Remove zone 2? Not necessarily a good idea

A regular suggestion that pops up is that Melbourne’s zone 2 should be merged with zone 1, making the whole metropolitan area a single zone.

No surprise that everybody wants cheaper fares… but is it a good idea?

Platform 5 at Flinders St after ANZAC Day football
No shortage of footy fans on the trains on ANZAC Day, in part thanks to discount fares — but the crowds weren’t well-handled after the game


Price cut: The biggest beneficiaries would be weekday travellers who cover both zones, particularly those coming from the middle and outer suburbs into the CBD, saving $4.84 per day if on Myki Money, or about $760 over a year if using a Commuter Club yearly.

Car park pressure: It would remove the problem of zone boundary stations having the heaviest demand for car parking, as some people drive to zone 1 to avoid the higher fare.

Frankston line zone overlap(This is a very visible problem. But is it a widespread one? Not sure. By my quick count there are about 6500 parking spaces at the stations on the zone 1 boundary or a little further along — even if you add people parking in nearby streets, it’s a tiny proportion of the roughly half-a-million people using the train system each day.)

Myki: It would remove touch-off from trains and buses. This would have particular benefits at suburban railway stations in evening peak. (It’s already not needed on trams for almost all trips, as zone 1 applies.)


Price rises: The biggest issue is that it benefits some passengers but badly disadvantages others. Making all fares the zone 1 fare would mean that local zone 2-only trips would jump in price by about 45 per cent — for instance a daily fare would go from $4.84 to $7.00.

Lost revenue: Assuming there are more two-zone passengers than zone 2-only, there would be a big hit on fare revenue. How much? I don’t know; but I did work out using old railway station boarding figures that there are around 211,000 boardings in zone 2 each weekday. If for the sake of a rough estimate that we assume 60% of those travel to zone 1, that half are concessions, and that many are on Myki Money (none of these assumptions are necessarily true) then you’re looking at lost revenue of over $100 million a year. That’s a lot of money.

Equity: Is it equitable that someone travelling two stops on St Kilda Road should pay the same as someone travelling from the city to Pakenham?

Fare rise pressure: If experience from elsewhere is anything to go by, a single zone might well result in upward pressure for the flat fare to increase. Which big Australian city has the highest fares for trips up to 15 km? When a comparison was last done, it was Adelaide — which is also the only big Australian city with a single zone/flat fare system. (I had a quick look at latest fares — Adelaide is still highest for cash fares: $4.90, though for smartcard fares, Brisbane beats it by a small margin).

It wouldn’t make Myki a one-zone system: People forget: Myki isn’t just Melbourne. You might get rid of touch-off in Melbourne (which would in turn lead to confusion because of the way default fares are processed, unless more was spent on revising the software)… but Myki is about to cover the V/Line commuter belt as well, out to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour, and the Latrobe Valley, as well as the local town bus services along the way. There will always need to be zones.

My view

My view is it’s not worth it.

It does sting badly to have to pay for two zones when you’re only 1-2 stations out from the boundary — I know this pain — when at uni, I used to pay a two-zone fare to travel between Moorabbin and Caulfield.

But it hasn’t stopped, for instance, the new Williams Landing station (2 stops/2km into zone 2) from being used. Apparently yesterday, the first weekday of operation, the big 500-space car park was already half full.

There are definitely problems with the high price jump as you cross the zone boundary, but making one Melbourne zone is not the way to fix it.

In fact, having more (but cheaper) zones, not less, might be a solution. That could mean a more gradual step-up. In this respect it’s a shame zone 3 was removed in 2007… a better idea might have been an across-the-board fare cut (which is what happened on V/Line that same year). The issues with this are that more zones is probably politically unpalatable (because it sounds retrograde, and might be difficult to explain the benefits) and it might mean the current issue of driving to zone boundaries actually spreads to more locations.

