Old photos from July 2009

Another in my series of photos from ten years ago.

This month: July 2009.

Then-metropolitan train operator Connex was advertising the addition of more station staff around the network.

Connex Melbourne sign advertising additional station staff, July 2009

Frankston station. I think the construction was an upgrade to the bus interchange… which was all replaced again in 2018.

Works at Frankston station, July 2009

Mordialloc station (I think)

Mordialloc station, July 2009

Richmond station, before the entirety of the platforms got shelter.

Richmond station, July 2009

The old Bentleigh station, before the crossing was removed, with its almost unique red man and “Another train coming” displays.

Bentleigh station, July 2009

A non-transport photo: the Bentleigh Priceline made me laugh, with its placement of weight management and confectionery in the same aisle.

Priceline Bentleigh, July 2009

Fears of distraction from mobile phones aren’t new – but back then, they thought you might be making a phone call, rather than staring at the screen.

Be Alert And Don't Get Hurt advertising, July 2009

New sensors had started being fitted to the Metcard gates in preparation for the introduction of Myki at the end of 2009. This is the Elizabeth Street entrance to Flinders Street Station.

Flinders Street Station (Elizabeth Street entrance), July 2009

Advertising for tram and bus lanes. Yeah, we could do with more of those. Lanes that is (and enforcement), not advertising.

Advertising for bus and tram priority, July 2009

Victoria Street, Abbotsford – the Skipping Girl sign.

Skipping Girl sign, July 2009

Walking around Carnegie

You always spot more stuff on foot than you would when driving.

On Saturday morning I walked over to the new 627 bus route and caught it up to Murrumbeena, before walking home via Carnegie, my old neighbourhood.

The bus wasn’t packed, but a few people were using it, including some boarding and alighting at stops along East Boundary Road, which didn’t previously have any bus service. Not too bad given the unspectacular 40 minute weekend frequency and the fact that the route has only been running a few weeks.

Bus 627 approaching Murrumbeena

Perhaps surprisingly for a Saturday, more people hopped off to go to Murrumbeena station (or possibly the local shopping centre) than stayed on the bus for Chadstone.

Murrumbeena station

Nearby is this bus shelter. It’s clean, free of graffiti, has good sight lines, and provides reasonable wind/rain protection. Up-to-date advertising shows it is actively maintained, and it’s still signed as a 24/7 bus zone. The only thing it doesn’t have… is buses. The stop moved closer to the station last year.

Former bus stop, Murrumbeena Road, Murrumbeena

Under the skyrail there were plenty of people cycling or walking along the shared path, and also some doing exercise. During my time in Murrumbeena (1987-88 and 2003-05) I don’t remember many people walking along the railway line like this, even where the path was provided.

Underneath the skyrail, near Murrumbeena looking towards Carnegie

Anecdata like this isn’t data, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But to me it looks like a pretty good outcome in terms of usable community space, which wasn’t possible when the line was at ground level, and wouldn’t have been possible with a rail trench.

Of course, one could speculate that the fear campaign forced the authorities to work harder on a good outcome. (It certainly didn’t result in an electoral backlash.)

Skyrail - near Carnegie station, looking towards Murrumbeena

In Carnegie, another bus stop: why would they put the useful information (the timetable) on the side that can’t be seen from the seat/paved area? (The other side has a generic “Catching a bus with Myki is easy” notice.)

Bus stop, Koornang Road, Carnegie

Also in Carnegie, I found this. I know I may be slightly colourblind, but I’m pretty sure this is not a yellow line.

Shepparson Avenue, Carnegie
New HCMT train mockup

“HCMT” isn’t a very catchy name for the new trains. How about “Centennials”?

The new trains are expected to go into service later this year, 100 years after Melbourne’s first electric trains started running.

Their official name is the not-very-catchy High Capacity Metro Trains, or HCMTs for short.

A friend’s son suggested what I think is a far better name, given the anniversary:

Centennial Trains.

What do you think?

High Capacity Metro Train (HCMT) mock-up, January 2018

For comparison, Sydney has the Millenium trains, which entered service in 2002.


Easy like Sunday morning

No time at the moment for any ambitious deep dive blog posts, so here’s a slightly rambling follow-up to last week’s Caulfield to City rail bustitution.

For the entire week, I was lucky enough to avoid travelling in peak hours, but overall the feedback was that it was a lot smoother this time. There were delays of course – buses just can’t do the job of trains – and footy fans in particular (who if they are not regulars, are less familiar with the changed arrangements, and tend to travel at busy times) had some issues.

Overall, it a big improvement from Easter – perhaps fewer operational mishaps, and more passengers becoming familiar with alternative routes.

Peak hour bustitution at Caulfield

What is a little disappointing is that – like so many things with public transport – despite significant organising and resources, often it’s relatively little things that fall short.

For instance: I travelled outbound on Sunday morning, when buses were replacing trains between the City and Westall/Moorabbin. The road network isn’t stretched at this time, and passenger numbers aren’t huge. But still there were little hiccups.

Frankston line buses were running to three patterns:

Express (E) – Arts Centre to Moorabbin non-stop, for longer distance trips

Limited Express (L) – Arts Centre to Caulfield non-stop, then all stations to Moorabbin, for people between the City and stations between Caulfield and Patterson (including me)

Stopping All Stations (S) – from the City to Caulfield, stopping all stations – for shorter distance trips between Richmond and Malvern.

