the entire Sports section (not something I do very often, I confess) looking for an answer. It’s not there. Any number of other football-related articles, but not the result of last night’s game.

It seems that while the printed version that landed on my doorstep sometime around 6am doesn’t have it, a later edition (including the Digital Edition) does have it, on page 4.
Age Sports section cover, later edition 27/4/2013

Now, I know the game was in Perth, so would have been a couple of hours behind a Melbourne Friday night game. But it was three-quarter time when I went to bed around 11pm last night, so surely they could have got a result into the paper to be delivered about 7 hours later?

I eventually went back to the Footy Tips web site to find it. I correctly tipped Freo.

And they wonder why the mainstream media is in trouble.

Was it in the Herald Sun delivered to homes?

The last weekday of @TheAge as a broadsheet – I won’t miss it

I don’t read The Age in paper form everyday, but when I do, it’s either on the weekend where I can spread out as much as I like (so broadsheet is fine, though the smaller format of the supplements is fine too), or on weekdays on the train, where the broadsheet format is extremely awkward to handle.

Many of us will know the feeling — we’ve managed to find a nook on the train where we can unfold the paper without hitting other people with it, struggled just to turn the page without it inadvertently folding in on itself, and finally got to the new page only to find it’s a bloody double-spread of adverts for Dan Murphy’s or some other booze outlet we have no interest in reading.

It may be seen by some teary nostalgics as the end of an era, but I for one welcome the new compact tabloid format.

Wow! What a scoop for The Age!!
Yesterday’s Age — a big scoop?

Mind you, as Jonathan Green writes in this interesting article, it may just forestalls the inevitable continuing decline of paper sales.

It does sound like some kind of paywall will go up around the web site, too. It’s unclear how well that’s worked for News Limited papers such as the Herald Sun, given there are easy ways of circumventing much of it.

I also wonder what on earth Fairfax were thinking when they built The Age’s Tullamarine printing plant, now set to close within a year or two, but which only opened ten years ago at a cost of $220 million — all set up with highly expensive printing presses to print broadsheets. Did really nobody see coming the decline of classified ad revenue, and thus big fat broadsheet newspapers?

Today’s factually incorrect #Myki rant article in The Age didn’t help

I didn’t think I’d write two Myki blog posts in one day, but…

Let me briefly go through the mistakes in this opinion article from The Age today then I’ll get to the real point of this post.

Myki receipts, Flinders Street station

”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, goes the old adage.

The claim in government circles is that Metcard is broke — at least almost — and needed significant investment to keep it running reliably. I don’t know if they’ve ever presented the evidence to that effect, but given regular cases of cards getting jammed in validators, there seems to be something in it.

The grounds for a new ticketing system were there, if it was likely to: (1) allow passengers to use $5, $10 and $20 notes on trams

Actually the original plan was for Myki to include ticket machines on trams which would accept notes.

It is unknown just how many people have been fined after boarding a tram holding a $10 note, only to discover that a $10 note – legal tender everywhere else in Australia – didn’t buy a tram ticket.

Legal tender does not mean every business selling something has to accept every form of Australian currency. See: No, the law doesn’t demand that Myki accept 5 cent coins, or that Metcard machines accept notes.

Picture this myki utopia: … so you simply whip out your phone, log on to the myki website and transfer credit on to the card, before touching on before the tram has even reached the next stop.

I wonder how he thinks the transaction gets from the Myki web site onto your card? Magic? Actually it gets transferred via wifi when trams (and buses) are in the depot… which is why they say it could take up to 24 hours.

(They should look at upgrading to mobile data of some kind if it’s possible given the load, and at the very least they should make sure updates to fixed readers are available within an hour or two.)

When you transfer funds into your card via the internet, you need to wait up to three days for those funds to be available.

Myki themselves say 24 hours (although they hedge their bets and sometimes say “at least 24 hours”), though I’ve seen it work in about two hours.

Until now, charities, community legal centres and other non-government organisations which provide services to people who are homeless or on extremely low incomes simply provided clients with daily Metcard tickets where the need arose. Now, they are faced with the prospect of providing a $6 myki card, plus fare, to each client for each journey.

I’m not sure why he assumes those people would need a full fare $6 card. Aren’t they more likely to need a $3 concession card (provided they have the relevant proof, such as a Health Care Card)?

In any case, as noted by The Age just last week, NGOs such as charities needing to pay for travel for their clients can use a paper Day Pass.

The bottom of the article notes Mr Marks is a solicitor with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service — perhaps the Transport Ticketing Authority hasn’t approached them about this. I know the TTA has been talking to a lot of other NGOs on this topic — for over a year now.

