Anti-pigeon defences

And now for something completely different: anti-pigeon defences.

Pigeons can get everywhere, making nests, leaving droppings. These ones seem very interested in the next trains from Caulfield.
Pigeons 1, Metro 0

It’s probably gone mostly unnoticed, but over the past few years, various methods to prevent them roosting have become commonplace.

In the case of Caulfield station, they’ve put in a lot of netting that cordons off parts of the platform roof areas, including the tops of the signs. (I haven’t checked if they’ve fitted the sign above, which is in the subway.)

Solar-powered road signs now often have spiky bits on them, as do increasing numbers of shop signs, including big ones like this. (I think it looks a little odd up close.)
Anti-pigeon defences

On this building in Centre Road, Bentleigh, there are fake owls around the top. I’m not sure how effective they are.
Fake owl

But despite these methods, sometimes the pigeons still win.
Pigeons 1, Shop sign 0

News and events

Australia Day thoughts

Happy Australia Day.

Some thoughts:

1. Spotted this morning, some glorious Australia Day supermarket multiculturalism:
Supermarket multiculturalism on Australia Day

2. I was a Flag Monitor in grade 6. Along with my mate Mark, we put the flag up on the school flag pole. Apart from a minor hitch on the first day when it went up upside down for a short time, there were no issues, though I’d imagine doing the same job for the Elizabeth Street roundabout would be somewhat more time consuming:
Elizabeth Street roundabout, Australian flags
(I’m probably safe in assuming they go up and stay up.)

3. I was pondering, as debate about immigration and asylum seekers rages, if our Federal politicians are familiar with the second verse of our national anthem. (It was originally the third verse. There were originally more in the song, but the national anthem only incorporates the original first and third. We used to sing both in high school, at assemblies and so on.)

Obviously one should be wary about determining policy from lyrics written circa 1901 (much of the song was written before 1878, but this verse was added for Federation), but still, I’d love to hear Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott’s interpretation of them.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

music News and events

Happy Australia Day (and make sure you have a ticket)

Yarra Trams: Australia Day 2012

The words on the left are from I Am Australian, by Bruce Woodley:

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream, and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

Wikipedia says the song was written in 1987. I’m pretty sure either that year or the year after, we sung it at Speech Night at Melbourne High School. (Woodley, like his fellow seekers Athol Guy and Keith Potger, went to Melbourne High.)

Geek transport

Lego Myki and Metcard readers, from Brickvention

I didn’t make it to Brickvention this year, but Adrian O’Hagan did, and sent me this photo. It’s a Lego Myki reader… and on the back of it is a Metcard reader.

Lego Myki and Metcard readers

Adrian says when a Myki card was presented it beeped and displayed a balance (which may or may not have been the real balance; I’m assuming all the information on the card is encrypted). The Metcard version would take a presented Metcard, pretend to read it and then spit it back out again, just like in real life.

Adrian notes: “ironically the metcard worked without a hitch, but the myki was a bit buggy. Not sure if that was by design or not ;-)”


The Myki rollout continues – some details that probably aren’t in the papers

I remind any journalists reading that as ever, my personal blog may not represent the PTUA’s views.

In the papers today, news of the continuing rollout of Myki, and moves to get more people switching off Metcard:

Herald Sun: When it comes to myki, like it or lump it

The Age: The end is nigh for Metcard

Myki and Metcard readers, W-class tram

More detail of what’s happening

Here’s some more detail from the information I’ve seen…

Vending machines will be activated for card sales (sounds like it’ll be full fare Mykis only, which may cause some issues for new concession users, including children. Probably a fraud prevention measure. Concessions will have to be bought from a human, probably requiring presentation of entitlement.)

Starting in February, retail outlets (primarily 7/11s) will start to sell Myki and do topups. They’re switching from Metcard, eg no more Metcard sales from those outlets.

130ish part-time staff to be recruited (eg Myki Mates) to help passengers during the transition. (It appears all of the previous mob, who gained some significant knowledge and experience, were not kept on. Hopefully they can get some of the same people back.)

Weeklies/Monthlies will no longer be sold at station Metcard machines or booking offices from March 26th or thereabouts, and given retail outlets will be switching over, that’ll mean they effectively disappear from sale.

Metcard vending machines to start being withdrawn, starting with “some CBD stations and Williamstown line”. (It’s unclear to me whether this means every machine will disappear from those stations, or if some machines will still be there for 2-hour and daily Metcard purchases — remembering that ultimately this won’t be an option.)

