Domain tunnel closed. Gridlock? What gridlock?

GRIDLOCK will begin to choke Melbourne’s roads from Friday night, but the full impact of bridge and tunnel closures for maintenance won’t bite until the New Year.

Motorists are being advised to steer clear of the city, or they could experience delays of up to an hour.

— Herald Sun: Traffic chaos expected as West Gate Bridge and CityLink tunnels close, 26/12/2013

Oh noes! The Domain tunnel (that’s westbound) closed for days! Disaster!

Except… gridlock? What gridlock?

Here’s how it looked at 8am this morning on the Vicroads live traffic web page:

Vicroads traffic map: 8:05am, 30/12/2013

A few little spots of delays marked in red, but nothing major at all. (Click on the pictures to see them bigger.)

On Saturday, the only major delays were miles away from the tunnel, due to incidents on the Princes Highway westbound.

Vicroads traffic map: 11:30am, 28/12/2013

This photo this morning from a Channel Ten reporter also noted a distinct lack of chaos.

There are probably a number of reasons for this. Firstly the timing of these works was wisely scheduled when fewer people are travelling around town.

But I also wonder if the widespread publicity of the closures has led to people purposefully avoiding it. After all, if you know in advance there’s a major road closure, why would you deliberately drive into a snarl if you could avoid it?

Turns out major road closures often result in no gridlock

Turns out this is not unprecedented. In 2007 a major shutdown in Seattle resulted in… no gridlock.

I mean, who’d have guessed you could shut down a third of our most congested freeway and not paralyze the region in epic traffic jams? Oliver Downs, that’s who.

The case of the vanishing cars is no mystery to him. In fact he predicted it.

He forecast no extreme clogs anywhere — not on I-5, nor on alternate routes such as Highway 99 or 599. So far he’s been right about that.

— Seattle Times: Math whiz had I-5’s number, 22/8/2007

And a recent major shutdown in Birmingham, that also resulted in little disruption, has many wondering if these big inner-city motorways are needed at all.

When it emerged Birmingham’s Queensway tunnels would be closed for six weeks over the summer, it is no surprise there were predictions of “chaos”.

The main through route for the A38, the tunnels are used by thousands of drivers each day and have been an integral part of the city’s transport network since they were built in the 1970s.

There was some surprise, therefore, when the anticipated gridlock did not materialise.

The reality was so different that a report into Birmingham’s transport network for the next 20 years has called for a debate about how much they are needed, pointing out they create a “noisy unattractive barrier to intra-centre movement”.

— BBC: End of the road? Are major routes through cities outdated? 26/12/2013

This has even happened in Los Angeles:

The traffic many thought would be a nightmare was much lighter than normal as Los Angeles entered the second day in the shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 – one of the country’s busiest highways.

Associated Press: Los Angeles bridge project cruising toward finish, 17/7/2011

This phenomenon has been studied, and it’s actually quite common.

In 1998, British researchers studied what happened to traffic in more than 100 highway and bridge shutdowns in Europe and the U.S. They found that on average 25 percent of all car trips simply evaporated.

People still went to work. Some commuters drove, some found another way in. Some other trips were just not made.

“Drivers are not stupid,” Downs says. “They change schedules. They don’t take some trips, or they delay them. The net effect of all these little decisions can be dramatic.”

— Seattle Times: Math whiz had I-5’s number, 22/8/2007

Is this the opposite of induced traffic?

Induced traffic happens when large numbers of people decide it’s easier to drive, and do so, more often and further. It’s commonly seen when new major roads open, as often congestion initially falls, before building back up.

As I mentioned above, demand is definitely lower at this time of year, with many city workers on holiday. But VicRoads says this typically results in only a 30% drop in traffic levels… so normally 70% of the traffic volumes would still be on the roads.

It might be that in the case of the current Domain tunnel closure, with plenty of advance publicity, large numbers of people may have decided not to make some trips, at least not by car.

The real test might be next week when the Burnley tunnel is closed, and a lot more people are back at work.

