driving transport


For a while now, VicRoads has been working on a plan to allocate different priorities to different roads around Melbourne. Rather than the free-for-all we sometimes see now, some roads would be setup to emphasise pedestrian priority, some bus, some tram, and some would be “preferred traffic routes” and lesser “other traffic routes”.

I suspect it was inevitable that this would be launched under the title “SmartRoads“.

Here’s the glossy VicRoads video with Roads Minister Tim Pallas:

One of the positives is to encourage through-vehicle-traffic onto particular roads and off others, and with my sustainable transport hat on, hopefully it means better pedestrian facilities (eg crossings and low traffic speeds) and priority for public transport vehicles where it counts.

The detail about where the principal bike routes will be isn’t clear yet, and of course for cycling to really take off, these preferred routes need to be much more closely spaced than they are for cars.

Central Melbourne "SmartRoads" diagramThe down side of the plan is that if you live on a road which is deemed to be a preferred traffic route, you’re probably going to see more traffic coming through. But then, it does seem to formalise trends which have been ongoing for some time now, so you may not notice a huge difference. It’s been obvious for some time now that the Nepean Highway and Punt Road are traffic sewers.

One of the big questions will be what happens when two priority routes intersect? Anybody who’s caught a tram that crosses Alexandra Parade, for instance, will know you can spend minutes waiting at the lights. Hopefully the view that the higher priority is the number of people moving through the intersection, not the number of vehicles, will be the prevailing one.

I saw a draft of this thing in 2008; things have changed a little bit since then. In my area (which is still under review), happily, there are no preferred traffic routes, though there are some “other traffic routes”.

I think this is a step forward; recognition that the car is no longer king, at least not on every single road, and that more efficient movement of people means giving priority to trams and buses, as well as pedestrians in some areas.

But the devil will be in the detail — and to take full advantage of it and really cut traffic congestion, the government needs to push much harder on upgrading the alternatives to car travel.

How will it affect your area? Download the maps from VicRoads.

Politics and activism transport

The quest for policies

Some of the letters in the papers (particularly the local paper) are obviously from cranks, but many are worthwhile, and this one in this week’s Moorabbin Glen Eira Leader just perfectly enunciates what I suspect a lot of people are thinking:

Libs need to state policies

IN RESPONSE to the letter by the Liberal candidate for Bentleigh, Elizabeth Miller (Opinion, February 2), I would like to point out the following.

As a public transport user I am well aware of the quality (or the lack of it) of our public transport system.

As an IT professional I have known all along the myki system would be a disaster.

However, what I do not know is who I should vote for in November. The Labor government was unable to improve public transport, or public health services, despite being in power for more than a decade.

The Liberals, on the other hand, haven’t proposed a single real alternative on any issue.

I haven’t even heard about a Liberal candidate for Bentleigh until now.

Stating the obvious and simply saying, “they are bad”, is really not enough.

What do you propose, Ms Miller?

How exactly is your party going to improve our transport? Will you have the courage to say that myki was a horrendous disaster and, yes, the money was wasted but we should just stop it now before we waste even more? What steps will you take to improve the health system? Will you look into the ridiculous stamp duties on property purchases before you announce some other grant?

What is the point of giving with one hand and taking with the other?

The list of issues is long and as a voter I would like to see some definitive answers.

Anna Heifetz,
Bentleigh East.

The opposition has stated one clear policy in the realm of public transport: that of security on every railway station, every night, which while expensive, would certainly go a long way towards alleviating fear of crime on the train network.

Other than that — well let’s hope that before too long they announce what else they’d do if elected, in that portfolio and all the others.

Politics and activism

Which MP’s fridge magnet is better?

It must be an election year — in the past few weeks we’ve got fridge magnets with emergency numbers, from both our federal Member of Parliament Andrew Robb (Liberal) and also from state MP Rob Hudson (Labor).

Local MPs fridge magnets

So, you know how I like to treat political issues seriously. Which fridge magnet is better?

Rob Hudson (Labor) Andrew Robb (Liberal)
Style Cardboard with small magnet All magnetised
Orientation Portrait Landscape
Colour picture of candidate Yes Yes
Type of numbers “Handy numbers” “Emergency numbers”
Number of numbers 17 12 [1]
Numbers listed not on opposition Local councils, Consumer Affairs, Gamblers help, Metlink, Monash Medical Centre, local police, Quitline Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline, Crime Stoppers
Environmental credentials of magnet Yes: 55% recycled/45% sustainable plantation card, elemental chlorine free Unknown
Parliamentary seal Yes No

[1] Plus space for more, but you’d need a whiteboard or permanent marker to write them in, and the space is likely to be inadequate.

