Guide dogs accepted

Sometimes when I don’t have a blog post ready to go — either because I’m halfway through writing something, or I just can’t think of anything to post — I’ll instead post a photo or two that I’ve taken.

Here’s today’s.

I can’t help feeling that this sign would scan better if it said “excepted” instead of “accepted”. But I suppose it still works. It’s not just an Australia Post thing; I have recently seen the same wording in other shop windows.
No dogs allowed inside

Of course, not every word should be capitalised, But That’s Another Story.

transport Video games

Three brief PT things

Yearly: Beat the price rise

Just bought my new Yearly ticket via PTUA Commuter Club. It’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive, but it means I’ll beat the March 12th price rise.

PTUA Commuter Club Yearly plus membership: Z1 = $1090 (order by end of Feb; payment must clear by March 3rd). Will go up about 3% after that.

365 day Myki Pass (Yearly Metcards are no longer on sale): Z1 = $1170 until March 11th, $1202.50 after.

12 x 30 day Myki Passes: Z1 = $1332 (if bought after the March 12th price rise; Metcard prices are almost identical).

Myki gates at Melbourne Central

From what I’ve seen the new gates at Parliament and Melbourne Central work well most of the time, but when I went past, one was out of service (with a red light) and another was being problematic.

And at the end of the video you’ll see two fare evaders follow a lady through. There were no staff watching, so they appeared to get away with it.

First impressions after playing the free demo version of Cities In Motion

Cities In MotionQuite slow even on my recentish PC.

Very nice graphics. A few options to adjust settings, but nothing seems to really speed it up. Demo works on my PC’s 256Mb video card despite the system requirements claiming it needs 512Mb.

Clearly a lot of scope in the simulator for playing with different options, setting up routes etc.

Just a teensy bit clunky in some ways, eg having to lay dual tram track everywhere, and having to end all (tram/bus) routes in a loop.

Can’t see a way to create bus/tram lanes. My buses kept getting stuck in bad traffic.

Not totally convinced it’s a big leap forward over the old Traffic Giant game, but it’s only $20 to buy (online; don’t know about retail), and obviously is still under development, with an active user community/forum.

A bit of fun for any transit geek. Provided I can verify the full game will run on my PC, I’ll buy it.

(Some demo download sites require signup/membership — this one doesn’t)


Looping the loop

Reminder: the views expressed on my personal blog do not necessarily represent the views of the PTUA.

So, the result of the poll a few days ago was:

Run some lines via the Loop, some direct to Flinders St: 129 (66.8%)
Run each line half via the Loop, half direct to Flinders St: 57 (29.5%)
Squeeze everything into the Loop: 7 (3.6%)

Results of survey: How would you organise train timetables?

Just under 30% wanted about half the trains on each line to run direct, half through the Loop. This is how the Loop was originally run, theoretically giving people a choice, although in practice the longer-distance expresses (for example Belgrave and Lilydale) tended to be Loop services, and the shorter-distance trains (Blackburn, Alamein) tended to be Direct, which limited the choice for most people… in effect, in fact, being closer to the other option. (Source: Electric Traction, February 1981.)

I don’t know how the general public would react if asked the question about how the Loop should run. (Maybe someone should.) But I suspect increasingly people are aware of how “metro” rail systems overseas run: primarily point-to-point, minimising merges, junctions and all that messy stuff to pack as many trains along the track as possible, and accepting that some people will have to change to get where they’re going, or walk a little further to their destination.

So could you do it?

My personal view is in line with the majority here: they should be moving towards some lines running via the Loop, some lines direct. Having consistent patterns means it is predictable to passengers, and you can fit more trains onto the tracks without causing hiccups as they merge into the Loop tunnels.

As long as trains are frequent enough, and the interchange facilities are good enough — including signage (both static and electronic) — it’s not an insurmountable issue to change trains, if the payback is there with more reliable, more frequent, less crowded trains. Melbourne needs to do a lot better in these aspects, of course.

There are limits to what you can do in the real world. One would be rightly cautious for instance about shifting all peak-hour Frankston trains out of the Loop. (At present in peak, the stopping trains run via the Loop, the expresses run direct to Flinders Street.) The sheer demand from people trying to pack onto the remaining Loop trains at Richmond means it’s not something that can be done without causing much bigger problems.

