Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Myki now taking orders, accepted on trains

In less than an hour Melbourne residents will be able to order a free registered Myki online. Delivery is promised within seven days. Availability is advised on the Myki website, as below:

Effective today, Myki is valid for train travel within both Melbourne zones. Official public use on trams and buses will follow once the Minister is satisfied with its reliability.

Today's announcement represents a 'soft start' for Myki and a response to the government promise to have it operational by the end of 2009. For now, the average Melbourne passenger is probably better off with Metcard due to its acceptance on all modes. Nevertheless, the free Myki offer will appeal to curious train-riding 'early adopters'.

This larger body of users should also mean more rigorous 'real passenger' testing and better maintenance of Myki machines and readers at stations. Up to now much of the system had been live but with only 'first users' testing it, hardware maintenance had not always been given due urgency.

Today's announcement is a significant milestone for a project that has more than usual 'behind the scenes' work. However in many people's minds it won't have fully started until availability is widened and cards are accepted on all modes. The roll-out to bring this about over the next six months or so promises to be very interesting indeed.

Myki videos

A selection of videos shot during Myki's test phase in Melbourne. Note that some features may have changed or improved since these were made.

Myki ticketing coming to Melbourne

Myki under test in Melbourne

Myki card history machine

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Public transport operators around the world conveyed the Christmas message through decorated trains and buses or writing their own carols.

Below are some of the best.



West Midlands (UK):




Local operators such as Ventura got into the spirit, with a decorated bus operating Route 903 around Melbourne suburbs. No holidays for the drivers though; thanks to recent bus service improvements, there will be free Christmas Day service operating on over 200 of the city's 350 train, tram and bus routes.

In almost all cases a standard Sunday timetable will operate, with special reduced Christmas-only timetables having being made extinct. With few exceptions in metropolitan Melbourne, routes that run on Sundays will almost always be running on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas to all readers, commenters and their families, and best wishes for a safe and happy 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bus service upgrades: 'grafting on' versus 'network' thinking

Since late 2006 many Melbourne bus routes have had their operating hours extended and new weekend services added. There have also been new SmartBus routes and revisions arising from local area bus reviews.

Changes can range from extra services on an existing route to an entirely new network in an area. Even small timetable changes to one route can have implications for nearby routes.

Worldwide, the strongest transit authorities take a network view. They see additional resources as an opportunity to provide new connections, remove wasteful duplication and allocate saved resources to needed improvements elsewhere.

The long-term result of such 'network thinking' is a simple and legible network with consistent service levels appropriate for a route or corridor's role.

In contrast, authorities without a network view can miss opportunities for improvement even when given additional funding. This could be for several reasons. Firstly some in transport departments may see themselves more as contract managers than network planners. Secondly, a legacy of route or operator-based planning may obscure a wider view. Thirdly, contractual arrangements in some cities may restrict the ability of transport agencies to reallocate resources between routes and operators.

Whatever the cause for a lack of 'network thinking', the result over time is the same; a system of increasingly illegible, infrequent and overlapping routes as improvements are simply grafted over an unchanged existing network.

The following examples from Melbourne suburbs are offered to show the big differences between 'grafting-on' and 'network' thinking and why it matters for passengers.

Network thinking example 1: Yarraville/Newport/Altona North

Three years ago the local bus network around Yarraville, Newport and Altona North was a mess. The area's routes (429, 430, 432 and 471) only ran during the day and not at all on Sundays. Routes teminated either in quiet suburban backwaters (429 and 430) or at closed railway stations (432). Legibility was poor, particularly in Altona North, where the combined route 432 and 471 took a different route on Saturdays. And to cap it off, only some areas had service to the the nearest major shopping centre at Altona Gate.

The area's bus service review recommended network changes which were introduced during 2008. This may have been easier because the one bus company ran all routes. 429 and 430 were deleted, to be replaced by a new route 431 and improvements to 432, which now served Altona Gate Shopping Centre. 432 and 471 were made more consistent throughout the week and given 7-day service. These provided the area with a much better local bus network and patronage has increased strongly.

Network thinking example 2: Carrum Downs/Frankston North

Frankston North is a low socio-economic residential area located just beyond easy walking distance of Kananook Staion on the Frankston Line. Carrum Downs shares similarities but with newer privately-built homes and higher average incomes. Until 2008 both areas only had very limited public transport, particuarly on weekends. Routes were circuitous and, like Altona North, there were confusing weekend-only deviations and routes.

