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transport

Chadstone’s shiny new bus interchange – the good, the bad and the ugly

Chadstone Shopping Centre, perpetually in a battle to maintain its status as Australia’s biggest shopping mall, opened a new bus interchange in August.

I finally got around to seeing it just before Christmas.

Chadstone bus interchange, opened August 2015

Chadstone bus interchange, opened August 2015

My first impressions…

The good:

  • All the buses serving Chadstone go to one spot, which is far less dispersed than the old bus interchange. This is a massive improvement — to get to some buses before you had to exit the centre and take a long walk, crossing multiple access roads.
  • It seems to be closer to the middle of the complex.
  • Shade cloths should provide a reasonable level of shelter from sun and rain.
  • It’s quite spacious — the old interchange was somewhat cramped and could get quite crowded.
  • There’s a Myki machine present for top-ups and card checking and purchase (but remember, you can also top-up and buy a card on buses).
  • Buses 800 and 802/804/862, which all go in the same direction, have been grouped together at bay 10.
  • The nonsensical (and outdated — route 700 was replaced by route 903 in 2009) signage below is gone. The new signage is much clearer.

The bad:

  • Buses still have to navigate quite a way via the car park access roads, in shared traffic, to get to the interchange. This poses the risk of delays during peak times, particularly for Warrigal Road routes, which take quite a detour to get in and out.
  • There’s no rain cover between the interchange and the centre entrance. (Granted there’s a balance to be found here. At Southland the bus interchange is undercover, but this causes problems with diesel fumes.)
  • There’s also no inside space particularly near the buses for those boiling hot days. The closest place you could wait in air-conditioned comfort is inside the centre itself.
  • Despite being advertised as a joint frequent service, buses to Oakleigh Station are split all over the place: route 625 in bay 1; 903 in bay 2; 742 in bay 6; 900 in bay 8; 800/802/804/862 are in bay 10. As you can see from the diagram below, these bays are quite separate — bay 1 is isolated, bays 9 and 10 are also on their own, and the others are grouped together. (Route 624 also goes to Oakleigh, but the long way round.)

PTV map and signage from Chadstone bus interchange opened August 2015

The ugly:

  • Someone’s messed things up in the PTV Database (which drives the apps and Journey Planner). If you search for Chadstone you get two options. “Chadstone Shopping Centre (Malvern East)” is a lone stop on the western side serving ONLY route 623. “Chadstone SC/Eastern Access Rd (Malvern East)” is the main interchange.
  • The Smartbus realtime information sign has been located at such an angle that it is completely impossible to read when approaching the interchange from the shops, or when sitting at the Smartbus stops!

Do you ever get the feeling they have nobody considering how actual passengers will use these things?

Chadstone bus interchange, opened August 2015

Certainly it’s an improvement over the old interchange, but I suspect that with a little more thought, it could have been so much more usable.

And of course the biggest problem remains: most of the bus routes are hopelessly infrequent, with mostly hourly services on the busiest shopping days — weekends and public holidays.

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transport

Westgate traffic – we shouldn’t expect any other outcome

Given in the past it hasn’t eventuated, I was cynical about the predictions of long delays on the Westgate Bridge this week during roadworks.

In 2013, closure of the Domain Tunnel didn’t result in gridlock. It seems drivers were adequately forewarned, and didn’t drive, or found alternative routes, and/or used PT instead.

But this time, some long delays have eventuated. There could be a number of reasons for this, including the specific nature of this week’s lane closures, and the fact that (unlike when the Domain tunnel closes) many people are completely unaware of the alternative routes such as Footscray Road. It’s been two generations since people had to know another way across to the west.

There’s another reason so many people want to drive across the Westgate: for many of them there is no viable PT choice.

For instance, on Monday I was headed to a brunch with friends in Altona Meadows. The PTV Journey Planner informed me that to get there by PT, I would have had to have travelled on Thursday, and stayed overnight for four nights… I’m not sure that was part of the invitation. Or I could arrive some 19.5 hours late… not really a viable alternative either.

Trip to Altona Meadows... not possible on Monday public holiday

Eventually I tweaked the options to allow the maximum amount of walking, at the highest speed, and it decided it could get me about a 1km from where I needed to be — I could walk the rest of the way. But it would still take me ages, and I had stuff to carry.