Later in the article Mr Marks derides the Myki Fares & Ticketing Manual for its lack of brevity. If he had read it properly, he’d have found on page 43 it details the Day Pass.

As it happens, I’m a great supporter of the Manual. Every PT system in the world has a myriad of business rules behind it. The difference is in Victoria they’ve put it out in the open so anybody can read it. Kudos to the Victorian Government for this.
Myki Pass details

when they ”touch off”, users are not told the amount myki is taking out of their account. They are only given the balance remaining on their account.

This is completely wrong. All Myki devices (apart from the old Metcard gates which are fast vanishing) tell you the current balance as well as the fare just deducted.

On the bright side, at least he didn’t raise the 90 day myth.

(“TheMykiUser” also wrote a blog post about this article… the author of The Age’s piece responded here.)

My point: factually incorrect rants like this are not helping

Myki has problems — some of them, such as the lack of a short term ticket, are really serious.

Mr Marks raises this, but his point is lost in all the misinformation, which undermines the whole article.

The factual errors, which should have been avoidable with a little research (you know, the type of research someone should do when writing for a major newspaper), mean the government (and I mean both the TTA, which is responsible for implementing government policy, and the Minister’s Office, which is responsible for setting it) will probably have dismissed the entire piece out of hand. It gives them the chance to say “well, there’s lots of errors here, the whole thing is rubbish.”

Myki is costing $1.5 billion over ten years, and the level of debate on this should be better.

The real truth is bad enough.

OK… next post tomorrow totally non-PT-related.

Update Friday: Russell has posted a response to this blog post.

My cousin’s in town (and a proverb updated for the 21st century)

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to have my cousin Justin in town. He grew up in Brisbane, then Newcastle, before moving to Perth, so we barely saw him when growing up.

He moved to Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, and is now settling into his new flat and job here.

The Age Cheap EatsHeading over to the flat on Saturday to help him take a fridge delivery and do an Ikea run for essentials got me thinking about a possible housewarming present.

Problem is I didn’t know what he already had, or what he’d want.

Two ideas presented themselves: a nice packet of ANZAC biscuits spotted at a shop we frequent.

Or a copy of The Age Cheap Eats, to help him navigate Melbourne’s burgeoning numbers of restaurants.

In the end I settled on the latter.

Why?

Well it’s like the old proverb says: Give a man a packet of biscuits, you feed him for a day. Give him a copy of Cheap Eats, and you feed him for a lifetime.

The Age’s Liveability survey – and where it fell down on transport (Service quality matters more than infrastructure)

The Age last Friday released its liveability survey of Melbourne suburbs. Top five were pretty predictable: South Yarra, East Melbourne, Armadale, Hawthorn East, and Toorak.

From what I can tell, it’s an update to a survey done in 2005, using the same methodology. This time however they didn’t put out the full breakdown of figures, which is a shame.

I don’t have major arguments with the overall list; I suspect most of the critera are reasonable. Of course, people obviously need to take into account their own preferences and what they consider to be “liveability”. (For me it’s very much about walkability of a neighbourhood; easy non-car access to amenities, which has flow-on effects in less traffic, more less concrete jungle, and easier interactions with neighbours and other locals, and also implies some level of usable PT.)

Tram, Footscray

The problem with the scoring

But I need to point out that the survey’s transport scores are not perfect.

You can see this from the description of Toorak, which says that virtually no bus services helped to drag down the score. As the original 2005 articles noted: The study awards a score between 0 and 5 for proximity to train, tram and bus services — giving a total score out of 15.

The problem with this type of scoring is that a suburb with lots of bus stops served by infrequent buses, but no trams, would score equally to a suburb with lots of tram stops served by frequent trams, but no buses.

The 2005 figures for instance show Toorak scored 5 on trains, 4 on trams, 1 on buses = 10 for transport. Huntingdale scored 5 on trains, 0 on trams, and 5 on buses = 10. Essendon North scored 1 for trains, 4 for trams, 5 for buses = 10. But in reality these suburbs have quite different levels of usable public transport, especially for non-CBD trips.

Infrastructure vs services

Proximity to stops does not necessarily mean usable services.

In Melbourne, most buses operate nowhere near as frequently as trams, nor do they come close in operating hours. Many bus routes operate only half-hourly on weekdays, hourly on weekends and evenings. Typical tram routes operate to 3-4 times this frequency.

In some extreme cases, a bus route may only operate once a day. Did The Age’s survey give Hawthorn points for this bus stop?

Bus: once a day, Hawthorn

(The answer, as it happens, is no, at least in 2005. Perhaps that route didn’t operate to Hawthorn back then.)

