A quick look around the new Carrum station

I haven’t managed to get to all the newly opened stations, but I did stop past Carrum for a little while on Wednesday night.

Carrum opened on Monday, with some hiccups – late completion of testing (apparently due to a police operation) and sign-off of new signalling equipment resulted in a delay to the first Monday morning train services, and ongoing issues through the morning peak.

But rewind a bit: Carrum originally opened in 1882. There seems to be a lack of information around, but the art deco signal box and station buildings used until recently might date from the 1940s, when interlocked crossing gates were installed.

The level crossing removal was promised by Labor in 2014, and includes a (somewhat controversial) skyrail design over Station Street, also allowing Macleod Road to cross the railway line for the first time, instead of Eel Race Road – the latter crossing has closed in favour of a walking/cycling-only underpass.

The nearby Mascot Avenue crossing has also been closed, so three crossings have been removed in this one project.

During construction last year, a temporary track was put in place alongside the existing rail alignment to allow the skyrail and station to be built while trains kept running. The recent two week occupation allowed the new section to be connected, and the temporary tracks removed.

The new elevated station opened on Monday, but works are continuing. The southern end is open, with some temporary buildings in place. Lift and stair access is available.

Carrum station

Screens at the station entrance show train departures and bus departures. Bravo! I remember asking for real-time bus information when Bentleigh/McKinnon/Ormond were being rebuilt. We didn’t get it (though a Smartbus sign was eventually reinstated), but it’d be great to see it as standard in new builds. It’s particularly important given many bus routes are so infrequent. (Note the mix of 12-hour time for the trains, 24-hour time for the buses.)

Carrum station

Up on the platform you get the sea view. Pretty good!

Carrum station
Carrum station

While it wasn’t particularly cold, it was a windy when I was up there. I was glad to have a coat.

Perhaps unique (so far) to Carrum are these pods which provide a level of protection from the sea breeze and rain.

Weather protection at Carrum station

Passenger Information Displays on the platform

Carrum station

Each end of the platform has a quite substantial shelter, with seating. The middle section is largely uncovered. Whether this is sufficient remains to be seen – I’d be interested to know how it fared during the storm on Tuesday night, particularly for those passengers alighting from the middle of an arriving train.

Carrum station

Works are continuing, with the main entrance at the northern end of the station yet to open. Apparently it will include a periscope to view the bay!

What do the locals think? There were some interesting quotes in the local Leader newspaper, such as this:

“I used to be dead against this project … but it’s sensational,” Sharon Grace, 70, of Carrum said.

“I’ve lived here for years and I was handing out pamphlets against the sky-rail. But it’s fabulous.”

Breathtaking beach views wow commuters at Carrum Station grand opening
Carrum station

Regardless of the design, it’s good to see more of these projects nearing completion, though even once all pledged projects are done, there will still be plenty of level crossings on the Frankston line, and well over 100 around Melbourne.

These are expensive projects, but given the benefits, and the wide public support for level crossing removals, hopefully future governments will keep funding them.


Finally: action on footpath motorcycle parking

At last! City of Melbourne tonight will debate changes to motorcycle parking in the CBD.

What’s the law?

Motorcyclists can park virtually anywhere off-road – unless specifically signed otherwise.

There are guidelines which aren’t communicated well, and are widely ignored.

The relevant rule provides exclusions to the usual parking limitations if the driver’s vehicle is a motor cycle and the driver stops in a place where the motor cycle does not inconvenience, obstruct, hinder or prevent the free passage of any pedestrian or other vehicle.

The point about free passage can theoretically prevent disruptive parking, but in practice is virtually unenforceable.

This is all unique to Victoria, and has been like this since the 1980s. No other state allows motorcyclists to park on footpaths.

What’s the result of motorcyclists on footpaths?

It’s messy, particularly in Melbourne’s CBD, which is getting more and more busy.

City of Melbourne data indicates about 1200 motorcyclists ride and park in the CBD.