(A similar poll on a PTUA member email list — which does not contain all members, only those who wish to participate in discussions — was more strongly in favour of the first option, with 96% for consistency, 4% wanting lines half into the Loop, half out. Nobody wanted to squeeze every possible train into the Loop. The PTUA doesn’t have a detailed policy on this yet; the poll was to help guide that.)

Stand by for another post, specifically about Loop direction.


Under the clocks

Some of the clocks at Flinders Street Station need updating.

If they managed to update the leftmost clock to say “Pakenham and Cranbourne” (the Cranbourne line opened in 1995), why can’t they update the “St Albans” one to say “Sydenham”? (Actually, wait a year or two and then change it to “Sunbury“.)

Update 9am: Oh yeah, “Broadmeadows” also needs updating to “Craigieburn”.

Under the clocks

There’s no Altona line anymore (it was extended to Westona and Werribee in the 80s), but it’ll be useful for the Altona Loop trains to Laverton, which there’ll be more of from May. (I wonder if it will actually work?)

The clocks for the Burnley group lines are off to the left, where on this occasion, underneath one could also see some Authorised Officers booking someone for not having a ticket.

Under the clocks

Now… imagine the scandal if it was announced that the steps were to be abolished, to be replaced by a DDA-compliant ramp.

Update lunchtime: Niki pointed out in the comments what I didn’t even notice: the Epping and Hurstbridge lines aren’t represented, as until 1997, they departed across the road at Princes Bridge Station.

These photos from the 1950s show that the clocks have been swapped around over the years. The rightmost two used to be for the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines. And many of them used to list the major destination, followed by the line name, for instance “Essendon – Broadmeadows line”.


Citylink billing screwup

Mini CooperOn the 29th of December I hired a Mini from Hertz as a Christmas present for Marita.

So that we could drive on the Citylink tollway, I temporarily added it to my Citylink account.

  • 29/12/2010 12:01pm. Added XPE308
  • 29/12/2010 12:30pm. Travelled on tollway
  • 30/12/2010 10:37am. Removed XPE308 from account

I thought no more about it until Monday, when a letter from Hertz arrived, saying that the travel had not been on a Citylink account, and therefore Citylink had billed Hertz (the car’s owner) for $8.60, and Hertz had added a $5.00 administration fee, and just for good measure, $1.36 of GST.

Grumble grumble.

It got worse. Upon looking at my Citylink account for that period, it turned out Citylink had charged me for 9 trips, costing $31.16, by the same vehicle, on the 14th, 19th and 20th of January.

It appears that Citylink’s computers are stuffed. They evidently don’t handle the temporary addition and removal of vehicles to accounts.

I can almost understand there might be a delay of 24 hours for this, but not two weeks — and remember, they would have billed Hertz at some stage later, long after their billing system should have known precisely when the Mini was meant to be on my account.

On Tuesday I rang Citylink about this. The bloke on the phone was very helpful; he refunded the $31.16, and gave me a reference number to quote to Hertz when I ring them.

I haven’t rung Hertz yet. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if they refuse to refund the $5 administration fee.

Some people like to have a go at Myki by way of claiming that Citylink’s billing system is perfect. It wasn’t always the case, and from this experience, it’s clear it still isn’t.

And Myki’s never stung me for as much as $31.

By the way, make sure you dispute incorrect charges with Citylink within 60 days. In the small print on their statements it says:

Please note: If you disagree with your Account Balance, you have 60 days from receipt of your statement, to contact CityLink. After 60 days, the Account Balance recorded on the statement will be considered to be correct.

Nice, hey?

Oh yeah, and Citylink still haven’t fixed their web site’s security configuration problem.

Update Monday 28/2: I didn’t have the stamina to ring Hertz, so used their web form instead, on Friday. Today they’ve replied. I’m suitably impressed that they have refunded both the Citylink charge and the administration fee.

Consumerism transport

Why is Metro allowing this advertising in its stations?

I suppose it’s inevitable that if you sell advertising space, sometimes you’ll be allowing advertising for your competitors.

And advertising for cars is commonly found on public transport.

