Hospital precinct: still no accessible tram services

Melbourne’s expanding fleet of low-floor trams are being allocated to tram routes that lack wheelchair-accessible stops, while accessible tram stops are being built on routes that have no low-floor trams.

— The Age: New accessible tram stops not on the level for those most in need in Melbourne

Let me present a prime example.

Hospital precinct: RWH and RMH

This is Melbourne’s hospital precinct in Carlton/Parkville. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital, and the Melbourne Private Hospital are all in close proximity. The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is currently under construction. The Royal Children’s Hospital is just up the road in Flemington Parade. Various research and specialist facilities are also nearby.

As in any busy precinct, where lots of people converge, parking is at a premium. Public transport access is important, and eventually (2026) it’s planned the metro rail tunnel will serve it.

But for now, it’s trams and buses:
PTV map of hospital precinct. (Pointer to RMH is incorrect.)
(Note: PTV appears to have placed the RMH in the wrong place.)

At present, it’s served from the west (Footscray and North Melbourne) by bus routes 401 and 402. Bus 546 from the east (Heidelberg and Clifton Hill) also goes past, though only on weekdays. All these bus services are scheduled to be served by accessible buses.

From the north and south are trams — the 19 along Royal Parade, and the 55 and 59 along Flemington Parade.

Here’s the brilliant bit:

Royal Parade (route 19) is served by low-floor trams, but has no platform stops…
Royal Parade, hospital precinct tram stop

…Flemington Road (routes 55 and 59) has platform stops, but no low-floor trams.
Tram 59 in Flemington Parade
Platform tram stop, but step access to tram

That’s correct — in the hospital precinct, there are accessible trams without accessible stops, and accessible stops without accessible trams.

The overall result is no accessible tram services, making prams difficult and wheelchairs impossible.

It’s almost as if they’ve been aiming at reaching targets for trams, and targets for tram stops, and not giving much consideration to where the two intersect… let alone the importance of accessible services for specific locations.

The closest place where accessible trams meet accessible stops is at Haymarket, at the northern end of Elizabeth Street. To the RMH or RWH this is about 400 metres, or a 6 minute walk for an able-bodied person (crossing numerous at traffic lights along the way). But for somebody with limited mobility, this would be a somewhat arduous task.

The rail tunnel is at least a decade away from completion, but even if it were opening tomorrow, obviously work should continue to make more of the tram and bus systems accessible.

It’s not known when low-floor trams will arrive on routes 55 and 59 — no doubt it relies on depot and power upgrades to accommodate the new trams, which are generally longer and use more power than the older trams — so a solution for the Royal Children’s Hospital may be some time away.

But it should be a no-brainer that accessible tram stops on route 19 along Royal Parade are needed — at the very least at the corner of Grattan Street to serve the other hospitals.

Update: the Yarra Trams proposal to connect routes 8 and 55 would bring low-floor trams onto Flemington Road. It’s unclear when this will happen – and bear in mind William Street (where route 55 runs) currently has no accessible tram stops in the CBD.

The lump

I’ve got a small lump on my thigh. Not painful at all. Probably harmless, the GP said, but he wrote me a referral to get it removed.

He asked if I private health insurance. Nope. I gave it up several years ago. It cost me thousands each year (and increasing) and rarely paid out anything at all.

He gave me a little lecture, along the lines of “You insure your house, your car… why not your health?”

I had a previous lump in my chest removed at Cabrini, when I did have insurance. It was very good — they examined it and took it out on the spot.

How much would that cost if I paid it myself? Heaps, the GP said, perhaps $1500 or more. Yikes. Public would be free, but he said getting it done would take ages in the queue. Ah well.

Monash Medical Centre, Moorabbin

The referral went off, and a letter arrived — appointment at Monash Medical Centre Moorabbin, which isn’t in Moorabbin, nor in City of Monash, but is a medical centre.

The wait had only been a couple of weeks. I went in thinking hey, they might chop it out same day. Take that, private insurance! BEHOLD, THE POWER OF UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE!

The specialist took a look, agreed it was probably harmless (probably a lump of skin growth, rather than the fatty blob the last one was) and said I’d go on a waiting list to get it out.

The waiting list would take a year to get through.

A year.

Whatdaya know, my GP knew what he was talking about.

Knowing that many specialists do both public and private work, I asked the specialist how long it’d take and roughly how much it’d cost if I paid myself to have it done privately. ‘Cos I’m in no particular rush, but it’d be nice to get it done and dusted. And this is a variation on self-insuring… not giving the insurance companies their profits, but being willing to spend money on your health where it’s beneficial. At this stage in my life, I’m well ahead doing that.

He said it’d cost $150-200, in about 4 weeks.

Wow, that’s great, I’ll be in that. Sold!

Water taps

I’ve seen these water taps in hospitals and airports.

Water tap

It’s great that they’re provided, but the problem with them is you basically have to stick your head into the wall to get a drink out of them. So if you’re not very coordinated, you’ll probably bump it, as the space isn’t overly generous.

Surely they could provide just a little bit of space outwards — or upwards — to make it easier to use?