24 March 2008 brought substantial service increases to the area. Route 901 SmartBus started, providing a more frequent direct service between Frankston, Dandenong and Ringwood. This replaced the slower and less frequent local routes 830 and 831 that went a slower way via residential areas.

Instead local coverage was provided on routes 832 and 833, operating between Frankston and Carrum Downs. These routes run until 9pm 7 days a week and represent roughly a doubling or tripling of overall service (more on weekends).

Interchange with 901 is possible at Carrum Downs, and headway harmonised timetables (15/30 min weekdays and 30/60 min weekends) provide constant scheduled connections between this and local routes. The thinking behind this was to reduce the transfer penalties for passengers who lost their previous direct service to Dandenong.

Connections to adjoining suburbs such as Seaford and Carrum were not included as part of the changes but a new route to the industrial part of Seaford (778) commenced recently.

The Carrum Downs service changes can be regarded as 'Network Thinking' as local routes were altered upgraded on the same day that SmartBus was introduced. This minimised duplication and allowed connections to be planned. Hence, unlike Yarraville it involved a SmartBus as well as local routes. Also although all routes are now run by Grenda Group operators, at the time of its commencement route 901 was shared with Invicta (which Grenda bought).

'Grafting on' example 1: Sunshine/Sunshine West/Sunshine Park

The Wright Street pocket of Sunshine remains served by a complex series of routes that shows what can happen when new services are grafted on without the question being asked about existing services.

Wright Street is mainly served by the Sunshine Park/Sunshine West portion of the 219. The 219 forms a high-frequency pair with Route 216, with the routes overlapping between Sunshine Station, the city and the Brighton area. 216/219 is a direct and well-used route along busy roads that offers above-SmartBus service levels, particularly on weekends and evenings. It is operated by Melbourne Bus Link.

219's Sunshine end is tangled and confusing, as can be seen from the map. On weekdays and Saturday mornings from Sunshine it runs via Hampshire Road, Boreham Street, then back to Wright Street where it terminates at First Avenue. On Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday the route serves Fairbairn Road as far as Talintyre Road, hence missing some stops off Ardoyne Street and east of Hampshire Road. The result is that one set of stops receives a service 5 1/2 days a week while other stops receive service 1 1/2 days of the week (see map below).

Sunshine West is not the most affluent area. It contains families without one car per adult. Such residents near Fairbairn Road would no doubt appreciate the Saturday afternoon and Sunday bus service, as provided by this 219 extension.

However Fairbairn Road is served by another route, the 471, which like 219, also runs to Sunshine. In 1997 the 471, run by Sita, operated six days a week with a limited Saturday service (last bus from Sunshine was 4:10pm). By 2006 this service had improved, with the last departure being 4:50pm. As 471 did not operate on Sundays and public holidays, the Fairbairn Road portion of 219 was still needed to provide a service then.

Further large improvements to Route 471 were introduced on 25 February 2008. This included a 9pm finish, Sunday running and service on public holidays.

Except for some late evening weekend trips, the 471 upgrade made this variation of Route 219 redundant. But the 219 extension was not deleted. Hence it continues to duplicate Route 471 along Fairbairn Road for 1 1/2 days of the week.

The next major service change in the area was the Route 903 orbital SmartBus. This new route started on April 20, 2009. 903 overlaps the 219 along Wright Street east of Hampshire Road (Monday - Saturday morning section) but again the duplicated section of 219 remains intact.

'Opportunity cost' is a helpful concept for the transport planner, and in this case I doubt that retaining the 219 past Sunshine stacks up compared to other uses for the drivers and buses. 219's justification for remaining in the area is weak since almost all of it is within 500 - 800 metres of either 471 or 903.

Running times for the Sunshine to Sunshine West portion of the 219 can range up to 13 minutes. When multiplied by the number of services run per day this represents several driver/bus hours per day that could be put to better use if the service terminated only at Sunshine rather than Sunshine West.

It is all well and good to recommend the deletion of a route portion, as recommended here, but it does not help passengers unless a better use can be found for the resources saved. Examples in the area are not hard to find. Resources saved by terminating 219 at Sunshine could be put towards one or more of the following improvements:

* Increased City - Sunshine running time for the 216/219 between Sunshine and the City (both routes are known to suffer late running due to traffic) to permit better timetable adherance (though bus priority would be better still).