This all makes sense; it helps minimise the travel time, and splits passengers into groups so the numbers are more manageable.

Not that you’d know about this if you saw the timetable guides provided on the web site, which showed a diagram for only one route, and timetable information (arguably too much; it’s very difficult to read) for two.

There were detailed brochures flying around the place which did have the route detail, and these had been handed out to passengers at stations in the weeks beforehand. But if you didn’t get given one of these, they were hard to find.

So where do I catch the bus?

The signage was excellent around Flinders Street station – provided you wanted the E or L buses. For the S… not so good; I didn’t see it anywhere.

In fact, even basic information on where to catch the Stopping buses was contradictory, as shown in these two tweets from Metro that morning.

This one said you catch the Stopping buses from Spring Street, near Parliament:

This one a few hours later reckoned Fed Square.

Talking to some People That Know, it sounds like there were different arrangements on each weekend (presumably for some good reason) and some of the info for weekend 1 got muddled with that for weekend 2.

Waiting for a bus

On that Sunday morning, it was good to see there were lots of staff and lots of buses deployed at the Arts Centre.

The boarding point for a Limited Express bus was incorrectly signed for Express buses. Thankfully there were enough staff to advise arriving passengers which queue they should use.

Express bus signage at the Limited Express bus stop

I found a line of people waiting for a Limited Express bus, and a line of Express buses arriving, waiting and leaving with virtually no passengers aboard.

Some people had obviously been waiting for a while. A stream of Express buses continued to arrive while I was in the queue.

Lots of Express buses, barely any passengers wanting to use them

Eventually the dispatchers decided to reallocate an Express bus to the Limited Express service, and off we went.

Unlike during weekday peaks, the buses moved pretty quickly, and we got to Caulfield after about 20 minutes, and then Bentleigh perhaps another 10 minutes after that. About the same as the train journey, if you don’t count the walks to/from the bus stops.

Are the buses free, or paid?

There was the usual confusion over whether passengers should touch-on their Myki cards. Many regulars know that you don’t have to touch on, but the last time I looked, the “bible” (the Fares & Ticketing Manual) still claimed that you should (at the railway station, which in this context makes no sense, as it could be hundreds of metres away).

The bus Myki readers (as usual) were left on, and at least one passenger did use them. Can they not be switched off? Why does Myki not have a “free ride” mode?

At busy stops, some passengers (quite reasonably) expected that the bus driver might open both doors for boarding. I mean, given free rides, why not, to speed up operations? And yet this still doesn’t happen with any consistency.

Indeed, there is a bus operator that’s been set up specifically for running train replacements. Their buses actually have No Entry signage on the rear door. If no fares are payable, why do this?

Rail Replacement bus

More bustitution coming soon

As usual, the point of all this minutiae is to identify the big picture.

There’s lots of projects in the next few years, right across the rail network. Which is good.

This means lots more bustitution is coming. A little more care and effort, and it could be a lot smoother for passengers.

Rail works notices

Transit Unplugged

I’ve been listening to the Transit Unplugged podcast for a while now on my (sometimes quite long) weekend walks.

They typically interview CEOs and other senior managers from public transport systems in the USA, often small-to-medium sized operations.

In recent weeks they’ve published a set of interviews with CEOs from much larger operations – and the reason this is of particular interest to locals here is that they’re all in Australia – mostly Melbourne.

Featuring are PTV (since merged into Department of Transport), Metro, Yarra Trams and V/Line, along with Transport Canberra, Sydney Trains/NSW Trainlink and John Holland.

While I know and have spoken to some of the people involved, it’s interesting to hear about issues from this perspective – interviewed by host Paul Comfort, who is a former CEO of an American public transport operator.

They’re not challenging interviews – but some of the challenges facing these operations certainly get highlighted.

The interviews are also a reminder that behind the scenes of the public transport operations that we passengers see day to day, there’s a lot of management of people and finance that’s also going on – something in common with any big organisation.

The other theme is that of change. For instance the PTV interview notes that one seat journeys are no longer realistic for all trips in a city the size of Melbourne, but work needs to be done on better interchanges. The V/Line interview notes the transition from a regional rail operator to (at least for many passengers) a commuter railway.

I can see a few typos in the transcripts – especially for Jeroen Weimar, who is a fast talker when he gets going – and Nicolas Gindt’s reference to gunzels, in his French accent, which must have confounded the host, is missing.

Perhaps the transcripts were generated by a computer – and you might also note a few minor gaffes in the recordings, but still, these are very interesting and well worth a listen.

I’ll leave you with this great optimistic quote from Howard Collins from Sydney Trains:

Australia has hit the golden age of rail. I think for the first time in probably 50 years, Australians realize public transport is the only way to get cities to work. Expanding cities like Melbourne and Sydney, which are going to grow from five million to eight million in the next 20 years, you can’t drive, you can’t have that culture of car anymore. You’ve got to look at London and New York, and you’ll see that public transport.

Update: There’s also a live podcast from a discussion at the recent UITP conference, featuring Ian Dobbs (1990s era The Met/PTC, and also 2000s era PTV, now with UITP Australia), Allan Fedda (PTV deputy CEO) and Nicolas Gindt (Yarra Trams CEO) as well as Nat Ford (Jacksonville, Florida).

All the podcasts are here: Transit Unplugged Podcasts

  • PTUA members and would-be members: the next member meeting on 25th July features Councillor Nic Frances Gilley from City of Melbourne, talking about their draft transport strategy. Details here.