(I’ll fess up: some of the writing style doesn’t look like mine, so I’m betting my PTUA colleagues contributed)
Anyway, the photos. Oh… this isn’t good. On 3rd of April, a tram shunting in Collins Street decided to go both ways at once. (I blogged about it at the time, and there are some better quality photos of it on Vicsig.)
Quirkly Degraves Street underpass/arcade shop Corky St Clair wasn’t very happy with Yarra Trams after works to build the Flinders Street tram superstop. (Nowadays they’re more concerned with the metro tunnel works impacting the arcade.)
Fancy some trendy cuisine? This is North Richmond, and I associate this photo with getting a lift in a friend’s car, with ABC Radio National playing, and hearing for the first time the excellent song “Grey in LA” by Loudon Wainwright III.
Taxi drivers protesting at Flinders and Swanston Streets — back when they were (rightly) concerned about personal safety, rather than Uber.
This was announced on Tuesday afternoon. Amazingly, almost 24 hours later, PTV’s generally excellent weekly disruptions email came out, still quoting the old dates. And 36 hours after the announcement, the regular printed newspaper advertisement for Metro disruptions didn’t mention it at all.
Reading the newspaper old skool. What's missing from the PTV/#MetroTrains travel update? The Hurstbridge line works delays. Lucky there's an article about it right next door.📰 pic.twitter.com/QbkKSaK1e1
New Metro timetables coming later this year – including extending 10 minute services on the Dandenong line to 10pm (apparently misunderstood by some commenters on The Age article), and more peak services on the South Morang/Mernda line and Hurstbridge lines, the latter making use of the newly duplicated section of track.
Also some extras expected on the Werribee line, but not clear exactly what. Still no commitment to a widespread rollout of 10-minute off-peak services, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The upgrades last decade to 160 kmh were good, but that’s not particularly fast by world standards. Moving to 200 (something the UK has had for 30+ years) and beyond would slash travel times — and may be more affordable than the 300 some are talking about.
But even 300 would be possible, as much of the Geelong line is straight and flat.
This seems to be part of the State Government’s moves towards shaking up the regional network alongside construction of an airport link, with Sunshine as a hub.
In any case, the short-term need is to separate out Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo trains from suburban services, including electrification and extra tracks out to Melton and Wyndham Vale. This would provide some travel time improvements, and more importantly, relieve crowding and cut delays.
And yes, it might be possible to divert the Bendigo and Seymour/Shepparton lines via the Airport… but we shouldn’t assume the same trains will serve suburban airport passengers. They would need to be additional services.
New tram timetables, with extra peak-shoulder and evening services on some routes — on tram 19, this will partially (but not fully) restore cuts from 2017
Extra bus services on routes 631, 703 and 767 — including upgrading the awful 703 timetable from every 45-50 minutes on Sundays to every half-hour (still the route will shut down at 9pm though, and there seems to be no adjustment to take advantage of the removal of Clayton level crossing)
Extra coaches between Seymour and Shepparton
Numerous minor timetable changes and upgrades to some buses in the northern and western suburbs
It’s well worth keeping an eye on this PTV page to see what other changes fly under the radar.
There are undoubted challenges to writing information that has to fit into a limited space.
Here’s one I noticed recently where perhaps they haven’t got the balance quite right.
Bus route 605 was recently changed at its City end, to run via the Botanic Gardens, Southbank and Queen Street to Flagstaff Station, instead of the old route via Flinders, Queen, Lonsdale and Exhibition Streets.
What’s with the southern end of the map, going off in two directions at once? From the timetable it appears that outbound it goes along Gardenvale Road, and terminates near Nepean Highway. But inbound it starts on North Road, some distance away – presumably the bus runs empty from the outbound terminus to the starting point. Perhaps they kick all the passengers off on Gardenvale Road? It would seem more logical to run this, and show it on the map, as a loop, as at the City end.
Anyway, this modified route resulted in some interesting abbreviations on the destination display.
Citybound it’s going to “F/STAFF STAT”.
Is this very meaningful to people? I’d have thought simply “Flagstaff” means more to Melburnians. True that can mean the station or the gardens, but they are adjacent to each other.