With virtually no guidelines or enforcement these are often parked in such a way that reduces footpath capacity in the places it’s needed most, affecting hundreds of thousands of people – including public transport users.

It causes crowding, it prompts people to walk along the roadway (yes, motor vehicles on the footpath, pedestrians on the road – talk about backwards – and causes serious issues for those with mobility aids and prams.

(The total daily population of the City of Melbourne is around 1 million on a weekday. Note that’s the total council area, not just the CBD/Hoddle Grid.)

Motorcycle parked on Little Bourke Street

Isn’t this all caused by delivery riders?

They’ve arguably made it worse. But this has been a problem brewing for many years.

In these blog posts from 2008 and 2013, before the delivery rider craze took off, I pointed out the issues with motorcyclists parking all over footpaths.

Aren’t bicycles just as bad?

Not really. They’re less bulky, and usually need to be secured to a fixed object, which limits where they can be parked.

If they’re not secured, just left somewhere (as the oBikes often were, and some delivery bikes are) then they can be physically moved.

What about street furniture?

Rubbish bins, signage, trees, advertising, al fresco dining can all be an issue for footpath capacity.

But in contrast to motorcycle parking, all of these are regulated and controlled by council.

Motorcycles parked on footpath in Bourke Street

Are motorcycles better than cars?

Yes and no.

If they’re parked on the street or in car parks, then yes they’re obviously more space efficient than cars.

But if they’re parked on footpaths and encroach on pedestrian space, then they’re worse than cars, because they’re taking away space that cars don’t normally take.

It’s worth noting that Monash University research found that most motorcyclists said if they couldn’t park for free, most of them would use public transport instead – rather than driving.

The noise

Another problem with some motorcycles is the extraordinary amount of noise some of them make.

It’s totally inappropriate for a dense, built-up area. The noise is such that often you can’t have a conversation when one is driving past. And forget about making a phone call.

It must take an extra special sense of entitlement to roar through city streets like that.

There seems to be no current plan to deal with this.

So what’s the council doing?

The proposal is for City of Melbourne to convert 36 car spaces in the Hoddle Grid into 151 motorcycle spaces, which will be provided free of charge.

They will also ban motorcycles on footpaths in a number of blocks around Southern Cross, Flinders Street, Flagstaff and Melbourne Central stations.

I’m not sure why Parliament wasn’t included, but this is a great start – it covers many of the worst streets for pedestrian congestion.

More details on the council web site – see section 6.4

Footpaths proposed to be cleared of motorcycles, February 2020

What’s the reaction from riders been?

Many seem to have accepted that providing unlimited free footpath space to motorcyclists isn’t actually a priority.

“Melbourne City Council has done its homework and counted how many bikes will be affected… At the moment it seems a straight swap of footpath places for on-road places. As long as riders aren’t disadvantaged, as they don’t seem to be, we are quite ok with it.”

Professor Richard Huggins, immediate past chair of the Victorian Motorcycle Council in The Age

This seems like a pretty fair appraisal, as it appears the number of street spaces will be roughly right for the number of motorcycles currently parked on footpaths in the affected blocks.

And it’s not like motorcycle riders can’t find another street to park in and walk a few metres to their destination.

“In spite of a serious lack of rider education on and enforcement of riding-on-footpath and pedestrian obstruction rules, the system has worked very well for 40 years”

Motorcycle Riders’ Association spokesman Damien Codognotto in the Herald Sun

The lack of rider education is a very fair point.

It actually makes me wonder if motorcycle groups made any effort to help educate riders. They must have known the current unregulated mess wasn’t sustainable.

But as for working very well for 40 years – no. Not at all. If it had, there wouldn’t be any need for change.

Motorcycle blocking footpath

Giving footpaths back to pedestrians is a good thing

Walking needs to be encouraged. The health benefits are numerous, and it’s the most space efficient travel mode – bar none. But often, pedestrian issues are ignored. The one place walkers should absolutely be prioritised is on footpaths.

Some motorcyclists are grumpy about these changes, because they’ve become used to parking wherever they want, for free.

