The man who knew too much

Perhaps sometimes it’s a disadvantage knowing too much about all the transport options. When mild interruptions occur, it might make one more inclined to take the alternatives, even when ultimately it doesn’t really save any time.

Take, for example, Tuesday morning’s commute.

It started with two SMSs. The 8:36 and the 8:52 from Glenhuntly to the city, both cancelled. Two in a row means the following couple, the 9:01 and 9:13, would be crowded. (In theory they might stop some expresses to fill the gaps, but this doesn’t always happen).

So I decided after the school run to drive to Carnegie instead. Good ol’ dependable Dandenong line (!).

8:45am. Roadworks behind the library, so had to go a slightly different way, and I noticed where I sometimes used to park is now 2 hour parking, so I ended up a bit further from the station than planned. But no bother.

Walk to the station and… the host lady is saying there’s a problem. A car collided with a train on the crossing at Murrumbeena. And that was compounding an earlier delay with a sick passenger. “It’ll be at least half an hour. I’m really sorry”, she said. And while once a disgruntled passenger might have shot the messenger and cursed her and the rest of Connex and the powers that be, instead I heard one tell her “it’s okay, it’s not your fault.” Maybe instead they were silently cursing the car driver involved.

I didn’t feel like traipsing back to my car, so I walked to the nearby 900 bus stop, to catch it to Caulfield.

8:52am. My eyes narrowed as I got to the stop. The automated Smartbus sign claimed that the 8:57 and the 9:12 buses were both expected in 30 minutes. These signs aren’t known for their accuracy, but given the number of people already waiting, I pondered for a minute what I should do next. After a minute or two the sign was still claiming 30 minutes.

I decided to keep walking. It’s not that far to Caulfield anyway, and I was betting that because of the train disruptions, causing localised traffic problems around crossings, as well as heavy passenger loads, the buses might indeed be 30 minutes away, and might be so crowded when they arrived that nobody could board.

Someday someone in authority will dictate that all urban roads need to have proper footpaths. Until then, there are spots like on Dandenong Road between Carnegie and Caulfield where it’s just grass on one side. And they call this the 21st century. But no matter — what was more of a concern was that as I walked, I began to see city-bound trains passing me. D’oh! I should have waited at Carnegie.

9:05am. It took less than 15 minutes to get to Caulfield. Up on platform 3, a stopper was arriving. Packed. I could see the sign on platform 1, claiming an express was two minutes away, so I jogged down the ramp to switch platforms. And because the day had been going so well, you can guess what happened next, right? Yep. Train Controller Murphy switched the express from platform 1 to platform 3. Seriously, this kind of stuff is like nothing else for getting people onto the roads.

A bunch of us jogged back to platform 3, and got onto the train, which was, at least, express, overtaking the earlier packed stopper along the way.

From there it was smooth sailing. I decided not to change onto a Flinders St direct train — on days like this it’s better to stick with the one you’re on, which is confirmed to be actually getting somewhere. Was at Parliament by about 9:30, just a walk down the hill to work.

I can’t help thinking it would have all been easier if I’d just done the usual plan and gone to my usual station in the first place. But hey, at least I got some extra exercise.

And remember: we’ve only still got level crossings like the Murrumbeena because the programme to get rid of them all was cancelled in the 70s to pay for freeways instead.

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 “The man who knew too much”

After a very happy 14 months down the non-parisian end of Collins and heading home from Southern Cross, I’m now back working near Parliament.

No more seat on the way home!! When you live 30 or more kms out of the city, that does suck a bit. Plus sometimes it’s two or three trains before I even try to squeeze on.

I’m actually debating whether its worth walking from Lonsdale to Latrobe, catching a tram to Flagstaff and getting on the train there!

Shell, it’s probably quicker to go to Parliament Stn and get a Northern loop train to Flagstaff, then change back to your line.

I heard that problem at Murrumbeena was further compounded by sick passengers at Carnegie and either Oakleigh or Clayton.

My daughter rang me from Hughesdale that morning and asked me to get her to school to ensure she got there at a reasonable time. It made for an interesting morning.

Pity they cancelled the overpass programme. It makes real sense for those three stations.

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