End of year blog clearout

It’s the end of the year, so I’m going to clear out some blog drafts, snippets of writing, going back a bit over a year.

The Great Australian Transport Dream

If the Great Australian Dream is home ownership, preferably a quarter-acre block with a huge backyard, then the Great Australian Transport Dream might be free-flowing traffic everywhere you go, and a car spot right out the front of wherever you’re visiting.

Both dreams are dying, because they depend on space which is no longer available as our cities continue to grow.

In fact arguably if you want either or both of these, you need to move to the country, to a town or smaller city.

And yet our politicians still believe the latter is achievable.

Australia and the USA are perhaps the only places around the world where the illusion of sufficient road capacity for free-flowing traffic still persists. Perhaps the enticing hints of it that you see at night or early morning are what provides the illusion that it might still be achievable. It’s not.

Most people prefer to drive? Well of course they do!

“But people prefer to drive!”

Well of course they do.

Investment since 1930 has been heavily skewed towards roads. Just look at how many railway stations opened between 1930 and 2010.

Most services are infrequent. Even on the train network, many lines run only every 20 to 40 minutes on Sundays, for instance.

Buses are even worse. Mostly hourly on weekends, and only every half-hour on weekdays – even in peak.

With so few frequent services, they should be co-ordinating timetables so things connect. But they’re mostly not, or at least, progress is slow. (And even if the times line up, whether connections wait if delays occur is unclear. Even Metro’s own shuttle services to Alamein and Cranbourne won’t usually wait for late connections… to do so might caught the delays to cascade in such a way that the service won’t recover.)

In fact, have you noticed how the train network (including V/Line) is moving towards a 10/20/40 minute frequency, but most buses are every 30/60 minutes? No wonder the timetables aren’t synched!

We’ve got the bones of a good network. The infrastructure isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty of capacity outside peak times: track capacity, fleet, bus bays/stops/zones.

August 2018 timetable changes

The opening of the rail extension to Mernda triggered a range of timetable changes on trains and buses around Melbourne.

This follows on from train timetable changes last year on the Craigieburn and Sunbury lines, and tram timetable changes earlier this year.

PTV has a page summarising the changes which is worth a look.

Dandenong line evenings

The main change was extra evening services. Unfortunately this State government press release from 4/6/2018 over-reached:

Dandenong Corridor passengers will benefit from up to 80 new and extended services each week and a longer turn-up-and-go service frequency in the evenings, meaning trains every 10 minutes until 10pm on weeknights.

Most people would take that to mean that the trains are every 10 minutes until 10pm from the city. In fact it’s until 9:33pm, then drop to every 20 minutes until about 10:30pm, then every half-hour.

Undeniably it’s progress — previously the 10 minute service finished at 8:22pm. But it’s not quite what was implied.

Newport lines

An extension of frequent services between the city and Newport better matches the promise:

Thirty-five new weekday services will also be added on the Werribee Line, and passengers at South Kensington, Seddon, Yarraville and Spotswood can catch a turn up and go service until 8.20pm on weekdays.

Bus connections

The principle of changing bus timetables when train timetables change is good one. In some areas, work has been done to align connections. This helps explain why some bus routes run every 20 or 40 minutes, in areas with trains every 20 minutes.

PTVFrom Sunday 26 August, a number of bus timetables will change to keep them connected with new train timetables on the Werribee, Hurstbridge, Cranbourne, Pakenham and South Morang/Mernda lines.

I noticed one of the routes that’s changing is local to me, the 701. So I took a look at the new timetable.

Saturday night 701 buses depart Oakleigh: 7:05, 8:11, 9:11. This appears to align with trains arriving 6:56, 8:06, 9:06.

Sun night 7:16, 8:16, 9:16, trains arrive 7:06, 8:06, 9:06. Seems okay (though connections at the other end of the route at Bentleigh are less good).

The great Bentleigh crime wave

I started writing this during the state election campaign. The Coalition campaigned strongly on crime, and even claimed Labor had cut police numbers in some areas, including Glen Eira. Labor claimed the opposite.

Is there actually a crime wave? Are home invasions up?

The Crime Statistics Agency says that overall crime was falling from 2008-2011, then headed upwards, peaking in 2016, but it’s dropped again in 2017 — hopefully the start of an ongoing trend.

But Residential Aggravated Burglary is way up — almost doubling from 2008 to 2017. Local area figures for Glen Eira show this trend as well.

Victoria - crime statistics 2008-2017

So there is some truth that some types of crime are increasing, while the overall crime rate seems to be dropping.

The problem with the stats vs the rhetoric is it’s often a bit hard to pin something like this directly onto either side of politics. And not very helpful of course.

