The Null Device

A tale of two public transport systems

London mayor Ken Livingstone (who brought in the successful congestion charge on traffic in the city) has ambitions to radically extend the London rail/tube/tram network by 2016, to cope with the city's growing population (and, if you've ever used the Tube at rush hour, you'll know it needs it; either that or Japanese-style attendants at each station to physically push people into carriages). Here (PDF) is a map of what he proposes to do with it. It's somewhat of an ambit claim, and most of it probably won't happen, though some proposals have already been funded. Good to see more Tube lines going in south of the Thames, where people are at the mercy of National Rail and buses (and buses in outer London tend to be worse than the ones in Melbourne for punctuality). (Though what are those "Cross River/West London/East London Transit" lines, though; Tube lines, driverless DLR-style trains, or trams?) (via Owen)

One thing's for sure: this will make Mornington Games rather interesting.

Meanwhile, here in Melbourne, no such expansions of public transport are likely; with enough money being spent on bribing the private operators of the shambolically-run system not to pack up and leave, there's none left over for such pipe dreams. The Public Transport Users' Association agitate from time to time for a much-overdue railway line to Monash University (which was built on a paddock in the middle of nowhere in the 1960s on the proviso that a railway line would be extended to it; it never eventuated, and most of the students either cope with the woefully limited outer-suburban bus services or give up and buy decrepit old Kingswoods and Mazda 323s), or to Rowville (outer suburban sprawl where people grow up having no experience of public transport other than the next-to-useless bus services which stop at 7pm on weekdays), or the tram line to Knox City (which, IMHO, is next to useless; who'd sit on a tram for 3 hours to get to the city? Local tram routes linking outer suburban railway stations and interchanges (sort of like the Tramlink system in London's southern suburbs) would make more sense.) and their crackpot cousins in the Transport Victoria Association occasionally push for vital improvements, such as elevating the Melbourne to Geelong railway line 1km above the ground to attract more passengers with better views of the bay. Meanwhile, the government, aware that most of the swinging votes belong to people with 2.3 cars per household who want to be able to drive from A to B quickly, spend billions on freeways and occasionally throw a bone to public transport, such as extending six bus routes to 7:30pm on weekdays.

There are 18 comments on "A tale of two public transport systems":

Posted by: Owen Wed Jul 7 20:51:27 2004

A recent success for Transport for London has been the modal shift on to buses. The Tube is the 'prestige' urban transport, but it's expensive. The mayor has spent lots of money increasing the frequency of buses and cleaning them up.

Cross River and West London Transit are tram schemes, and East London Transit is 'only' a segregated bus lane - but they're in the right places, and they're less expensive than more glamorous options.

I am bitterly amused by Melbourne's uselessness. It's practically Los Angeles! The skyrail line sounds like it would have an ideal novelty project to attract private sponsorship for the millennium. Not so crackpot?

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 8 04:30:56 2004

Inner Melbourne's OK. I don't own a car, and have had no need for one (except when moving large items, of course). Once you get out into the suburbs, though, it's a different story. Unless you live within walking distance of a railway station and your commuting needs take you along a straight line into the city. (The <a href="">Melbourne rail system</a> has a star-shaped topology, which makes trips across town difficult.)

The problem with the skyrail line is that it would cost a fortune to build and maintain for very little return.

Have buses improved much since November 2002? I have unpleasant memories of waiting for half an hour outside Ealing Broadway tube station at midnight for a bus that never came.

Posted by: gjw Thu Jul 8 05:44:47 2004

My biggest shock with Melbourne's transport system is that, just like Adelaide, it appears to stop after midnight! I recall waiting on Flinders St for a tram at 1:30 in the morning, on the (hick) assumption that since I was in a "real city", a tram would be along any minute.

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 8 06:32:29 2004

What cities have 24-hour public transport? The tube in London stops at midnight or so, but there are night buses (do they accept Travelcards, or do they have a separate, premium-priced ticket, like the NightRider buses in Melbourne on weekends?) and if you live on a National Rail line, you can often catch that.

I heard that the New York and/or Tokyo subways run 24 hours a day. Is this true?

Posted by: Official TVA Spokesthing http:// Thu Jul 8 07:33:37 2004

Lies I tell you! It was only going to be raised 80 metres!

On a more sane note, we have a guest speaker coming next meeting to propose running express trams from the Plenty Road/High St junction into carlton somewhere via St Georges Rd.

And I'm back online Grud Bless ADSL!