It also relied on a connection to the 411/412 bus. The PTV web site is incapable of showing me a combined timetable for these routes, despite them sharing 90% of their route, and being timed to complement each other. But the biggest problem is the combined frequency is only 40 minutes on holidays, which means risking a long wait if the connection is missed.

(Being a typical Melbourne “connection”, the times are not coordinated, and certainly not guaranteed. It’s only a connection in the sense that the railway station is vaguely close to the bus stop.)

It’s a similar story if you’re off to Werribee Mansion/Zoo for the day. The train is every 20 minutes, but the “connecting” bus is only once an hour. At least it takes you to the entrance. Just don’t miss the 5:03pm bus back — that’s the last service, which I guess makes it impossible for staff to use.

This sort of choice isn’t really a choice at all, and it’s why so many people drive over the Westgate everyday, including on public holidays like Monday. With little choice, we shouldn’t really expect any other outcome.

As conservative writers Weyrich and Lind noted, just looking at mode share doesn’t tell you much about the success of public transport. A better measure is “transit competitive trips”, measuring market share where PT actually competes with driving — and generally in these it does quite well.

But it’s no surprise that PT doesn’t do well when the service offering is poor.

Westgate Bridge traffic during road works, 29/12/2015

When people have few options, of course they’ll drive.

So yes, on Monday there were long delays on approach to the bridge, though much of the rest of the road network flowed smoothly.

(To avoid the traffic, I ended up doing PT part of the way, and hitching a lift with others attending the brunch.)

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The week in transport transport

The week in transport

The experiment continues. This time it’s turned out to be short posts, rather than a ream of news.

Southland Station delayed

Monday 2015-12-21Southland construction pushed back into 2016. Completion is now expected in early 2017.

The Opposition said the construction should have been at the same time as the North/Mckinnon/Centre level crossing removals, but that might mean large sections of the line out of action all at the same time. It’s probably less pain for passengers to stagger it.

Outer end of Belgrave line closed on Code Red days

Monday 2015-12-21 — Apart from hot weather policies from Metro and V/Line imposing speed restrictions, it was announced that Metro intend to completely close the outer section of the Belgrave line (beyond Bayswater) on code red days. Replacement buses will run as far as Ferntree Gully, but the four outer stations will be left with no services.

A PTUA member was told by local bus company Ventura that similar policies apply to them on Code Red days.

This is a difficult one for Metro and the other operators. The official advice for a Code Red day is: “Leaving high risk bushfire areas the night before a Code Red Day or early in the morning of a Code Red Day is the safest option for your survival – do not wait and see”

…So basically it means everybody except emergency services should be evacuating the area due to extreme fire danger, so in that context, it’s not unreasonable to abandon public transport services. But will people know about it? How do those dependent on PT get out? And assuming no services run at all on those days, it’s a little out of whack with official advice allowing for leaving early in the morning.

PTV rejects regular Flemington trains

Wednesday 2015-12-23 — A plan for 1136 apartments close to Flemington Racecourse railway station raised the prospect of running trains full time, rather than just during special events. But PTV rejected the idea, citing the connected Craigieburn line as already too full.

There are actually a few questions here:

  • Can it be done operationally? They manage Royal Show services, including during peak hour, every September without impacting peak services (though these don’t run during AM peak). Oaks Day race services are similar, but have impacts some lines — in part to free up drivers and trains. It’s unclear if this is also for track capacity reasons.
  • Would there be enough demand to warrant a train? Arguably not. It’s not like adding a stop to an existing train service (see Southland) — a service to Flemington, even if it also served Newmarket and Kensington, would have limited catchment. High-frequency bus or tram connections to an existing rail line might work better… but PTV doesn’t seem to have considered or proposed any of this.
  • Is it a good spot for a major development like this? Ideally it would be adjacent a railway station with an existing service. But it’s not like PTV/government would get away with no transport impacts then — for instance the apartments around South Yarra have added to crowding on trains there. And density aside, 1100 new homes in a built-up area is better than putting them on the fringes, as with many other new developments. (Head out of Melbourne by car and you’ll see all the signs for the various remote estates being created.)

Frankston line, 11:50pm Friday night

24-hour PT brings a 24-hour city

Thursday 2015-24-12This article is an interesting read: Some experts believe that Melbourne’s after dark culture will permanently change when the all night public transport system begins next week.

It’s worth noting that the Night Network is weekends only, and of course Nightrider has operated for more than 20 years. But this is a more comprehensive network, with all suburban trains running, even though the frequencies are mostly only hourly.

