New Metro timetables start in June

So, a new train timetable starts in June, shaking up the Frankston line in particular, but also the Dandenong line and minor tweaks on some of the other lines.

Comeng train in Metro livery
Updated 10pm with a pic of a Comeng train in the new Metro colours

About a year ago I remarked that the Frankston line was using a timetable from the 90s, and little had changed in 15 years.

Looking again at the times from Glenhuntly (my old station) into the city, let’s update the comparison:

1997 7:13 7:24 7:34 7:49 7:58 8:06 8:20 8:25 8:37 8:52
Early 2009 7:11 7:20 7:31 7:47 7:56 8:05 8:21 8:36 8:52
Current 7:11 7:20 7:31 7:47 7:56 8:05 8:09 8:21 8:36 8:52
June 2010 7:11 7:29 7:38 7:48 7:56 8:04 8:13 8:22 8:36 8:52

So for the stations between Highett Patterson and Glenhuntly, we’ll have the same number of trains as at present (though Bentleigh loses a couple of expresses). Whereas currently some run express Malvern/Caulfield to South Yarra, from June they’ll all stop all stations to the city.

The benefit? They’re more evenly spaced between 7:30 and 8:30, with no ridiculous 16 minute gap between 8:05 and 8:21. The current timetable, from mid-2009, added an 8:09 direct to Flinders St, but this didn’t do the job properly, because being so close after the 8:05, it carries very few people, while the 8:21 is still packed. It’s the uneven gaps between trains that cause some trains to be over-crowded and late, and others to be lightly loaded.

Is it enough trains overall to relieve the crowding? I guess we’ll see.

The bigger change

The bigger change is almost all the Frankston express trains (which are in addition to those above, because they don’t stop Highett to Glenhuntly inclusive) will run direct to Flinders St, not via the loop. This is to reduce congestion in the Caulfield loop tunnel, and allow some extra Dandenong line trains in.

One reason they’ve done this is because in the evening, the current pattern causes overcrowding on the Dandenong trains. This is because Frankston expresses need to leave just before stoppers, so each express can arrive at Caulfield just behind the previous stopper, so they can then overtake on the extra track between Caulfield and Moorabbin.

So at the moment because all the Frankston trains need to be run consecutively in the loop, this means you get a gap of 6-8 minutes between Dandenong trains, then 2-3 in a row. Again, uneven frequencies mean some Dandenong trains are much more crowded than others.

This change should fix that. But it means people from beyond Cheltenham who are headed for the loop will have to choose whether they get an all stations train to the loop, or get an express but change to/from the loop. Obviously many of them may be able to walk from Flinders Street instead.

Bearing in mind of course that Flinders Street isn’t some godforsaken backwater; it’s actually the most popular station.

Crowded train, Frankston line

Dandenong line

There’s been a shakeup of stopping patterns on the Dandenong line to simplify things. It carries about double the number of passengers of the Frankston line overall — some of the Metro publicity which I can’t find online says 91,000 per day on the Dandy line vs 43,000 Frankston.

Because of this the Dandy trains will get to run express through the MATHS stations most of the time (with most Frankston trains outside peak stopping instead). And all their trains will run via the loop.

So will the times will be evened out? As I wrote recently, frequencies at Carnegie are currently very uneven.

Current 7:06 7:10 7:26 7:30 7:40 7:43 7:47 7:57 8:05 8:11 8:22 8:27 8:30
From June 7:06 7:10 7:26 7:36 7:43 7:50 7:56 8:05 8:11 8:15 8:18 8:27 8:30

Hmmmm. A bit better. Still some big gaps though. More changes might be needed.

Other lines

Hurstbridge gets some extra trains (as far as Eltham, at least) after the evening peak. Be nice to see this on the other lines too; the shutdown to half-hourly trains after 7pm is pretty hopeless, and does nothing to help spread peak loads around.

Alamein/Blackburn trains will move from platform 6 back to platform 4 in peak. This means Sydenham/Craigieburn/Upfield trains will all squeeze onto platform 5, which may seem counterproductive. Apparently it’s to avoid the Alamein/Blackburn trains clashing with the Dandenong trains on 6/7, which makes sense, but they’ll have to get better at keeping platform 5 running smoothly. At least unlike a few years ago, the Werribees are over on 10.