You could also abbreviate Station to Stn, though this can be problematic if rendered in low resolution capitals – STN can be misread as STH (South).
(The terminating stop is actually half a block from Flagstaff Station, but that’s probably quibbling — more people would know where the station is than the County Court, which is actually where the stop is.)
In both directions, the bus is going via “ROYAL BOT GDNS”.
Edit: Some buses have smaller displays, meaning it’s further abbreviated to “ROY BOT GDNS”.
Reminding people that it runs via the Botanic Gardens would have been important when transitioning to the new route. But I’m not sure this is very clear.
Perhaps it should have said via “Botanic Gardens”? Or choose another nearby landmark and simply say “Shrine”?
Not that this bus route specifically should be singled-out.
For decades, southbound 78 trams proclaimed they were going to “Prahran”, which they pass through about 2km before terminating down in Balaclava. They now say “Balaclava via Prahran”.
Squeezing information that is meaningful yet brief is an ongoing challenge for public transport destination boards, so I’m sure there are other destinations and abbreviations around the place that are a little vague.
But given how little I drive, I’m also on a budget. So a 5-8 year old car is probably the target.
Here’s where things get interesting. How Safe Is Your Car provides ANCAP ratings of vehicles going back about 5 years.
Older than that, they give you “Used Car Safety Ratings”, which rather than being based on crash tests, are based on actual crash statistics: “Driver Protection rating based on analysis of real world crashes.”
And these show the Corolla rankings dropping markedly: a 2012 Corolla got five stars for ANCAP, but only rates 2/5 on the crash statistics — no better than my old 2000 Astra, or indeed the old 1993 Magna.
What I’m not clear on is whether there’s a difference between the hatch and the sedan. It doesn’t distinguish. The sedan is a bit bigger, and might perform differently in real world crashes.
In contrast to the Corolla, the 2006-2011 Camry got a four star ANCAP rating, but rates 4/5 on crash statistics. (Camrys from 2012 onwards have five star ANCAP ratings.)
I wonder if driver behaviour is a factor here? Camrys are not a very exciting car…
Finding the dealer
Last Monday afternoon, before I’d twigged on the real world used car safety ratings, I went to test-drive a Corolla I’d found on Carsales. Just getting there was a slightly torturous drive.
The car dealer was on a busy divided arterial road. I was approaching from the wrong direction, so I did a U-turn. It was about 3pm, and the road was very congested, but a kind motorist let me in… into her lane… the right-hand lane.
None of the other drivers were that considerate, and as we all crawled along, none would let me merge left… so I missed the car dealer.
Okay. I’m still in the right hand lane. I found the next U-turn point, so I could try another pass.
Ahead of me at the lights was a red car. When the light changed, we both did U-turns and headed back the way I’d come.
I noticed the red car also did another U-turn. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who’d been unable to merge across.
What fun. We’re all going around in circles.
I didn’t see if they made it a second time; I went a bit further down the road to where there was slightly less congestion, and managed to get into the correct lane this time and hit my target.
Test the right car, dummy
Having eventually made it to the car dealer, I chatted to the bloke and looked at the car.
A splendid beast indeed. I took it for a drive around the (large) block while he checked out my old Astra as a trade-in.
The Corolla was lovely. Good size, drove smoothly, not too many Ks on the clock.
I was even (perhaps overly) enamoured of the indicator lights on the wing mirrors.
Then I noticed it doesn’t come with cruise control. I hadn’t even thought to check. Only some models of they year’s Corollas come with it.
If I was just driving in the city, I wouldn’t need it. But I don’t actually drive much in the city. A few times a year, I drive to the country to visit the in-laws, and it’s incredibly valuable to have it.
Apparently you can get kits to fit cruise control afterwards. They’re not too expensive. But isn’t this just the type of after-market modification that messes with your insurance premiums?
And I’m likely to only get a pittance on the old Astra, at least from that dealer. I wasn’t expecting much, but 4 digits would at least be nice. He actually suggested I simply keep it. Yeah nah. Presumably it’s only value is parts.
