Stay on the train, or join the traffic? Some young adults are rejecting cars.

Isaac just turned 18. (Yeah, I know.)

Anyway, I was talking to him about getting a photo ID that shows his age, so (if he should choose to) he can exercise his rights as an adult.

Many his age would get a Learner’s permit as part of learning to drive. But he has zero interest in doing that — in fact he has firmly said he doesn’t want it. And I’m not about to argue against that. Not me, who likes to avoid driving, and who didn’t get a driver’s licence until the age of 27.

Stay on the train, or join the traffic?

I wonder if not being interested in driving is becoming a Thing?

Looks like it might be in some circles.

Young people are shying away from getting their driver’s licence because they are keeping in touch with their friends online rather than in person, a new (US) study has found.
— Fairfax Drive: Young people choose computers over cars

What, Facebook is killing cars? Surely not — at least, not on its own — though it does seem that my kids go and visit their friends less than I used to when I was a teenager.

The article continues:

The figures tally with some recent Australian findings, which show that public transport use is booming as car use declines.

Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.

Social analyst David Chalke says that in Australia the increasing number of young people attending university for long periods of time in major metropolitan areas means that cars are more of a hassle than a convenience.

“With kids staying at university for longer, they’re more likely to want an iPad than a car,” Chalke says.

He says mobile devices mean people can also use their travelling time more effectively on public transport.

Good point, that last one. And Mr Chalke also notes that university life doesn’t mix well with cars — at many campuses, parking is expensive or scarce or both.

This trend ties in with some parts of the USA:

The latest generation of young adults has more alternatives to the car, Sheryl Connelly (Futurologist at Ford) suggests. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have successfully encouraged far greater bike use, while public transport is far better in some places than 30 years ago.

“The car doesn’t hold the same imagery that it did in the Sixties or Seventies,” she says.

Financial Times

…and it seems to be borne out in other western countries as well:

The findings indicate that since the turn of the millennium, access to cars, measured in terms of drivers’ licences and household car ownership, has decreased in most study countries—especially for men. Moreover, average daily car travel distance has decreased in most study countries, again especially for men. In France, Japan, and most significantly in the USA, the decrease in car travel has led to a reduction in total everyday travel by young travellers. In Great Britain, the decline in car travel was partly, and in Germany fully, compensated by an increased use of alternative modes of transport.

Obviously there are a lot of factors, and it’s only a specific demographic, but I think this makes some sense.

If you live in a walkable neighbourhood, if your friends and the places you go are either local or easily accessible by bike or public transport, then why would you be interested in cars, especially given the costs of running them?

Opting out of using a parent’s car as well? That’s a step further that I find that really interesting.

In many cities, including Melbourne, of course it’s going to be different in different areas. We in Bentleigh do have a walkable suburb, with no roads more than 4 lanes in total (certainly no freeways), mostly straight and easily navigable streets, few cul-de-sacs and while the buses are nothing special, the trains run every 10 minutes every day of the week.

But some suburbs are really pedestrian-hostile, with very wide fast roads to cross, little within walking distance, and appalling public transport. I really doubt the reluctance to join motordom is a Thing in most outer suburbs.

Myki cards can (sometimes) be shared

With little fanfare, there was a change last year to the ticketing rules that appear to allow Myki cards to be shared, so that for instance you can keep one at home to lend to visitors from interstate or overseas, or a company office can keep one handy to lend to employees who don’t use PT.

It doesn’t mean you can let multiple people use a single “fare product”, such as a Myki Pass, but for instance a single card with Myki Money on it can be used by different people on different days. At least, that’s my interpretation of it:

If a myki that is not registered does not have a myki pass loaded on it, any person lawfully in possession of the myki may use it for a journey or an entry to a designated area.

A myki that may be used by more than one person must be used by only one such person for the whole of any journey and any related entries to a designated area or for the whole of any other entry to a designated area.

Update Saturday: PLEASE NOTE the above clearly states a Myki Pass cannot be shared.

It also talks about a Registered Myki being able to be used by others, with the consent of the registered cardholder.

So it’s now a little closer to may be common practice anyway (though note it specifically prohibits the equivalent of a regular commuter lending a colleague their Monthly Pass to a colleague for a lunchtime tram ride — this has long been effectively outlawed).

This is all in the Government Gazette, or page 87 of the Fares and Ticketing Manual, but as far as I know hasn’t been explained in plain English to anybody anywhere — let alone announced or promoted in any way — despite it being of intense interest given the removal of Metcard and all short-term ticket options.

Flagstaff: extra standalone Myki readers to take gate overflow

Those watching such things may be interested to know that standalone readers to work as overflow for the fare gates are now in use during morning peak at Flagstaff.

Southern Cross Station as viewed from above

Before last week I’d never seen this view of Southern Cross Station. It looks quite unworldly. CL was giving me a quick tour of Media House — as he commented, it looks like something from Dune.

Southern Cross Station from above

What you can’t see from the photos (not even zoomed-in) is that some sections closest to the edge, and between the lumpy bits, are actually inflatable plastic. Presumably it’s some essential part of the design.