But as with the questions being asked in Birmingham, what we’ve seen so far again calls into question the wisdom of building more major inner-city roads such as the East West Link. Ultimately, do we need more of them, especially with a price tag of billions of dollars? Shouldn’t we be smarter about how we provide mobility for large numbers of people (and goods) in a more efficient manner?

Update 31/12/2013

I’ve been looking through the TV news from the last couple of nights. Here are some choice quotes.

In a story introduced with the phrase “Carmageddon”: “I think people are well informed, and I think they understand that when we do have virtually a single major link – Citylink and Westgate – that does occasionally have to be shut down. And that’s why the people of Victoria say get on and build the East West Link.” – Dennis Napthine, Channel 7 news, 27/12/2013

“Melbourne has escaped traffic chaos on the first day of the city’s biggest road network closure. Drivers didn’t face the hour-long delays that were forecast…

With an average 9000 cars using that stretch of Citylink every hour, Victorians were warned there’d be chaos and long delays. But it seems that was enough to keep most drivers off the roads.
…Monday tipped to be an especially busy day as many Victorians return to work.”

– Channel 7 news, 28/12/2013.

Update 6/1/2014

Warnings continued over the weekend for the closure of the Burnley (eastbound) tunnel, and minor queues from Westgate onto Kingsway were noted on Saturday, but still major delays have proved elusive.

This morning, arguably the first day there are lots of people returning to work, the Vicroads traffic web site does show a queue about 2km long in that same spot. It’s still not widespread gridlock, though it’ll be interesting to see if it spreads through the day, and particularly in evening peak.

Vicroads: traffic 6/1/2014 7:30am

By 8am the queues stretched back to about the service stations, but there was little other congestion noted in the inner area.

The ABC reported it thus: Closure of Burnley Tunnel for resurfacing work causes only minor traffic delays

Perhaps the delays are only this minor because the authorities talk up the chaos. But as noted above, it should leave us questioning the Premier’s claims that it is critical to build another cross-city tunnel.

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Christmas wrap-up

Christmas Day was largely spent with family, eating too much, playing with a giant cushion-like water balloon (which burst when, tragically, nobody was watching/filming) and swapping presents.

Our haul this time around included a Wii U, which should be fun, and for my own personal stash I got some great movies on Blu-ray (Help, and The World’s End), a rather nice framed original artwork, an excellent big book (The Beatles — All The Songs — great for dipping into and reading about the origins of their songs, something which has interested me greatly recently), and a voucher for MTC theatre tickets.

I was pondering if the video game console manufacturers beef up their online servers at Christmas to handle millions of consoles needing software updates, and lots of people signing up for the first time. Perhaps they don’t beef them up enough — Nintendo had problems over the Christmas period, and had to partially shut down their eShop service.

It wasn’t all good news in our house, either: our Christmas tree fell over on Christmas Day, and will need replacing. We already knew the lights were going to need replacing. Maybe they can be procured at a discount during the post-Christmas sales period?
Christmas tree fallen over

After Christmas festivities were over for the afternoon, I went on a PT joyride. Services were free, and unlike the UK where virtually the whole system shuts down, runs a normal Sunday timetable. There were quite a few people touching-on/off their Myki cards — hopefully they were charged nothing, as advertised… obviously not advertised widely enough. But wouldn’t it be good customer service to open all the fare gates? Most at Caulfield were closed.
Christmas Day at Caulfield station
(Of course, the biggest problem preventing more people using the system on Christmas Day is lack of services. Trains and trams were okay, but with most buses only hourly, it’s very self-limiting, even with free rides.)

On Boxing Day I went farming, where I helped to count sheep, and didn’t fall asleep once.

I also learnt to speak sheep. “Baaaaaaaa!” (Thanks Kate for the photo.)
Daniel tries speaking sheep. "Baaaa!"

I also managed to bang one of my toes on a metal chair leg, leaving me with a big bruise and pain when I walked, until both thankfully faded away about a day later. Here’s the bruise in its small, early stages. Scary colour to see on one of your toes.
Toe bruise

In Euroa we spotted this Stump People Nativity scene — very rural!
Stump people nativity scene, Euroa

Saw the second Hobbit movie on Saturday. Very good. Watched it in Gold Class at Southland — parked by the non-existent railway station.
Parked at Southland, next to the railway station

Hope you all had a good Christmas.