So which is better?

Andrew’s is the nicer magnet, definitely, and more useful as an actual magnet, eg for sticking things to the fridge. But Rob’s has more useful numbers on it.

I’ll probably keep them both, until something better comes along.

And of course, one always has the option of trimming them to remove the MP’s details, and just keep the phone numbers.

(Andrew Robb took time off for depression late last year. I hope I’m not trivialising what is obviously a very serious condition, but I couldn’t help pondering whether he looked at one of his own fridge magnets when seeking help.)

Geek Net

ISP shopping part 2

An update on my ISP shopping post from a couple of weeks ago:

Netspace rang me up to discuss my concerns (they found the post themselves), and to let me know there was some progress on resolving them:

Advice of network outages — they said there is already a project underway to advise of outages via SMS direct to customers. Sounds pretty good. Whether or not they’d open up their network status page was unclear — sounds like not. But at least SMS alerts would make it easy to know what’s going on without being online.

Revision of plans without telling anybody — apparently this is being discussed with Netspace management, and it is recognised that this isn’t great customer service. No promises, but at least they’re looking at it.

And they said that they recognised I was a loyal customer (since about 2003 I think), and wanted to keep me, and made me a very good offer to upgrade me. Combined with the fact that there’d be no hassles with switching ISPs, and no outage, it was an offer to good to refuse.

So I’ve upgraded and am sticking with Netspace, on a 75 Gb plan (30 Gb peak, 45 Gb off-peak; about double what I had before) for $59.95/month (the same as I was paying before).

So far it’s been good, the speed difference is noticeable. In fact, they switched me to the faster speed before the modem arrived, so almost instantly my speed went up from 1500 kbps to about 8000 kbps (the fastest possible ADSL1 speed). And the ADSL2+ speed is about double that.

ADSL speed test

And of course because there’s no contract, I can jump ship anytime if I want (though in the fine print there is a $65 “network termination fee”). But for now, I’m happy again, and provided Netspace are true to their word and fix the outage notifications, I’m more than happy to recommend them.

Another lesson here: I’m not sure if this is universal, but it would seem that people on ADSL1, using ADSL1 modems, are able to get a speed upgrade from 1500 kbps to 8000 kbps fairly painlessly just by switching to an ADSL2+ plan. Because for many ISPs, ADSL1 uses others’ facilities (eg it’s reselling) and ADSL uses their own, the pricing is likely to be comparable — in my case it was identical. In fact, why Netspace (and other ISPs) don’t encourage this?


Frequency vs no transfer

Airport bus stopI was pondering the airport “shuttle” services.

Take the Frankston/Peninsula one. It picks up in Moorabbin about once an hour on weekdays. It gets to the airport 80-90 minutes later, charging $28 for an adult.

Across the street from the bus stop is Moorabbin station. The train runs every 15 minutes on weekdays, takes 27-34 minutes to Southern Cross, plus 5 minutes walking from the platform to the Skybus, and a maximum 10 minute wait for a bus, plus the Skybus trip itself (20 minutes), you’ll be at the airport in 52-69 minutes. Train fare $5.80, plus Skybus fare $16 = $21.80. And you don’t have to time your trip to fit in with an hourly service.

I know which one I’d prefer (not that the “shuttle” stops close enough to my place anyway, whereas the train does).

But no doubt some people would prefer to make the trip without a transfer halfway along, particularly if they have mobility issues and/or a lot of luggage.

By the way, given Marita waited about 20 minutes for a taxi from the airport at 10pm on Sunday night, it would seem there’s still a case for an airport train service.

Net News and events

The Age’s new home page

This is what appeared on The Age’s home page this morning (with my additions). new home page

They explained that there’s a new video tab, which you’ll see when the lead story is best told in video.

Eh? How is Ultimate Fighting in any way to be regarded as the lead story? Unless Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott jumped in the ring.

And why is a pr0n star (I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’s about Tiger Woods; I didn’t click on it) a related story to anything on that page?

What I do like is that they’ve split the Victoria and National stories apart, though as-of lunchtime some stories appear to be in the wrong spots — I doubt for instance that today’s Myki story has much national significance.

The Today’s Paper link reflects what’s in the print edition for the day, which is probably a good idea. I like the way it gives more prominence to the PDF copy of the front page.

And I wonder if this declaration is laying down the gauntlet to News Ltd, who have said in the past they’d be moving to a paid content model: But some things haven’t changed. We still bring you the latest breaking news as it happens, free, all day every day, in words, pictures and video.

Anyway, despite the teething problems, interesting to see them changing things around. Now, if they can just get rid of the annoying habit of having the video stories autostart…


Myki short term tickets

My aunt and cousin are visiting from interstate. Over dinner last night they were telling me that the most confusing thing about Metcard is the requirement to validate it straight after buying it at a railway station machine.