We all want stuff for free. We can’t all have it. There’s no automatic right to be able to park outside your building. Space in the city centre is scarce, and motorcycle riders are not more important than everyone else.

More spaces for motorcyclists on the street, so footpaths can be freed up for increasing numbers of pedestrians is definitely a good thing.

Update 9pm: The City of Melbourne motion passed unanimously.


The Myki 90 day myth reborn

Remember back in the early days of Myki when the rumour spread that if you didn’t use your card for 90 days, your credit would vanish?

It wasn’t true. A number of people including me tried to hose it down (not very successfully) but eventually people found via experience that it wasn’t the case.

My Myki card and Mobile Myki
My Myki card and Mobile Myki – Pic: Channel 9

Fast forward to 2020. PTV’s “bible” the Fares And Ticketing Manual was revised this year, splitting the weighty tome into two separate documents:

  • Victorian Fares and Ticketing Conditions 2020 – the legalese and fine detail that almost nobody except me wants to read
  • Public Transport Ticketing Customer Guide 2020 – a (slightly) more readable document that humans can interpret

I took a skim through these, and was equal parts amused and aghast to find this section of text in the Customer Guide:

myki not used for 90 days

If a myki is not used within 90 days, any value loaded on it will be sent to archive.

To retrieve funds from archive, the customer must:
• for a myki Smartcard, touch on or top up at a myki machine, retailer or myki enabled railway station.
• for a Mobile myki, touch on.

Archived funds will take 24 hours to be reallocated to the myki.

Argh. This is completely wrong.

Whoever re-wrote this section clearly had no idea how the system works, and it appears copy/pasted some of the old text in such a way that it resurrects the old myth.

I mean really.

I flagged it with PTV. They accepted it was in error, and quickly had that section reworded. They also replaced the term “archived” with possibly clearer term “dormancy”.

myki not used for 90 days

If a myki is not used within 90 days of topping up online or via the call centre, the top up will be removed from the myki equipment and placed into dormancy.

To retrieve the top up from dormancy, the customer must:
• for a myki Smartcard, touch on or top up at a myki machine, retailer or myki enabled railway station.
• for a Mobile myki, touch on.

Top ups in dormancy will take 24 hours to be available on the myki equipment again.

(Bold/italics added to emphasise the important context.)

I suspect the heading is still problematic.

But in any case, thankfully it’s now corrected, and hopefully nobody actually read the incorrect version and got the wrong idea.

Update: This still seems to be causing confusion, so let me summarise it from a different perspective, and trying to avoid jargon:

If you top-up online or by phone, you need to use the Myki card within 90 days, otherwise that top-up may not be completed.

It doesn’t affect top-ups at machines or railway stations. It doesn’t affect your card or your existing balance.

  • Media reported over the weekend that there’s up to $80 million in funds on unused Myki cards. Solutions could include enabling travel by paying directly with contactless credit/debit cards (similar to Sydney and London and others), and better ticket and refund options for tourists.
  • By the way: it’s February. That means for anybody with students in the house, their 2019 Student Passes and Concession Cards are about to expire.

What future for the FTZ?

The Free Tram Zone (FTZ) just turned five. It was introduced in January 2015.

If you’re wondering why there was so much discussion on it last week, it’s because submissions to a Parliamentary Inquiry on the topic just closed.

Transport Matters Party MP Rod Barton, who moved for the Inquiry, posted an article addressing some concerns with the FTZ. You can see his motivation in all this is coming from the right place:

We need to break the cycle of dependence on cars to get around this city and we need to solve the operational issues that are holding our public transport network back.

The problem is he seems to have assumed that fares are the biggest barrier to getting people out of their cars:

We needed to … do more to encourage people onto public transport. … If price will get them there, then we should drop the prices. Our city needs this and our environment needs it.

I don’t think that’s right.

The biggest barrier is lack of good services – public transport that actually presents a viable, time-competitive alternative to driving.

