Making the ideal commute

The fuss over Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky wanting to deflect complaints elsewhere should be a reminder of the big problems on the public transport network — which some would argue those in power are trying to avoid hearing about.

As it happens my commute home that night was a dream. From work to the front door in 39 minutes, aided by trains that were on time to the minute, they were inadvertently scheduled in such a way that allowed me to avoid going around the loop, I scheduled my trip right on time, and my fast walking pace. For me, that has to be some kind of rush hour speed record.

Why isn’t it always like this?

Because the trains often don’t run on time — to the extent that they’ve failed to meet their targets for the last three consecutive months.

Because almost all PT services run too infrequently. It’s not like some cities where you can enter a station platform without checking a timetable, and expect to be on a train and on your way within a few minutes, at any time of day.

Because so many places (even in a big, reasonably densely-populated city like Melbourne) simply don’t have PT services that are anywhere close to time-competitive with driving. (Don’t for one minute think I didn’t specifically plan to live walking distance from a railway station.)

Because many suburbs are designed to be unfriendly to pedestrians, having roads which make pedestrians wait inordinate amounts of time to cross.

Fix some of these things, and the dominance of the motor car, and all the nasties that come with it (pollution, emissions, obesity, road toll, dependence on foreign oil) will start to wane.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Making the ideal commute”

So long as Governments are blinded to the reality of the future (re car industry, oil, environment) by their obsession with growth, this is going to get worse before it gets better. If it gets better.

I agree (about the untimely PT services), there is nothing worse than descending the stairs at parliament station only to glance at the clocks and see a 17min wait for a Broadmeadows train…

The last time that happened I cracked it and walked home. To moonee ponds.

My usual train from Mitcham to Lilydale was ‘delayed’ by about 15 minutes last Thursday and while it may have been an unavoidable mechanical problem, the difference between our train system and better systems in, say, London, quickly became apparent. There was no explanation of the delay – only an automated announcement that the train was delayed and would arrive in 15 minutes.

In London, there would have been an announcement telling us why there was a delay (driver missing, track fire, person under a train, signal fault, etc) and the announcement would have been structured in such a way as to convey genuine regret on behalf of the train company. Why can’t we at least have that?

These announcements were made at Ringwood. None were made at Mitcham. I only heard them because I happened to catch a train to Ringwood and disembark to wait for a Lilydale train. And why did that train stop at Ringwood anyway? Why not put it back into service to empty the platform and get some passengers on their way to Lilydale? Instead it was parked.

There seems to be a focus on having the trains in the right place at certain times, but not on moving the passengers in reasonable times. My usual 55 minute trip from Vermont South to Yarra Glen became an hour and 10 minutes and left me rushing for the rest of the evening.

My pet hate is roundabouts that have fences on the corners to remove a pedestrian’s right of way, by pushing them back from the intersection proper where cars turning _off_ the circle must give way.

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