News and events

Merry Christmas

Thanks perhaps to a couple of big presents this year, our small aging plastic Christmas tree looks more Christmassy than usual (yay rampant consumerism!) — though a lot of the lights have stopped working, and need to be replaced.

Hope everyone’s had a good year… have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Christmas tree 2013

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A case to keep my shiny new phone safe

My new Google Nexus 5 phone is going very nicely, thanks very much.

But I was pondering getting a case for it. The last thing I’d want is for it to be dropped and damaged.

Fortuitously, the good people at MobileZap asked me if there was a product on their site I’d like to review for them. Why yes! Thank you!

MobileZap stock lots of accessories for phones and other devices such as iPads, with everything sorted by manufacturer and model. Unlike some other sites I’ve looked at, they have quite a wide range, even for older models of phone such as ye olde HTC Desire S that I’ve just upgraded from, which is rather good if you’re wishing to hand it down to someone (it still works fine) but need a new case for it.

In the category of Nexus 5 cases, they list 83 different products.

I also like that MobileZap aren’t afraid to publish customer reviews on their site — even unfavourable ones.

I thought the Spigen SGP Ultra Hybrid for Google Nexus 5 – Black sounded good. Not that the name exactly rolls off the tongue, but it looked like the case I needed.

Nexus 5 phone without caseNexus 5 phone in case

One of the things I like about the Nexus 5 is that it looks good. This case attempts, with some success, not to mess with the look of the phone. It leaves the front alone, providing bumper protection around the edge, so unless it hits a sharp edge on the screen, you’re protected.

In fact it also comes with a screen protector, though I’m a little reluctant to fit it, given the phone itself comes with Gorilla Glass, which should make it pretty tough. (In fact the old HTC Desire S, which also has Gorilla Glass, managed to last two years without a noticeable scratch.) That said, I know these days good screen protectors are pretty good at not unduly affecting the touch of the touch screen, so I’ll give it a try at some stage.

The outside edge of the cover (eg the bumper) is rubbery plasticy stuff, which (like the phone itself, at least the black version) is easy to grip, so the chances of it slipping out of your hand are minimal.

The back of the cover is transparent plastic. This does detract a little from the rather nice natural look of the back of the phone, but it wouldn’t normally be facing that way, so I can live with that.

As you’d expect, there are gaps in the case to allow for the camera to work, as well as the power/USB. The Volume Up/Down and Power buttons are covered by rubbery stuff which changes the feel of them just a little bit, as well as making them more accessible because the case buttons are bigger than the phone buttons – no bad thing.

If there is one niggle, it’s this – the bigger Power button is now directly opposite the bigger Volume Down button, and if you’re used to holding the opposite side of the phone to press the Power, you may find yourself initially pressing the Volume Down instead. I found once I got get used to it, this didn’t cause me issues.

Other than that, this looks like a good, durable case, and I feel less nervous now that my beautiful new phone will succumb to some horrible damage on probably inevitable day that it gets dropped.Thumbs up!

Many thanks to MobileZap for sending me this cover.


Working? Christmas shopping? Fewer trains running today. #MetroTrains #SpringSt

Just a reminder that as noted last week, there are reduced train (and tram) timetables running from this week until Australia Day.

For my fellow Bentleigh people, I’ve marked the weekday cancelled trains for you:

Bentleigh to City summer timetable 2013-14

Basically for us on the Frankston line, train frequencies are halved at most times of day on weekdays for the next five weeks. Despite being politically sensitive, the Frankston line is the only one to have cuts in weekday off-peak hours.

Despite the claims, it doesn’t appear to be operationally necessary to do this for works on the Regional Rail Link project.

It actually makes me wonder how much the government is saving through cutting services like this, and how wise it is to have the deepest cuts (bars those lines actually losing trains due to construction works) affect the line that runs through so many marginal seats.

You’ll be wanting to check the timetable before you head down to the station.

