Health transport

Living near busy roads

As reported in The Age, the US Health Effects Institute recently published a report on the effects of living near busy roads.

Punt Road traffic

Its conclusion was that:

…there is sufficient evidence that exposures to traffic-related air pollution cause asthma exacerbation in children and suggestive evidence that they might cause other health effects.

…the zones most impacted by traffic-related pollution are up to 300 to 500 meters from highways and major roads

How do they define “major”? It appears they’ve used the metric of 10,000 vehicles per day.

The latest VicRoads Traffic System Performance report doesn’t give specific figures for particular roads, but does provide average lane occupancy figures (in terms of both cars and people), from which one can derive a very rough average number of cars on each type of road:

  • Freeways 28,485 cars per lane per 24 hours
  • Divided arterials 13,180 cars per lane per 24 hours
  • Undivided arterials 11,063 cars per lane per 24 hours
  • Undivided arterials with trams 11,361 cars per lane per 24 hours

But this is very rough. The vehicle count figures appear to include only cars, not other vehicles. Obviously roads around Melbourne vary enormously, and the lane occupancy figures apparently include buses and trams, so the number of vehicles will be a fair bit lower on better-served PT routes (such as the figure for roads with trams). And the level of congestion on each road would also directly effect the emissions, of course.

I do live near some main roads — about 100 metres from one, and about 400 metres from another. Fortunately, being in an area of Melbourne settled before the domination of the car, they are only one lane in each direction, and far enough out of the city centre that clear ways do not apply.

In VicRoads parlance, they would be undivided arterials. I suspect they are below the average in terms of traffic, but whether they are under 10,000 vehicles per day or not, I don’t know.

While Melbourne’s air quality is apparently quite good compared to some cities, obviously the air quality anywhere in urban areas isn’t going to be as good as it is in most rural areas.

But I’m thankful I don’t live close by to much wider and busier roads such as Nepean Highway (4 lanes in each direction), North Road (3 lanes in each direction), the freeways, or the fat outer-suburban roads like Springvale Road (3 lanes each direction).

And I’m rather glad for my nephew and my niece that my sister has moved from her house in East Brighton, which was less than 100 metres from the Nepean Highway. I must ask her if there’s been any noticeable difference in the kids’ health.

Culture transport

Lego PT stereotypes

I’m probably reading too much into this, but here’s a PT stereotype: Lego’s Duplo bus. It appears that in the view of whoever designed this set, only old people and kids ride the bus.

Lego bus 5636

Okay, okay, we all know that in some cases this is probably very realistic. Many services simply aren’t good enough to attract anybody other than those who have no choice: those who can’t drive, or can’t afford to drive.

The challenge is to make services good (frequent) enough that people who have a choice will use them. That’s what gets cars off the road. It’s also a way of improving safety at quiet times such as late evenings — by having services which are busy, and have a wide cross-section of the community aboard. (That’s what made the recent Mckinnon incident quite unusual.)

Happily in the bigger kids’ Lego bus set, there’s an apparently affluent white collar worker waiting for the bus. Maybe it’s a Smartbus.

Lego bus 7641

I’m also happy to see that Legoland has some kind of integrated public transport; the logo at the bus stop is the same as the one on the trains.

Lego train 7938

Though of course that doesn’t mean everything’s timed to connect.

Like I said, I’m reading way too much into this!

PS. Tuesday afternoon: Speaking of cultural representations of public transport:

EXHIBITION: Jacques Tati from Bicycles to Spaceships: Tati + Hulot Transiting Modern Life
A unique exhibition coordinated by Louise Mackenzie
Open: 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday – Friday, 1 – 9 July
Wunderlich Gallery, Architecture Building
University of Melbourne [Link; go to July events.]



I’ve mentioned it before, but Joel Spolsky wrote a great article a few years ago about pricing, and noted that companies would ideally like everybody to pay as much as they are willing to for their products.

In economist jargon, capitalists want to capture the consumer surplus.

Let’s do this. Instead of charging $220, let’s ask each of our customers if they are rich or if they are poor. If they say they’re rich, we’ll charge them $349. If they say they’re poor, we’ll charge them $220.

Seriously, it’s a great article, and well worth a read, to learn about how pricing is done, even if you’re not particularly interested in economics.

One method for this type of pricing in the USA is for supermarkets and other stores to publish coupons in the newspapers and catalogues. If the time-rich (eg poor) people have the time to go find the coupons and cut them out and remember to take them shopping, they’ll earn an extra discount. Others won’t bother.

Coles coupons

Recently Coles has been trying it here. The catalogue has some coupons with a barcode on it, and if you snip it out and take it along, you got an extra discount.

I wonder if anybody bothers?