Is there something about rail (tram and train) that will get people on board where buses couldn’t? Perhaps there’s something about the predictability of already-popular services running 24 hours that will get people on board where the unfamiliar Nightrider routes couldn’t?

It can be a bit hard for some of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s (and earlier) to understand, but there’s a sizeable (and growing) part of the population who are used to life without cars, and this will open up late-night (and early Sunday) options.

Night Network is a trial for a year only, but it’ll be fascinating to see how it runs.

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Photos from ten years ago Toxic Custard newsletter

Old photos from December 2005

Another from my series of ten year old photos. (Marcus Wong has joined in this game.)

Alas, not so many interesting ones from me in December 2005.

As noted in this post, on a single day, I received a truly dizzying amount of junk mail (plus two local newspapers). It was what finally prompted me to get a No Junk Mail sticker. I just wish I could explain to the newspaper delivery people that they don’t count as junk mail.
Junk mail received on one day, December 2005

The kids (then quite young) did this using the old Canon A70’s photo stitch feature. It turned out a bit wobbly, but shows some interesting sights around the house ten years ago. Use the scroll bars or view it big at Flickr.

Most of the walls seem to have been undecorated — a number of pictures now hang. The old huge desk, replaced soon afterwards. The old BBC Micro was still around (since given away). CRT monitors. The lace curtains are now in storage in the roof. The old bulky printer… I don’t remember what that was, but it’s since been replaced by a Canon unit 1/3 of the size which is still going strong after many years. The old green couch dated from the early-90s, and was finally replaced in 2007. Hidden behind one door is the music keyboard, which the kids used for years, but got given to a cousin just recently. The bookshelves have since been filled, and probably are in dire need of a clear-out.

Bourke Street Mall at Christmas time. The timestamp indicates it was around 11am on the 23rd, before the City got busy with lunchtime shoppers, though I get the impression these days it’s a lot busier at 11am this close to Christmas.
Bourke Street Mall, December 2005

And I should just say: Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. Hope you’ve had a good year, and that it’ll be an even better 2016!

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Home life Toxic Custard newsletter

Heatwave: external blinds under test

Over the weekend Melbourne went through our biggest heatwave so far this summer, and the first real test of my external blinds, which were fitted to the house early this year.

Looking at the two nearest weather stations to me, yesterday the temperature at Melbourne (Olympic Park) peaked at 40.7 at 4:27pm. At Moorabbin Airport it peaked at 41.2 at 3:30pm. Happily by about 6:30pm the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees, but the lowest measurements overnight were in the high-20s.

I was away (in air-conditioned comfort for most of the day), but inside the house on Saturday it got to about 30 degrees. This compares to an inside peak of 33 degrees when I last measured it properly in 2014.

So on the face of it, the external blinds make about 3 degrees difference, which does take the edge off the heat, and combined with plenty of fans can make for a reasonable level of comfort. Fans all night have made sleep perfectly possible, and looking at our power consumption in daytime, keeping the house to 30 degrees while using fans, computers, TVs etc and still only burning 670 kW watts of power doesn’t seem too bad.

Window external blinds

Good roof insulation was installed some years ago, but seems to help more in winter than summer. Other options to explore would include wall insulation and double glazing. (One ceiling fan, suspected to be 15+ years old, also needs repair, as it’s stopped working.)

While they slow down the warming of the house, what the blinds and other passive measures don’t do is completely stop it getting hot, or cool things down. For that I would need actual air-conditioning or a split system, which I’ve tried to avoid, but is an idea I am slowly warming to. (Sorry x 2.) Perhaps to be installed with solar, to assuage guilt about increased energy consumption/emissions. Bear in mind of course the other measures have reduced what any cooling system would need to do.

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The week in transport transport

The week in transport

Monday 2015-12-14 — Delays on numerous Metro lines (Frankston, Cranbourne, Pakenham, Craigieburn, Sunbury, Upfield, Werribee, Williamstown) following late-running weekend rail works. If you watch the Brit rail docos, this is the sort of thing they are constantly stressing about, so it’s unfortunate but perhaps not a surprise that it sometimes happens here.