Metcard validators will stay around for some time to come, allowing Metcards to be used up, though the balance may start to change as users switch over.

Will it work?

They can’t run the two ticketing systems forever side by side, and given the premise that Myki is not being scrapped, and yes, Metcard needs to be removed at some point, this is probably reasonable to push the rollout along, but the concern will be if staff are available where needed.

There seems to be a hint of a “big bang” approach to stopping sales of weekly and monthly Metcards, and they’ll only have enough staff to do about 50-70 locations at a time, so some stations may not have any staff to help when the switch is on in earnest. A better approach would to do line-by-line with staff on hand.

They also need to make sure people realise Myki has an (almost) identically priced unlimited-travel alternative fare to the Metcard Weekly and Monthly tickets, because it appears not everyone is aware.

Still no word of any single use ticket option. No word on fixing things like the identical touch-on/touch-off beeps, which slows people down.

Brisbane Go card and paper ticket - Myki machine

It has emerged that topups will be available on Melbourne buses. This is good, given users in suburbs with no easily-accessible retail outlet, but it’s unclear however if they will restrict the amounts (eg $5 increments as in Brisbane) to reduce instances of people topping up one fare at a time, which would defeat much of the purpose of having a Smartcard system.

But it’s unclear how the transition will be handled for buses and trams. It could get ugly if one day passengers go to board their service without having yet got a Myki and find there is no Metcard option anymore.

Oh, and it’s been mentioned that currently Myki accounts for about 30% of ticket validations in Melbourne, with the system taking about 1.8 million passenger trips per day.

So of course they have to make sure all the equipment is reliable and consistently fast as that load moves from 30% up towards 100%.

Hey, maybe if Myki do TV adverts, they should use that Roger Voudouris song… “Get used to it, ‘cos I’ll be around…

Bentleigh Consumerism

Coin deposit reduces dumped shopping trolleys – why don’t they all do it?

Since Woolworths introduced gold coin deposits for trolleys at Bentleigh, you almost never see their trolleys abandoned in the streets. The same can’t be said for Coles Bentleigh, who appear to have some trolleys requiring a coin, and some not — I don’t understand the logic of this. On a walk last night, we passed three (non-deposit) Coles trolleys in quick succession on a single block of Jasper Road.

Abandoned Coles trolleys

It seems pretty clear that (like the drink container deposits used in some states), coin deposits reduce the problem. I wonder why Coles don’t go ahead and implement it fully, especially in suburbs like Bentleigh where their major competitor already uses it.

Abandoned trolleys can be reported online for Wesfarmers/Coles group chains (Officeworks, K-Mart, Bunnings etc) here or for most other chains (Woolworths/Safeway, Target, some IGA) here.

transport TV

Proof that you can get a big-screen TV home by public transport

Proof that you (with the help of a friend, at least) don’t need a car to take a big-screen TV home… at least not since the advent of flatscreens.

Taking a TV home on the bus

Panasonic, 50 inch. Appears to have been bought at JB Hifi (which is nearby). Note the lady with her Metcard ready. They caught a 908 bus.

(No, this is not what they were talking about when it was flagged there’d soon be video ads on buses.)


Walking between carriages on a Comeng train

I’ve long thought the signage on Comeng and Hitachi trains about walking between the carriages was unclear. Going back a while, they talked about using them for “communication” but not “travel” — confusing to most.

Recently they’ve said “Please do not travel on platform between carriages”, which implies people should not use those doors to walk between the carriages at all. That’s not quite right.

They now appear to be replacing it with a more detailed version, seen here in red and white, below the older sign:

Comeng train: notice at end of carriage

I think it makes the situation a little clearer.

“Please do not walk through gangway whilst train is in motion.” — In other words, it’s okay to use the door and gangway to move between carriages, but not while the train is moving — it’s less safe, after all, particularly when lurching across junctions and so on.

“Please do not travel on the platform between the carriages.” — It’s not okay to stand on the platform as the train moves along, having a smoke or whatever.

In the legislation there are a couple of points which appear to be relevant here:

  • 34A. Vehicle in motion: A person must not, without reasonable excuse, enter onto a part of a rail vehicle not designed for the purpose of carriage while the vehicle is in motion.
  • 46. Operating doors: A person must not, without reasonable excuse … open or hold open any door on any rail vehicle or road vehicle while the vehicle is in motion if the door provides access to the outside of the vehicle.

Of course on Siemens trains, there’s no door; the carriage space is almost continuous (and thus, it seems, “designed for the purpose of carriage”). On X’Trapolis trains (which I think have the same notice) there are sliding doors, but the area between the carriages is entirely enclosed (making the warning seem overly cautious).