Considering a parking fee at zone 1 stations (particularly those near the boundary) is worth looking at to help reduce the instances of people driving further to get cheaper fares — but is also somewhat politically unpalatable.

There is an argument for making buses zone-free, similar to trams. I’ll explore that in a later blog post.

As ever, I’d be interested to hear what others think about this issue.

  • Remember, on weekends, zones aren’t much of an issue, because of the $3.50 weekend daily cap
  • And Seniors have a $3.80 cap every day

Update: In March 2014, the Napthine government announced they would abolish two-zone trips in Melbourne. Zone 2 will remain for zone 2-only trips at the cheaper rate, but all other trips will be at the zone 1-only rate.

News and events Sport

Last night’s AFL match result – nowhere to be found in The Age paper edition?

I get The Age delivered on weekends. On Saturdays in particular it’s good to lazily read its numerous sections in the morning.

So I picked it up wanting to know who won the football last night: Richmond or Fremantle? I just want to know if I tipped it right.

Sometimes they have the score on the front page. Not this time.
The Age front cover 27/4/2013

OK, so I flick to the Sports section. Not on the cover of that either.

Then I flick through the entire Sports section (not something I do very often, I confess) looking for an answer. It’s not there. Any number of other football-related articles, but not the result of last night’s game.

It seems that while the printed version that landed on my doorstep sometime around 6am doesn’t have it, a later edition (including the Digital Edition) does have it, on page 4.
Age Sports section cover, later edition 27/4/2013

Now, I know the game was in Perth, so would have been a couple of hours behind a Melbourne Friday night game. But it was three-quarter time when I went to bed around 11pm last night, so surely they could have got a result into the paper to be delivered about 7 hours later?

I eventually went back to the Footy Tips web site to find it. I correctly tipped Freo.

And they wonder why the mainstream media is in trouble.

Was it in the Herald Sun delivered to homes?

News and events

Some ANZAC Day thoughts


This report from last night’s ABC TV news is well worth watching: Western Australian students visiting Passchendaele, and taking on the roles of real WW1 soldiers for a day.

The emotional moment in the story is as the connection with their forebears is really nailed, when late in the day, they learn of “their” soldier’s fate.

Video: WA teens relive Anzac journey

Radio version with transcript: Belgian museum recreates the horror of war for history students


ANZAC badgeI’m certainly not knocking it, but does anybody know why ANZAC Day badges are a tax-deductible donation, when most payments to charities where you get something in return (such as a badge or raffle ticket) are not?

As the ATO says, the donation must “truly be a gift”.

Examples of payments that are not gifts include:

purchases of raffle or art union tickets
purchases of items such as chocolates and pens

So is there some specific exclusion for ANZAC Day badges?

Update: See comments. An item which is purely for promotional purposes is excluded.

Why remember?

A great piece from John Birmingham:

[ANZAC Day] doesn’t celebrate men and women who were somehow different to us. It merely pays homage to those who were, and remain, just like us but who, through the disadvantages of history, were called upon to do things all but beyond our comprehension.


If you missed it, check the opening sketch from last night’s Mad As Hell, which did a great job of satirising football games on ANZAC Day.

News and events

The language of disasters: active shooter, WMDs, robocalls

Tragic events in Boston last week.

Being quite interested in language, a couple of things about the use of words caught my eye as events unfolded.

Active shooter

This is something I’ve noticed before, during all-too-often incidents in the US: the term they now use is “active shooter”. In this case it was at MIT, where a policeman was killed — it’s suspected by the bombers. BREAKING: Active Shooter at MIT

In Australia we’d probably say there’s a gunman on the loose (it’s almost always a bloke, right?) or in terms of an armed and dangerous suspect. Perhaps it’s because the sight of any gun in the hands of a civilian in a public area is so rare in Australia that we haven’t developed such succinct shorthand.

Also in the US, “gunman” might have different connotations. So might “shooter” (which is less gender-specific) on its own.

