Walking in suburbia

On Monday I had an errands at Pinewood.

Pinewood? Yes, the minor shopping centre somewhere on Blackburn Road between Clayton and Mount Waverley.

I caught the bus up there — the 703 runs from near home in Bentleigh, via Monash Uni, then up Blackburn Road. Unsurprisingly perhaps, we had to wait at the Clayton level crossing for a train… thankfully only one train; it’s common for long delays here, though this was after peak hour.
Bus stuck at Clayton crossing

After my errand, I decided to walk back part of the way. It was only about 3km to Monash Uni, and the weather was cool and dry — perfect for walking. Good to try and get to my daily 12,000 step goal.

As with my travels during holidays and short breaks, I snapped a few photos, and tweeted a bit as I went. Always an opportunity to observe and learn. Later on I was asked if I’d be blogging it, so here goes.

There was a PTV outage of realtime bus info that day. It seemed to affect the apps, the Next Stop announcements and displays inside the bus, as well as real-time Smartbus signage. Apparently it took until sometime on Tuesday to get it resolved.
Smartbus sign partially working

For a short time in the 90s I recall working in this office block. My view is it’s not a beautiful location, surrounded by car parks. The problem with suburban office blocks is not just that the PT is often woeful (or certainly inferior) but there’s few options within walking distance to eat lunch or go shopping at lunchtime. No doubt some people like that it’s a drive-able commute, but I definitely prefer working in the CBD.
Office park

Slip lane for vehicles exiting the Monash Freeway turning northbound onto Blackburn Road. Most of slip lanes have zebra crossings. Not this one. It’s actually the law that vehicles must give way to pedestrians here, but as a pedestrian, I’d never assume that motorists actually know this.
Slip lane, Blackburn Road and Monash Freeway

Pedestrian signal button at the same location. Too bad if you’re mobility-impaired and can’t navigate off the path to press it — or if there’s a huge muddy puddle in the way.
Traffic light

Blackburn and Ferntree Gully Road intersection. Lots and lots of traffic lanes. You get a zebra crossing to get over the service road, and another to get across the slip lane. Then you have to wait for the other six lanes of traffic.
Blackburn and Ferntree Gully Roads

Ferntree Gully Road outside the Monash waste transfer station. Not a friendly pedestrian environment. You’re expected to veer left then right to cross… the visible desire line looks like many people don’t.
Pedestrian crossing on Ferntree Gully Road

I’ve often wondered what the point of these narrow bus bays is. It’s awkward for the bus to pull in, and it still blocks the traffic lane. Why bother?
Bus stop, Ferntree Gully Road

Howleys Road. There are often complaints that bus shelters don’t provide proper weather protection. Not these! Only one problem — no bus route serves this road. Obviously it did once, but now the shelters sit idle. Too much to ask for them to be relocated? (The bus stop signs have been removed, but there are still designated 24/7 bus zones.)
Bus shelters, Howley Road

The northern entrance into Monash Uni Clayton campus isn’t beautiful, and the giant roundabout is difficult to navigate as a pedestrian. It’s called “Scenic Boulevard”… perhaps that only applies if you’re in a car. To be fair, it’s probably got little potential as a principal route for pedestrians.
Monash Uni, pedestrian entrance from the north

As you go further through campus, the pedestrian environment improves, particularly the paths from the student accommodation to the main part of campus. This is a curious design though. The busiest path to the right misses the zebra crossing by a few metres.
Monash University

Happily, the main part of campus has mostly very wide pedestrian spaces. Being off-semester, it wasn’t too busy, but I bet it gets very busy when all the students are around. (See also: Monash University master plan)
Pathways at Monash University

The new Monash University bus interchange is under construction. Hopefully it will provide better cover. So much for the bus loop we all know and love.
New bus interchange under construction, Monash University

Waiting for the 601 shuttle to Huntingdale station. The bus is so frequent that it made me wonder if anybody reads these timetables. It might be more useful to just have a frequency guide. Locals say it doesn’t really stick to time anyway — after all, for a service like this, maintaining frequency is more important than specific times.
601 timetable

Being outside semester, those times didn’t even apply. A reduced service runs: every 12 minutes… to meet a train running most of the day every 10 minutes. Yeah.

I was taking a phone call at the time (ironically from a public transport bureaucrat) so I didn’t get a photo, but the bus was pretty busy, with most seats filled. On campus I’d run into a contact and his colleagues, and one of them told me the 601 bus suffers greatly from overcrowding in first semester, when all the students come back. Monash campus numbers are increasing… sounds like the bus needs a boost too.

Rain the previous day had put parts of Huntingdale station car park under water, but it didn’t seem to bother some people.
Huntingdale station car park under water

Wouldn’t you think that at a busy train/bus interchange like Huntingdale, the platforms would have real-time information? Nope. (There is a Smartbus/train Passenger Information Display on the street, but it wasn’t working. Unclear if this was temporary due to the outage that day, or long-term like the Bentleigh PIDs.)
Huntingdale station

After all that walking (and more later), I didn’t quite reach my 12,000 step goal that day — only 11,171 according to my phone. Oh well, not for lack of trying.

The 601 is the most important train-bus connection at Huntingdale. Why is it missing from the signs?

The 601 Monash University express shuttle service runs every four minutes during semester time weekdays. It provides a high-frequency, rapid connection from the station to the university campus.

Thanks to good publicity from the University, it has a high level of awareness among students and staff, and is used for tens of thousands of trips each week — about 4800 each weekday according to a recent survey.

