Route 30 and non-existent tram stops

The other day I was riding a route 30 tram along La Trobe Street, when I looked up at the onboard route map. Unlike the rest of the tram network, route 30 is so short that every single stop can be included on the diagram.

Route 30 map onboard an A class tram

The stop list was:

  • St Vincents Plaza
  • Nicholson Street
  • La Trobe Street / Victoria Street
  • Exhibition Street
  • Russell Street
  • Melbourne Central Station / Swanston Street
  • Melbourne Central Station / Elizabeth Street
  • Queen Street
  • Flagstaff Station
  • King Street
  • Spencer Street
  • Etihad Stadium Docklands
  • Central Pier

But when I looked at the map further, I realised something – the map actually includes extra tram stops than don’t exist in the real world!

Stop 7 for westbound trams at Russell Street was one of them.

Laneway at the east end of stop 7 on La Trobe Street at Russell Street

And stop 2 for westbound trams at King Street was the other.

‘Long trams will not stop here’ notice at the King and La Trobe Street tram stop
'Long trams will not stop here' notice at the King and La Trobe Street tram stop

Both tram stops were closed on March 24, 2014 for ‘safety reasons’ – this notice was posted inside one of the tram stop shelters.

Notice of two closed tram stops on La Trobe Street due to 'safety reasons'

Apparently the safety issue was long trams overhanging the safety zone, resulting in passengers from the rear doors stepping out into moving traffic.

Some of the tram stops along La Trobe Street were able to be lengthened, like this one at Exhibition Street.

Lengthened tram stops at La Trobe and Exhibition Streets

However in the case of the King and Russell Street stops, nearby laneways prevented the tram stops from being extended, so removing them from service was the cheapest option.

Footnote

Closure of the tram stops along La Trobe Street only affects a handful of people – the current service frequency along the north end of the CBD is so useless, any intending passenger could walk to their destination before the next tram turns up!

Trainspotting on a flying visit to Sydney

A few weeks I made a flying visit to Sydney, as I made my way home to Melbourne from Cairns. I might have only spent an hour at Sydney Airport while I waited for my connecting flight, but I did manage to see a few trains along the way.

Looking down Sydney's runway 07/25

My flight from Cairns approached Sydney from the north, so the Hawkesbury River bridge on the mainline to Newcastle was the first piece of railway infrastructure I spotted.

Looking down on the Hawkesbury River railway bridge

We then descended over the North Shore and crossed Sydney Harbour, where I spotted a tram on the Inner West Light Rail through Lilyfield, heading over the Wentworth Park viaduct. Can you see it?

Can you see the tram crossing the Wentworth Park viaduct in Lilyfield?

A few moments later the plane was over the suburbs, and I was looking down on the mainline between Central and Parramatta. Six tracks running side by side, but unfortunately there no trains to be seen.

Looking down on the six track mainline through Stanmore, but no trains!

We continued to descend, and finally I spotted a train – Pacific National locomotive 8173 shunting container wagons at Cooks River Yard. Thankfully the big numbers on the side made it easy to identify the unit!

8173 shunting container wagons at Cooks River yard

And a moment after that, I found two more locomotives stabled in the siding next door – I had to look very closely to see ‘MZ1446′ on the side of the silver unit.

Independent Railways of Australia locomotives MZ1446 and 4498 stored in James Siding, next door to Cooks River yard

my plane then touched down on runway 16R – the main north-south runway – and taxied to the gate. With no more trains to see, it was then time for some planespotting until boarding commenced for my connecting flight.

Qantas 737-800 taxis past the terminal

Footnote

The tram photo was a bit of a Where’s Wally game, in part due to the red and white Transport for NSW livery. Here is a closer look if you couldn’t see it first time around.

Urbos 2 LRV in the Transport for NSW livery, crossing the Wentworth Park viaduct in Lilyfield

Sydney’s multimodal PT ticketing (or lack thereof)

As somebody who has grown up with a public transport ticketing system that lets you ride the entire network with a single ticket, Sydney’s service disruption messages often focus on apparently trivial information. This selection from the past few months shows what I mean:

Notice a pattern?

[Disrupted Service] tickets are valid on [Other Service]

The reason for this is Sydney’s lack of multimodal tickets on their public transport system – for each trip made on a train, bus, ferry or light rail a separate fare needs to be paid, even when a passenger is using the new Opal smartcard.

Compare this with Melbourne – you can take a bus to the railway station, ride a train into the city, and then catch a tram to your office – and only pay a single fare, even back in the days when Metcard was the only ticketing system in use.

The Transport Sydney blog has more on the subject:

The expansion of Opal into a multi-modal ticketing system will not be accompanied by multi-modal fares. Opal users who travel on just a single mode of transport will pay less than one who travels on two modes, even if their origin and destination are exactly the same.

This penalises passengers for having to make a transfer via higher fares, despite this being an added inconvenience to them. An ideal fare system, one which uses integrated fares, would charge passengers based on the distance they travel, regardless of which and how many modes they use to get there.

The reluctance to integrate fares at this point may be due to the government’s choice to focus on rolling out Opal first, and fixing the fares second.

At least in Melbourne public transport users have the option of moving between train, tram and bus for no additional cost!

Further reading

Sydney-based writer David Caldwell has more detail on Opal’s dysfunctional approach to intermodal fares on his blog. For the purposes of comparison, Melbourne introduced a single ticket for all forms of public transport way back in 1981 – the Victorian Public Transport Ticketing website gives the complete chronology.

Rebalancing Melbourne Bike Share bicycles

Managing the Melbourne Bike Share system should be easy – users pick up a bicycle from their local station, go for a ride, and then check it back in at their destination. However in the real world it is more complex, as there needs to be a mix of spare bikes and empty docking bays available at each location.