Coolaroo station on the Craigieburn line will open, so some of that line’s times will be adjusted.

Minor tweaks on the other lines means it’s worth checking the timetable to see if your train times have changed.

What still needs doing?

All sorts of things — and they’re flagging another change later in the year concentrating on the north/western lines.

Peak is still going to be a problem on a lot of lines, with overcrowding and delays. As the rest of the 38 trains arrive, hopefully they’ll help relieve some of the pressure.

The Laverton upgrade should be finished soon, which’ll mean more Werribee trains.

Off-peak, evening, weekend frequencies all need fixing. This only needs more drivers and maintenance staff. Apparently the maintenance facilities are almost at capacity, but this’ll be relieved when a new one comes online at Craigieburn in 2011. Werribee has its 6 trains per hour between the peaks, and this is where the other lines need to get to, seven days-a-week.

Operational stuff like the driver changeover at Flinders Street needs to improve to keep trains pumping through.

At some stage I wonder if they’re going to change the loop around a bit. The midday reversal is confusing, and means you can’t get between certain stations at some times of day.

And clearly feeder buses need to get better so more people can get to stations without driving and hunting for a spot in crowded car parks. (Hopeless for anybody travelling after morning peak.)

In the longer term, what have they got planned? The map below is from the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan (the section “Priority 2: Linking rural, regional and metro Victoria”). Unfortunately most of it’s in monochrome to highlight the Regional Rail Link project, but if you follow the metro lines around you’ll see what they’ve got in mind.

Train map from Vic Transport Plan

Going more-or-less clockwise:

  • Werribee, Laverton and Williamstown to Southern Cross and Flinders Street direct, then through to Frankston
  • Sunbury (Sydenham), Craigieburn and Upfield to the City Loop
  • South Morang and Hurstbridge to the City Loop
  • Lilydale, Belgrave and Glen Waverley to the City Loop
  • Blackburn and Alamein to Flinders Street direct
  • Dandenong (Pakenham/Cranbourne) to the City Loop
  • Sandringham to Flinders Street direct

Peeking much further into the future, this map shows what’s in mind if/when they build the new rail tunnel under Swanston Street. Essentially the same as above, except that Sunbury/Sydenham will feed into the tunnel, then out to Pakenham and Cranbourne. Werribee, Laverton and Williamstown will feed into Flinders Street direct then through to Westall. Frankston will go back into the loop.

Update 7th June — See new post


Backpacks aren’t actually people

Backpacks aren't actually people!

From Canada’s National Post (they have a few others too, but I liked this one the best).

Health Home life

Blade vs electric

I’m sure most men wish they could flick a switch to stop their facial hair growing.

Yesterday, for the first time in well over a decade, I tried blade shaving. I had been pondering switching back from electric, since my Phillishave shaver’s rechargable battery is wearing out, and it needs a new blade and filter thingy.

So I picked up a three-blade shaver and some cream from the supermarket, and gave it a go.

The result was more blood in the bathroom than Hitchcock’s shower scene. (No, not really, not quite.) (Sorry, no pics.)

You know that scene in one of the early Simpsons with Homer teaching Bart to shave, and then him putting lots of bits of paper over the numerous cuts? Yeah, like that.

The main culprit was a small (but permanent) lumpy thing on my chin, which poured out blood like a geyser (no, not really), and took quite some time to stop.

How embarrassment.

On the plus side, the shave was certainly smoother. But on the minus, apart from the blood (which would go away with practice and accuracy and once my face is “used” to blades again), it didn’t look noticeably better than with an electric shaver.

That is, despite the closer shave, the same amount of stubble was visible — it was just shorter. So what is the point?

It all made me remember why I switched to electric in the first place, and I’ll be heading down to the Shaver Shop ASAP to refresh the parts on my electric shaver.

* * *

How do you shave? If you feel like it, click an option below.

* * *

Update Monday: Survey results:

Shaving survey results

Consumerism driving Melbourne Politics and activism transport


It’s time for a cleanout of links and half-written/baked posts.

Fascinating for MSM watchers

A former Fairfax staffer is starting his own free magazine in collaboration with real estate agents and is expected to win millions in advertising revenue away from Fairfax.

