Photos from ten years ago

Old photos from October 2009

Here’s another in my series of old photos out of the vault from ten years ago.

We went to Bendigo for a couple of days, so here are a couple of snaps from that trip.

Bendigo bus to Kangaroo Flat
Tram museum, Bendigo

The only time I saw Powderfinger live was this “surprise” gig in Federation Square. (A surprise except a lot of people seemed to know they were coming.)

Powderfinger live in Federation Square, 2nd October 2009

I must have been checking out the then-new bus turnaround at the western end of Lonsdale Street. Much of the area has since been redeveloped, including The Age building at left.

Lonsdale Street bus turnaround, October 2009

Remember these? Back when you could buy a tram ticket on a tram.

Metcard vending machine on a tram, October 2009

Yes, trams used to get crowded before the Free Tram Zone was instituted. But most of the trams are bigger now, and more frequent, and more crowded. (They also take about the same amount of time to get across the CBD, sometimes a little longer, according to timetables.)

Busy tram, Bourke Street

Collins Place. Basically unchanged from this angle.

Collins Place, Melbourne, October 2009

The ups and downs of escalators

It’s not your imagination. Some City Loop escalators are running slower in peak hour.

Normally: Fast in peak, slow off-peak

Normal practice (for decades now) is to run the Loop station escalators at a reasonable clip during peak hour, and set to slow down outside peak. This is pretty annoying for many of those catching trains at off-peak times.

Why slow them down outside peak? It’s not clear.

  • Perhaps to save power – but isn’t the travel time of off-peak passengers important too?
  • Perhaps some off-peak passengers are uncomfortable with the higher speed. But then, they have the option of lifts.
  • Perhaps it’s one of those operational policies put into place in 1981 when the Loop first opened that’s never been reviewed.
Escalators at Flagstaff station
Flagstaff station, evening peak. Note the skylarkers on the right. Safety first!

Trialling slow speeds in peak

Anyway, just in the last couple of weeks Metro has been running the down escalators in peak at the slower speed at some stations.

They say it’s a trial to improve safety.

My initial reaction to slower speeds: I wonder if it could backfire:

  • The slower speed may encourage more people to walk on the escalator, increasing risk of a fall
  • It’s a known problem that some people overbalance or suffer from vertigo while standing on escalators. Slower escalators means they’re on them for longer. Would this mean more risk?

A study of 600 escalator incidents over 9 years showed people were more likely to fall off escalators going up than down – but slowing upwards escalators in peak would cause capacity issues – see below.

To my surprise, I’m hearing that the initial results of the trial have been favourable.

But I guess we’ll see how it pans out.

Escalator capacity: walking vs standing

By the way, some people claim that everybody standing (nobody walking) on escalators is faster. I think that’s slightly misinterpreting the results from the well-known London Underground trial back in 2015.

What it does provide is more capacity – because standing people are more space-efficient than walking people.

But it’s only faster if having both standing and walking is resulting in queues at the entrance to the escalator – this could particularly be an issue if the majority of people want to stand.

Queues for escalators at Parliament station
Parliament station, northern end, morning peak

Southern Cross is pretty bad for escalator crowding, especially during their frequent outages.

Of the underground stations, Parliament station might be the worst for escalator crowding, particularly during morning peak. (See above)

In most cases I’d rather walk, but there might be some justification at that location to encourage everybody to stand.

It’s probably easier to convince people to stand if the escalators are not running slowly. And the faster speed will clear any queues more quickly of course.

At the northern end of Parliament, it might also be an option to ask the small number of people entering in morning peak to use the lift down to the platform rather than the mostly empty third escalator – opening up more capacity for those exiting. (This may not be an option at other stations with higher proportions of interchange and counter-peak flows.)

Escalators at Parliament station
Parliament station escalators

The design, capacity and provision of escalators is no doubt being studied carefully for the new metro tunnel stations. You’d hope they will handle expected growth in coming decades, especially at Parkville which may become a future Metro 2 interchange.

But building more escalator and lift capacity into existing underground stations would be incredibly expensive – so in the City Loop, this is another case where it makes sense to look at operational practices to make the most of the current infrastructure.

Net Toxic Custard newsletter

The end of Toxic Custard

Before blogging and the web, there was email and Usenet and FTP sites.

Just over 29 years ago I started writing online, sending out literal undergraduate humour to mates at Monash University and beyond mostly via email, under the truly ridiculous name “Toxic Custard“.

It got into the student newspaper, then in 1996 it went onto the web and became the early version of this blog. Along the way the content has continued to morph, to more autobiographical material, and more recently a concentration on transport.

The email list still exists… and to my surprise it’s still got about 600 people on it.

But I’m shutting it down – because it requires manual intervention to crank it up and send it out, which I rarely get around to doing, and because it relies on YahooGroups, which recently announced most of its features are being shut down. Emails to lists will be the only thing left, but it’s probably pretty safe to say these won’t last much longer. It’s obviously not a business Yahoo wants to be in anymore.

Edit: In classic Yahoo style, the final email to the list took almost 24 hours to be delivered.

The blog will keep going. Those wanting to receive posts by email have a couple of options:

Subscribe to all posts – I’ll be sending out invitations to this to those on the old list.

…or you can subscribe to just transport posts (via MailChimp):

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There are also options to get new posts via RSS feeders (just add this URL), and I promote most of them via Twitter and Facebook. Edit: Of course you can just read it on the web.

I also occasionally blog on technology and various geeky tidbits at

Thanks to all who stayed on the email list over the years.