Bentleigh station looking grey

Metro must have been buying a lot of grey paint. All of the graffiti on the retaining wall opposite platform one at Bentleigh has been painted over, as have the sides of the platforms.

Bentleigh station, with clean walls

Bentleigh station, with clean walls

There’s been a similar frenzy of painting grey on the walls in the cuttings around South Yarra.

I wonder if people have noticed, and how long it’ll stay like that.

music Retrospectives TV

When You Walk In The Room

Some songs evoke a particular memory, of either a specific event or a period of my life.

So it is with Paul Carrack’s version of Jackie DeShannon’sWhen You Walk In The Room“, from 1987.

I bought the 45 (rpm, single) of it, primarily because the (quite amusing) video clip included all of the cast of Who Dares Wins — a sketch show of the time that I absolutely loved that included Tony Robinson (better known as Baldrick in Blackadder), Rory McGrath (who you still see pop up on QI and other shows) and some others who were very talented but have mostly disappeared into obscurity (at least from an Australian point of view).

I suspect the video clip’s high school crush theme also resonated at the time.

I’m not sure what happened to the record; it probably got chucked out years ago. I didn’t think I’d ever hear it, let alone see the video clip, again. But here it is, thanks to YouTube.

(Unfortunately the first and last few seconds/lyrics of the song are missing. Ah well.)

Politics and activism

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister

I for one would like to welcome our new red-headed overlord.

One of the things about the Westminster system is that if the ruling party loses confidence in the leader, they can replace him. And for those of you watching from overseas, that’s what happened this morning: Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister since the 2007 election, got the arse.

Compared to the Hawke/Keating coup of 1991, the information revolution means that this time it was possible to track this what was happening in near real time. The place to be was on Twitter — in part for the amusing comments, but if you follow the right people — in this case the senior political journalists, it’s by far the quickest way to find out the latest developments.

In this case, the (unconfirmed at the time, of course) news of what had happened in this morning’s caucus vote came from The Australian’s Samantha Maiden, a good few minutes before it was officially announced:

Labor Mp text: it’s Julia no ballot #spill

(I’d love to tell you precisely what time that was compared to the announcement, but bloody Twitter won’t tell me that. Judging from an email I sent straight afterwards, the Tweet was at about 9:27.

Edit: Tweetdeck does tell me the exact times. The announcement was around 9:35.)

Congratulations, Prime Minister Gillard. Now, let’s see you act on the things people care about, and the reasons people voted Labor in 2007 — as well as the things we most definitely didn’t vote for.

In the former category, action on Climate Change is the biggie that Rudd dropped the ball on — and something Gillard specifically mentioned in her speech. In the latter, it’s time to accept that Stephen Conroy’s Net filter plan is something that nobody voted for, admit it’s a flawed idea, and to scrap it.

Australian Age CNN BBC

Update 6:30pm Spotted this advert for Jetstar in MX on the way home:

Ha ha Jetstar ad in MX #spill on Twitpic


Poor advert placement?

Not sure this advert placement is a good idea:

Bus advert

Not that the exhaust actually comes out of that grill, of course.

And one should not overstate the pollution caused by buses.

Measuring just the CO2 emissions, a diesel bus emits about 1800 grams per kilometre. By comparison a diesel Landrover emits 295 grams per kilometre. At an average 1.2 people per private vehicle, that’s 245 grams per passenger kilometre. So a bus has to be carrying just 8 passengers (which is comparatively empty for a bus) to be more efficient than a diesel Landrover (or about 22 people to be as efficient as a Prius).

The number of people on a bus varies widely. It could be no passengers (just the driver), or if packed it could be 80-100. Some may catch it for many kilometres, some just a few stops.

And of course, you can’t just run the services you know will be packed. You get more people onto PT as a whole if you have a cohesive network, running frequently, and covering the hours that most people travel, so they can rely on it to be there whenever they need it. Smartbus is proof that more buses gets more people using them.

So while the advert (and specifically its placement) above may not have been a good idea, we do need more buses on the road.


The secret door

I only go into the post office for three reasons.

1. To buy postage (either stamps, or to send packages).

2. To pick up parcels.

3. To renew my post office box. (And in fact I think you can pay that online these days.)

I don’t understand the people that go to pay endless numbers of bills, not to mention buy the other crap they seem to sell in post offices these days — anything from printers and computer monitors to discount DVDs to racks and racks of Smiggle stuff — in other words, stuff you’d normally go elsewhere if you actually wanted to buy them. (All this is why, as I’ve said before, you’ll go in to find a slow-moving line of twenty people when all you want is a book of stamps.)

And of course it narks me somewhat that most post offices (pretty much all apart from agencies, it seems) are only open 9-5 on weekdays. Given my post office box is at such a location (which happens to be the most convenient to home), it means when I do get a parcel delivered, it’s difficult to pick it up.