Southern Cross Station from above

Here’s a more conventional angle. Anubis and Chrome are still in residence.

Southern Cross Station main entrance

The moral quandary of the self-serve checkouts

At the local Safeway, the renovation (and eventual transition to “Woolworths”) is underway, and the self-service checkouts are now operating.

There’s five of them, compared to three express checkouts, and eight “normal” checkouts. From memory there used to be more normal checkouts, though as at most supermarkets, I don’t ever recall all of them being in use at once.

I suppose there’s something of a moral quandary about whether self-serve checkouts will cut the number of staff the supermarkets have to employ. I’m afraid my general philosophy is that if there are long queues, I’ll use whichever option is likely to get me out of there the quickest.

Safeway self-serve checkout

If there are no queues, the staffed checkout is likely to be quicker, as Safeway’s dedicated and tireless personnel are much more likely to know where all the barcodes are, and precisely which buttons to press to choose the butternut pumpkin (or whatever) off the fruit+veg menu.

But if the queues for staff are long, and particularly if I don’t have many items to buy, I reckon the self-serve is likely to be quicker. This goes doubly at places like Big W, because I’m usually not buying lots and lots of small items, and of course there is no fruit+veg — everything’s got a barcode.

So yesterday at Safeway I found myself with a basket full of about fifteen items (eg too many for the express lanes), two normal lanes open, both with 2-3 people queuing with very full trolleys. And no queue at the self-service checkouts (though one of them was out of order).

I chose the self-service, which no doubt was what Woolworths Corp had in mind all along.

Any guilt about putting Rowena (family friend who I occasionally encounter on the checkouts) or her cohorts out of a job was extinguished, this time, by the sheer amount of intervention required from the staff member on duty as I scanned my items.

Putting my green bag into the bagging area, and patting the bottom of it down with my hand to smooth it out set off the Incorrect Weight error, requiring assistance.

Trying to fiddle around to pack items neatly into the green bag also set off the error.

Accidentally double-clicking the Fruit+Veg button got the register to incorrectly charge my butternut pumpkin as mandarins, and reversing it required the staff member yet again.

All in all it probably took twice as long as a transaction handled fully by a human staff member, and certainly required a lot of intervention. I’m not sure if it got me out of the store more quickly than it would have if I’d queued, but I don’t think there was a lot in it.

I think in future unless (a) there’s a long queue for the human operators, (b) I’m buying only a handful of items, and (c) that includes nothing that has no barcode, I’ll avoid the self-service checkouts.

A few things…

Dishwashers: On the subject of water (I think Andrew or somebody mentioned this a while ago) in last Sunday’s Age M magaziney thing, there was an article noting that dishwashers generally use less water than handwashing. Dishwashers are in the 13 to 20 litre per cycle range, whereas handwashing is up around 40 to 60. Yay — for once you can be lazy and environmentally friendly!

What they don’t appear to mention, however, is ensuring the dishwasher is full before using it. To do that, I’ve bought extra crockery and cutlery as appropriate, so I don’t run out of things between running it every couple of days.

Boomers: Saturday’s Age A2 section (which I’ve only just got around to reading) notes it’s ten years since Mark Davis wrote Gangland, a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. Davis writes now:

Somewhere deep in the fabric of Australian cultural life it is forever 1974. The Whitlam government is still in office. This Day Tonight is still on television. Patrick White has recently won the Nobel Prize. The last fading bars of Eagle Rock echo from the Sunbury stage.

Many of the figures who stood out in 1997 as playing a disproportionate role in Australian cultural life by and large continue to do so. Kerry O’Brien, Robert Manne, Peter Craven, Phillip Adams, Christopher Pearson, Anne Summers, Helen Garner, Richard Neville, Keith Windschuttle, Ray Martin, Clive James, P. P. McGuinness, Germaine Greer, Piers Akerman, John Laws, Michelle Grattan, Laurie Oakes, Alan Jones, Gerard Henderson and George Negus are still out there, setting agendas, demarcating standards, creating much of the intellectual and cultural climate. Whatever they breathe out becomes the oxygen of Australian cultural life.

— Turf war; Mark Davis. The Age. Melbourne, Vic.: May 19, 2007. ; p. 12

I know what he means, though he misses the one I like to take potshots at, Barry Humphries. Maybe ‘cos Humphries too old to be a Boomer, born in 1934. Or maybe it’s not the type of cultural influence Davis is looking at.

But it’s a very interesting read, even if I don’t totally agree with all of it. I can’t find it publically online, probably as it’s due to be republished in fuller form in Overland, though it is available in Gulliver/ProQuest.

Parking: I’m not trying to dob people in, but I reckon the local council should send parking inspectors around to schools at morning drop-off time. People parking across driveways; people parking too close to corners; people backing up around corners; people parking (and leaving their cars) in “set-down only” areas. They’d make a fortune.

Crude: ABC TV, tonight 8:30pm.