It’s not such a big issue in the CBD and inner suburbs, where the trams (including in the Free Tram Zone) complement the trains and buses, and provide a pretty dense, pretty frequent, connecting network, at least during daytime. In these areas, public transport competes strongly. Only a minority of people come into the CBD by car, for instance.

It’s the middle and outer suburbs where the only option might be buses every 30-60 minutes, and if you’re lucky there are trains, but only every 30 minutes after dark. Most people won’t use these at any cost if they have a car.

Still, given the Free Tram Zone has been around for five years now, the effects of its introduction should be visible…

And the current debate got a few myths flying.

Did the FTZ get more people onto trams?

Yes it did. Budget Papers show patronage rose sharply, from 176.4 million in 2013-14 to 204 million in 2015-16, an increase of 16% in just two years — the highest growth in at least 20 years.

In fact in the data going back to 1947, the only higher jump I could find was following the patronage dip from the 1990 tram strike that knocked the trams out of action for over a month.


Did the FTZ discourage driving?

No it didn’t, and this is the real problem.

In January 2015 there were two major fare changes:

  • Zone 1+2 fares were capped at zone 1 prices;
  • and the FTZ was introduced.

Analysis of VISTA data (which surveys tens of thousands of people and their travel) shows that the first change, capping Zone 1+2 fares, resulted in a reduction in car travel. Some people who previously drove to Zone 1 stations now board trains closer to home. Despite it also introducing some issues to the fares, the effect on reducing driving has undoubtedly been a good thing.

But the VISTA data also showed that within Zone 1 (where there was no price change apart from the FTZ) more people are now driving to the area included in the FTZ. Conclusion: The FTZ has encouraged more driving.

This is in line with car parks promoting their location within the FTZ.

The other thing the data showed was similar to the anecdotal evidence: many people hopping onto trams had previously made their short CBD journeys by walking or cycling (including using the blue hire bikes, partly killed off thanks to the FTZ). This is not a positive change.

Doesn’t everybody benefit from the FTZ?

No they don’t. The people who benefit are those who did not reach the zone by public transport.

If you do catch public transport to the CBD/FTZ, you get trams included in your daily fare (unless you used the Early Bird train fare).

This means that for most paying public transport users the FTZ makes no monetary difference.

Some of the confusion around this might be because in some other cities in Australia, there is no daily fare cap, or it is very high, so you would pay extra for a lunchtime tram trip to the shops. Not so in Melbourne.

Wouldn’t scrapping the FTZ would hurt the poor?

Mostly not.

The main beneficiaries are people drive into the FTZ – who as the Grattan Institute says, are more than twice as likely to earn a six-figure salary as other workers.

Some international and interstate tourists also benefit by not having to buy a Myki card, but only if the entirety of their travel is within the CBD and Docklands. It seems unlikely that those people are unable to afford the cost of public transport fares – though better sales and distribution of Myki cards, for instance through hotels, would be a good idea.

There are some students on low incomes who live in or close to the FTZ. Most of them can already get substantial discounts on fares. But I’ll wager most people living in the FTZ are not hard up for cash.

Melbourne’s “battlers” are more likely to be found in outer suburbs with no efficient frequent usable public transport, struggling to afford the running costs of the cars they need to get where they need to go – or struggling to reach education and work opportunities.

Those people should be the priority for assistance.

Crowding? Can’t they just run more trams?

Crowding has long been an issue on CBD trams, but has got markedly worse with the FTZ.

It’s particularly an issue in evening peak hour, when paying passengers who want to head outbound are squeezed off the trams by free passengers riding a short distance. The above video shows route 19 outbound at 5:45pm.

Rod Barton noted:

Indeed, overcrowding exists across the entire public transport network. However, this is not by any means an insurmountable problem. This is an operational issue that could be solved by adding increased services or shorter shuttle routes that take passengers to the perimeter of the zone.

Running more trams is the logical answer in principle, but problem is that right now, there are no more trams to run.

Could they buy more? Yes. But in the context of them struggling to even provide upgrades to ensure a fully accessible, or indeed fully air-conditioned fleet, where does this money come from?