I saw a businessman (evidently an occasional user) make that mistake yesterday morning. He realised after walking past the validator that he had to go back.

It makes some sense to make Metcards like this, so they can be bought in advance. But over the 10+ years the system has been operating, it has proven to be one of its most confusing attributes for occasional train travellers.

When Myki is eventually fully running (sometime before the year 3000), if you don’t have a Myki card, you’ll buy Short Term tickets. Intended for occasional users including tourists, they will only be available for 2-hour or Daily fares — here’s what they look like:

Short term ticket

On trams you’ll buy them from the machine and they’ll be already valid.

On buses you’ll buy them from the driver and they’ll already be valid.

At stations? Same as now with Metcards. You’ll have to touch them on to validate them/set the expiry time.

I think this is a mistake. I reckon that given they will be trying to encourage as many people as possible onto reusable Myki cards, they should make it so a Short Term ticket bought at a station is already valid for the day or 2-hour period.

They are not intended to be bought in advance or in bulk (that’s what Myki cards are for) and it would be less confusing for the occasional users who are most likely to be using them.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

(Footnote: It may well be that the same type of ticket will be used for once-off V/Line fares. I’ll admit it may be of some merit to make these valid only from the time/date of first touch-on, if bought in advance/over the counter, but that should be an exception to the rule.)

Melbourne Net


A few years ago I did a comparison of the results from online trip planners. Here’s an update of sorts.

I tested 247 Flinders Lane (which is an address on a one-way street, in an area with lots of turn restrictions and pedestrian streets) to see what the various navigators would do. For the destination I just put Bentleigh (my neighbourhood).

Yahoo Maps couldn’t give me an answer, reporting that “Driving directions cannot be determined between these locations”. I tried giving it a specific destination, but it wouldn’t do it.

Google Maps directionsGoogle Maps:

1. Head west on Flinders Ln towards Flinders Way    0.1 km
2. Turn right at Elizabeth St    0.1 km
3. Take the 1st right on to Collins St    0.5 km
4. Turn right at Russell St    0.2 km
5. Turn right at Flinders St    0.2 km
6. Take the 1st left on to St Kilda Rd    4.6 km
7. Turn left at Fitzroy St    77 m
8. Turn right at St Kilda Rd    1.3 km
9. Continue onto Brighton Rd    1.9 km
10. Continue onto Nepean Hwy    4.1 km
11. Slight left at Centre Rd    1.5 km

Google decided that just entering the suburb for the destination would go to the post office.

The directions are pretty good, but St Kilda Junction confused it; you don’t (you can’t) turn at Fitzroy Street when headed southbound; you turn briefly onto Punt Road, which then leads you onto St Kilda Road.


1. Continue on Flinders La, Melbourne – head towards Degraves St
2. Turn left onto Degraves St, Melbourne at Punt Hill
3. Turn left onto Flinders St, Melbourne
4. Turn right onto Swanston St, Melbourne at Young & Jackson Hotel
5. Continue along St Kilda Rd, Melbourne at Arintji Cafe & Bar
6. Veer right onto Punt Rd, St Kilda
7. Continue along St Kilda Rd, St Kilda
8. Continue along Brighton Rd, St Kilda
9. Continue along Nepean Hwy, Elsternwick at McDonalds
10. Veer left onto Ramp, Brighton East
11. Continue along Brewer Rd, Brighton East
12. At the roundabout – take the 2nd exit onto Brewer Rd, Bentleigh
13. Arrive at Brewer Rd, Bentleigh

Curiously it’s led me to somewhere well outside the logical centre of Bentleigh, though it might be the geographic centre of the suburb.

It figured out St Kilda Junction, but got the initial directions completely wrong, directing me to turn into Degraves Street, which is mostly closed to traffic, and then to do an illegal right hand turn from Flinders St into Swanston St. I kinda like the use of landmarks for directions though.

Bing/MSN maps:

1. Depart -37.81673, 144.96600 on Flinders Ln (West)
2. Turn LEFT (South) onto King St  (0.1 km)
3. Road name changes to Kings Way  (2.3 km)
4. Bear RIGHT (South) onto Queens Rd  (2.0 km)
5. Turn LEFT (East) onto Union St  (0.4 km)
6. Turn RIGHT (South) onto Punt Rd  (0.3 km)
7. Keep STRAIGHT onto St Kilda Rd  (1.3 km)
8. Road name changes to Brighton Rd  (1.9 km)
9. Keep LEFT onto Nepean Hwy  (4.1 km)
10. Keep LEFT onto Centre Rd  (1.5 km)
11. Turn RIGHT (South) onto Loranne St  (0.0 km)
12. Arrive -37.91806, 145.03544  (0.0 km)

This one has also led me to the post office. Unlike the others it preferred Kingsway to St Kilda Road, but I can’t see any flaws with its logic, though it did decide I should go all the way along Union Street to Punt Road — that may well be faster than turning off Union Street at St Kilda Road.