Update 22/5/2018: I had been considering a Mitsubishi Lancer. Recent models are five star safety rated, and according to my cousin who has one, they’re made in Japan and very reliable, while being a bit cheaper than a Corolla.
Mitsubishi are discontinuing the Lancer in the next year or two, so the basic model hasn’t changed in some time — not that it matters. I think I’ll take a look at one.
There’s a lot of work continuing today, but the basics are in place: the main structure is there, along with temporary buildings at ground level for PSOs and Metro staff.
Fare gates (with the newer fast Vix readers) have been installed, as have screens at the entrance displaying train departures. They’ve had live music performers there this morning, as well as giveaways of coffee and snacks.
To get to platform level you have a choice of escalators, stairs or lifts (one of the two is working today). I did encounter one lady who seemed very nervous about going up – she didn’t want to use the escalator, and also seemed reluctant to use the stairs or lift. Hopefully she can find a way to still catch a train here.
Some signage would probably help educate passengers of the etiquette of standing on the left of the escalators.
As at Noble Park, the island platform is pretty spacious. A wraparound structure gives a degree of weather protection, though I’d have to say it was pretty windy up there. (It was a windy morning. At ground level, the wind blew over one of the performer’s music stands.)
The eastern end of the platform has less weather cover, though more is coming.
Platform PIDs (Passenger Information Displays) were operating, though I noticed a glitch or two. Pretty sure this train wasn’t going to Traralgon.
…and when a V/Line train did appear, “Not taking suburban passengers” was displayed, which is correct — but subsequent train departures disappeared off the screen, which is not ideal.
Having arrived by bus, I caught a train to Westall and then back again. The ride was pretty smooth, and it’s not noisy.
Skyrail is controversial, but the Clayton section, like Noble Park, is less so than the inner section around Murrumbeena, because there is some space around the tracks, reducing impacts on local residents.
As at Noble Park, the challenge at Clayton will be for the Level Crossing Removal Authority to beautify the area beneath the tracks and get it functioning.
This will include an access road so that passengers can interchange between trains and northbound buses without crossing any roads — which will make up a bit for the station itself not having exits on both sides of Clayton Road.
But the station itself is functioning, which is good. The benefits of the Clayton level crossing removal will be widely felt – ambulances to/from nearby Monash Medical Centre will no longer get held up, and we should expect to see bus punctuality in the area improve. (Already the 703 into Bentleigh from Clayton seems to have improved already.)
The old Clayton station design also meant that passengers had to regularly cross the tracks when using the station. No more delays, and disruptions due to incidents should disappear.
The inner section of skyrail (covering Carnegie, Murrumbeena and later Hughesdale stations) is expected to open after the winter school holidays.
Everybody gets floaters to some extent, apparently.
Little artefacts, interference in your eyesight. Floating blobs.
In the last couple of months I’ve been getting more of them than before, particularly in bright light.
Official advice says this is common in people as they get older, and is likely to be either the vitreous humour slightly pulling away from the retina (not so bad) or retina damage (bad, very bad).
This is a concern for me because my right eye is bung, almost blind, always has been. So I need to make sure my left is okay.
So I went and had an eye test yesterday.
The lady was able to look into my eye and see the floaters — all is okay for now, it’s not retina damage.
She said that theoretically it can be treated, but in practice the treatment is worse than the cure, so it’s not worth it.
But I should seek urgent attention if I see flashing lights or colour strobing.
And… to avoid causing major damage, I should avoid action sports which might involve a sudden jolt to the head: sky-diving, driving racing cars, bungie jumping. I don’t think this will be a problem for me!
My eyesight is otherwise good, particularly at long range — though given the amount of computer work I do, I should be considering reading glasses. I’d already noticed I’ve started having problems seeing things like the fineprint on food packaging.
All part of growing older I suppose, but the eye test itself was pretty quick, easy and painless. Which is good, as I’ve been asked to go back in six months to check nothing’s getting worse.
It’s been long assumed that a train line would run from Rowville into Monash University, then connect to the Dandenong line at Huntingdale, providing a one-seat trip into the City (and from 2025, Parkville, and out to Sunshine).