Monday 2015-12-14 — A Caulfield local is complaining about train horns approaching level crossings. My initial reaction was that obviously he wouldn’t have lived there since trains started running in 18xx, so why would he be complaining? But there are other factors; X’Trapolis train horns seem to be noticeably louder, and they’re about to hit the Frankston line in a big way. And do modern operational guidelines call for more use of the horn? Don’t know. But bear in mind the specific location is close to the Neerim Road (Frankston line) and Grange Road (Dandenong line) crossings, both of which are on blind curves when approached from the city. It is important to ensure trains are heard, if not seen, by people waiting at the crossings.

The complainant may not be delighted to know that from next week trains will run hourly all night on weekends. On the other hand, at least the Grange Road crossing is set to be removed in coming years.

Street art in Mckinnon

Monday 2015-12-14 — More detail came out about the tragic death of Mitchell Callaghan at Heyington station in early 2014. The court heard Mr Callaghan’s friends held open the doors as the train left the station, which allowed one young man to jump aboard safely. James Mulcahy, one of those holding the doors, told the court that moments later he “saw Mitch fall down the side of the train”.

Monday 2015-12-14 — Plenty of coverage of Tony Abbott’s involvement in the cancelled East West Link project, following the release of an Australian National Audit Office report. The Guardian’s opening sentences sum it up nicely:

The Abbott government inflated the deficit during its first year in power by transferring $1.5bn to Victoria for the East West Link despite “clear advice” the payments were not yet needed, an audit report has found.

The government approved the funding even though it had received departmental warnings that neither stage of the Melbourne project had proceeded through a full assessment of its merits, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said in the report issued on Monday.

Basically Mr Abbott played politics with $1.5 billion of taxpayers money.

Monday 2015-12-14 — More detail of proposed freight rail around the Port Of Melbourne has emerged, via concerns about increased freight traffic on local level crossings. The rail link would connect the Port with a freight hub at Altona, and is part of a project to also connect freight hubs at Somerton and Dandenong. It’s been funded $58 million, but for some reason hasn’t happened yet.

Tuesday 2015-12-15 — Public transport research hub opened at Monash. It’ll be interesting to see the type of stuff that comes out of this. There’s huge potential for research and development of new ideas which can bring benefits to passengers, operators, and the state as a whole.

Tuesday 2015-12-15 — Metro using track sensors to detect temperature fluctuations. They’ve also spelt out their speed restriction policies, as have V/Line. Yarra Trams has a good information page on using trams in summer, including explaining how the air-conditioning works.

The first really hot days have been Friday and especially Saturday. There were some speed restrictions imposed, but no mass cancellation of services as we’ve seen in the past. I suspect the huge investment in upgrades over the past few years has largely resolved the kinds of problems we saw in 2008-09.

Trivia: the Australian railways term for speed restrictions due to heat is WOLO. It’s not an acronym, it’s an old telegraph code which has managed to stay in usage well after Morse code has fallen out of use!

Southern Cross Station, trains arriving

Friday 2015-12-18 — An interesting read from The Age on “value capture” in rail projects, focussing on the Hong Kong practice, which MTR (part owners of Metro) is trying to bring to Australia.

Related: in a podcast I listened to this week, there was some talk of value capture only really working on previously undeveloped land.

Oddly the week was top-heavy… perhaps things are quietening down in the lead-up to Christmas, so not much seemed to happen towards the end of the week.

Full timetables for NYE were released. If you can navigate PTV’s confusing timetables online (they’ve grouped together Monday 28/12 to Thursday 31/12, but put in lots of exception codes), then you’ll see this presents some interesting quirks, as services out of the city after the fireworks (eg between about 12:30am and 1:30am) run more frequently on some lines than during a normal peak hour: Upfield every 15 minutes, Werribee including Altona Loop every 10 minutes.

In the case of Altona, to cope with the single track, they have some inbound trains bypassing the Altona Loop, meaning gaps of up to 45 minutes. It’d be quicker to go outbound to Laverton and then change. The Hurstbridge line peaks at every 20 minutes — a similar situation, with the single track running for a time in only one direction, which happens every peak hour.

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Bentleigh Toxic Custard newsletter transport

A little Bentleigh history has been uncovered

I love a bit of local history, even if it’s fairly recent.

For my fellow Bentleigh peeps — as part of the level crossing removal project, the old underpass into the station has been partially uncovered.

Bentleigh station: old underpass uncovered

It looks to have been a similar layout to Mckinnon: steps straight to the street, as well as a (probably non-DDA-compliant) ramp parallel to the tracks.