And for non-drivers, how about Metlink’s journey planner?

From 247 Flinders Lane (Melbourne City)    
Walk about 220 metres to Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City)

1. Continue along  Royston Pl   20 m  about 1 min
2. Turn right at  Flinders Lane   80 m  about 2 min
3. Turn right at  Swanston St   120 m  about 2 min
4. Continue along  St Kilda Rd   10 m  about 1 min
5. Arr:  10:08 am  To Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City)  210 m  4 min

DEP: 10:08 am  Flinders Street Railway Station (Melbourne City) Platform 8
Take the train towards Frankston — Time 21 min
ARR: 10:29 am

Get off at Bentleigh Railway Station (Bentleigh) Platform 2    

DEP: From Stop Bentleigh Railway Station (Bentleigh)
Walk about 50 metres Time 7 min
10:36 am To Bentleigh (Bentleigh)

Metlink decided “Bentleigh” meant a street next to the railway station. Not sure why.

The instructions to walk to the station assume that Royston Place is a thoroughfare; It’s a deadend; you can’t get to Flinders Street station that way. Update: Ah, it assumed I was starting in Royston Place, not walking through it. Not sure why it would do that though. And it didn’t send me via the quickest pedestrian route, which is the Degraves Street subway.

But the train trip itself is correct.

Unknown why it thinks it’ll take 7 minutes to walk 50 metres at the end of the trip. Maybe it’s adding a bit in case the train is late, or you have to wait for a train at the level crossing.

So, Bing gave the best result. All the others appear to need some attention.

News and events Politics and activism

Healthy debate needs truth

My view, as I’ve expressed before, is that healthy debate is important, but it relies on the participants sticking to the facts, and not just making things up.

Otherwise you get stuff like this, which concerns a Bacchus Marsh resident who apparently misinterpreted what he read and contacted Leader (newspapers) with concerns about seniors ticket pricing doubling from $3.30 one way to $7.

I suspect Myki spokesdroid Jean Ker Walsh was probably correct when she said some seniors may be confusing a one-off cost with ongoing senior fare prices.

That is, to buy a re-usable Myki card will, once all the free offers are gone, cost $7 for a concession.

Many people also seem to be assuming (incorrectly) that tourists and others will be forced to shell out for a card. They won’t — short term (non-reusable) tickets will be available: Short term tickets (for occasional users such as tourists) will replace the single-use 2-hour and Daily tickets available now.

I know it’s easy for people to assume the worst, but these sorts of false “the whole thing is totally crap” arguments don’t really help the debate, and help obscure the truth: that Myki is incredibly expensive, late, and badly implemented.

So it goes too for climate change.

Lord Christopher Monckton has been doing a speaking tour of Australia in the past few weeks, and doing a fair bit of media along the way. He’s an extremely eloquent, apparently very knowledgeable and intelligent climate change sceptic.

But, as MediaWatch found, he makes stuff up. He comes out with unsubstantiated claims which (as MediaWatch showed) many in the media let him get away with unchallenged.

I think the United Nations Climate Panel is now a busted flush. For instance, Rajendra Pachauri, its chairman, Sir John Houghton, its former chairman, and a number of other people associated with it, are now under formal criminal investigation in the United Kingdom for filing false accounts of a charity known as TERI Europe of which they are all trustees.

MediaWatch asked Sir John Houghton, who said “I am not and have never been a Trustee of Teri Europe.

They also spoke to the UK Charity Commission which said it’s evaluating Monckton’s claims, but is not running a criminal investigation. And they asked TERI Europe, who said that “Neither TERI Europe nor its trustees have received any complaint from the Charity Commission about its activities, let alone any allegation of criminal conduct.

Another of Monckton’s claims: The Barrier Reef Authority has established that sea temperatures in the region of the reef have not changed at all over the last 30 years.

MediaWatch checked this too. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says it doesn’t measure sea temperatures itself, and doesn’t know where his figures come from.

It really does appear that he’s just making stuff up — and not for the first time, either.

I suspect to anybody with an open mind, it all just casts doubt on the rest of his arguments, and it doesn’t help us have a serious, healthy debate at all.

News and events TV

TV news

Superb! Charlie Brooker on what makes a generic TV news report:

(via Mumbrella)