I wonder if the culture of gun ownership has led to these words not being adequate, plus the (unfortunately) regular need for a term which quickly conveys the situation, thus they’ve moved to “active shooter”.


After the active shooter(s) got away, automated telephone calls were used to tell residents in some areas of Boston to stay in their homes.

These are apparently known as robocalls. Similar things have been used here and in other countries, in emergency and other situations (remember the John Howard election call?) but I wasn’t aware of this particular term before.


The surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction.

I find this fascinating. The information released publicly suggests the suspects made the bombs out of pressure cookers. Are these Weapons of Mass Destruction now?

Make no mistake, these bombs had a terrible toll: three dead at the scene, and scores injured, many seriously.

But I had always assumed that WMDs meant that we were talking about destruction on a large scale. Missiles, military grade explosives, chemical weapons, even nuclear devices. The types of things that take out whole regions of cities, or at least whole city blocks.

Notably however, and this may be relevant, is that there seems to be a belief that the bombers planned to perform more attacks… though anything else they had planned doesn’t quite fit into the use of charge.

Photos transport

A few photos

Some pics from around the place in the past week or two…

Train delayed at Southern Cross? Maybe you can catch a hot air balloon instead:
Train delayed? Catch a hot air balloon instead

Yes, Metro does have diesel engines — and this one is not used on the Stony Point line. It’s part of a special train for inspecting overhead wires:
Metro diesel train

“Advertise your business here” say the banners at Ormond station. Looks to me like someone decided to take them up on the offer:
Unofficial advertising, Ormond station

Yesterday at the open day for the new Williams Landing station, PTV revealed what is apparently the new colour scheme for buses — expected to bring a uniformity to the fleet (presumably with Smartbus, shuttle and other services still retaining their special designs). The operator logo is still there, but less prominent than before, bringing us into line with other cities such as Perth and Adelaide:
New PTV bus colour scheme, showing operator logo (via @trainlined on Twitter)
(Picture reproduced with permission of @trainlined on Twitter.)

Finally, something not transport-related: here’s what happened to the return chutes at Bentleigh Library over the Easter weekend when the library was closed for a few days:
What happens to the library return chutes on a long weekend

driving transport

Want roadside assistance but don’t want to fund RACV’s lobbying? Plenty of alternatives – cheaper too

This has come up again since RACV are resisting the removal of a lane of traffic on Princes Bridge to give cyclists more than the part of a busy footpath and the mere sliver of roadspace they have now:

What alternatives are there to RACV road service? Because if you disagree with the RACV’s stance on transport issues, why help fund their lobbying?

Cyclists on Princes Bridge

With thanks to Brad McCluskey, combined with a previous list of mine, here are some contenders (quoting their basic plans, which I suspect is what many would want as a basic safety-net), and the annual fee:

For comparison, RACV roadside care costs from $92.

Also some companies offer breakdown assistance on a per-job basis, with no joining fee. It could be cheaper if you very rarely need to call, but it could be expensive if you use them regularly:

Are there any others?

I’ve been signed up to 24/7 Road Services now for some years, but have never had to actually call them.

RACV being the biggest, probably have the most assistance vans, but also might be busier and slower at peak times to respond. I have seen a lot of Allianz vans around recently. Perhaps they just have a more eye-catching design than most. Have people tried some of these alternatives?

Always check the fine print of course. Some companies won’t sign you up to an annual plan if your car is too old. Some plans limit the number of callouts you can make and/or have different tiers of service plan. And some have limited or no coverage outside metropolitan Melbourne.


The past and future of retail

In one lunchtime walk yesterday, I saw both the past and future of retail.