Bentleigh station: old underpass uncovered

Bentleigh station: sign in the old underpass

The underpass was filled-in in 1996. In 2005 then PT minister Peter Batchelor said “it was closed because of some deficiencies in its design, because it had problems with flooding when it rained and it had other operational issues”.

I don’t know if perceptions of risk of crime were also an issue, but despite calls for it to be re-instated, it never was… but with the entire crossing being grade separated, it hardly matters now.

Others were filled-in over the years — Yarraville is a particular one that springs to mind as now causing long delays to pedestrians. At North Williamstown, the underpass was filled-in just last year. At the time, the government claimed it had to be done to allow installation of pedestrian gates.

For those that aren’t being grade separated any time soon, it would make sense to look at whether the underpasses can be brought back into service.

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Toxic Custard newsletter transport

Benefits to non-motorists from level crossing removals

I’ve touched on this before, but I keep seeing comments about it, so I think it’s worthy of a blog post of its own.

Some say that motorists are the primary beneficiaries of grade separation, and that they should be classed as road projects. Certainly motorists gain, but so do others.

Here are seven benefits to people other than motorists from level crossing removal.

Pedestrians, especially station users — at most ground level stations, there’s no way to get across the tracks (including to/from some or all of the platforms) without waiting for trains. I know from personal experience that if I have to wait at the gates for a train heading in my direction, I’ll probably miss it — unless I put on a Usain Bolt burst of energy and sprint for it — and a fair few other people are boarding — and the Myki reader chooses to respond particularly quickly.

At some stations you can wait an awfully long time at the gates for all the trains to clear. A Greens survey some years ago cited waits of up to 17 minutes at Yarraville station. That was before Geelong trains got moved off that line, but eventually it will fill back up with more Werribee trains.

Cyclists — if you’re cycling down one of these roads, long waits can occur, particularly during peak hour. It also adds to traffic queuing, which may make for a less pleasant (and possibly less safe) ride.

Bus in the traffic waiting for trains to pass, Bentleigh

Bus and tram passengers — Passengers on trams and buses also suffer from delays at level crossings. In fact it’s quite common for routes that cross a lot of level crossings to have severe punctuality problems, so it can affect passengers right along the route.

I don’t know if any exhaustive studies have been done, but if you compare tram routes 3, 5, 64 and 67, all four have similar mixes of dedicated track (along Swanston Street and St Kilda Road) and mixed traffic running. But route 67 is the only one with a level crossing. In the past twelve months, route 67 has the lowest punctuality figure of those four routes, and in fact every month showed worse on-time performance than the others.

Train safety and reliability — near misses and collisions at level crossings are common occurrences, and often, tragically, result in deaths or serious injury. This results in long delays for emergency services to do their work, including time to gather evidence for investigation. Quite apart from improving safety, the prevention of these types of incidents means far fewer unexpected suspensions of train services.

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator annual report says that in 2013-14 there were 13 level crossing collisions between passenger trains and road vehicles. 12 of these were in Victoria. There were also some 45 deaths due to trespass and/or suspected suicide, though it doesn’t break it down to which occurred at level crossings and which occurred elsewhere. They also said they received 400 notifications of vehicle near-misses nationwide.

Cars queuing across rail lines, Bentleigh

Train frequency improvements — this depends on a number of factors, including individual rail line and road conditions, and whether adjacent crossings are removed.

Perhaps the best practical current example in Melbourne is the proposed Dandenong line grade separations. They will remove every remaining crossing from the City to Dandenong, and PTV has said in the past that this is a barrier to running more trains in peak, due to the impacts it would have.

The Dandenong project will be accompanied by upgrades to signalling (using conventional lineside signalling, but still an upgrade), and other upgrades to increase train capacity, as well as frequency.

Emergency services — it’s common to see ambulances and other emergency vehicles stuck waiting for trains. This is particularly problematic where hospitals are adjacent to crossings (for example, Monash Medical Centre Clayton) but it happens in a lot of other locations too.

Better station design — many of our railway stations date back 100 years or more. Rebuilding them is a chance to incorporate newer, better designs. For instance:

  • Full accessibility — many Melbourne stations have ramps but few have DDA compliant ramps, with regard to gradients etc
  • Designing out crime — CPTED — “Crime prevention through environmental design” — ensuring all areas are easily visible and well lit, for instance
  • More shelter — many older stations have hardly any undercover space on the platforms
  • Toilets that don’t look (and smell) like they date from the dark ages
  • Passive cooling (Bentleigh’s waiting room is like a greenhouse in summer)
  • More CCTV
  • platforms which slope away from the tracks (improving safety)… the list goes on.