And remember when the next election comes around that the government reduced your train service for over a month, causing long waits (and crowding?) while also raising fares.

By the way: it’s easy to print your own personalised stop timetables (at least for the “standard” timetable), courtesy of the PTV (formerly Metlink) web site.


Holiday timetables – “Turn up and go” becomes “Turn up and wait”

Much has been made of Metro’s scheduled cancellations over the next two days to try and deal with extreme heat — in particular they’re citing speed restrictions on the faster part of the network, which will have speed restrictions.

It’ll be interesting to see if they can stick to this plan, or if the whole thing (to coin a phrase) comes of the rails tonight.

Hopefully the upgrade work done to the Comeng fleet in recent years will mean their air-conditioning doesn’t fail on random units like it used to.

Holiday timetables

But more impact is likely to be felt with the mass cancellation of up to half of all services on some lines for most of the next month.

Some of the cuts are due to the Regional Rail Link project, for instance buses replacing trains on parts of the Sunbury line.

But many other lines completely independent from RRL will see big cuts, by as much as 50% of services for most of the day.

For instance on many lines (such as Sandringham, Werribee, Craigieburn) peak services will be cut by half, to every 15-20 minutes.

To an extent I can understand reduced peak services in the week or two after Christmas, when many people are on holiday. Longer waits would be annoying, but capacity would better match demand.

Dumb Ways To Die ad on side of train

Mind the gap (between services)

The last time they had a reduced peak timetable due to major works, it was a 10 minute service on the busy Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston lines (eg those lines that normally have a mix of stopping and express trains), stopping all stations. That made sense as it kept waiting times down to a minimum.

This time they’ve decided they want some express trains, which cuts travel time but extends platform waiting times (in the heat, oh joy), and makes for a more complex timetable, with much bigger impacts if there’s an unplanned cancellation.

This hacking up of the timetable rather than a full temporary re-write leads to some nasty quirks…

On the South Morang line, there’s a long gap of 50 minutes from South Morang station to the city from 3:49pm to 4:39pm (though the rest of the line has a train between those times).

On the Dandenong line, next week some busy stations such as Carnegie in morning peak will have gaps varying wildly between 2 minutes (8:11am-8:13am) and 26 minutes (7:09am-7:35am).

On the Sandringham line, there are trains every 15 minutes most of the day (including peak) but gaps of 20 minutes in the afternoon, and one gap of 28 minutes in the early evening.

On the Frankston line the weekday off-peak ten minute service will be cut to every twenty minutes from next week until late-January — but it will be kept on weekends and public holidays, including Christmas Day.

…So on Christmas Day, when almost nothing’s open, and almost nobody is working, there’ll be a Frankston line train every 10 minutes for most of the day, but on the two days before — both working days, and busy CBD shopping days — most stations will only get a train every 18-20 minutes, including in peak hour.

If someone would like to explain the logic of that one to me, I’d be delighted.

Reduced until Australia Day

The reduced timetables go until Australia Day, but happily, many of the peak services return in early January (resolving most of the above issues) — otherwise you can bet there would have been mass crowding from mid-January when most people are back at work. Maybe there still will be.

The partial pay off for these disruptions will be upgraded infrastructure… hopefully substantial progress will be made on the Regional Rail Link and other projects such as the Mitcham grade separation during these few weeks.


Update Friday 20/12/2013 — Commenter gxh identified a huge 39 minute gap for inner-suburban Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn in the morning peak, thanks to several stopping trains in a row being cancelled for the full five weeks. Yowsers.

Metro summer timetables 2013-14: 39 minute gap for some inner-suburban stations in peak hour

Update Sunday 22/12/2013: After some dialogue with Metro on Twitter, they’ve quietly modified the timetable to have a train from the Frankston line stop and plug that particular gap.

Metro Trains: Frankston line 2013-14 Summer timetable revised to fill a gap

It’s still a 19-20 minute gap, but that’s better than 39!

Update Monday 6/1/2014 — despite the change above still being shown in Metro’s PDF timetables, from my observations this morning, the alteration hasn’t actually been made. Staff at Bentleigh and making remote PA announcements, the green button, and the timetable posters all referred to the train in question as still running express Malvern to South Yarra, so the 39 minute gap remains.

