Sunday, April 27, 2008

Station Street

I like streets that have descriptive names. Things like Station Street, Jetty Rd and Sydney Rd. They tell you what you can expect to find when you go down them. Some describe things that can be found in that street, others after other places the street leads to.

Every town has a Station Street, sometimes even when the railway line no longer exists. Wandin North is calls its Station Street, Rue de Gare, the gare is long gone but the rue remains. Station street could have multiple meanings, if both the police station and railway station are located along it. I'm not sure about the origin of Police Road though. Bridge road leads to a bridge. Daylesford has a Hospital Street, obviously that's where you go when you want a bit of medical attention. Bank Street I assume houses/housed a bank or two.

Why is it that St Kilda has a Fitzroy Street and Fitzroy a Brunswick Street, but Brunswick does not have a St Kilda Street? Strangely enough St Kilda Street is in St Kilda. None of those streets lead you to places they are named after, except Brunswick Street at least points in the right direction kind of...

Many towns in Victoria have a Melbourne Road which invariably points the way to Melbourne. Melbourne in turn has a lot of roads poking out radially that lead to far off places in the country (some are now suburbs) for which those roads are named. Sydney, Geelong, Ballarat, Dandenong, Point Nepean (now Nepean highway) Burwood, Toorak, Plenty and Williamstown. Although the latter no longer has a link to it's namesake, a long gone car ferry over the Saltwater River.

Maybe I'm stating the obvious but I like a road or street name with meaning, one where you look at the sign and think, wow that road could take me places.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rail to Doncaster

In The Age today is an opinion piece written by Graeme Davison. He rightly asserts that the Doncaster rail line should have been built 40 years ago when the area began to be heavily developed, but is against the building of a line because of the issues involved with tunnelling and the fact it would travel along the Eastern Freeway away from where the potential passengers live:

Yet, for more than half its length, a Doncaster railway would run through the Yarra Bend National Park and across the parkland and golf courses of the Yarra River flats. Golfers and bushwalkers might welcome it, but it would generate next to no commuter traffic. At North Balwyn (Burke Road), passengers would alight about half a kilometre from the nearest houses, while on the north side of Bulleen station, students from Marcellin College are about the only prospective customers. The line would cross Doncaster Road about 1.5 kilometres from the main transport and shopping hub, Shoppingtown. You would either have to tunnel several kilometres under Shoppingtown to East Doncaster, extend the Doncaster tramway to Shoppingtown or rely on feeder buses to reach a station on Doncaster Road.

Davison claims that the railway would travel mostly through parkland and would not create patronage. He seems to conveniently forget that the freeway runs through there too, and does not gain much in the way of traffic from those areas either.

Davison also asserts that you would need to tunnel for kilometres under Doncaster Shoppingtown to East Doncaster. I don't know where he has been for the last 40 years, but a vast amount of tunnelling has always been on the agenda in the Doncaster area. This is not a new thing, and in fact it will help bring the line closer to where the people are, something he uses against the building of the line in the same paragraph.

Davison goes on to claim that:

Transport research shows the reluctance of commuters to put up with bad connections. Any break in transport mode — say, from bus to train — creates frustration, especially if the scheduled service doesn't come. If the Doncaster rail requires a network of feeder buses, the passengers might as well stay aboard the existing express bus services and ride down the freeway along a dedicated lane all the way to the city. Maybe that's why the Eddington report hasn't opted for a Doncaster railway but for a major upgrade of the existing DART (Doncaster Area Rapid Transit) bus service. You may be asking: but don't buses run on polluting and fast-depleting oil? Yes, but although trains run on clean and abundant electricity, that power is generated from the most polluting of all fossil fuels, brown coal. It's only when trains and trams are full that they come out ahead of cars. Railways and trams wear a halo of environmental respectability that is only half-deserved.

To that I say that if the rail frequency and feeder bus frequency are sufficiently high then issues of missed connections will not be a problem. If the rail frequencies on this line were near metro levels (and I would expect the Doncaster line to be part of a segregated network than an extension of the current system) of a train every 5 minutes in peak and every 10 minutes in off peak. Have the feeder buses run every 10 minutes on main roads intersecting the rail line throughout the day, which means the longest connection in the peak would be about 5 minutes and at most 10 minutes off peak. Overall this would equate to an average waiting time for the whole journey of 7.5 minutes peak and 10 minutes off peak. If the connections are good (and by current Melbourne standards these are very good), people will use them.

He does make a good point with the fact that we get our electricity from brown coal. Cleaner and more sustainable energy sources are something that we need to work on. However that does not diminish the fact that all forms of public transport whether powered by electricity generated by burning brown coal, or by burning diesel fuel in a combustion engine, are more efficient at moving large amounts of people than cars are.

This paragraph confuses me though:

The Melbourne 2030 plan was based on the shaky assumption that increasing residential densities around the main public transport system would improve the viability of public transport. But even when density increased, residents often continued to drive their cars. Now there is a swing in the other direction, towards the equally erroneous belief that if you provide the transport, the residential patterns will change and the passengers will come. The Doncaster railway dream is a perfect illustration of that belief.