At Ormond, the new station is to include a second entrance on the south side of North Road, meaning people headed that way (including to/from westbound buses) can avoid having to cross six lanes of traffic.

This is not to say newer designs are automatically better — recent efforts in platform shelter have left a lot to be desired, for instance.

Mckinnon station, platform 3 being demolished December 2015 for level crossing removal works

In summary, it’s a bit blinkered to paint grade separation as only benefiting motorists. Many others, including train users, directly benefit from removal of level crossings.

They’re very expensive projects, certainly, and they need to be done cost effectively. But do bring a lot of pluses to the wider community, and it’s good to finally see progress on them.

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The week in transport transport

The week in transport

Consider this an experiment… a post each weekend summing up a few things from the week.

Tuesday 2015-12-08 — Flagstaff station to open on weekends from January. The Victorian Government finally confirmed what we already knew. Not before time.

Tuesday 2015-12-08 — Ventura Buses has its Christmas bus out and about again, and a competition if you post a selfie with it.

Tuesday 2015-12-08 — The state government announced the Western Distributor has been green-lit. It’s certainly less evil than East West Link, but Yarraville residents are rightly concerned, and it may flood the north-west end of the CBD with more cars — precisely what isn’t needed.

And remember, there was on mention of this road during the election. It’s $5.5 billion, so it’s a huge project, but as with East West Link, we didn’t vote for it.

Part of the plan is to further widen the Westgate freeway west of the bridge. Over the years it’s gone from 6 lanes to 8 lanes… now it’ll be 12. Funny how they always seem to fill up with cars.

And make a note of the government claim of a 20 minute trip saving. From what I can see of the Business Case, that seems very tenuous, and even if achieved, is unlikely to be lasting.

Wednesday 2015-12-09 — City of Port Phillip gave approval to their Acland Street redevelopment plan. It’s not perfect (tram stops will be further away from the bus stops, making interchange more difficult) but it’ll be a big step forward in providing accessible tram stops and reducing cars from what should be a very pedestrian and PT-friendly area.

Wednesday 2015-12-09 — The Auditor General published its report into the East West Link debacle. It makes for some interesting reading.

The Age published a blistering criticism of the State Coalition over this, and notes that Labor doesn’t come away unscathed — it’s well worth a read. The Herald Sun managed to completely blame Labor, at least in their headlines. Amazing. (The actual article was a little more well-balanced.)

Wednesday 2015-12-09 — PTV announced the fare rise for January 2016. Oh sorry, fare “adjustment”. Most fares are up about 4% — as expected, this is CPI plus 2.5%. It was originally budgeted by the Napthine government for each January from 2015 to 2018, and has been continued by Labor.

PTV is taking the opportunity to remove some quirks: two zone regional trips will drop in price — at present they’re more expensive than three zone trips! And trip time allowances will be increased slightly for three or more zones, which may help reduce the current problems with default fares triggering.

Thursday 2015-12-10 — Crikey uncovered (pay wall) that Lend Lease had suggested to both major parties that a rail alignment be included in the East West Link. Both rejected it. Rail doesn’t really make sense along there. For rail to work effectively it needs to directly serve major destinations. Having trains bypassing the busiest part of the metropolitan area wouldn’t work.

Thursday 2015-12-10 — The new Night Bus network timetables are online now, following the Night Train and Night Tram timetables which went online some weeks ago. If you take a look at the network map, then search the PTV web site for the route number, they’ll come up. The routes originating in the CBD are mostly half-hourly. The suburban routes are mostly hourly, and seem to be synchronised with train arrivals from the CBD at the most obvious station — for instance the 978 departs Elsternwick five minutes after the train arrives. Routes aren’t necessarily well timed for other station connections, and it’s not yet clear what protocols will be in place to handle train delays.

By the way the hourly strains are staggered on some lines to provide half-hourly services to Caulfield, Footscray and Clifton Hill.

Thursday 2015-12-10 — It was reported that City of Knox had fined a real estate agent for blocking footpaths with advertising. Good. The agent has shown no remorse. Perhaps someone needs to explain to him that no, not everybody can walk around the signs.