It was originally trialled in 2011 following years of complaints, and given permanent funding in 2012, and has quickly become the most important train-to-bus connection at Huntingdale Station, perhaps the most important in the state.

So, wouldn’t you think they’d bother to put it on the signage leading out of the station?

Huntingdale station: sign to buses

How do they miss this stuff?

(If you’re wondering, it’s not because the 601 doesn’t run every day. The 704 is also a weekday-only route, with shorter operating hours than the 601.)

Hopefully people can find the 601 to Monash via the sign for the 630. They might get caught out if they go to the separate 900 stop, which runs less frequently on weekdays, but does run 7 days-a-week. The fact that it’s a separate stop to the 630 is likely to be a problem on weekends, when people end up having to guess which one will arrive first.

Not everything at Huntingdale is messed up. There are plenty of Myki readers to try and help cope with large numbers of students arriving heading to campus in the morning:

Myki readers, Huntingdale station

And it’s rather good to see the Parkiteer bike cage is well-used, even on a weekend:


  • Update: Waverley Leader 3/2/2014: Huntingdale bus Link to Monash University let down by poor signage. PTV spokeswoman Andrea Duckworth said the sign would soon be amended but did not say when.
  • Update 15/2/2014: After I posted this blog post, I used the PTV web site to provide feedback. Yesterday they responded:
    I forwarded your feedback on to our Signage area and have been advised that this matter has been addressed.
  • Update 20/2/2014: Sure enough, the sign has been altered — see below — though there’s little else in the way of directional signage to help you find the stop.

Huntingdale station: Signs to the buses

Flashback to 1993

My old uni buddy Brian recently emailed through a copy of a photo from graduation day at Monash Uni, from 1993.

Brian and Daniel on graduation day, 1993

It was at the main Clayton campus, which we rarely actually went to in our student days, though I do recall one memorable session in the campus radio station recording a demo tape of us being comedy DJs with Nick Marvin (then student newspaper editor, now CEO of the Perth Wildcats NBL team) which, to my knowledge, never got broadcast.

Brian and I started uni in 1989. Our degree — Bachelor of Computing (Information Systems) — at Caulfield campus was meant to be three years, but Brian did Honours, and I… uhh… well, I failed a core subject in second year, and thus was a year late finishing. But I got to do some extra electives as a result which taught me some really good stuff I’ve since used in my IT career.

So we both finished in 1992, and by the time graduation day rolled around, we were colleagues, fresh-faced graduates in a small team somewhere inside the machine of corporate Australia, and travelled down to Clayton for the day to put on the gowns and silly hats and get our degrees.

Being the serious young men that we were, in the learned grounds of the campus, we took a few minutes to thoughtfully ponder what the future might hold.

The less serious photo from graduation day

(Thanks to Rae for digging out an old pic and inspiring this post.)

Monash transport FAIL

Monash students going back decades will tell you of the poor connection from Huntingdale Station (the closest for people coming from the city direction) to the Clayton campus. Even after they added an extra bus route in 2006, most connections aren’t timed well outside peak hours, and during peak hours you get delays from long queues and packed buses. This year it’s been so bad the University themselves have funded shuttle buses.

Queue at Huntingdale Station for bus 630 to Monash Uni

It’s made worse by the fact that the two bus routes have their stops to campus at different locations, around the corner from each other, so you get the classic multiple queue conundrum for passengers arriving off the train, and sometimes apparently the queues (which head in opposite directions) even cross each other.

(Other buses from Oakleigh station to campus were, until recently, only able to be used by paying an extra zone 2 fare. This has been fixed, but it’s not clear if anybody’s bothered to tell the local users about it.)

The Clayton campus, like VFL/AFL park, was built there with the idea that a rail connection would be provided along Wellington Road, which was purposefully provided with a nice wide median strip to cope. But like the Eastern Freeway (where the median and overhead bridges were specially designed) it never happened.

What apparently usually happens is that by about mid-year, enough students have given up and bought cars and joined the traffic that the problem dies down for a while, apparently giving the Department of Transport an excuse not to do anything about it.

So in summary you have a bunch of people who want to use PT, but that option is made so hard that they give up and drive instead. More cost to them, more traffic on the roads, more congestion, more pollution. Sustainable transport FAIL.

Up and down like a yoyo

Back in uni, we had a Unix server which (unlike the faculty machines) was available for use by any student. Its name was yoyo, and it was invaluable back when internet access was hard to come by, and official university access was only granted to students studying IT subjects.

Why “yoyo”? There was a hope that it wouldn’t be up and down like a yoyo.

Looks like it’s still around: yoyo.cc.monash.edu.au

Unfortunately, my web hosting has been up and down like a yoyo for the last 30 hours or so. Apparently this was due to a DDOS attack on the web host. The ISP moved accounts over to another host, but delays in the DNS propagation meant for a while some people would see an image of a Lamborghini Wank-5000 (or something) that the server was named after. Most inappropriate, at least for me. They’ve now changed this.

Anyway, this is why my various web sites have been very unreliable for the last day or so. Hopefully things have settled down now.

Update Wednesday night: Turns out this was part of a religious war, a distributed denial-of-service attack on the Athiest Foundation of Australia, which was hosted on the same server, run by Netlogistics.

Up until now, Netlogistics have been pretty good, and the price is good for an Australian-based host. As far as I can tell, NetLogistics did reasonably well with the DDOS attack, with a couple of caveats: the information provided was minimal (I never saw anything on their Network Status page when I looked, though they were quick to reply to enquiries, and their discussion forum was kept up-to-date) and that car image instead of a proper outage message made it looked like the site had been hacked.