Old photos from January 2008

Another in my series of ten year old photos.

In late-2007/early-2008 there was a stoush around the banning of bicycles in zone 1 during peak hours. In February 2008 the ban was reversed. Notice that this sign is ambiguous: are the bikes banned on any train that serves zone 1 during peak, or just banned on the part of the trip within zone 1? (It was the latter.)
Suburban train zone 1 bike ban, January 2008

Banksy had visited Melbourne in 2003 and drawn “Little Diver”. Later in 2008 it was destroyed.
"Little Diver" by Banksy, off Flinders Lane, Melbourne, January 2008

The Elizabeth Street tram terminus nearby, still with “The Met” markings, some 8 years after privatisation. The Metcard warning about coins only was introduced after a court case where a passenger claimed it wasn’t common knowledge that you couldn’t pay with notes. Of course nowadays you can’t board (outside the Free Tram Zone) without a pre-loaded Myki card.
Elizabeth Street tram terminus information booth, January 2008

We had a ride on Puffing Billy — come to think of it, this was the last time I went on it. Maybe time for a return visit?
Puffing Billy, January 2008

Crowded at Belgrave when the train got back
Belgrave Station, Puffing Billy, January 2008

Railway staff at Belgrave
Belgrave Station, Puffing Billy, January 2008

More proof (if it’s still needed) that actually it’s possible to carry a fair amount of stuff on public transport if you put your mind to it.
Glenhuntly station, January 2008

The beginning of the end for Dick Smith Electronics? Their Carnegie “Powerhouse” decided to stop selling electronics — at least, electronic components. This trend continued — by 2016 they’d closed their retail stores and the brand name was sold to online retailer Kogan. Jaycar moved into the space, taking over some old Dick Smith stores.
Dick Smith Powerhouse stops selling electronics, January 2008

What is a “family-friendly” house?

When you’re house-hunting, there’s a continuum of numerous factors weighed against each other, including indoor space, outdoor space, location, walkability, and plenty more, including of course price.

By walkability, I mean the walking distance to amenity such as parks, good public transport, shops. (Walkscore attempts to measure this.)

From some points of view, perhaps the traditional position is that growing families will prioritise indoor and outdoor space over other factors. Big house, big garden.

I didn’t prioritise those when I bought my house; within my budget, I prioritised location and walkability over space. This had both pros and cons of course.

I wanted to flag one of the big advantages.

When I moved, my sons were 7 and 10. Now they’re 19 and 22. Location and walking access to shops and trains (under 10 minutes away) has been absolutely crucial to them gaining a sense of independence through their high school and university years and beyond.

Public transport problems notwithstanding, they’ve been able to get themselves around relatively easily, and enjoy it too, without a long walk or a long wait for a bus to get home — either of which would push them quickly towards driving.

Just for now, my sons are holding off learning to drive, but will do it eventually. With my concerned parent hat on, the risks of personal safety issues while out walking and using public transport are far less than the risks of driving. (The equation might be different if they weren’t both boys.)

Philip Street, Bentleigh (near Patterson Road)

I hadn’t really thought about how this had played out until my sister mentioned pondering moving her family from Moorabbin (under 15 minutes walk from a station) out to “where you can get more house for your money”.

It made me think that teenagers’ mobility is an important issue. You don’t want them being driven everywhere, and neither will they. You do want them to have access to friends, jobs, events and education independent of their parents.

Lack of space has obvious disadvantages. My front and back gardens are pretty, but not big enough for playing footy or cricket or other such activities. More private open space would be great.

But we have a park down the road, and being on a quiet street, we’ve been able to use that space for outdoor activities.

More indoor space would be possible by renovating, expanding upwards, but the budget hasn’t really allowed for that.

When it comes down to it, we sacrificed private space for the ability to get around without driving — for both my sons, and also for me.

Beyond their independence, being able to leave the car at home most of the time is also good for the health and finances of all of us.

It also means they have access to opportunities without the cost burden of owning their own cars.

I’m not alone in going down this path. With pressures on real estate prices, others are raising families in smaller houses or flats / apartments.

Whether it be buying or renting, we all make our choices. Hopefully those choices take everything into account — including things that may not be immediately obvious.

I’m not trying to tell anybody what’s better for their family, but if I had my time again, I don’t think I’d change a thing.

What’s the number one priority for politicians, more than anything else? Getting elected.

Just a quickie…

A senior politician (I won’t say who, or which side) once told me something which, at the time was somewhat surprising to hear, but in retrospect it’s obvious – and puts a lot of things into perspective:

For politicians, the number one priority is to get elected / to get re-elected / to get their side into power.

And this person specifically said that sometimes, the motivation to get elected trumps good policy.

I don’t suppose that it always goes for all politicians, but often, particularly when in opposition, you can see that on show.

You’d hope that more often than not, good policy would actually get them elected, but it’s not always the case.

Of course you can argue that for someone wanting to Do Good, there’s a limit to what they can do without being elected… so of course it could be seen as important.

And no doubt there are some idealist politicians out there who would genuinely risk their popularity or their position in the pursuit of good policy.