Friday 2015-12-11 — The state government announced a review of fare enforcement (See also: Age story). It makes sense to overhaul this — too many people are getting caught in the net, having tried to do the right thing to pay their fare and either making an innocent mistake or being let down by the unreliable Myki system. One big problem is the lack of discretion allowed for by Authorised Officers and in the Departmental appeal process.

Penalty fares in particular need reform — they were supposedly modelled on Britain, but in fact are quite different. UK penalty fares vary, but for instance in London aren’t paid on the spot — you have 21 days to pay the cheaper rate, then it increases. This allows time to appeal.

Friday 2015-12-11 — Rail Futures released a report proposing tram/light rail expansion across Melbourne. (Herald Sun article, paywalled). I’m not sure why this has gained prominence now — the report seems to have been published in March.

Some in the media seemed to assume the report had some kind of official status, but alas no. Hopefully the government will respond, but they’ve shown a remarkable reluctance in recent years to acknowledge the need for any tram route extensions, even blindingly obvious short affordable extensions to trams so they terminate at local railway stations instead of in the middle of nowhere. Those would improve network connectivity and help balance out passenger demand, which is heavily skewed towards the CBD ends of routes.

Edit — additional item:

Friday 2015-12-11 — the woefully named Bendigo Metro (stage 1) timetables have been released. It consists of a handful of extra services, all weekday (and most weekend) trains stopping at Kangaroo Flat in suburban Bendigo, and some trains extended to either Epsom or Eaglehawk. It starts on January 31st, in conjunction with Bendigo local bus service changes.

It makes sense to maximise the potential of Bendigo’s V/Line services for local travel, but with most services at best once an hour, it’s not of course a suburban “metro” service anything like that seen in Melbourne. Later stages are apparently likely to increase services.

Thankfully they haven’t gone down the road of dedicated Bendigo local trains, which would be incredibly expensive to provide for little benefit. I know people probably prefer rail to bus, but really for local travel I suspect introducing Smartbus services (eg every 15 minutes) to Bendigo’s busiest PT corridors would be much more successful, and probably far cheaper.

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transport

Myki improvements are an evolution, not a revolution

One of the things they got right about Myki was designing it to be “open architecture”. This of course came at a cost compared with simply buying an off-the-shelf system, but it does mean that it’s modular — different bits can be improved and upgraded over time without replacing the whole system at enormous cost.

Thus, all CBD station and some suburban station gates have had new readers installed which are faster — up to the speed seen on systems elsewhere — and cope better with the number of people that use them.

Now they’ve started to appear on trams, and as you can see from this Vine, they are lightning fast:

This is a vast improvement. Unlike their railway station brethren, they show your card balance (or Pass expiry if you have one). This makes sense because unlike in a station, there is no other way to check your balance when on a tram.

Of course if your balance is too low, on a tram there’s nothing you can actually do about it.

And my only other niggle is that the text showing the balance is very small; some may have difficulty reading it.

One theory I’ve seen floated was that it was for privacy, to reduce the risk of someone mugging you for your Myki card. Really? Has this ever happened, anywhere? And is it likely inside a tram, where witnesses are likely and CCTV (on all the new trams) is all over the place?

But overall it’s a huge improvement. We don’t know what the costs involved are, but it shows the difference when you get a company with extensive smartcard experience (Vix aka ERG) involved.

Mind you, I still wonder if there’s more performance to be squeezed out of the older hardware.

New Myki signage on trams, October 2015

Touch on…

A subtle change has appeared on the network. The automatic announcements at stations now say: Always remember to touch on your Myki at the start of your journey.

Tram signage is similar. They’re now reminding people to touch on… they’re less fussy about people touching off.

This seems to be a reaction to fare changes in January 2015. Most people now pay the same fare — the zone 1 fare applies for all trips within Melbourne except local outer suburban (zone 2) trips. The default fare if people don’t touch off is therefore the same as what they pay if they do touch off.

Combined with most readers being still agonisingly slow, it makes sense to simplify the message.

NFC

There are calls to upgrade Myki (and other systems) for contactless payment cards (eg Paywave and Paypass). This would certainly help people such as tourists who may not have a Myki card, though as with mobile phone NFC solutions, shouldn’t be seen as a cure-all. And it would need to be done cost-effectively.

Myki new generation reader on a tram

There remain some serious problems with Myki. Future developments such as NFC aside, hopefully we’ll see more improvements such as these new readers continuing to roll out as the system evolves.