Nobody expects transport systems (road or rail) to completely pay for all their costs, but at least if patronage is growing on fare paid routes, then revenue is increasing to cover some of this investment.

Funding for expensive upgrades to free services with no financial return is a hard ask when there are so many other demands on public money.

Free Tram Zone

Should the entire PT system be free?

Public transport network revenue for 2018-19 was $982 million (PTV Annual Report 2019).

Even accounting for the huge cost of running the Myki system (about $100m/year — all those upgrades like new faster readers don’t come for free) that’s still a lot of foregone revenue that would have to be covered if there were no fares.

The beneficiaries would be wider than the FTZ of course — but mostly it would be those people who have a service that is good enough to use.

Those in the outer burbs with their hopeless buses would not start using public transport just because it was free. They’d still drive.

Public phone free calls

To draw an analogy: Free outer-suburban public transport is like free payphone calls. Few people make use of it, because frankly the experience of payphones is just nowhere near as convenient as mobile phones, which most people own already – even though they are not free.

Ultimately even if government had that money to spend, upgrading services would do far more to get people out of their cars and using public transport.

As Chris Hale notes: In wealthy cities like Melbourne, potential public transport passengers are indifferent to fare changes or discounts, but respond robustly to enhanced service.

Free Tram Zone: Casino is out, Batman Park is in

Isn’t the FTZ boundary illogical?

Yes it is. It comes within one stop of the Exhibition and Convention Centre, the Casino, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Exhibition Buildings and Museum.

Remember the history: the Coalition proposed it in early 2014 before the state election, and Labor immediately matched it. It appeared to come straight from the politicians, bypassing the bureaucracy and the transport operators.

It’s almost as if the politicians who designed it back in 2014 just drew a line around the Hoddle Grid, plus Docklands and the Vic Market, and didn’t consider the tourist hotspots… or indeed where the boundary tram stops were located.

Other points

Did the FTZ speed up trams? Few people now need to touch their tickets. But timetable and performance data shows no overall speed benefit, and the tram operator has raised concerns about delays, with CBD trams now averaging just 11 kilometres per hour. Crowding appears to have more than countered any boarding/alighting time saving for individuals.

Was the FTZ to cover for the City Saver Zone, not catered for under Myki? The City Saver Zone was catered for under Myki. It worked on trains and buses provided the user touched on and off.

Unofficially it worked on trams too, but was removed in mid-2010 when touch-off was made optional on trams. This was thanks largely to slow Myki Reader response times, though dodgy GPS may have also been a factor.

Have fare cuts like the FTZ and the nearly flat fares added to upwards pressure on fares generally? Yes. Around the same time the Coalition introduced those changes, they also flagged CPI+2.5% rises from 2015 to 2018, which were subsequently implemented by Labor. A short trip in Melbourne’s Zone 1 now costs about double that of Sydney.

The Free Tram Zone debate

What happens with the FTZ now?

We’ll see. The Inquiry will go ahead obviously, but the government has already said they don’t want to expand the zone – in fact their response to the Herald Sun sounds awfully like “we know it causes all sorts of problems, but expanding it will make it even worse”:

The state government has rejected a call to extend free CBD tram services, saying it would increase crowding and make trams run slower across the network.

Equally I doubt they’ll get rid of it. In 2018, both major parties, as well as the Greens, said they had no plans to change it or remove it.

If the robust debate seen last week proves nothing else, it’s that it’s a politically vexed issue, and it’s probably easier just to ignore the problem.

I’d love to think the government would be brave enough to get rid of the Free Tram Zone – to claw back some revenue, relieve crowding and stop encouraging CBD motorists – but unfortunately for paying passengers, we’re probably stuck with it.

Photos from ten years ago

Old photos from January 2010

Continuing my long-running series of old photos from ten years ago

In January 2010 we took a short break in Inverloch, south Gippsland.

The South Gippsland Tourist Railway no longer runs – it suspended operations in December 2015 apparently due to a lack of funds. Here are some snaps from when we visited.

