It’s pretty pathetic when the organisers of a major event at the MCG have to tell thousands of participants that there’s no public transport.
With start times of 7.00am, 8.00am and 7.30am respectively, public transport is not an option for Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km competitors.
Why? Well despite the MCG being served by Jolimont station and major interchange station Richmond, as well as three tram routes and two bus routes, Sunday morning services — in particular trains — start too late.
Why? Because it’s always been like that. Decades ago, Melbourne’s working week ran from Monday through to Saturday morning, so services on those days start early, with trains and trams running by 5am.
I can only assume that on Sundays everybody would sleep in before heading off to church, and PT services are stuck in that era, with the first trains not reaching the CBD (and MCG) until perilously close to 8am. (Some of the trams reach there earlier, but not by much — and their coverage and capacity is limited. Nightrider buses also run, but finishes too early… and few people know where they go.)
There was a push to change this. In 1996 Jeff Kennett went into the election promising:
There will be only two timetables, weekday and weekend/public holiday, thus providing customers with greater certainty and a better overall level of service.
Kennett was re-elected, and in 1999 delivered some, but not all, of the promise, with Sunday train and tram timetables changed to match Saturdays, but only between 11am and 7pm. This was a substantial boost, don’t get me wrong — it doubled train frequencies on many lines — but the late Sunday start problem remains.
It’s not just a problem for the Melbourne Marathon. A lot of fun runs start at 7am or 8am on Sundays, many of them in central locations that are otherwise well-served by public transport.
Not to mention everybody else. I’ve heard of people who work on Sunday mornings unable to reach the CBD or suburbs by train in time to start at 8am. Plenty of people would benefit from an earlier start.
There does seem to be a push on at the moment to upgrade off-peak services. Let’s hope before too long the problem of the late Sunday start is fixed.
Update Tuesday: This has been highlighted in a letter to The Age.