Crosstown traffic / Bacchus Marsh stopover

All of us have data being captured about us all the time.

For many of us that includes Myki travel data (though even that is tiny compared to the myriad of information captured by our smartphones).

Mostly for me it’s the drudgery of everyday work commuting, but every so often there’s something of interest.

Crosstown traffic

26/01/2018 13:49:14 Touch off  Train 1/2 Bentleigh Station - - -
26/01/2018 13:09:15 Touch on   Train 1   Footscray Station - - -

This is not a typo. On Australia Day (public holiday timetable) we managed to do Footscray to Bentleigh in 40 minutes.

There was a little bit of trickery involved. The train from Footscray ran into the Loop clockwise (being a weekend), and as we came into Melbourne Central the app told me a train from there clockwise to Richmond was imminent, so we swapped onto it, then just managed to get a connection at Richmond onto the Frankston line to Bentleigh.

Jumping through that hoop saved us about 10 minutes — a timetabled journey with just one change should take about 48 minutes.

Still, it shows that good frequencies along direct routes mean a fast trip, even when it involves connections.

You’d struggle to get across town that fast in a car. Google Maps reckons 30-50 minutes on the weekend if driving — there’s frequently congestion in King Street if you drive through the CBD, and taking the Bolte or Westgate then Kingsway is no better, as the exit onto Kingsway is often clogged.

Melbourne, like any big city, has transport demand from many places to many places. Public transport needs to cope better with this.

The more routes (be they train, tram or bus) go to frequent (10 minutes or better) services, the better connections will be, and the more trips will be competitive with driving, and the more people will choose public transport instead.

Ballarat station

Copycat from Ballarat

08/02/2018 23:02:22 Touch off  Train 1   Southern Cross Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 21:34:15 Touch on   Train -   -                      - -     -
08/02/2018 21:28:04 Touch on   Train 8   Ballarat Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 19:39:43 Touch off* Train 8   Ballarat Station	- $6.72	$26.98
08/02/2018 19:04:15 Touch on   Train 2/3 Bacchus Marsh Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 18:29:49 Touch off  Train 2/3 Bacchus Marsh Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 17:23:46 Touch on   Train 1   Southern Cross Station	- -     -

I thought I was being so clever.

I wanted to get to Ballarat, but I had missed the 17:10. The next train all the way was at 17:50.

But the timetable also showed a 17:35 to Bacchus Marsh, arriving there at 18:18, just ahead of the next Ballarat train. So perhaps I could have a quick stop-off at the Marsh?

That went fine until by Sunshine the train was running late. No need to panic though, it’s just one track each way; they can’t overtake, right?

Wrong. The train was held at Melton for a few minutes to let the Ballarat train fly past. D’oh. That’s a lesson for next time.

So I had an unscheduled half-hour in Bacchus Marsh. Which was charming.

The kicker is this made me late for a PTUA Ballarat branch meeting. Oh well, they welcomed me when I eventually got there, and we had an interesting discussion.

After some dinner I headed back. The 21:34 touch-on was the conductor checking the fare. (When conductors check fares, they also set the default fare to the end of the service, making it important that you touch-off after using V/Line.)

Also notable: breaking the trip at Bacchus Marsh meant my Myki Pass covered part of the trip, and I got charged just $6.72 the rest of the way to Ballarat, rather than the usual $21.60 (minus $4.30 for Zone 1/2 on my Pass). This is the anomaly facing V/Line users thanks to changes to metropolitan fares — some trips are dirt cheap, some are expensive.

That $6.72 also seems to have covered my fare home afterwards: Marsh touch-on at 19:04 to commencing the trip back at 21:28 is more than 2 hours, but because it’s a trip across six zones, the “fare product” is 3 hours, not 2.

Cheap with the stop-off? Yes. But I’d have preferred to be there on time.

Progress in the PT debate

The PTUA’s Annual General Meeting was last night. There was some optimism amongst the committee and membership about where public transport is going since the change of government, but even before that, the political debate has been moving along nicely.

An example we talked about last night…

Poor connections and bus frequencies, Clayton station on a SundayAt a parliamentary hearing last year as part of the Train Services inquiry, the view that buses don’t connect properly with trains was flatly denied by the government.

Mr BOWEN — You will certainly find that the buses to Daylesford still connect properly with the trains at Woodend, but if you try that in any of Melbourneโ€™s suburbs, more likely than not you will find that there is no connection and no attempt at coordinating bus and train services.

Mr VINEY — That is not right. That is just not right.

I’m not sure what planet Mr Viney is living on. Perhaps the only train/bus connection he has ever encountered in Melbourne is one of the two that are specifically coordinated. I think the rest of us fully well know that it’s not the case elsewhere — and this is a major barrier to public transport not playing a greater role, because most suburbs will never have train lines, and most trips around greater Melbourne can’t be made on one service alone.

Assisted by the release by the government of all its timetable data, the PTUA’s study into train/bus connections proved connections are mostly poor, and got proof of the problem publicised.

A subsequent study showed that in fact, coordination largely doesn’t happen because nobody is responsible for it.

The debate shifted. It became generally accepted that services don’t connect. I knew this was the case when I heard Steve Price on MTR, a man who I’m betting probably doesn’t catch a lot of buses, mention it explicitly.

The government went from denial to excuses.

Mr Pakula was questioned about why the Government was unable to get bus and train times co-ordinated.

“It isnt simple to co-ordinate every bus with every time,” Mr Pakula said.

“Buses and trains run at different frequencies.”

Herald Sun

Who’s responsible for setting the frequencies? The government of course.

But this is progress. The first step to fixing a problem is to accept there is a problem.

And the Coalition realise it. This and other campaigning this year has helped push them into supporting a Public Transport Authority. It’s not expensive, but it has a lot of potential to improve things. Provided they get it right, it’s going to be an interesting, exciting year in public transport.

As for the AGM… there were no other suckers nominations for President, so it looks like it’s me for another year!

And a special thanks to Vaughan Williams, who is retiring from the Committee after some twelve years hard labour, and was awarded Life Membership in recognition of this.