Webber’s nanny state

During the recent furore over Mark Webber’s claims Victoria was a nanny state, I remember being puzzled at Webber’s stance: that he wanted people to be responsible for their actions, but he didn’t want them to suffer any consequences when they did something against the law. Eh??

Anyway, I read this excellent opinion piece by Tony Wright. The arguments of evolving laws, enforcement and standards bringing the road toll down over the years seem logical, but it was the punchline that took my breath away.

Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC)

I don’t understand the fuss about the GAIC. Maybe it needs to be tweaked, but the fundamentals… what exactly is wrong with a charge to make landholders contribute to infrastructure in new suburbs, provided (as is proposed) that it only applies when you sell the land?

One argument (pushed by the opposition): Independent studies have shown that Laborโ€™s GAIC would add up to $15,000 to the cost of a new home, further undermining housing affordability in Melbourne. I disagree — homes on the new urban fringe will be some of the most remote, and cheapest available. If the money is used right (and I accept it’s not been shown that the government is capable of doing that), it pays for the infrastructure and services to those new homes that helps make them more competitive with established suburbs, which should help to spread the demand more equally.


Grade 5 student stops abduction of Prep girl. THIS is why the School Buddy system is a good idea. (I thought I’d blogged about it, but can’t find it: I remember overhearing a kid on the train describing it to his nasty cranky grandmother, who couldn’t understand.)

Why you shouldn’t leave your motor running

It bugs me when I see people needlessly leaving their car engines running for minutes at a time while waiting for someone, etc. It’s not like most modern vehicles need to warm up.

This video is possibly NSFW:

Food'n'drink Health

Input and output

Some figures I need to keep in mind the next time I am tempted by one of Hungry Jacks’ evil Bacon Deluxe Value Meals (opting for the OJ):

Food Burger Reg fries Orange juice
Energy 3030 kJ 1601 kJ 695 kJ
Protein 43.3 g 5.9 g 1.6 g
Fat – total 47.5 g 19.0 g less than 1 g
– saturated 19.2 g 10.2 g less than 1 g
Carbohydrate 29.2 g 44.7 g 38.1 g
– sugars 5.9 g 0.6 g 36.1 g
Sodium 1226 mg 452 mg 8 mg

Source: Hungry Jacks

A total of 5326 kilojoules. Not exactly healthy.

According to this exercise chart, to burn off that much energy, I (weighing about 75 Kg) would need to walk at a brisk pace (6 km/h) for 231 minutes — or almost 4 hours.


Maybe today for lunch I’ll have a sandwich.


Twitter highlights part 4

This post in a continuing series covers the first half of 2009. (Why?)

January 2009

noted a lot of joggers about. New year’s resolutions? There’s a few people out on the roads who should resolve to indicate. 5:28 PM Jan 1st from txt

watching Marita beat up virtual people in Wii boxing. 12:23 PM Jan 3rd from web

is not the new Doctor Who. 7:59 PM Jan 5th from web

barrelled over to Bunnings on the bus to replace a blown bathroom bulb. 4:55 PM Jan 8th from web

wishing wasn’t using the Sandy line today: delays earlier due to equipment failure, and now “police operations” at Balaclava. Wish me luck. 4:46 PM Jan 13th from web

With other Sandy line refugees on packed sweaty tram. 5:10 PM Jan 13th from txt

Girl on tram fainted, she’s ok now though, her fellow commuters came to her aid with water and first aid advice. 5:29 PM Jan 13th from txt

is seeing which clowns are quoted in this morning’s Age editorial 7:32 AM Jan 15th from web


How about some wider footpaths?

There are around 70,000 parking spaces in Melbourne’s CBD [source], and cars are a minority access mode.

So don’t you think they could forfeit a few street parking spaces in the “Little” streets so some narrow footpaths could be widened?

Little Lonsdale St, near William St
(Little Lonsdale Street looking towards William Street. The truck was legally parked.)

For instance, Little Lonsdale Street has parking along both sides for most of its length, and has so many pedestrians at busy times that some are forced to walk on the road.

Removing parking spots along one side would be only a few dozen lost, but would make a big difference to the width of the footpaths — to cope with (and encourage) increasing pedestrian numbers, and also to ensure wheelchair (and pram) accessibility.


