Some feedback via Reddit

A while back on Reddit, someone asked “What is your favourite Melbourne blog”.

Reddit asks what is you favourite Melbourne blog

A random commenter recommended this site, with one wag adding this follow up comment.

Feedback from a Reddit user - too many TILs

For those who don’t frequent Reddit, TIL = Today I Learned.

I hope you all enjoy the random stuff I dig up as well. :-)

Two tram trips trigger a stupid Myki bug

Melbourne’s Myki ticketing system is jam packed full of bugs that only happen on strange edge cases, and the other day I stumbled upon one of the early ones – the “tram touch on is treated as a touch off” bug.

New 'Touch on every time you board' stickers on tram doors

My story

I work in the Melbourne CBD, and the story starts on my lunch break, when I had to make a trip out to South Melbourne to pick up an automatic cat feeder. The route 55 tram was the most convenient option, so I headed down to William Street and boarded tram B2.2056 bound for Domain Interchange. I touched on my Myki and took a seat for the short ride to City Road, where I left the tram at 1:20 PM.

B2.2056 heads south on route 55 along Kings Way at City Road

It was only a short walk to the pet shop, so it didn’t take me long to make my way back to Kings Way with my new cat feeder, allowing me to catch a route 55 tram back towards the city at 1:34 PM.

B2.2056 heads north on route 55 along Kings Way at York Street

I then went to touch on my myki, and it was lucky that I was paying attention – I got a “touched off” message instead! So what the hell is going on?

An explanation

In the case of my short trip along route 55, I had caught the same physical tram (fleet number B2.2056) on both legs of the journey – in the time that I was buying my cat feeder, the tram had headed south to Domain Interchange, changed direction, and then headed back towards the city, ready to pick me up.

The end result was that my second “touch on” attempt was treated as if I had been sitting on the tram the entire time and intending to “touch off”, resulting in the erroneous status change.

I’m not the only one

A few commenters on Daniel Bowen’s blog have encountered the same issue I did:

Andrew on Mon 29 December 2014 at 1:55 pm said:

To repeat an anecdote posted on my blog, a person travelled from the city to Toorak Village ran a errand and caught the same tram back to the city after it had been to the Toorak terminus. He touched on when travelling back and but the reader indicated he was touching off. He had not touched off for the trip to Toorak, so it seemed the tram thought it was still making the same trip. He was concerned that had he not noticed and his ticket was checked, it would indicate he had not touched on

Bonnie on Tue 30 December 2014 at 3:09 pm said:

Andrew, this has happened to me a number of times on Route 19. I often catch a tram from Brunswick or Coburg to run a quick errand in the hospital precinct or at the university, such as returning a book to the library or dropping off supplies at the hospital, before catching a tram northwards again. Because it’s not far to the Flinders St terminus, I sometimes find myself on exactly the same tram heading northwards again. Like your blog correspondent, I am disturbed by the fact that if I’d failed to notice the message on the screen, and an AO had checked my Myki, it would look like I hadn’t touched on for the return trip, when in fact I had.

Myki is supposed to be smart enough to distinguish inbound and outbound journeys on a tram – the driver just has to use their console to reset the system at the end of each trip, avoiding the problem I encountered, but given how often it happens this doesn’t seem to be happening.

it just goes to show – you can’t trust Myki!

'Out of Service / Error Loading Tariff Data' displayed on a Tram Driver Console

Core versus non-core business at Barwon Health

It seems that the only news coming out of Geelong these days is businesses closing their doors – and a recent piece from the ABC was just another story about job losses – this time at the Geelong Hospital.

Geelong Hospital

The story starts off:

Regional Victoria’s largest health service, Barwon Health will close its in-house laundry, LinenCare, costing nearly 100 jobs, staff were notified on Friday morning.

Barwon Health blamed the age of the facility for the closure:

In a statement, Barwon Health spokesman Perry Muncaster said the organisation could not justify the $11 million needed to upgrade and modernise the facility in order to continue operations.

“The reality is that it is very hard for a health service like ours to justify millions of dollars of investment in the laundry ahead of clinical facilities and equipment,” he said.

Barwon Health has operated LinenCare since 1965 and cleans around 51 tons of laundry per week.

And claimed that running a laundry was not their core business.

“However, following an exhaustive review of options, we are confident that closing LinenCare is the most responsible decision in the circumstances, particularly given our core commitment to deliver the best possible health services for the people of Geelong.”

The article then mentions that the laundry service will be outsourced to Ballarat Health Services.

In case you didn’t know, the Ballarat Health Services’ core business is also providing health services – it is the equivalent of Barwon Health, but one hour up the Midland Highway!

It seems a little odd for an organisation to be divesting itself of a function due to it being ‘non core’, only to outsource it to another organisation which is in exactly the same position.

Footnote

Eureka Linen Service is the business unit of Ballarat Health Services that Barwon Health are outsourcing their laundry to – by the looks of it, they have already branched out to serve other health providers, and upgraded their facility to reduce water usage.

Each week the plant processes 44 tonnes of linen (the equivalent of one tonne for each staff member) and believes it can achieve greater tonnages while saving water.

Eureka Linen provides a linen service to Ballarat Health Services and generates a surplus income for BHS from supplying linen to other health care and hospitality facilities.
Eureka Linen currently services facilities between Birchip (in Victoria’s Mallee region) and Melbourne.

In early 2008 a water filtration plant was installed at Eureka Linen which has the capacity to save 70 per cent of the water used annually.

Eureka Linen is currently one of the Ballarat regions top 10 water users but the addition of the $243,000 Eco Nova filtration plant will give the service the capacity to recycle and reuse up to three quarters of the water currently used.

This seems to suggest that a “shared services” model for non-core hospital services would be an effective way to reduce costs and achieve efficencies.