There seems to be repeated talk that future models of trains will have completely continuous carriage space for passengers, to maximise capacity, and it sounds like they’ll most likely be in permanent six-carriage formation, with no centre cabs. Time will tell, of course.

Film TV

DVD vs Blu-Ray picture quality

I never quite believed I’d see much of the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray on an 80cm (32 inch) TV. But with brand-name Blu-Ray players now below $100, and releases such as the complete set of Star Wars movies out on Blu-Ray, this past Christmas seemed like the right time to jump in and try it.

One of the presents I got was the Blu-Ray of Tron: Legacy, which also included the original Tron movie. Since I already had the DVD of the former, I’m able to compare the DVD against the Blu-Ray versions.

The scene from Flynn’s arcade had a lot more detail on the Blu-Ray, but you can’t really see it in a photo, so I won’t post it here. Jeremy and I looked carefully at this scene and were able to identify the names on some of the machines, for instance, which is impossible using the DVD.

More stark is the difference in this shot from the lightcycles scene, first on DVD:
Tron: Lightcycles on DVD
(See it bigger)

…and on Blu-Ray:
Tron: Lightcycles on Blu-Ray
(See it bigger)

There’s a lot more contrast in this scene on the Blu-Ray version. I think it’s not just a format question, it’s also that they’ve taken a lot more care in remastering the video. But the resolution being better also undoubtedly helps, and this is particularly noticeable (on the TV, perhaps not in the photos) with the grid lines.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The DVD was from before the sequel movie was made, and it’s entirely possible that not a great deal of care was taken in the mastering. In comparison it appears they took a lot of care on the Blu-Ray version. It’s entirely possible that the current edition DVD is better.
  • These comparisons were snapped off my TV with a camera, with the blinds drawn to reduce light. The snapshots were not taken under ideal conditions. (I don’t currently have any Blu-Ray drives in a computer, so I’m unable to grab a Blu-Ray image directly.) As noted above, it’s difficult to convey the difference seen on the TV in a photo.
  • I’ve used the freeze frame, which may impact the picture.

There’s no denying the higher quality of Blu-Ray, even on an 80cm screen.

Question is, which movies or TV would I consider worthy of upgrade, and at what cost? I can’t see myself shelling how lots of money for discs of movies I already own. But for future purchases, I’d certainly lean towards the newer format if the price is not prohibitive.

(I did find The Life Of Brian on Blu-Ray, with lots of extras, for $8 yesterday at K-Mart.)


Gunzel heaven: Parallel run

If there’s anything that gunzels get excited about, it’s a parallel run — two trains running in parallel.

It must take an enormous amount of work to organise such a thing: running two heritage trains on two tracks in the same direction (only possible in specific locations), and having them overtake each other repeatedly so that everyone in each train gets a good look at every part of the other.

Of course, it happens regularly with, say, conventional suburban trains, such as this stretch between Caulfield and Moorabbin on the Frankston line.

This section has three tracks. The third track was built in the mid-1980s, and allows peak-hour express trains to overtake stopping trains.

But until quite recently, this had been woefully underused. Inspection of the 2008 timetable shows only 2 express trains overtook stoppers in the morning, and 5 in the afternoon.

The June 2010 timetables finally changed that, with current schedules showing 7 trains overtake in the morning peak, and 13 in the afternoon, thanks to more consistent (mostly) stopping patterns and express trains scheduled well into the evening shoulder-peak period.

But triplicating rail lines is now out of fashion. Because there’s very little stabling in the central city, morning trains need to be shifted back out to the suburbs after the peak, and in the afternoon trains need to be brought back in, resulting in fairly even traffic — so two tracks in one direction and only one in the other doesn’t really work.

Back in 2006 the proposal was to triplicate the Dandenong line. But following a great deal of debate and consideration, now it’s all about making better use of the existing two tracks, by standardising stopping patterns, evening out frequencies and spreading peak loads onto different trains.

And future track expansion is likely to be another pair of tracks, for instance the “Melbourne Metro” tunnel. No doubt when eventually they look at expansion further out, it will also involve an extra two tracks, not just one.


Now, if a Siemens overtaking a Comeng is a bit routine for you, and you want to see an utterly epic triple parallel run, check this video from the 1988 Aus Steam event near Melbourne, featuring Australian steam engines together with the visiting Flying Scotsman.

(By the way, any of you budding Wikipedia editors care to clean up the Aus Steam article? The grammar is terrible.)