Trains along freeways aren’t necessarily a good idea

From time to time people suggest that train lines should be built in the middle of all new freeways.

The problem with building train lines along freeways is you’d be in danger of them all ending up like Jacana or Kannanook.

Jacana Station

Because freeways take up so much space, make so much noise, and generate so much pollution, any stations are likely to be a long way from houses, shops, or other places people can get to on foot, which is a necessity for making public transport work well.

If there’s nowhere to walk to from the station, you end up with people having to drive to the station (which means it’s a source for trips, but never a destination, and severely limits passenger numbers, since carparks fill rapidly), or you have to have very high quality feeder bus services (which can be done, but it’s not something often done very well in Melbourne, and it’s not letting the railway live up to its full potential).

Warnbro station, Perth
(Warnbro station in Perth — from

The same debate happens elsewhere, and with light rail:

“Light rail works best when people are getting on and off – there have to be destinations along the route”

— Urban Taskforce chief executive Aaron Gadiel, quoted in the Inner West Courier (Sydney)

It’s not just a question of distance, it’s also the environs: a station in the middle of lanes and lanes of traffic (and its noise) and huge carparks, reached via long pedestrian overpasses is just not a nice place to be.

It’s so much more pleasant if the station is integrated into the streetscape, with lots of other people around for passive protection, and attractions close by — in other words, stations in the middle of activity centres, as in most suburbs of Melbourne, with businesses and residents nearby.

Toorak Road, South Yarra

The buzzword for what’s needed is Transit-oriented development.

Which is not to say that railway lines shouldn’t be considered along some freeways. Perth has used it to rapidly and cost-effectively expand its railway network.

And in Melbourne a link from Victoria Park along the Eastern Freeway (which was specifically designed to cater for a rail line in the middle) to a Park+Ride/Bus station at Bulleen (eg the cheapest easiest bit of the long-proposed Doncaster rail line), with a nice bus interchange would allow all the freeway buses to be redeployed to provide frequent connecting services into the station, instead of being stuck in traffic on Hoddle Street and Victoria Parade.

But trains along freeways shouldn’t generally be the preference, if there are viable alternatives. There are usually better places to build them.

Politics and activism

This makes no sense

From ABC’s AM on Monday, on the rise of anti-government rhetoric in the USA:

BILL CLINTON: A lot of the things that have been said, they create a climate in which people who are vulnerable to violence because they’re disoriented, like Timothy McVeigh was, are more likely to act. We ought to have a lot of political dissent a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time but we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say.

LISA MILLAR: After first raising his concerns two days ago the former president has been criticised by conservatives including talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: With this comment – you have just set the stage for violence in this country. Any future acts of violence are on your shoulders Mr Clinton.

Is Limbaugh’s comment somehow completely out of context? (I heard it told the same way on another report from a different outlet.)

How does it make even the slightest bit of sense? You can argue that Clinton is being alarmist by making a link back to McVeigh, or being overly critical of the Tea Party movement, sure. But when Clinton asks people to be mindful of inciting violence, Limbaugh responds that it’s therefore Clinton’s fault if it happens?

It’s not just at odds with the traditional conservative view of taking personal responsibility, unless I’m missing something fundamental, it also makes no sense whatsoever.

Video games

The hero

A while back we were in EB Games in Swanston Street having a look at the big Nintendo area on the first floor. Jeremy sat and played a bit of New Super Mario Brothers with another kid. Both being experienced players, they gave the very last level a go. But towards the end, Jeremy’s character fell into the lava or got hit by a fireball or something, and his game ended.

The other kid kept playing, right to the very end of the very last level, which (if you don’t mind spoilers if you’re a player of the game) you’ll see involves some pretty daunting hazards.

He got all the way through. Those of us watching were awestruck.

At the final victory, on the last level of the game, with Bowser vanquished, and the princess rescued, he put down the Wii remote. He stood up from the couch, and he walked off into the sunset (well, back towards the exit to find whichever parent or guardian he was with).

He didn’t wait for praise. He didn’t wait for the reactions of those who had witnessed his great deed. He just moved on.

It was truly an awesome moment of video game heroism.