Bear in mind that the rate of recorded criminal incidents could go up as a result of better reporting. For instance we know that recorded offences rose over the period that Protective Service Officers were deployed onto railway stations. I’m not sure that would be the case for aggravated burglary though.

What about police numbers? Are they going up, or being cut? The claims above can’t both be right.

Victoria Police employee numbers for June 2018 show a total of 14,476 Police Officers (Full-Time Equivalents) — this excludes 1,365 PSOs. In Glen Eira there are 93 police plus 8 public servants = 101 total.

The December 2014 figures showed a total of 13,135 Police Officers. In Glen Eira: 98 total (no breakdown). So to me, it looks like both are up, though not by very much in Glen Eira. And it doesn’t seem unreasonable to deploy most new officers to other, growing suburbs.

In my experience, politicians don’t usually lie. But they often do selectively cherry-pick statistics, and bend the truth. Usually somewhere in the stats, there’s some basis, however tenuous, for a claim.

Is fear-mongering on crime even a good political strategy in a relatively safe area?

It might work in the areas that actually have big issues with crime, but I know some locals in my area who are entirely unconvinced by this.

I think my hunch proved right. The Vic Coalition’s 2018 election strategy was a flop.

NE Link and the bus way

North East Link’s latest costing is now an eye-watering $16 billion.

And a bus way thrown in, to provide fully-segregated bus lanes along the Eastern Freeway. This would bring some benefits… but… any busway on the Eastern Fwy:

  • puts at risk future rail
  • could be done without spending $16b on NELink
  • doesn’t address where most Doncaster bus delays occur – between Clifton Hill and the City

Airport rail link

November 2017: Airport rail plan starting to move.

It’ll still run via Sunshine/Albion, but importantly there’s been a change of strategy: the latest thinking is making it part of a wider network upgrade that includes more separation of regional and suburban lines — the latter in the west is facing huge patronage growth due to urban development.

And the idea is that the airport service won’t be a dedicated line with no other uses. This is good — as I noted when visiting London recently, specialised point-to-point express trains tend to be expensive and not used by many people.

Mind you, have you noticed how both big announcements by politicians about airport rail recently are both completely different from PTV’s “long-term” Network Development Plan?

  • PTV NDP (2012): branch at Albion from the Sunbury (to Cranbourne/Pakenham via tunnel) line
  • The Coalition’s plan before the 2014 election: branch at Albion from the Sunbury (to Cranbourne/Pakenham via Flinders Street viaduct 
  • Labor’s plan now – apparently some kind of fast rail line via Albion, possibly as part of an outer-suburban connection to Wallan and Clarkefield, alongside upgrades to services to separate Melton and Wyndham Vale services from V/Line trains to Geelong and Ballarat

The details are very vague at the moment. It’ll be good to see this plan fleshed out a bit.

“The CBD is at a standstill”

When you hear traffic/media reports that the CBD is at a standstill…

The reality is that those in the traffic are at a standstill. Sure, it’s very visible. But if handled well, it doesn’t actually affect the majority of people, because most people don’t drive into the CBD.

Pedestrians can face congestion, but can mostly keep going – if they’re able to walk around the illegally stopped cars on the crossings.

Trams often have some problems while diversions were worked out. Some bus routes can be affected by the rapid spread of car congestion, though some that are able to use tram lanes (such as across Queensbridge) can keep moving.

Trains keep running. In one case I’ve seen reports of cross-CBD car trips taking up to an hour. That’s double the time it takes me by train from Flagstaff to Bentleigh (which of course includes crossing most of the CBD, underground).

Station incident, November 2017

You may have seen this footage:

One report said the police was not naming the location, but… well, it’s very clearly Windsor.

After the initial reports from channel 7, picked it up.

Similar stories appeared in the Irish Independent and the London Evening Standard.

I will just note that some of the reporting got a bit muddled.

Australia has seen many incidents similar to this in recent times and nobody yet has died as a result, according to Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen.

“Platform screen doors are difficult to fit retrospectively, which is why they are being fitted on new lines like the Melbourne Metro for example, but not on existing stations,” he told Channel 7.

What I actually said was that there had been incidents of prams falling onto tracks, but no deaths. I’m not actually sure if there have been fatalities due to incidents like this one.

Oh, and all those comments were made to, not Channel 7.

Ads on public transport

How much money is handed over to provide ads on public transport vehicles and shelters? Quite a bit, though most pricing is not readily available in public.

Here’s on deal from 2017 – it seems to refer to a bus stop shelter ad: $168/week +GST (minimum 34 weeks) – that’s about $9500 per year.

Another price I found a while ago was ads on the back of a bus: $521 per week.

No wonder operators love that supremely annoying all-over-advertising. It must bring in a fortune.