And the clincher? The driver evidently hadn’t been told of an alteration; the train did indeed run express.

The PDF on the Metro web site still shows the train altered to stop and fill the gap. The PTV web site shows it running express.

Update Monday 6/1/2014 afternoon — Metro says it didn’t stop in error, but it will stop tomorrow.

Update Friday 10/1/2014 — Turns out this particular train is suffering from bad overcrowding due to the cancellations around it. See: Summer timetables = planned train crowding (See a problem? Get the evidence)



Definitely in the category of First World Problems

When you order something online…

…and you get it sent to home rather than work because it’s a bit bulky…

…and you aren’t home when they try to deliver it…

…and they don’t take it to a Licenced Post Office which is open on weekends…

…and they don’t take it to a regular Post Office with a pre-9am pickup window

Instead they take it to another post office which isn’t too far away, but only operates 9 to 5 on weekdays. When I’m at work.

How do they expect me to pick it up?

Thankfully it wasn’t sent to some courier depot somewhere, and I was able to get the kids to pick it up for me, but it makes me think that if it’s known that online orders and packages are a big part of the future of the post office and of courier companies, they need to put a little more thought into this.

No wonder one company has launched parcel lockers you can install at home to replace your mail box, with built in smarts to send you a text message when a parcel arrives, though at $329 or more, I can’t see myself getting one any time soon. Perhaps a cheaper, lower-tech version is needed?


Public transport fare changes next year – will they have unintended consequences?

Most years there’s a public transport price rise. This year it’s a little more complicated – a number of other changes have been announced. The Budget Update delivered on Friday included some tweaks to the fare system.

But they may have an unintended effect on patronage.

New Myki advertising on stations

Fare increases

A number of changes will be made to public transport fares to ensure continued improvements in service delivery. These include the following.

Public transport fares will increase by CPI plus 2.5 per cent from 2015 to 2018, contributing to ongoing investment in the network.

The rise for 2014 is just CPI, which ABS figures show is 2.2%.

Four CPI plus 2.5 per cent rises in a row means an overall increase of (if my maths is correct) 10.4% in real terms, following CPI plus five per cent rises in 2012 and 2013, originally planned by Labor, but kept by the Coalition.

These new rises will chip away about half of the discount everybody got when forced off single Metcard tickets onto the (bulk price) Myki fares, and will put a zone 1 two-hour full fare (the standard fare for most tram trips, of any distance, even just a couple of stops) up at over $4.

The full price list for 2014 is here. Notable is that the zone 1+2 two hour fare (the “default fare” for metropolitan trains) in 2014 will be $6.06, which is slightly over the $6 cost of a Myki card — assuming this doesn’t rise (it hasn’t been mentioned). This means that for the first time, if you have under 6 cents on your card, it’s cheaper to make a two-zone trip, throw the card away and buy a new one. Not that that’s using the system as intended. Few people would regularly get a balance of such a small amount, and one would hope not many would go through that inconvenience for the sake of a few cents.

Weekend cap increase

The public transport weekend daily fare cap will be adjusted to $6 from 1 January 2014. The current weekend daily cap on all metropolitan public transport travel provides a significant discount to weekend travel compared to the daily weekday fare. An increase to the daily weekend cap to $6 for Zone 1 and 2 travel will better align weekend and weekday fares while still providing value for weekend travellers.

This is a big jump from $3.50 to $6.

There is no separate concession cap; it’s the same $6. That means there’s almost no discount at all for concession travellers who are not using Seniors fares, as the maximum normal fare for them is $6.06. Ditto for zone 1-only full fare travellers, about a dollar’s discount if they travel all day.

The Weekend Saver daily cap (which also applies on public holidays), originally introduced at $2.50 on Sundays only, has been cited as a big factor in increasing weekend patronage.

It will have an interesting effect on event crowds.