Businessman rents a Melbourne Bike Share bike

As times goes on, some stations start to collect bicycles, like this one down at Docklands.

Melbourne Bike Share station down on Collins Street in Docklands

Others stations in busy locations (like Federation Square) see a mix of incoming and outgoing riders.

Melbourne Bike Share station at Federation Square

While stations like this one never see people drop off bikes – riding to the top of the hill is too much work!

Empty rack at the Melbourne Bike Share station on Bourke Street

The solution to the problem is a fleet of staff to shuffle bicycles around the city.

Melbourne Bike Share ute transferring bikes between stations

They visit the docking stations with too many bikes, and load up their ute.

Relocating Melbourne Bike Share bicycles between stations

Then ferry them to locations lacking bicycles.

Ute transferring Melbourne Bike Share bikes between stations

Further reading

Last week Gizmodo ran an article about the science behind reallocating bicycles in bike share systems – inspired by a journal article by Chelsea Wald title ‘Wheels when you need them‘.

Local traders not understanding car parking

When you run your own business, making things easier for your potential customers is always a good move. However one trader in the northern Melbourne of Niddrie has missed one of the simple ways to do this, as this article from the Weekly Review Moonee Valley shows:

Niddrie: Keilor Road trader vows to fight council over parking fines
Sue Hewitt
21 July 2014

A Niddrie trader has vowed to see Moonee Valley Council in court over 15 parking tickets because it has refused to issue him with a traders’ parking permit.

Steven Tsaousidis said he worked more than 10 hours a day, six days a week at his Hooked on Fish & Burger Bar in Keilor Road, but he had no all-day parking nearby.

He said he usually got a two hour car park at 10am, but had to move his car at midday, then 2pm and 4pm.

“More often than not, I have to leave the shop and customers unattended in order to move my car,” he said.

Since he started his business in September he had received 15 parking fines at $72 each, which he was taking to court to highlight the problem faced by traders, he said.

“I realise that it may cost me more by going to court, but it is a principle,” he said.

“My business and others on Keilor Road continuously bring people to the shopping strip to enjoy the various cafés, eateries and speciality shops.

“I believe that as a ratepaying tenant, I should be provided with a permit or allocated parking spot to be able to park my car here.”

The local council had the following to say:

Moonee Valley Council’s chief executive Neville Smith said the council understood traders’ desire to park near their shops and their frustration at having to move their cars.

“As Keilor Road is a busy shopping precinct [which] is a [council] designated activity centre, it is important that there is a good supply of parking for customers – and that this supply is regularly turned over,” he said.

“Unfortunately this demand for customer parking means that traders without on-site parking do need to consider alternative parking options rather than relying on street parking in this busy shopping area.

Regular columnist in the same newspaper, Alan Murphy, had the following to say the next week:

Murphy’s Lore: Selfish traders drive out customers
Alan Murphy
4 August 2014

Selfish traders and their staff continue to deny customers every opportunity to park vehicles in shopping centre car parks. Frustrated shoppers in turn probably head to Highpoint and Westfield, denying much-needed business for local retailers.

Although most local parking is restricted to one and two hours, a study of the areas confirms many motorists simply ignore the restrictions. Just as significantly, few if any motorists are hit with parking infringement notices. Just watch the exodus of staff from shops and offices when traffic officers descend on a strip. The offenders simply drive around the block and repark their vehicles.

It appears that some local traders know what effect that occupying a car park near their business will have:

As one trader puts it, if a car parks in a one-hour area all day, they effectively prevent at least eight shoppers from parking near the shopping strip.

However some traders just don’t care:

Some of the offending cars have tell-tale registration numbers, making them easy to identify as belonging to traders. But, after this columnist revealed an offending vehicle beating the system on the Rose Street strip two years back, the owner simply came to work in another vehicle – and on most days still parks there for all or most of the day.

It isn’t just the traders. Staff of service organisations – banks, utilities and so on – park in areas reserved for shoppers and routinely leave work to shift their vehicles. Watch it all unfold before your eyes in the Niddrie car parks if the traffic officers arrive.

At my father’s take away shop, bringing the car around the front after closing time was a nightly ritual – it seems that for some traders this extra effort is a step too far.

An overseas example

Over in the United States, residents of Salem, Oregon petitioned for a removal of parking time limits and parking meters. Now they regret doing so:

Free, unlimited parking clogs downtown district
Michael Rose
23 August 2014

Salem residents spoke loudly last fall: no parking time limits, no parking meters in the downtown core.

They wanted free parking. Period.

But some of the 6,000 Salem residents who signed a petition demanding free, unrestricted parking may be having second thoughts as they circle the block in a futile search for a parking space.

Lack of on-street parking in the Downtown Parking District, once a sporadic problem, is a near constant irritant. Business owners rue the day in October when Salem City Council voted to adopt a petition backed by a citizen group. The two-hour parking signs started coming down within days.

“We just aren’t getting the turnover that is critical to every single business down here.” said Lyn McPherson, co-owner of Whitlock’s Vacuum & Sewing Center on 455 Court St. NE.

Salem City Council at today’s meeting will review a consultant’s study and staff report on parking trends. No action by the council is expected at today’s meeting, but the reports will likely prompt further discussions.

Rick Williams Consulting, the firm hired by the city, found that the turnover of parking spaces in a 10 hour period has decreased by 17 percent compared to 2012.

That amounts to lost money. Each time a parking space turnovers it results in about $15 of spending, according to the consultant’s estimate.

Further reading

American professor Donald Shoup is a widely-regarded expert in the economics and availability of parking – his 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking” explains how parking policy shapes the development of cities.

The blog Reinventing Parking also covers the same topics, with examples from around the world.