South Gippsland Tourist Railway: timetable January 2010
South Gippsland Tourist Railway: diesel rail car at station, January 2010
South Gippsland Tourist Railway

Back in 2010, Bentleigh station still had its level crossing. Metro had been running the trains for only a couple of months, but the Connex signage from the station sign was already gone. Note the generic branding on the train.

Bentleigh level crossing, January 2010

Some other branding was still in transition. This Connex-era poster had Metro stickers on it to cover up the old web address and logo.

Frankston line platform information, January 2010

Flinders Street station (in its current incarnation) was celebrating its 100th birthday, and in the display cabinets in the Degraves Street Subway (often used to exhibit art), was a display – including a familiar logo.

Flinders St station history display

Beautifully formatted, but missing half the information

Last month I noted that the State Government has prepared the “Big Build” calendar of major disruptions to the transport network.

This calendar is easy to read, but it turns out it is fatally flawed.

Below you can see how January looks. Note the absence of any disruptions today, 27th January – thanks in part to the early return of trains through Caulfield.

The problem is… that’s wrong.

The whole of the Craigieburn line has been out of action all weekend.

You won’t find it listed on the Big Build web site – but it’s shown on the Metro or PTV web sites.

Metro disruptions: Craigieburn line

Why is this?

Because the line is closed for maintenance works, not project works.

Likewise the Big Build web site doesn’t show the closure of the Werribee and Williamstown lines next weekend… but it does show the closure of the Stony Point and part of the Frankston line for two weeks in February.

It’s a similar story with staffing at the rail replacement bus stops. When it’s project works there are plenty of staff. Turns out they can be thin on the ground when it’s maintenance works.

It’s ridiculous. Passengers don’t care who is running a rail closure. They just want accurate, consistent and complete information.

The Big Build calendar format is excellent, and very readable, but if it’s only got half the information, if you can’t actually depend on it to show you when a rail line is closed, then what’s the point?

Despite the big merger last year of PTV and Vicroads and numerous other bodies into the Department of Transport, the claims of an integrated transport system clearly haven’t come to fruition just yet.


On the bright side, I’m told they’re working on changes so we don’t see a sea of orange notices at central stations in future. Apparently this picture has been doing the rounds.

Works notices at Melbourne Central

The Lonsdale Street bus mess

(This post adapted from a Twitter thread posted yesterday)

Rail replacements on the Caulfield line are not the only major disruptions to public transport at the moment.

Bus routes from the eastern suburbs into the CBD are some of the busiest in Melbourne.

All of them are currently terminating on the edge of the CBD for five weeks due to power upgrade works.

Bus passengers are asked to make their own way to/from Exhibition/Lonsdale Streets.

From the western end of the CBD, it’s a long walk to Exhibition Street, or a ride in a very packed tram.

Smartbus sign advising of Bus diversions on Lonsdale Street

Caulfield rail replacements also drop people on the edge of the CBD, though the frequency of north-south Swanston Street trams connecting to Federation Square and the Arts Centre is far better than the east-west trams along Bourke and La Trobe Streets.

Making it even worse for bus passengers: more roadworks elsewhere this week resulting in more delays even once you’re on the bus.

Back to the signage. Kudos to them for programming the Smartbus sign to say the County Court stop is closed.

But some other routes from the western suburbs continue to serve this section of Lonsdale Street as far as Queen Street. Confusing much?

At least those routes don’t generally pick up passengers along here – because they terminate in Queen Street.

216 bus in Lonsdale Street

Also baffling: remember how some 232/235/237 buses from Port Melbourne are diverting away from Collins St due to heavy traffic?

Some of them are choosing to join the congestion in Lonsdale St. This doesn’t seem like the best idea.

235 bus in traffic in Lonsdale Street

Anyway, it’s understandable that Transdev didn’t get want their eastern suburbs buses getting stuck in heavy traffic every day during the works. This caused lots of problems during the William Street works in November.

Rather than just leaving people to walk (fun this morning in the heavy rain) or catch a packed tram that doesn’t really connect to where the buses run, there are things they could have done.