“As seen on TV.” Seriously, they still use this tagline to hook people in? Does it still work? It’s never the name-brand products which used this — always the slightly dodgy ones. I walked past this display twice, and saw nobody actually looking. Perhaps they do when there’s a shouty person with a microphone spruiking it.
"As seen on TV"

Meanwhile in the mall… Perhaps busking bands are moving away from selling CDs — instead they just sell you a token for an MP3 download.
Buskers - selling music downloads


#HighSpeedRail may not happen anytime soon, but it’s critical that the corridor be reserved

The Phase 2 Report from the High Speed Rail study was released last week — predicting that although HSR would cover its recurrent (running/maintenance) costs, it’d first take some $114 billion and 45 years to build it.

As I’ve said before, I think a 3-ish hour trip from Melbourne to Sydney would be time-competitive with flying.
Taiwan High Speed Rail
$114 billion is obviously an incredible cost, and taking decades to build it is a totally unambitious timeframe. I’m sure if you outsourced it to those who have built such lines elsewhere, they could get it running much more quickly and cheaply. Or if they got tough on the airlines and proclaimed a forced heavy future reduction in emissions, and particularly if oil prices skyrocket and a second Sydney airport is put on hold, they could coax Qantas and Virgin into the railways business.

(It’s interesting that much of the debate since the report was released has ignored emissions issues, and focussed on the benefits to existing rail passengers, not those currently travelling by air.)

But even if you assume it could be built quicker and cheaper, the question is: should one heed the calls of the optimists and start building it now? Or follow the cynics who say it’s all too expensive, that we don’t have the population, and we should forget it?

I’m not sure. Fact is, across the country, there are probably a lot more important infrastructure projects that need building first. That money (even if you assumed it could be built for half that cost) could solve a lot of other problems.

And realistically, the political and economic climate means there’s no hope of it being built right now.

But… as this piece in The Conversation says, they should definitely go ahead and identify and reserve the corridorjust like the roads people do all the time.

All that said, it seems prudent to plan and protect a corridor. It’s not overly expensive to work out a detailed alignment and preserve it from incompatible land development. This does little harm and ensures we can move forward if and when circumstances change and/or the time is right.

This is a must. Not doing so — even if actual construction work isn’t to start in the foreseeable future — could make it impossible for it to ever happen later.

Morons on the road

#RoadMorons Award Of The Week goes to…

…this person, who ignored the convention to keep left of the white line in Flinders Lane, and came up against this tram coming around the corner.

Friday lunchtime: eastbound tram meets westbound car

The tram actually had a fair pace making the turn — luckily it stopped in time to prevent a collision.

The motorist backed out of the lane, and hopefully learnt a lesson.

The car backs into the correct lane, and the tram continues on

Bentleigh Home life Melbourne Photos

The week in house maintenance

It was house maintenance week this week. I took a couple of days off to do some de-cluttering and get some people in.

Hard rubbish got rid of two old mattresses, three former recycle bins, a big plank of wood, an old fan and two disused old bicycles. Amusingly, between putting stuff out/booking the collection and having it picked up, one bike disappeared, then came back, then the second went.

On Tuesday I got my ducts cleaned. (Note: This is not a euphemism.)

On Wednesday it was the pest controllers, as part of my self-declared War On Cockroaches. The guy sprayed inside and out, and we evacuated for a while to let the fumes dissipate — into the city for some lunch, a walk around, and some photography.

Princes Bridge and the Southbank footbridge, Yarra River, Melbourne

Of course, the most exciting news this week in the ‘hood has been the opening of the new Aldi store in downtown Bentleigh (in the old IGA site). Wednesday was opening day, and it was packed with people hunting down $10 kettles and toasters, and $89 Android tablets.

$89 at Aldi. Should I or shouldn't I?I must admit I was tempted by the latter. But in the end I decided not to buy it, for three reasons: [1] the check-out queues were really long, [2] although it’s cheap, a review reckoned this model of tablet has poor Wifi reception (and in fact the reviewer ended up returning it due to poor battery life), and perhaps most importantly, [3] I’d just spent days de-cluttering the house, and buying something I didn’t really need would be a backward step,

And after all, there’ll be other cheap tablets. Wait a few months and there’ll be a better one for the same price.