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 8 08:35:18 2004

Let me guess: the "guest speaker" is someone who lives at one end of this proposed route, goes regularly to something or other at the other end, and thus is convinced that it is a route of great importance to the general public at large.

Posted by: Owen Thu Jul 8 09:05:09 2004

Night buses in London are a lifesaver: they run to the uttermost suburbs, Travelcards are valid till 0430 or you can pay the massive fare of one pound.

They attract the strangest people, naturally, but that's the price you pay for clubbing (or for being a poor immigrant holding down two illegal jobs).

The only 24-hour heavy rail services are those that go via airports.

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 8 10:01:40 2004

I distinctly recall catching a (heavy-rail) train from Paddington to Ealing Broadway at 1:30am on a Thursday night. I believe the train was on its way to Reading or Oxford or Swindon or someplace like that.

Posted by: acb Thu Jul 8 10:21:31 2004

Melbourne has the equivalent of night buses (called NightRider). There are half a dozen or so routes going to the outer suburbs on the hour, though they don't accept regular tickets; fares cost $5.50 or so. Which is less than a taxi fare, though much more than a diurnal bus.

Posted by: dj Fri Jul 9 01:32:36 2004

They have something similar in Adelaide on the weekends. The thing that annoyed me most about public transport when I used it, was how buses or trains frequently did not arrive, or appeared in pairs. When you have a 30-45 minute trip to your destination that sucks big time. I still get this on days when for some reason I don't ride to work. It's no wonder people don't use it.

Posted by: steff http:// Fri Jul 9 02:31:39 2004

Hi. An extension of public transport is always welcome.

N.B. Don't want to be a smart arse, but i notice the phrase "to radically extend". Thought you might like to know that this is a split infinitive, err, grammar fault. It's rather common, then again, just in case you want to know. No offense intended.

Posted by: acb Fri Jul 9 02:58:36 2004

Split infinitives are only a grammatical error if you assume that English grammar is based on Latin (which it is not; English is a Germanic language, not a Romance language). There was a fad of doing this out of one-upmanship in the 18th century, but these days it is deprecated, except among pedants.

Posted by: Alexander Fri Jul 9 10:46:19 2004

"Romance"? Don't you mean Romanic? In the tiny aspect of night buses, Portugal is one of the best places in the world. There are buses nearly everywhere all night long (with intervals of half-an-hour between buses, an hour in some cases). Our Metro and train lines shut down between about 1.30 am and 6am.

Posted by: acb Fri Jul 9 14:32:07 2004

No, "romance", as in the family of languages derived from Latin (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian).

Your Metro/train lines are about an hour more civilised than ours. Unless 1.30 is when the last train reaches its destination, in which case they're much the same.

Posted by: Graham Sat Jul 10 14:58:21 2004

Neither are as cool as Finno-Ugric, though. The culture of the Huns lives on!

Posted by: van Thu Jul 15 00:29:13 2004

it blows my mind that Box Hill (in melbourne) gets a regular train system, AND has recently had a tram extension installed right up to the doorsteps of Box Hill Central, but much more desperate suburbs like Doncaster and it's surrounding areas don't get anything more than a shit bus system. it's an absolute joke.

still, i guess all the guidos in doncaster are happy powering around in their commodores anyway..

Posted by: Peter http:// Thu Jul 15 12:20:30 2004

Melbourne PT is useless.

I live in Brunswick, and work in Collingwood. It only takes 12 minutes extra to walk home than to take the trams (1h10m vs 58m), and since I finish work at 7pm, the more direct bus routes have all finished for the night before I can even reach Clifton Hill. Of course, the 504 only runs every half hour, so it would still take just as long to ride the bus thanks to the long wait even if there was a bus at 7.30.

The NightRider buses run a whopping two nights a week. Wow. And there are only about 4-5 services per route, that's 10 services per week. Wow. And of course, while two of those routes go past my place (near Royal/Brunswick/Sydney), they both run at the same time, so if I miss both of them, I wait an hour and then another two come along. Or I could walk, which takes about as long as the wait between services.

The one night a year where everybody is willing to give PT a go is New Years Eve. 400,000 people converged onto the CBD six months ago. If you take the su

Posted by: Peter http:// Thu Jul 15 12:21:26 2004

(cont'd) The one night a year where everybody is willing to give PT a go is New Years Eve. 400,000 people converged onto the CBD six months ago. If you take the sum total capacity of every tram, train and NightRider bus after the midnight fireworks, and make allowance for the thousand or two taxis on the road making a few trips each, public transport and taxis all up could move 60,000 of them home afterwards.

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