For those going to big events (for instance the Showgrounds, football or cricket) on the weekend, the current $3.50 weekend cap effectively means you get a full day’s travel for the price of one trip. Thus currently the price of a trip to the game pays for the trip home as well. This means that if due to crowds you can’t touch-off on the way to the game, or can’t touch-on again on the way home, you’ve paid your way (though the legalities are unclear), and you also are prevented inadvertently paying more than you should.

With a higher cap, a zone 1 traveller arriving at the game who touches-off will be charged the $3.58 one way fare. If they can’t touch-on travelling home, they’ve inadvertently fare evaded.

A Zone 1 concession traveller will want to make sure they touch-off and on correctly, or they may end up paying more than necessary.

Will the authorities try harder (eg install more gates and readers) to get passengers to touch-on and off at major events? It remains to be seen. The Richmond station exit to AAMI Park and the tennis centre, for instance, has very few Myki readers, and last time we were at the Showgrounds (for PAX), barely any were available.

Here's the New #PTV #Myki tram stop signage

Bye bye to the zone 2 weekend free rides for Passes

It’s only thanks to the low weekend cap fare and a quirk of how Myki calculates fares that Zone 1 Pass holders currently get free rides in Zone 2 on weekends. (Some may recall that at one stage, it was actually giving you money back for travelling further.)

With the weekend cap rising, it’s expected that Zone 1 Pass holders will pay $2.42 extra to travel in zone 2. (The $6 weekend cap minus the $3.58 zone 1 fare.)

This is a removal of a benefit going back to the pre-Metcard paper ticket days, when paper periodical tickets were valid in any zone on weekends (and you could bring your family along for free as well), as a way of encouraging use of the system when spare capacity was available, and rewarding the public transport system’s most loyal customers. Note that due to the pricing, this zone benefit has already disappeared for concession and zone 2-only users.

For all-week travellers, it makes Passes more cost-competitive

Removing most of the discount for weekend/public holiday zone 1 and concession users has the effect of making Passes (which are for consecutive days, and thus include weekends) more cost-effective for passengers who regularly travel more than four days a week.

Previously the Pass price per day for full fare passengers was more than the Weekend Cap, so many would buy 33-day passes to try and avoid paying for weekends (whether or not they intended to travel). I expect many who don’t use public transport on weekends will continue to do that. (More on this from TheMykiUser.)

Two hour fares exactly two hours

Two hour fares will expire exactly two hours after touch on from 1 July 2014. Currently, two hour public transport fares expire two hours from the start of the next full hour. The fare change reduces complexity and is easier to administer than rounding to the start of the next full hour.

“easier to administer”? This sounds highly unlikely given the software has handled it fine since 2009, possibly earlier. Will it mean touch times are a millisecond or two faster?

Given the expiry time was originally whole hours because of limitations with paper tickets, it’s not entirely surprising that they’d do this. Arguably it’s easier to understand.

Will it mean some people wait at the station outside the paid area and all rush to touch-on just as the train arrives? Who knows.

Can you remember that your fare expires at 3:41pm exactly? Since no useful information is provided on the card itself, it’d be nice if the reader software was modified to display it, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Expiry applies to touch-on. It’s important to note that if a fare expires while you’re travelling, you don’t incur another fare if you touch-off at the end of your trip after the expiry time. It’s only the touch-on that needs to be before the expiry to avoid paying another fare.

It also won’t effect you’re trying to finish your trip and your train is late, as long as you touched-on before the expiry time.

But it will have an effect on people who want to watch their pennies and do short two-way trips, perhaps down to the shops or doctor and so on.

It’s worth noting that once upon a time, all zones had three hour fares, in other words between 3:00 hours and 3:59. This was switched back to two hours in 1993.

The after 6pm benefit?. At present fares that start after 6pm last until 3am. At this stage it’s not clear if this is staying. The PTV web site mentions it only in the context of paper tickets used in regional towns. Update 8/8/2014 — This is confirmed as staying.


Rumours flying around suggested the Earlybird fare (free train rides before 7am on weekdays) was to have been scrapped from January 2014.