This idea seems to have come out of nowhere, and may be quite different to community expectations. Not that one should automatically reject an idea because it’s not in the 1969 plan!
Perhaps the government has been spooked by patronage growth and track capacity issues on the Dandenong line, and is looking for other ways to serve the corridor, along with the performance of the 900 Smartbus, which is busy but suffers from a slow convoluted route between Chadstone and Huntingdale.
This new proposed tram route wouldn’t serve Huntingdale at all, instead heading north to serve Chadstone, paralleling the Dandenong line until it connects at Caulfield.
If it’s intended to replace the 900 (probably logical) then Huntingdale to Monash Uni bus shuttles (already crowded) would need to be boosted to compensate.
Assuming standard tram operating hours, good train connections at Caulfield, and assuming that E-class trams to an adequate frequency would cope with demand — remembering that Infrastructure Victoria considered that Rowville area public transport capacity could be met with buses, though it’s unclear what mode shift they aimed for/assumed. (IV’s cost estimate for heavy rail also seemed ridiculously high, at $5 to 10 billion!)
Stop locations may be more flexible than heavy rail. It’s unlikely that a heavy rail line would include a station for Monash Uni, and another for the Synchrotron precinct.
Leaving those issues aside for a moment, the real question is: speed.
Would it be fast enough?
Would it be another of Melbourne’s suburban trams, trundling along at an average speed of under 20 km/h?
Or would it be modern light rail, with its own lanes along the entire route, and active traffic light priority to ensure trams never (or at least rarely) get a red light?
Unfortunately, traffic light priority for trams is something that Melbourne does really badly.
A quick calculation looking at Melbourne’s route 75 and 86 indicates they get average speeds of about 25 km/h on the outer sections where they have segregated tracks. They beat cars at peak times, but take up to twice as long at off-peak times. Route 96 from St Kilda Station to Clarendon Street with good priority over cars is a bit faster: 27 km/h.
In contrast, the Gold Coast Light Rail, which does have pretty good (not perfect) traffic light priority, but also shares some sections of its route with cars, and travels at low speed through heavily pedestrianised areas, has an average speed of about 27 km/h.
(The fully-segregated northern section from Helensvale to Gold Coast University Hospital is much faster, but seems to have few or no road intersections, and few stops, so isn’t a good comparison. The Hospital to Main Beach section is a better comparison, and seems to be an average speed of about 27 km/h.)
The Dandenong (heavy) rail line, with fewer stops than one might expect with light rail, but absolute priority over traffic, has an average speed of about 40 km/h.
So… my initial take? Speed will be the key to the success or failure of this new line. To get people out of cars, it needs to provide a fast journey.
And the key to that will be good traffic light priority.
Update: This Channel 9 story mentions that the government is aiming for travel time of 20 minutes from Caulfield to Clayton, and 20 minutes from Clayton to Rowville. This would make an average speed of 27 km/h, the same as the Gold Coast Light Rail.
Sometimes it’s easy to be cynical. Progress in public transport can be slow.
But there is some progress.
I found this from May 2007 — it was an email from me to a local politician who had asked about public transport issues in the southern suburbs of Melbourne.
I’ll intersperse my original points with some comments about progress in the past ten years. This focuses mostly on the Frankston line, but much is applicable to others.
Frankston line – while the Dandenong line has been earmarked for extra services, the Frankston line is also very crowded during peak hours, to the extent that passengers regularly can’t board trains. This is in part because some stations only get trains every 15 minutes (eg Glenhuntly, Ormond, McKinnon) even in peak hours.
Progress! There was a shake-up of the peak-hour timetable in 2014. Frankston line trains are mostly every 8-10 minutes now in peak, with a two-tier service so the load is spread between stopping and express trains.
In 2007, there were 16 trains into Richmond from the Frankston line between 7:01am and 9am. Now I count 21.
Other lines still need upgrades. The Ringwood line had an AM peak revamp, but PM peak is still a mess of different stopping patterns, which is confusing, and limits capacity.
Network-wide load standard breaches in 2009 numbered 54 (“above benchmark”) in the AM peak, and 48 in the PM peak.