Infrequent buses make services virtually useless for most people, and while individuals may happen to be able to use the service because it coincides with a trip they need to make, at a time they need to make it (or they have no choice, because they can’t/don’t drive), those infrequent services can’t be thought of as enhancing the liveability of a suburb.

In contrast, frequent buses (such as the services Smartbus routes offer, at least on weekdays) are useful to a lot of people, do get plenty of patronage, and do enhance mobility and liveability in a suburb.

As far as the survey goes, this is one of those cases where in public transport, they’ve thought only about the infrastructure, not the quality of service. Service quality was touched-upon in some of the accompanying articles to the 2005 survey:

At weekends they catch trams to the city for shopping or to hang out in restaurants and bars. Even on the weekends there’s no need to check the timetable. “You know there will be a service every 10 minutes or so,” she says. “I just assume that it will be there for me.” — Getting around never a problem

A better measure

A better measure for a survey like this would be something that tried to quantify not just the proximity to stops, but also the quality of the service in terms of departures per day or week, as well as the variety of destinations served, so as to give an indication of how usable the local public transport is — and preferably in a mode-agnostic manner (though many would argue that trams and trains are more desirable than buses).

Difficult to do, of course, given timetable data is not publicly available. Shame.

(By the way, The Age’s 2011 interactive map isn’t up to much. You can barely tell which area is which, thanks to almost no labels.)

Sunday Age “outperforms the rest”

I’m always amused when one of the newspapers crows about the latest circulation figures.

THE Sunday Age continues to be the best-performing metropolitan newspaper in Australia, according to the latest circulation figures.

The newspaper recorded the best year-on-year growth to September 2011 of any daily, Saturday or Sunday newspaper in the country.

Sunday Age: Sunday Age outperforms the rest

It takes a particularly selective use of the figures to come up with the headline “outperforms the rest”. In the article they quote the Sunday Age’s circulation of 228,826, but fail to mention the circulation of their competitors.

Age vs Herald Sun circulation

The figures were all published last week. The Age is outstripped by their main competitor in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, every day of the week.

While it’s true that the Sunday Age is growing in circulation (by 2126 in a year apparently), I think it’s rather optimistic to claim it “outperforms the rest” when it’s only selling 41% of the competition, and at this rate of growth (and the current rate of loss for the Sunday Herald Sun), it’ll take another ten years to get equal.

Some reading for Cup Day

The Public Transport Users Association has outlined the extent of this maze in a diagram showing the many agencies, quangos, private companies and safety bodies running the state’s public transport.The Age

Here is the diagram:

Diagram of organisations running public transport in Victoria

Read the full feature article at The Age: The Great Disconnect.

PS. Given part of the article was about how hard it is to find the right bus stop at Footscray, maybe it’s appropriate that the photo used was me looking grumpy in front of a number 404 bus. (Little geek joke there.)

Daniel looking grumpy at a bus stop

The middle of nowhere

This is where one of Melbourne’s busiest buses terminates. The 630, in the middle of Elsternwick Park, between the skate park* and the golf course, and blocking the westbound bike lane.

630 bus terminus, Elwood
(Source: Nearmap)

The closest shops are a few hundred metres away. It’s 800 metres (as the crow flies) to the nearest railway station, and the bustling centre of St Kilda is about 2km away. Those would all be useful places for a bus to terminate, bus no, this one runs via quiet suburban streets and finishes in the middle of a park.

It’s about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in the inner suburbs.

Why does it finish there? It has done for years, more-or-less. Once upon a time it went to the beach nearby, but got switched to the park a few years ago.

Consequently the Elwood end of the bus route is very quiet (not a good use of taxpayer-funded resources) — while the other end is so busy it’s become infamous among Monash Uni Clayton students for its overcrowding.

Queue at Huntingdale Station for bus 630 to Monash Uni

If only they had a process to fix things like this.

They do. The Metropolitan Bus Service Reviews were initiated to identify problems like this, to get community input, study the possible fixes, and recommend solutions.

The Bus Service Review recommended that this bus route be extended 2km to St Kilda, so it would provide a useful link from St Kilda to Monash Clayton, as well as better provide for local trips in Elwood, be more useful for passengers, pick up more patronage, and be more cost-effective. Other nearby routes would also be optimised (including the way confusing 600/922/923 route).

The problem? Only a fraction of the changes recommended have actually happened. This is one of many recommendations right across Melbourne which have been ignored by the government.

So for now, the 630 continues to terminate in the middle of nowhere.

You can read more about this in today’s Age

*The same skate park where a few years ago, some idiots destroyed a VCR.