But remember, as you watch their actions, and hear their comments and sometimes incredibly overblown rhetoric, that for most politicians, getting elected and staying elected is their number one priority.

Melbourne’s tram fleet: accessibility and air-conditioning

Two seemingly unrelated things are occurring this week:

Today, Saturday, is expected to be the hottest day of Melbourne’s summer so far this season, with a forecast high of 42 degrees.

And… the 60th E-class tram just came into service.

In fact these two points are related, because only Melbourne’s newer (post-1987) trams are air-conditioned. Another new tram in service means an old one out, and the proportion of air-conditioned trams goes up.

And of course new trams means more low-floors: they now constitute over a third of the fleet — though for those with mobility issues, this isn’t very useful unless accompanied by tram stops providing level boarding.

Accessible tram

Using the VicSig tram fleet page, and making some adjustments for the newest E-class trams in service, I’ve tried to graph where things go from here.

Given W-class trams are no longer used in service except on the tourist-oriented City Circle, I’ve excluded them for the purposes of this discussion. (Apparently there are 38 of them.)

Precise information is a little hard to come by. There are no official fleet figures made public. VicSig figures seem to include some trams that are fit for use, but kept in storage.

So these figures may not be quite right, but I think they’re pretty close. (I’ll make modifications if I find corrections.)

Class First introduced Low floor Air-conditioned Load standard 2018 fleet size
Z3 1979 N N 70 108
A1 1983 N N 65 27
A2 1985 N N 65 42
B2 1987 N Y 120 130
C1 2001 Y Y 110 36
D1 2002 Y Y 90 38
D2 2004 Y Y 130 21
C2 2008 Y Y 150 5
E 2013 Y Y 180 50
E2 2017 Y Y 180 10

So, excluding the W-class trams, and noting again that this is my estimate:

  • A total of 467 trams
  • 34% are low-floor
  • 62% air-conditioned
  • Based on the load standard, which is not really the capacity, the total fleet can carry about 49,000 people (noting that there are always some trams out of service for maintenance etc)

Given the deadline of 2032 for accessibility compliance (DDA/DSAPT), how do things need to progress from 2019 (when the current order of E-class trams comes to an end, and 80 will be in service) to make the entire fleet low-floor?

The answer is about 22 new trams every year until 2032 — which is almost double the current rate of delivery of about one per month.

This assumes:

  • That they’ll continue the broad pattern of each new tram replacing an old one — which is not quite right — the Rolling Stock Strategy from 2015 says: As new larger trams will replace smaller old trams the total number of vehicles will drop in the short term, although passenger capacity will continue to increase.
  • That the new trams will continue to be E-class trams — they might look for a new design sometime next decade, or at least incremental improvements.
  • It also assumes all of the post-2000 low-floor trams remain in service — some of these will be getting pretty old as well by 2032.
  • And it assumes they’d wait as long as they could before reaching compliance!

Assuming all that, on this theoretical trajectory:

  • Z-class trams would disappear in 2023.
  • The last of the non-air-conditioned trams (A-class) would disappear in 2026.
  • The one-for-one replacement of older, initially smaller trams with larger ones, has a side effect: total capacity will increase from about 49,000 people now, to about 77,000 people in 2032.
  • Larger trams replacing smaller ones is also why it’s a huge project in terms of depot space, and additional power substations being built.

Will the fleet meet the 2032 deadline? It depends on the State Government continuing to order more new trams.

Their own rolling stock strategy from 2015 says: Two hundred and forty new trams will be needed over the next decade.

There are rumours of another order coming, but nothing firm yet — something to watch for in the State Budget in May.

Three good reasons for accessible tram services: luggage, mobility issues, prams

Even more intimidating than the fleet is the infrastructure. DDA/DSAPT includes a number of requirements (for instance, signage and announcements), but accessible stops are a key requirment. There are around 400 accessible tram stops out of a total of about 1700 (eg 25%). And many of those done so far have been the easy ones, along segregated track.

The benefits of a more accessible tram system are obvious — both to those with mobility difficulties, and also parents with prams, and anybody with luggage.

Reaching the target of full accessibility by 2032 is going to be tricky. It needs to be a key focus for government in the years ahead.

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Notes:

What should I blog about?

Happy new year!

Noting that the most-viewed and commented-upon blog posts of last year were all transport-related (yeah this blog has moved to mostly transport in the past few years), I’m wondering what topics people might be interested in for posts this year.

I have a number already in the works, but if you’d like to nominate a topic, please leave a comment.

* * *

Suggestions made on Twitter:

  • Maybe a few posts about what the biggest influences on making PT better we’re/are in Melb, Australia, and international contexts (with parallels?) And both local, regional and intercity contexts?
  • Bike safety, bike lanes, etc in Melbourne
  • Dandenong line transformation, such a massive project I imagine there is lots to write about
  • Suburban bus services & how routes could be restructured to improve travel times & integration with other modes
  • Enhancing #myki with smartphone apps. Exploiting NPP. What’s the best practice from around the world?