Then I discovered the secret door.

The post office - the secret door

The secret door is really a service window. It’s present at some post offices near the boxes. There’s a small bell.

Thanks to a tipoff (not from the post office people, I might add), I discovered that outside business hours, you can ring the bell and if you’re lucky, someone will open the window and you can pick up parcels. In my post office’s case, they seem to be regularly there well before 9am, such as 8:15 this morning when I came past on my way to the station.

That saves a bunch of hassle.

Home life


And now for something completely different. Glasses.

I’ve got a few different types of glasses in my kitchen, many of them remnants from previous collections.


From left to right:

(1) These used to come as IXL jam jars. You’d use up the jam, dispose of the label and the lid, and get to keep the jar as a glass. Given that was a good 11-12 years ago, I’m amazed they’ve lasted this long, though I only have a couple of them left.

(2) When I first moved out on my own in 2000, I bought a pack of The Price Brand (eg the cheapie brand) glasses at K-Mart. This is the very last of them that has survived.

(3) This one is tall and fat in the middle, and is one of a pair left behind by Iris when she went home to Israel back in early 2001. (A colander, a dish rack, some mugs and some plates were also part of that collection. She chose well; they’re all still in use.) These glasses have got a heavy base, which means they’re quite top-heavy when placed into the dishwasher upside-down.

(4) I’ve got a bunch of these ones. This glass shape is my preference for new purchases, because it’s tall (but not too tall) and narrow, it makes the best use of space in the dishwasher. Like my strategic purchase of more cutlery, this helps ensure I don’t have to run it more than every 2-3 days.

Culture Melbourne

Stuff white Melburnians like

Love a bit of cultural satire.

Via Nathan I found the article Stuff Melbourne white people like. Some funny stuff, and since I’m a bit light-on for writing my own blog content this week, here are some excerpts:

The Monthly:

Buying a subscription to The Monthly for the object of your affections is tantamount to expressing your undying love for them and saying that you intend to spend the rest of your life with this person. In no time at all, you will both have bought and renovated a federation period house in North Fitzroy and will spend your weekends reading The Monthly sipping a juice infused with wheatgrass and spirulina at a cafe with polished concrete walls and minimialist furniture.

(Several people I know read and love The Monthly, and I’ve been known to flick through their copies, and read some great articles in there.)


If invited to dinner by a Melbourne white person, it is a certainty that the recipe will come from Stephanie. If you go to a lot of parties thrown by Melbourne white people, you might form the impression that everyone in Melbourne has a kindly neighbour called Stephanie who hands out recipes over the back fence.

(I don’t own a copy, and don’t really invite people over to dinner because I’m not much of a cook, but I certainly know a few people who do both.)

Dining Out:

When selecting a place to dine in Melbourne you have a choice between Vue de Monde, MoVida, or a small dumpling house located in a hard-to-find laneway in Chinatown. The harder the dumpling house is to find, the better.

(A bunch of my colleagues, as well as my old mate Josh and a bunch of his colleagues used to regularly dine at what we called “the hole in the wall”, which was indeed a place in a hard-to-find laneway in Chinatown. It wasn’t actually a dumpling house, but it was so hard to find that once when I tried to describe how to get there to someone, I simply couldn’t.)

A comment there led me to a whole blog on the topic (written by someone else):

Having Ethnic Friends

Because it’s fiscally impractical to keep travelling, white Melburnians need other ways to convey how worldly and cultured they are. The easiest way to do this is to have ethnic friends. Now, you might think everyone who has friends has ethnic friends by default because everybody has an ethnicity. But you would be wrong. To Melbourne white people, ethnic pretty much means black and/or Muslim. If, for example, you are Serbian, Polish, Vietnamese, Maltese, Israeli, Greek, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Macedonian or Hungarian, you aren’t ethnic because you’re not exotic enough.

(Oh so true. Most of those nationalities aren’t exotic — they’re just the people you encounter every day.)


Northcote does not make sense. Positioned in the heartland of suburbia, a whopping nine stops away from the city (comparable to North Brighton, Ormond and Murrumbeena) it has somehow managed to defy geography and pass itself off as a gritty inner city urban wonderland. The brilliance of this suburb is only magnified when you go there and discover it’s mostly just a few kebab joints and a massive indoor shopping centre with Kmart, two Coles, Donut King and a f—ing Bakers Delight. This is stuff the wrong white Melburnians like! I donโ€™t know how, but Northcote has brainwashed Melbourne white people. Go there to experience genius.

(I took the kids to Northcote recently as part of Jeremy’s systematic exploration of the old video games collections of all the branches of Cash Converters. I couldn’t work out what was so special about it either.)

All in all, very funny stuff, and I look forward to reading more as it gets posted.