Melbourne TV

Not everybody minds it when it floods

From last night’s channel 9 news, live cross to a flooded street in Brunswick. Not everybody minds the wet.


Officeworks in the rain

I rather liked the pattern made by Officeworks’ corrugated wall combined with today’s rain falling on my car windscreen.

Rain at Officeworks, through car windscreen

Of course, it looked better in real life with the rain drops dripping down.

Geek Working life

The lifts

Lift buttonsThe other day some colleagues were having a little rant about the lifts, which in recent weeks have been performing badly.

I blogged about this ages ago — in many buildings the problem is not the position or size of the lifts, but how they’re programmed. Evidently in 13 years, not much has changed.

Apart from simply responding to the call button, lifts should have a few basic assumptions programmed into them:

Before 10am, and between about 1pm and 2pm, lots of people will enter office buildings and want to go up, so the lifts should default to the ground floor.

The ground floor is where most people enter, so the system should not assume that because one lift has responded to a call, it can cope with everybody entering. More lifts should respond, and they shouldn’t make people play that game of waiting for the first lift to depart before being able to press the call button again.

It would also be useful to have lifts default to the non-ground floors (perhaps evenly spaced, and even ignoring unoccupied floors) at peak exit times such as between 11:30 and 12:30, and after 4pm.

Optionally, they could get a little smarter, for instance learning the patterns in the building, which floors are quiet and busy at which times of day.

Really, how hard could it be?


W-class trams

I love W-class trams. They truly are an icon of the city. In my youth I fondly remember watching the road ahead from the seat just behind (and to the left) of the driver, as we rolled up and down the hills on Balaclava Road. Or hot summers in the seat next to the (open) door, the cool breeze on my face — preferably wooden seats, as the vinyl ones got horribly sweaty.

Or the tiny pleasure (now impossible) of stepping out of the door, onto the running board, and onto the street as the tram was still slowing to a stop.

But a number of questions spring to mind following the Liberals’ pledge to keep and upgrade more W-class trams for regular route service.

What about accessibility? So far there seems to be no mention of this. It’s not unsurmountable — some US cities have high-level platforms that work with heritage W-class trams, though it’s unclear how this would work with low-floor trams on the same route. Something has to be done to meet Disability Discrimination Act requirements. Level boarding also helps others, including parents with prams, and speeds up boarding generally.

Will they manage to lift the 35 kmh speed limit? If not, it’s going to result in slower trips, and quite possibly worsened traffic congestion. Sure, many inner-city streets are slow anyway due to the amount of traffic, but part of keeping trams to time is having good acceleration and being able to reach something approaching the speed limit on those streets (since traffic tends to bank up behind trams; less so in front of them).

Having these trams only outside peak effectively means the whole fleet will need to be much bigger than otherwise required. What are the implications for operations (during swap times; complicated) and depot space? The latter is becoming a problem, and in fact the latest government funding for new trams includes a lot of money for expanded depot capacity.

Capacity will also be an issue on some routes; a W has more seats than a Citadis or 3-section Combino tram, but holds a lot less people because it has less standing room. Steps rather than level boarding is also likely to result in longer boarding times, further slowing down those routes.

Air conditioning always comes up as a topic for discussion on older vehicles, especially as we approach summer. I suspect they are simply not capable of being upgraded for it.

Finally, the pledge is for just $8 million of funding. There’s about 200 trams in Newport Workshops; it’s hard to see that $8 million is going to go very far at all.

So there’s a lot of unanswered questions.


Bye bye Safeway

I’d been wondering how they were going to swap the very-high-up Safeway sign for a Woolworths sign. With a very big crane, that’s how. They did it yesterday.

Swapping Safeway to Woolworths

Many of the other Safeway signs have already disappeared.

I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to get used to calling it Woolworths.

Woolworths sign


Dire Straits

Gave the kids a laugh by showing them the state-of-the-art (for 1985) 3-D computer graphics in the Dire Straits: Money For Nothing video clip.