Nissan Micra advertising at Flinders St Station

But some of Nissan’s advertising around Flinders Street station goes a step further by directly criticising the public transport it is competing with, with slogans such as “Always get a seat”:
Nissan Micra advertising at Flinders St Station

The “No delays” claim is a brave one. Is the Micra somehow immune from getting caught in traffic?
Nissan Micra advertising at Flinders St Station

As you descend down to platform level to catch your train, Nissan suggests directly that you “Drive instead”:
Nissan Micra advertising at Flinders St Station

Perhaps Metro is being big by not vetoing these slogans. But it does seem to undermine their own promotions.

Foxtel advertise regularly on commercial television, but I don’t remember them saying “this show is boring — the channels on Foxtel are much more interesting.”

(Tip thanks: P.)


Monthly ticket costs

Remember this post a while back where I tried to figure out how many days in a month you need to travel to make Monthly tickets a worthwhile purchase?

Turns out in many other cities around the world, a Monthly ticket is a no-brainer purchase, even if you work 4 days a week, even if there are holidays in the month, as they cost around 12-13 daily tickets — in comparison to Melbourne’s 20.

Dropping the prices would not only make Monthlies a compelling purchase, encouraging more regular users, and cutting queues and transaction costs — it could also help Myki work better, by avoiding queues to touch-off (you don’t need to if travelling on a Pass), and complicated calculations to work out your fare.

Morons on the road


I’m hoping one of you smart people can explain the logic behind this.

Car blocking footpath


The Loop

I ran this poll on an internal PTUA members’ email list. Let’s try it here.

Here’s the context:

Trains, particularly in peak hour, are packed. More trains are being purchased, but the decision has to be made about how to deploy them. (Even if it’s decided to upgrade infrastructure such as with the proposed new tunnel, that may take a decade to happen.)

All trains serve Flinders Street, which has a large capacity (14 platforms), and provides good access to the southern half of the Central Business District. For passenger numbers it’s also the busiest single station.

Suburban trains can run via the City Loop, or they can run direct between Flinders Street and Richmond, Jolimont, North Melbourne, bypassing the Loop.

The City Loop (that is, Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff) skirts the eastern and northern sides of the CBD, but it’s only four tracks, so while a train running via the Loop provides easier access to more parts of the CBD, this section is something of a bottleneck, unlike the direct tracks into Flinders Street.

Approximate current weekday CBD station loads: Flinders Street 37%, Melbourne Central 22%, Parliament 17%, Southern Cross 16%, Flagstaff 8%.

Map of City Loop

So, to the question:

As a generalisation, how would you prefer to have train timetables organised? The options are:

Run some lines via the Loop, some direct to Flinders St.

(Pros: A consistent pattern. Allows more trains, without them interfering with each other. Some passengers who use Flinders St will get a quicker ride.
Cons: Some passengers will need to either walk further from Flinders St, catch a tram, or change trains along the way, and interchange facilities at North Melbourne and Richmond aren’t perfect)

Run each line half via the Loop, half direct to Flinders St

(Pros: Nobody has to change trains if they don’t want to.
Cons: Each pattern gets lower frequencies, so if you do want to avoid a change, you may have to wait longer to avoid it. Converging lines entering the Loop tunnels may cause some delays, and/or reduce the total number of trains that can run)

Squeeze most trains from most lines into the Loop
(Pros: More or less as it’s done now; many are used to it.
Cons: Severely limits services to around about the level we have now, and not solving the overcrowding issues).

Which would you choose?

Have I missed any Pros and Cons? Got some other revolutionary idea? Leave a comment.

Seems this Google form doesn’t prevent you voting twice. Please don’t. I’ll post the results in a couple of days.

Update 25/2/2011: The poll results are here.


No more tie

This week I stopped wearing a tie to work.

I’ve moved to a new office, where the norm is no ties. I could wear one, but would stick out. So effectively it’s the new uniform.

As I noted last year, when I started working in 1993, pretty much every male white-collar worker wore a tie. Not any more — particularly not in IT.

In some ways I’ll miss them. And it might be time to buy some more coloured shirts… I think white shirts (worn without a jacket during the summer) look odd without a tie.

And I’ll probably miss it when doing TV media. Would it be cheating to keep one in the drawer at work for that?