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.

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.

14 replies on “Crosstown traffic / Bacchus Marsh stopover”

On a weekend there is a zero minute connection between inbound Sunbury line and outbound Belgrave line trains as they run through the City Loop – I’ve tried to run across the platform at Melbourne Central to make it, but only succeed part of the time.

If the Sunbury line was upgraded to a 10 minute or better service, like the Lilydale / Belgrave lines gets, then these shenanigans wouldn’t be required.

I guess you can always blame problems with PT for being late for a PTUA meeting. That’s the point of the PTUA !

I reckon there’s scope for a hard-core PT-user app that tells travellers how to do what you did on that Footscray-Bentleigh trip. I find it hard to remember what my options might be, and I never know which lines to check in a situation like that.

I would love a hard core PT users app! I too look for the tricky connections that sometimes work and sometimes don’t.

I have noticed another VLine anomaly. I regularly travel from Melbourne suburbs to Geelong and back in a day. So that’s tap on a tram, tap on at Spencer St (it will always be Spencer St), tap off at Geelong; then tap on at Geelong, tap off at Spencer St, tap on tram. If my Myki balance is running low, I have often experienced the aggravation of getting on that final tram and having my Myki declined because of a negative balance. It would be nice if it stopped deducting once it got to the daily fare for a Geelong round trip (and yes, I know I should keep my Myki topped up better)

Getting around New York and London, more often than not you don’t use a timetable. Services are frequent enough that you just show up, figure the connections and go.

I have a habit of behaving that way here too simply because of historic habit. I know that I can just show up at Southern Cross and be in David Jones on Bourke St via train in about half the time it takes to tram there. But this only works because services around the city loop are frequent enough.

Where it fails is the lack of reverse city loop services. with more services operating at 10 minute frequencies you can start thinking quite laterally – which is how I’d travel around New York – Out to Queens in order to get the right across town connection to save time in the long run. In this case it might be 5 minutes to North Melbourne and 5 minutes to Southern Cross in order to save on 15-20 minutes tram or walk.

Thankfully Melbourne Metro will really start to boost this type of travel and make train journeys more about muscle memory and less about the mad rush to make your train connection that won’t align again for 45 minutes.

Well, yes, there may be scope for a “hard core PT users app”. But in the meantime, maybe some simplification of services (like in London)? The Loop is the main issue: will my train go through it? This depends on whether today is a weekday, and is it morning or afternoon? Oh, yes, things are different at weekends! And if I want to travel to (say) Bentleigh in the pm peak, I can get a train direct from Parliament, but if I want to go to Frankston, I have to change.
Sure, the information is all on display as you enter the station, but the displays are complex and not intuitive for occasional users (and IIRC don’t deal with the Frankston vs Bentleigh issue).
Yes, the system “works” for regular users and I accept that they are the probably in the majority, but if we really want to emulate London or Paris, there’s more to consider than just frequency of services.

A couple years ago, I did a V/Line trip to the four Zone 2 boundaries past Southern Cross, with the aim of completing it as quickly as the timetables/real world conditions would allow. I left Southern Cross at 6:04am, travelled to Riddells Creek, Wandong, Bacchus Marsh and Lara and got back to Southern Cross at 1:26pm. The two issues I could’ve had which would’ve thrown the whole thing out of whack were:
-Returning from Riddells Creek to Southern Cross, the train took about 10 minutes longer than timetabled to crawl into Southern Cross despite still being on time from about Sunshine, but luckily I’d allowed a 20 minute gap.
-Wandong to Lara meant a change at North Melbourne to get to Footscray. About a 15 minute gap to do a 5 minute metro trip, with trains departing every 10 minutes. However, one train was due to leave as I arrived at North Melbourne, and the other was due to arrive at Footscray as the V/Line arrived. I only just made the latter, no thanks to Footscray’s sprawling design with separate paid areas.

My favourite ‘hack’ is, on a weeknight, catching a xx04/34 Upfield to Parliament then interchanging across platform to intercept the Glen Waverley train which departed Flinders St 5 minutes earlier. (You can also catch a xx33 Sandringham train and change at Richmond, but this only works every hour due to Sandringham’s 20 minute frequency).

I was charged $30.24 for the trip (I don’t have a pass) for offpeak travel. It’s not a lot when you consider the distance I suppose. And I arrived hours early!

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for a hardcore PT users app … or at the very least, enhancements to current apps to constantly check realtime info and optimise a trip as you go, rather than assuming the original trip plan is working.

This is particularly relevant where you might be depending on an infrequent bus connection, and a delay means you’ll miss it, and another route might be quicker.

You touched on at Bacchus Marsh Station 19.04 as its after 6pm your 2 hour ticket is valid until 3am the next day for Zones 2-8.(Not product duration) If you did the trip as you planned on the 17.10 Southern Cross to Ballarat i would expected you to have been charged either $17.30 ($21.60 – $4.30) or maybe $10.82 ( $15.12 – $4.30 Off peak fare) I dont know when you have a Zone 1/2 pass if that effects the off peak/peak fares when you extend a V/Line journey out of the metro area during peak time. Then you would have been charged on return a additional $8.12 return off peak fare. Total $25.42 ($18.94 if your fare was treated as off peak). Not sure if even tho the conductor checked your ticket if you would get a default fare if you didnt touch off as you would have a Zone 1-8 ticket valid to 3am the next morning but its properly best to touch off to be sure you wont get a peak fare. Having a stop over on V/Line journeys can significantly reduce your fare you just need to work out which station to stop over at.

Pretty amazing that you could save $21.40 on a return trip to Ballarat by breaking the trip at Bacchus Marsh as you did, Daniel. Three reasons why that happened – you didn’t pay extra to travel through Zone 2, you got the off-peak discount, and touching on after 6pm covered the return trip.

My calculations are that you would’ve paid $28.12 (over and above your Myki pass) for the direct return trip – $17.30 (peak 1-8 less 1-2) and then $10.82 (off-peak 1-8 less 1-2).

I think you could’ve saved even more by stopping at Melton (which wouldn’t have helped you with your original plan, seeing as the following Ballarat train didn’t stop there). To Melton would be covered by your Myki pass. Melton to Ballarat would be $8.12 (zone 2-8), but you already have a zone 2 product (your pass), so take off $2.94 – meaning a charge of $5.18. And that should’ve got you home as well, assuming touch on after 6pm.

In a similar way as that, I can get away with only paying $1.36 for zone 1 travel. Travel from Sunshine to Geelong (zones 2-4, $3.50), then return Geelong to Tarneit (zones 2-4, $3.50 again – and the daily 2-4 cap). Then a later trip from Williams Landing to Footscray (zones 1-2, $4.30 – but I already have a product covering zone 2, so take off $2.94). Only works for a continuous journey from zone 2 to zone 1 – if I got on at a zone 1/2 overlap (e.g. Sunshine) I would be charged for zone 1 ($4.30) but wouldn’t have any offset. Go figure! I’m trying to work out if I can take advantage of that on the trip home from Geelong to West Footscray – but I’d have to backtrack to Ginifer after getting off the V/Line!

Myki needs to treat each zone separately as as far as working out fares and caps go – then these V/Line anomalies would go.

The other one that is a bit annoying is that the Early Bird doesn’t contribute to the daily cap as far as I can tell.

There is TransIt, but it seems to fall back on timetable data often enough to be useless. I’ve also building my own app, but I have again had trouble with tje PTV data feeds. Has anyone here had better luck accessing the PTV API?

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