This did not eventuate, but other rumours suggest it would happen in 2015 instead. It might explain why the fare changes are expected to increase revenue by just $21.1 million in 2014-15, but $46.4 million in 2015-16. (Budget Update page 130)

That’ll be one to watch, as if it happens, it could have a big effect on peak hour train demand.


It’s difficult to see where they’re coming from with the changes for 2014, other than they seem to be aiming to try to increase revenue and improve cost recovery.

But is increasing prices the only way to do that? And does it risk reducing patronage, and end up not actually increasing revenue?

In recent years with very cheap weekend caps and other initiatives, there was clearly an aim to increase patronage, particularly at times when there was spare capacity on the system. Perhaps it was “too successful”, with weekend train crowding triggering ten minute services on the busiest lines.

But isn’t that a good situation to be in? More people travelling more efficiently on public transport instead of driving, leading to more services (read: better use of our substantial infrastructure), leading to more passengers?

Perhaps $3.50 was too cheap, but it did mean that taking a family group out on the weekend (another benefit previously given to periodical holders) was cost-competitive with driving. A more saleable plan would have been to bump it to say $4.50, then have it creep up, accompanied by well-publicised service upgrades, for instance more lines going to every ten minutes.

And the two hour thing? Well that’ll have little effect on 9-5 commuters, but may hit the less well-off hardest.

Overall it remains to be seen what effect this package of changes will have on patronage, particularly on weekends.

And it’ll be interesting to see what Labor says about all this. Will they reverse any of this? So far they seem to be non-committal.

Update 26/3/2014: Two-zone fares to be capped to one zone; free tram rides in CBD.


Train window ads – what about visibility?

I’m not against advertising on public transport. It brings in much-needed revenue and helps subsidise services.

But it shouldn’t be intrusive.

Bus and tram passengers have had to get used to ads on windows of vehicles over many years, but it’s only in the last couple of years that it’s become prominent on trains. It seems to be applied with a semi-transparent film.

Generally they seem to aim for some, but not all, of the windows along the side of a carriage… and not every carriage, so as with buses and trams, some windows are left clear.

But this still results in some visibility problems.

Outside advertising on trains

Looking in from the outside it’s very difficult to see inside, meaning staff (including PSOs) may be unlikely to spot issues inside the train. It also makes it more difficult for passengers boarding to identify and avoid the more crowded parts of the train. It might be a tad better at night, but during the day you basically can’t see in.

Looking out from the inside of the carriage is a mixed bag.

Viewing across from the other side of the carriage, it’s actually not bad, at least in daylight. Outside scenery, including important things like station signs, are quite visible.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

But up close, it’s not as easy. It can be difficult to focus on things outside, at least if they’re some distance off, which may make some signage difficult to read.

To compare to a clear window, you can kind of see the effect of the film in this photo, though the way the camera has focussed doesn’t exactly reflect what the eye sees.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Objects very close to the window, such as the station signs in the underground loop, are still very clear — but at most stations they aren’t that close.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Those who have real problems seeing out or knowing where they are will want to aim for windows that are unobstructed.

But this may not be an option during peak hour, and really, government and operators should ensure that passenger visibility (both in and out) of trains (and trams and buses) is better than it is with these ads plastered over them.


“People should be able to choose their mode of travel”

“RACV has a very clear view that people should be able to choose their mode of travel and not be confronted by artificial policy directions that constrain particular modes of travel…

— RACV spokesman Dave Jones, Herald Sun 9/12/2013

Yes, it’d be awful if artificial policy directions prevented people choosing their travel mode.

Policy directions such as transport provision skewed almost entirely in favour of cars, resulting in a failure to provide most suburbs with fast frequent public transport services.

Decades of building roads at almost any cost, but in many areas a lack of safe convenient walking and cycling routes.

Sixty years of policies which give many Melburnians little choice but to drive their cars.

Yes, that’d be no good.

(RACV was actually railing against efforts by Yarra Council to reduce the number of cars on inner-city roads.)

Traffic heading into Southland on a Saturday morning

It’s not hard to see the effect of the transport policies of the last half-century. At Southland on the weekend, motorists circled the car park looking for spaces. The alternative – mostly hourly buses – is no alternative whatsoever.