Maybe they should have set up a shuttle bus service along Lonsdale Street to Exhibition St to help people connect with their service?

It probably makes sense to do these works in school holidays, but it’s a myth that everyone’s on holiday for all of January.

Better co-ordination/staggering of works, and some kind of provision for passengers who can’t walk the length of Lonsdale Street certainly wouldn’t go astray.

The Doncaster area may never get a rail line to the City. It’s important that their bus services run as smoothly as possible.


Train/tram punctuality data is delayed again

In Victoria, public transport performance data (in particular reliability aka cancellations, and punctuality aka delays) is “usually published on the 10th of every month.” – or so they claim, anyway.

This typically gives eligible passengers just under 3 weeks to claim compensation. Applications normally close at the end of the month.

But the publication of this data has been getting later and later. I’ve graphed it back to the start of 2018, based on PTV media releases. (For a couple of months, the announcement is not on their web site – I’ve used the date of media reports instead.)

The last time they delivered the data by the 10th was September’s figures in October.

The publication of November data on 19th December set a new record. And the December data? As of 5pm today, the 17th of January, it’s not out yet – so it’s at least a week late. (Update: published on 20th January.)

When they publish the information late, are they allowing more time to claim? Nope.

How long does it take to publish this data? Unclear – there may be some manual collation and adjustment that has to take place, including dispensations for events outside the operators’ control.

But keep in mind that some data is published daily by PTV, and the operators certainly use near-real-time data internally.

It’s bad enough that public transport services are delayed, but it’s pretty poor form when even their punctuality data is delayed.

If this is going to keep happening, then at the very least they should allow more time for compensation claims. (Really it should be automatic. They use Myki data to reject claims. They could use it to find eligible passengers.)

Bentleigh station train delays

But at least train and tram data is published.

Bus punctuality and reliability data is not normally public, despite it having been automatically collected via GPS since 2016 (no doubt the same systems supporting real-time information).

Taxpayers fund the transport network to the tune of billions of dollars every year, much of it paid to private operators.

Obviously the investment in these services brings huge benefits to society… but transparency is also important. We have a right to know how well the public transport network is performing.

Update 20/1/2020: the December results have finally been published. The graph above has been revised.
Yarra Trams is paying compensation to eligible passengers, and – apparently due to the late publication – Passengers have until 10 February to apply for performance compensation.


The Redesdale bridge

A couple of weeks ago I passed through Redesdale, and its 152 year old bridge. This, by Australian standards, is pretty old.

Despite the sign, it opened in 1868, not 1867.

On approach, there’s a warning sign about the width (3.2 metres) and height (4.3 metres) limit. Higher than the Montague Street Bridge, but not as capacious as bridges built to modern standards.

Making the bridge doubly fascinating is the story behind it: the ironwork was intended for the Hawthorn bridge (at Bridge Road), but the ship carrying it from Britain caught fire and sunk in Hobsons Bay. Eventually the ironwork was salvaged and used at Redesdale.

Redesdale Bridge

A relative reckons that during heavy rain, it’s not unknown for the river to reach the bridge deck – which must be quite a sight.

But even with the river level far lower, on a long drive, it’s an eyecatching sight.

Years ago (pre-digital photos) I remember seeing the Genoa bridge. Not as old – 1920s, but still very appealing. Unfortunately it’s been destroyed in the fires.

News and events Politics and activism

Enough delay. Time for climate action

Fires have ravaged south eastern Australia this summer.

As I write this, cooler weather and even a little rain provided a few days of relief, but warmer weather is on the way. There’s much of the fire season still to come.

26 people are dead.

8.4 million hectares are believed to have burnt – figures in Wikipedia indicate this is the biggest recorded for Australia’s east coast. So far.

Eleven years ago we had the disastrous Black Saturday fires in Victoria, which burnt out about a 20th of the hectares, and left 173 dead.