Also good, the Calling Elvis clip, featuring the band as Thunderbirds… and the actual Thunderbirds too.

All this was sparked by picking up Brothers In Arms the other week on CD, and putting it on high-rotation on my iPod. (Last time around, if I recall correctly, I had it on cassette.)


Water taps

I’ve seen these water taps in hospitals and airports.

Water tap

It’s great that they’re provided, but the problem with them is you basically have to stick your head into the wall to get a drink out of them. So if you’re not very coordinated, you’ll probably bump it, as the space isn’t overly generous.

Surely they could provide just a little bit of space outwards — or upwards — to make it easier to use?


My Myki card: the latest chapter in the saga

Myki historyHerald Sun: Melbourne commuters take free ride with myki card fault

About 30 myki users have been affected by a particular fault that has allowed them free travel.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen has been travelling free for at least a week.

Kamco became aware of the problem only when Mr Bowen reported it.

He said he was surprised to see that no money was being deducted from his account when the card appeared to be working normally.

Here’s the background:

I had a Myki Pass (like a Monthly Metcard) loaded on my card, which expired on the Friday 8/10.

My next travel on Monday 11/10 was correctly charged, and I kept travelling that week.

The next time I checked my card’s transactions was on Monday 18/11, and I was surprised to see the balance hadn’t shifted since the previous Monday; it was still at $39.40.

I checked this both online on the web site, and on the system, eg direct from my card on a Myki Check machine (since sometimes the web site is problematic getting updates from the scanners on the system).

Then I flagged it through a contact at the Transport Ticketing Authority. I kept travelling on the card while they investigated, and it kept letting me travel for free.

Apart from a slower response time (about 3 seconds instead of typically about 1 second), everything seemed normal. The beeps at the standalone scanners said it was okay; the station gates would let me through — including the new Myki-only gates at Parliament.

But my balance wasn’t going down. In fact, it went up; two payments of $5.88 got added; they appear to be long-awaited compensation payments for previous claims from Metro.

Perhaps the card’s slower response time and the payment problem are linked, but it wasn’t obvious, because the slow response time problem had actually appeared about a week before the payment problem started.

What magic did I do to get the free fares? Nothing; I just used it. The article notes that the card was affected by a software problem on a “small number” of gates. So how many others might be affected?

One thing I did notice today is that it did charge me a $2.02 default fare (which is a zone 2 two-hour fare) for a failure to touch-off. In other words, it appears the card was giving me free travel for zone 1 only — possibly it was linked to the previous Zone 1 Pass that had been on the card.

Two bigger questions:

How many cards are affected like this? TTA/Kamco claims 0.01%, or about 30. But it’s not clear how they derive that figure.

More critically, are they detecting these cards themselves, or is it up to people to first notice the problem, then report it? That’s not clear, but what is known is that mine had the problem for almost a week before it was noticed.

They’ve now sent me a replacement card, which arrived yesterday. With it was a generic letter basically saying that my current card might be problematic, and they want it back to study (and will deactivate it shortly anyway), and that they’ve transferred my balance across.

Which is fine for me, but I can’t help wondering just how big this problem is.

Update: The letter in full:


The C word still lingers

They haven’t changed the seat design with the hidden word “Connex” in it — it’s not very obvious and probably a hassle to do. But even some of the electronic signs stubbornly revert to the former train operator’s name occasionally. These two were snapped in the last month or two, both on X’Trapolis trains.

Sign says Connex, August 2010

sign says Connex, October 2010

Perhaps deep in the heart of the machine, the words of the company that originally commissioned them is destined never to be totally removed.

Until quite recently, some of the screens at CBD station would display a Connex logo when not displaying any information, and reverting to their “Listen for announcements” state.

music transport

Music on the train

Fantastic: Atomic Tom performing Take me out, live on a NYC subway train using just iPhones.

NB. Please don’t try this unless you are actually talented.

According to the New York Daily News, the intro text about their instruments being stolen is fictitious.

(via Eva Blanda)