By 2017, these had reduced to 17 and 7 respectively, helped by additional services, as well as modifications to carriages to provide more standing room (aka fewer seats) which led to the benchmark changing from 798 per train to 900. Cheating? Perhaps, but reflects a shift: it’s more important to just fit onto the train than for a few more people to get a seat.
Thanks to patronage growth, particularly residential growth around stations, there is still crowding at peak times, to the point where (to my eye) it is causing load breaches. And of course reliability is an issue — a cancellation causes widespread chaos.
Peak shoulder and inter-peak
Additionally, trains fall back to half-hourly after 7pm, which increases pressure on peak hour services, as people don’t want to wait half an hour for a train. Running frequent services (including expresses) for longer would allow more people to travel outside peak hours, and would not require any extra trains or infrastructure.
Progress! The last Frankston express train used to be at 6pm; they now run until about 6:40pm.
Where there used to be just two trains per hour after 7pm (departures from Flinders Street: 7:15, 7:45, then every half-hour), the Frankston line now has 5 departures out of the city between 7pm-8pm, then every 20 minutes until 10pm.
Some other lines have also improved, though the busy Sunbury and Craigieburn lines drop back to every 20 minutes at 6:30pm, then back to half-hourly at 8pm.
Between the peaks (during the day) things have improved on some lines. Trains between the peaks have run every 10 minutes all day on the Frankston line since 2011, with the Dandenong line following in 2014.
Other lines still need upgrades. Many are still only every 20 minutes during the day.
Evenings and weekends
Upgrades to evening and weekend services would also encourage more people to travel by train. At the very least, long trains should be used (overcrowding regularly occurs in evenings and weekends on the Frankston line and others), but more frequent services should also be provided.
Back then, most evening and weekend trains (when no football/cricket was on) ran as 3-cars.
Nowadays almost all services on all lines (except suburban shuttles) now run as 6-car trains, so the ridiculous situation of lots of people squeezing onto a short train rarely happens.
Evening frequencies: Many lines now run every 15-20 minutes until about 10pm, though on some it’s been implemented in a very hamfisted way. For instance Ringwood has the half-hourly service with 6-car trains, doing their old confusing Belgrave/Lilydale alternate through-train/shuttle arrangement, interspersed with extra 3-car trains to Ringwood. The timetable needs a complete re-write.
On weekends, trains out to Frankston, Ringwood and Dandenong have run every 10 minutes since 2012, doubling the previous daytime frequency. Most other lines still only get trains every 20 minutes.
After 8pm on weekends is pretty similar to how it was before; mostly half-hourly until midnight.
Southland Station – this reached pre-feasibility stage in late 2004, and there has been no word on it progressing since then. Southland is a major activity centre, and serving it by rail should be a no-brainer.
Southland station busy with shoppers👍. Up to two-thirds of people not spotting official path, or choosing not to use it. Really needs to be better signed and more direct. (Hint: nobody calls it "Westfield".) pic.twitter.com/N96od8fZpc
Many bus routes need upgrading, to provide better feeder services into stations (thus relieving overcrowded station carparks) as well as being more time-competitive for other trips. For instance, route 623 serves major destinations such as St Kilda Beach and Chadstone, but does not run on Sundays, is only hourly on Saturdays, and finishes by 6pm on weekdays.
Some small progress. In the late part of last decade, as part of the MOTC plan, many routes got Sunday and evening services added.
But frequencies haven’t improved. Most routes are still just half-hourly on weekdays, hourly on weekends and evenings. Not going to cut it for most people.
While upgrades to level crossings have helped safety, the government should be looking at elimination of crossings, such as the one removed at Middleborough Road, Laburnham earlier this year. Removing crossings can help train reliability, aid pedestrian amenity and safety, and help buses and trams by reducing traffic congestion. A prime candidate would be Glenhuntly Station, where both trains and trams have to cross very slowly, causing delays.
The question is: are these upgrades enough? Is the transport system keeping up? And is the rest of Melbourne getting what it needs?
Probably not. Many points of the rail network, and the greater public transport network, are under stress from crowding, and it’s not all at peak hour. The fast-growing western suburbs need particular attention.
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