If anything Davison appears to be having a punt each way in this paragraph. What little development that has occurred under the auspices of Melbourne 2030 has been stymied by contrary government policies and local interests. I would argue that because of this densities have not increased that much in the Melbourne 2030 transit cities. The reason the few new residents continued to drive is exactly as he states, the public transport improvements were not forthcoming, and while they are slowly happening are not happening fast enough. The government is to blame for not having enough will to back up it's own strategies. If anything you only need to look to Perth for examples of where this sort of strategy has been implemented successfully with the Northern Suburbs rail line. In comparison a rail line to Doncaster should be child's play.

In his final paragraph Davison is spot on by stating that public transport needs to be constructed at the time of development, and should have been the case at Doncaster. He is also right that the there needs to be a rail service along Wellington Rd to Monash University and Rowville where there is also a high demand for such services, but there is demand in Doncaster as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Human Tetris

This one is different to the last though. It uses stop go animation and is more faithful to the video game. The sound effects and music are great.

Also in the series are Space Invaders, Pong and Poll Position.

Human Tetris

AKA Brain Wall. Someone was telling me about this a few weeks ago.

Apparently Channel 9 has the rights to a version of this show called Hole in the Wall coming to our screens soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The non Eddinton report post.

I was going to write a post on the Eddington Report but I have read so much about it I'm not sure what I think of it any more. Well, I think I'm against it, I'm just not sure why. Actually yes I do... (see what I mean)

I've read so many opinions on what needs to be done, I'm not sure what is original thought and what is not, I suspect I read most of this elsewhere. I'm just repackaging it. One of the best alternate proposals I've read so far is at Phin's blog, part one deals with the western side of the network while the future part two deals with the eastern side. So far so good, but from what I can see he is not totally dismissing the north-south tunnel , but sending it elsewhere.

What is my view on the Eddington report?

First of all I see public transport components of the report as nothing but a cover to get the road tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway and Citylink/Westgate Freeway/Western Ring Road approved. I imagine that as time goes along the public transport components will get scaled back piece by piece, just quietly drop off the agenda one by one until we are left with only minor changes to public transport. All the while the road project will bubble along nicely until completion. I hope that is not the case however and that the sensible suggestions go ahead (ie everything but the insane line from Werribee to Deer Park).

While thinking over the past few weeks I've come around to the view that we do need a sort of "clearways" project for Melbourne, the first steps of which are due to happen in the November timetable change with removal of Werribee trains from the loop in the peaks and the fixing of the direction of the Clifton Hill loop. I would like to see the Werribee line permanently out of the loop and the reaming loops to permanently travel in the same direction like the Clifton hill loop so that there are always two lines running in opposite directions. I suggest:

Clockwise- Clifton Hill and Burnley
Anti-clockwise - Northern and Caulfield

Most of the work needed to iron things out involve smaller, un-sexy projects that need doing to improve the flow of trains, these include things like building more flyovers at junctions, grade separation, re-signalling, extra platforms, new crossovers, straightening out junctions and old diversions of no longer existent infrastructure, as well as altering operational practices such as changing drivers at outer suburban termini instead of at Flinders Street, and cutting the dwell time at Flinders Street to that of a normal station. Then there is the complete rebuilding of major junctions and interchanges such as Caulfield and North Melbourne, which are more long term projects.

A cheap and cheerful short term fix is the addition of extra grab handles and bars to existing rollingstock. That would be most welcome. Other changes could be fitting lateral flip up seating at each end of each car to provide more standing room, such as that found at the driving ends of Siemens motor cars. I may be selfish, but I like having somewhere comfy to sit on the train, so I think this is a good compromise.

Longer term I think there should be a two tier service on all lines with inner suburban all stations trains and outer suburban expresses. This however relies on sorting out the other stuff first. Coupled with this I think through routing the outer suburban expresses through Flinders Street to the opposite side of the city (anyone remember the proposed "Flyer Trains" at the time of privatisation) would be a good move.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Game On

Yesterday I went to Game On at ACMI (for some reason I wrote ACME the first time...). It was fantastic. I saw a lot of games I haven't seen for years, and lots of others that I've never seen first hand like Nintendo's epic failure, the Virtual Boy. Most landmark games were included, but of course there were a lot that could have been included but weren't because there is simply not enough room. As the person I went with remarked, "where is World of Warcraft?", which is probably one of the most iconic current games.

The best part is the fact that almost everything is playable, from the early arcade game Space Wars, classics like Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Galaga, the glory days of the 8 bit consoles and PC's in the '80s, through to the Nintendo Wii. I would have liked to have tried out the PC game Portal (which is included in the "Orange Box" I talked about a few posts ago), but it was being hogged by a hooded figure who was playing for at least an hour while we were there. Definitely not in the spirit of the game.

While not for everyone, I think most people could appreciate the exhibition. It could even change the perception that video and computer games are just for kids. Having said that I want to take my neice and nephew, as I think they'd love it. Especially after showing them my Gameboy Pocket a few weeks ago. I got them to turn it on, and after about 10 seconds one of them asked "when does the light come on?". They were a bit perturbed when I told them it doesn't have a light in it and that you need to play in a bright part of the room. They are used to their modern Nintendo DS with backlit dual screens. I think I could show them a thing or two at Game On.

My advice is if you are thinking of going, go early, especially on weekends. We got there just after opening at 10, but by the time we left at 12 it was really packed.