The bus to F/Staff Stat via Royal Bot Gdns

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.

Bus 605 route map from 2017

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.)

Bus 605 at Queensbridge

In both directions, the bus is going via “ROYAL 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.

What potentially confusing ones have you seen?

Car sizes, and safety: New vs used

I mentioned last year I was thinking about upgrading my car, which is frequently unused during the week, but still needed on occasions. Car share hasn’t reached our area yet.

Buying cars is not something I do lightly. In 18 years of driving, I’ve only owned two vehicles: a 1993 Magna (owned 2000-2008), and a 2000 Astra (owned 2008-).

Like any shopping, for something big or small, I agonise over it.

Car sizes

After some thought, for the purposes of shopping, I had narrowed down to a Toyota Corolla or Camry sedan.

Here’s something interesting: the old Mitsubishi Magna I used to drive was considered a midsize car.

The Toyota Corolla is considered a compact car. But the newer Corolla sedans actually have very similar dimensions to the Magna.

Car Magna 1993 Corolla sedan 2013- Camry 2011-17
Length mm 4746 4620 4820
Width mm 1775 1775 1820
Height mm 1430 1460 1470
Weight kg 1356 1300 1447

The Camry isn’t much longer than the Corolla, only 20cm. And only slightly wider: 5cm. Hmm.

Fuel consumption also not that different, on paper: Corolla 7.4 litres/100 km. Camry 7.8.

More reading on car sizes: How Small Cars Got Big, by John Cadogan

Traffic heading into Southland on a Saturday morning

Used car safety

I want something with a five star ANCAP rating.

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…

Sunday afternoon traffic on M1 exit to Kingsway

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.

Anyway, given what I’ve since discovered about real world crash stats, I’ll keep hunting, and I’m now leaning towards a Camry instead — or one of the others ranked highly in the TAC’s list of used vehicles.

Skyrail part 2: Clayton station open

The new Clayton station opened this morning, and I went down to take a look.

The design is very similar to Noble Park, which opened in February.

A ramp just west of the station (and Clayton Road) brings the trains up onto the elevated section.

From there, the track is entirely elevated as far as Centre Road, where it then drops back down to ground level before reaching Westall station.

Skyrail ramp west of Clayton station

The new track alignment is on the north side of the old one, with the old station building remaining in place for now. (The old outbound platform shelter was removed some time ago, and will be re-located somewhere in the station precinct in the future.)

New Clayton station on opening day

Skyrail looking towards city from Clayton station

Old Clayton station alongside new elevated station

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.

New Clayton station entrance on opening day

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.

New Clayton station fare gates on opening day

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.

Lifts, stairs and escalators at Clayton station

Some signage would probably help educate passengers of the etiquette of standing on the left of the escalators.

Escalators at Clayton station

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.)

Inbound Metro train at Clayton station

The eastern end of the platform has less weather cover, though more is coming.

Inbound Metro train at Clayton station

Platform PIDs (Passenger Information Displays) were operating, though I noticed a glitch or two. Pretty sure this train wasn’t going to Traralgon.

Outbound Metro train at Clayton station

…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.

V/Line train inbound towards Southern Cross at Clayton

Having arrived by bus, I caught a train to Westall and then back again. The ride was pretty smooth, and it’s not noisy.

Outbound Metro train approaches Clayton station

V/Line train inbound towards Southern Cross arrives at Clayton

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.

Floaters!

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.