It seems there were some lessons learnt after Black Saturday. Particularly noticeable was the change from the Stay Or Leave policy, to much stronger language. The emergency warnings are now very forthright, and even quite confronting, including phrases such as:

  • Emergency Services will not be able to help you
  • Heat will kill you before the fire reaches you

One can only hope that the dire warnings for people to get out of danger areas before the fires approach has saved lives.

But it’s not over yet.

Climate change

We all know that climate change alone does not cause fires. But it does cause hotter temperatures.

Temperatures are rising. A few days ago they announced that 2019 in Australia was the hottest year on record.

On the 18th of December, they announced that the day before had been the hottest single day on record. The very next day the record was broken again.

Hotter temperatures contribute to the frequency and ferocity of fires, as well as the length of the fire season.

The fact that serious fires this season started in September, that so much of the country is now ablaze, and intense fires are now commonly creating their own localised weather systems should be ringing alarm bells.

And there were clear warnings:


Climate deniers and conspiracy theorists manage to blame the Greens for a lack of burn offs. As if the Greens have control over anything – they are a minor political player everywhere around the country.

Actual burn figures show that in many areas, extensive hazard reduction burning has occurred – though increasingly, good safe conditions aren’t available – a point repeatedly being made by fire chiefs.

Other conspiracy theorists reckon some fires are deliberately lit to clear land for high speed rail. Seriously.

Much more common is the claim that fires are mostly caused by arsonists, something not backed up by statistics.


And so we come to the Federal Government’s response to all this.

I don’t mean their direct response to the immediate threat – that was slow to get going, with numerous missteps, but seems to be in gear now. I mean their actions on the longer term threats from climate change.

Since the most serious fires started, our local (Federal Coalition) MP has been tweeting about emissions reductions measures. He sent this one out twice, on 30th and 31st December.

They can claim they’re acting, but they’ve been in power for six years, and emissions have been rising under their watch:

The problem is, ultimately, the Federal Coalition is led by climate sceptics.

It’s really hard to look past this moment from 2017:

Scott Morrison holding a lump of coal in Parliament, February 2017

As the fires took hold, while Morrison was away, his deputy Michael McCormack finally managed to admit they needed to look at more action on emissions. Morrison then got back from Hawaii and hosed it down.

In some ways, Morrison seems to be the stereotypical conservative. How good is Australia? Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here. Do nothing – which ties into the common conservative theme of small government.

And yet finally, I think people are seeing through this. It’s a shame it took a crisis, but that might be the only silver lining here.

Perhaps it’s easy to be doubtful about climate change when you can’t see it. It’s the (mythical) boiling frog.

Now it’s very, very visible. The skies in many areas have been red from fires. Even in the big cities away from the danger areas, there is smoke in the air.

ABC News 24 - Eden, NSW, 9:36am, Sunday 5/1/2020

Thousands of people have been displaced. Events and institutions are disrupted. Millions upon millions of animals are dead. Thousands of homes have been lost.

It can’t be ignored when you can see it happening in front of you. And although the sceptics will look for any excuse, remember, this is just as the climate scientists warned.

If it continues like this, it’s going to get worse. Much worse.

Climate change is here, and it’s got to be stopped. (And there are lots of other tangible benefits to reduced emissions, of course.)

Climate Summit cartoon

There’s a cost to cutting emissions of course, but there’s also a huge cost not acting.

Australia’s contribution to emissions is small by world standards, but it’s very high per capita, and we can’t expect others to cut theirs if we do nothing.

Worst of all – our government of sceptics has been sabotaging world efforts to cut emissions. (Who says Australia can’t make a difference?)

With Australian public opinion finally changing, will the Federal Coalition pivot, and act, if only to save their political skins?

Will Federal Labor step up, stop defending coal and its billions of dollars of annual subsidies, and be bolder in its ambitions to move Australia forward on this? Ultimately, we need to transition off coal – including helping workers transition to new jobs and industries.

And, assuming the next two fire seasons are not as serious, will the populace remember all this when the next Federal election comes along, two years from now?

One last thing. There is a transport angle on all of this.