Why does the Western Ring Road narrow at Sunshine Avenue?

If you have ever had the misfortune to drive along the Western Ring Road, you may have noticed the inconsistent provision of lanes along the way: one minute you have four lanes to pick between, then all of a sudden you are forced back to just two. So what gives?

Northbound on the Western Ring Road at the Calder Freeway

The story starts back in the 1990s, when the Western Ring Road was built. The first section of the freeway opened to traffic in 1992, with further sections being progressively opened to traffic, with the last section being completed in 1999. The majority of the road had two lanes in each direction.

Northbound on the Western Ring Road at Sunshine Avenue

The exception being a few short sections near interchanges, where three lanes were provided.

Western Ring Road Greensborough bound at Sydney Road

Widening of the road commenced in 2009 as part of a $2.25 billion dollar project, with three sections completed so far:

  • Calder Freeway to Sydney Road, completed by the ‘Tulla Sydney Alliance’ in May 2013
  • Western Highway to Sunshine Avenue, completed October 2013
  • Edgars Road to Plenty Road, completed April 2014

These sections are now three to four lanes wide, leaving four sections of freeway in the pipeline for future upgrades:

  • Sunshine Avenue to Calder Freeway
  • Princes Highway to Western Highway
  • Sydney Road to Edgar Road
  • Plenty Road to Greensborough Highway

Money from the Commonwealth Government was allocated to widening the Sunshine Avenue to Calder Freeway segment in 2013, but in April 2014 the Abbott Government diverted the funding to the since-aborted East West Link project.

Federal government diverts ring road funding to East West Link
James Massola, Josh Gordon
April 28, 2014

State Transport Minister Terry Mulder and former federal transport minister Anthony Albanese last year promised that motorists travelling on the M80 Ring Road between Sunshine Avenue and Ballarat Road would enjoy a safer ride, with a third lane in each direction to improve traffic flows.

It followed an announcement in the 2013 federal budget setting aside an extra $525 million to complete the project, which was expected to cost $2.25 billion.

The ramifications of the decision to divert $500 million from the project into the second stage of the East West Link are unclear. A final section of the project, upgrading the Metropolitan Ring Road between Edgars Road and Plenty Road, was due to be completed by mid-2014.

So this leaves us in the state we are two – two lanes in each direction on the Western Ring Road between Sunshine Avenue to Calder Freeway, and Tony Abbott saying $1.5 billion in promised federal funding to Victoria is now in a “locked box“.

Some movement

I first started writing this post back a few months ago, but now it is out of date – on May 29 the Abbott Government announced that they would chip in $150 million towards the upgrade of the forgotten section of the Western Ring Road – matching the $150 million already committed by the State Government to widen the road to three lanes, as well as installing overhead variable speed limit signs.

Footnote

In 2001 transport and planning academic Paul Mees published the short paper The short term effects of Melbourne’s Western Ring Road, in which he analysed the claimed economic benefits delivered by the construction of the freeway.

Given the geography of the area, I can’t imagine getting around Melbourne’s west without the Ring Road, but I still wonder how long it will take until the road lobby calls out for yet more lanes to be added.

Interstate mix and match from mX

In May 2015 publisher News Corp decided to shut down the free ‘mX’ newspaper after years of falling circulation. Targeted at commuters in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – the newspaper had for years had saved money by sharing content between the three markets, with only slight modifications appearing in each local edition.

Handing out copies of mX to afternoon commuters at Footscray station

The letters page was the most common place to find city-specific references – you’ll only find V/Line in Victoria.

Captain Obvious - "Was the V/Line train late?"

You won’t find myki outside of Melbourne either.

"Looking for a girl with Myki trouble" - you need to be a bit more specific!

This side by side comparison of the Melbourne and Sydney editions of mX illustrates the slight page layout changes that result from the different selection of letters per edition.

Melbourne vs. Sydney - two editions of mX

On occasion the reuse of content in mX also stretched to the graphics – this photoshopped train had “Flinders Street” text added in the Melbourne edition, but “Wynyard” in the Sydney edition.

Copy and paste between mX editions

Plus the photo is of a Melbourne train.

At times ambiguous locations tripped up the editor – there are ‘Central’ stations in both Sydney and Brisbane, as well as a ‘Melbourne Central’ station down south.

Which 'Central' station did they see the hottie at?

Both Melbourne and Sydney have a suburb called Epping with a railway station, but only one city has a ‘M54′ bus route serving it.

All aboard the M54 bus from Epping station

Route M54 is a ‘Metrobus’ route operated by Sydney Buses

There isn’t a Meadowbank in Victoria, so this letter in the Melbourne edition was another slipup.

'Meadowbank' isn't a station in Melbourne!

Occasionally the news section would also trip up on a state-specifc reference – this article about scholarships from the NSW based ‘Universities Admissions Centre‘ is of little use to a Victorian.

Article from the Sydney edition accidentally included in the Melbourne version

Until the 2015 relaunch of mX, the front page of each issue featured a city-specifc weather report. On at least one occasion, the Melbourne edition received a much more sunnier forecast than usual.

Mixup at the layout stage - Brisbane weather report in the Melbourne edition

In this case, the forecast was for Brisbane

And finally – the advertisements. Selling ad space in the newspaper was the only way that News Corp made any money out of mX, so there were plenty of them – often city specific.

PTV was a big spender, given the target market of mX being an exact match for their service update notifications.

PTV finally run advertisements advising of that route 75 trams no longer use Spencer Street

But occasionally advertisements from interstate slipped through the cracks, such as this one for a Sydney fun run.

Sydney fun run advertised in the Melbourne issue of mX

I’m not sure how many 9 to 5 commuters in Melbourne are available at 1pm on a Friday to compete in a fun run located 800-odd kilometres away!