Happy new year everyone!

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.

6 replies on “End of year blog clearout”

Re: shuttles
Sometimes I’ll be on the 64 tram outbound at night and there’ll still be a few dozen people on board by the time it gets to Wattletree Rd, but it’s not unusual for me to be the only person to interchange for the 5 shuttle. Maybe people look at Google which doesn’t take into account the ‘guaranteed’ connection and assumes a 20 minute wait. At least the PTV journey planner has the correct timings.

Re: timetable changes
Communication remains awful in some areas for modified timetables. People on Twitter have been prompting Metro to upload the PDFs for today’s Frankston works for weeks, but they only got around to doing it yesterday.

Looking at the timetable on the PTV app/website for Glen Waverley (+ other lines?) today and beyond, it appears there’s a modified (Summer?) timetable in place, but there’s no mention of this anywhere! As far as I can tell, in the morning peak some times have been modified up to a couple minutes earlier or later, and every second service from about 6:40am to 8:50am has been cancelled. I know patronage is down this time of year, but I imagine there’ll be pax travelling from other lines avoiding rail replacement buses, and the lack of communication is unacceptable.

A poster for works on the Glen Waverley line on Thursday 17 Jan has been on display at Richmond station for over a week, but is still yet to be made available online. Strange that a poster can be printed and put up weeks in advance but it’s so hard to update Metro or PTV’s website.

@Nick, thanks for the tipoff about the GW line. It looks like it’s got a reduced service today (Wednesday) and tomorrow, but on Friday a normal peak service (about every 7 minutes) will operate… that’s if the PTV information is correct, which it may well not be – they’ve had a lot of issues over the last few weeks.

You’d hope the line is running to its fullest, as some of the Dandenong line buses feed into Burnley and East Malvern.

In contrast, the Sandringham line will be running every 10 minutes during daytime next week (normally 15-20) to cater for Frankston line passengers.

It’s often a lot cheaper to drive, to go one station on the train for my family with 2 adults and three kids and back would cost so much less, probably in the region of $5 in Petrol. Yes, cars have on going costs, but if you own one anyway ….

I think our two hour fare system has many disadvantages for anyone travelling in groups. One station, should not cost $4.50 for an adult.

I think $1.50 for the same trip would be more appropriate, perhaps a daily cap after after a certain amount of trips?

Melbourne’s Loop remains the world’s most retarted railway.

In the past few months, I’ve encountered situations where:
(1) You can’t go from Parliament to Flinders Street
(2) You can’t go from Parliament to Richmond.
(3) You can’t go from Flinders Street to Richmond.

The third scenario wasn’t even true, because as far as I can figure out out, Sandringham Line trains always go to Richmond.

It’s a joke that travelling from the northern part of Melbourne, to the southern part of Melbourne, typically required you to travel 1.8 x round the stupid loop. It wastes about 20 minutes every time that happens. No wonder the roads are full of cars.


That PTV page was a good summary of changes – a lot going on that hopefully are improvements.

I always find the numbers in press releases about new services added interesting. Big numbers are good! But break them down… 10 extra peak services a week – that’s 2 per day.

I note that V/Line has now published its Extreme Heat train timetables. Hopefully they work today!

Interesting V/Line’s response to a track fault affecting inbound (to Southern Cross) services on Wednesday afternoon. They diverted trains via Werribee and then ran direct to Footscray. Passengers for Wyndham Vale, Tarneit and Deer Park (no mention of Sunshine!) were advised to either change to local buses at Werribee or change to Geelong-bound services at Footscray. Just wondering whether I should claim compensation for the extra Zone 1 fare plus regional surcharge, as I was planning on riding from Sunshine home!

Interesting your comment Daniel on the Metro shuttles. Surely the purpose of the shuttle is to connect, but I guess if it waited for a late train arrival it might mean people coming from the shuttle terminus might miss their connection. From the times I’ve caught the Williamstown shuttle to Newport, there seems no lay time at Williamstown (other than the driver walking to the other end of the train). And seeing as there is only one platform, no capacity to have a standby train – although two trains operate the shuttle, the lay time is in a siding at Newport.

I did want to make a detailed comment on your Chadstone Boxing Day post, but didn’t get to it. I think a key problem with a destination like Chadstone is that buses are trying to provide a radial service in all directions. If you are coming from Oakleigh as a train interchange, there are quite frequent (though not regular) services – trying to align times at Oakleigh could be an improvement.

The poster for works I mentioned in my comment above now finally has online counterparts on Metro and PTV’s websites as of today. That’s a delay of well over a fortnight after the poster was put on display. Commuters shouldn’t have to glance at every station poster they pass to see if there’s planned works that haven’t been publicised online yet.

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