* Upgrading 471 from its non-harmonised 25/50 min weekday/weekend frequency to a harmonised 20/40 min weekday/weekend headway to properly mesh with trains at both Sunshine and Newport.

* If justified, retaining the late weekend evening services provided to Sunshine West, but instead operate as either a 454 or 471 to improve both legibility and coverage.

'Grafting on' example 2: Altona/Altona North

Altona is a coastal residential suburb that in itself contains only local shopping. The nearest large shopping centre is Altona Gate in Altona North. This is linked to Altona via Routes 411 and 412 which are identical except for a section in Altona North.

Route 411/412 has a combined 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 40 minutes on weekends. This is harmonised with trains in the area.

Earlier this year Route 903 between Altona and Mordialloc was introduced. It runs every 15 minutes during the weekday interpeak and every 30 minutes on weekends. It substantially overlaps with 411/412 between Altona and Altona Gate Shopping Centre.

The end result is a very frequent service between Altona and Altona Gate when measured by buses per hour (7 on weekdays and 3.5 on weekends). The weekday service in particular is probably excessive. However because daytime service frequencies are not harmonised to the same headway hierachy (903 is 15/30, 411/412 and local trains are 20/40) the intervals between services vary, reducing the possible gains of the frequent service provided (eg an even 3 buses per hour on weekends with a 20 minute maximum wait is better than an uneven 3.5 buses per hour with 30 minute gaps).

Unlike the case with 219 extension towards Sunshine West, 411/412 cannot simply be deleted as it fulfills other functions in the Geelong Road, Laverton and Altona Meadows areas.

I have no straightforward solution here. For instance, in retrospect it might have been desirable to to have terminated 903 at Newport or Williamstown rather than Altona. The thinking here is to avoid duplication with 411/412 and save resources by allowing part of the 471 to be deleted. Keeping the 903 as is, but truncating 411/412 at Altona Gate doesn't appeal as this removes direct access to there and Footscray from Laverton or Altona Meadows; both areas not known for their surplus of local shopping. Given the 903 is now running, I suspect that the chance of a route change is slim given its profile and popularity.

Of the examples here, this is most comparable to the Sunshine one due to the multiple operators involved and the interaction between SmartBus and local services. The main difference is that a solution is not immediately obvious.


The above comparisons show that where implemented 'network thinking' has delivered both improved system efficiency and better services for passengers. Where network thinking is absent and the 'grafted on' model of service change prevails the result can be less than economical (Altona) or, at worst, be illegible for passengers (Sunshine).

The successful Yarraville area changes only involved one operator and local bus routes only. The successful Carrum Downs changes was slightly different, involving a SmartBus and local routes. While there were initially two operators, one ran all services except a half share in the SmartBus.

The Sunshine case especially may indicate that the presence of multiple operators may make it harder for authorities to take a network view when introducing service changes. Instead the 'grafted on' approach may be followed, with all its attendant inefficiencies and potential lost opportunities.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pictures from North Melbourne

Taken this morning from the recently redeveloped North Melbourne Station. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Miscellany from the web

Several items spotted on the web lately are too good to pass up.

National Library of Australia archive of Australian newspapers allows you to read articles from a selection of Australian newspapers between 1803 and 1954. Even better is that it has a search engine that you can refine by cities. User 'travla' has been posting a sample of articles on the various transport forums, but searching yourself on the NLA site will reveal many others. A goldmine!

Passionate Parisian bus drivers have got together to produce a website all about their Route 38 bus, which can trace its history all the way back to 1632. Available in both French and English, you've find it fascinating, even if you've never visited France.

Some cities, such as Perth, have allowed Google use their transit schedules. Clicking on bus stop locations gives you the times of the next two services from each route departing from that stop. I'm not sure how it copes with service updates and disruptions, but again it's interesting to have a play.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Snippets from the new train contract

Yesterday's media initially concentrated on 'soft' stories such as the transition to the new rail operators, statements from politicians and train rebranding. However today's service disruptions on some lines reminded us that the basics of running a railway are (and should never be) very far away.

How Melbourne's railways are to be run is prescribed in the Franchise Agreement, Projects Agreement and an Infrastructure Lease Agreement.

While their contents is often too specialised for the mainstream media, long-term these documents will prove more important than the name changes and media conferences in yesterday's news.

What are some of the notable points in the train franchise agreement?


The first 48 pages are definitions, conditions and warranties. While there are some odd definitions like the meaning of weekdays (Labour Day on a Monday isn't) it's still worth a skim since tantalising terms like planned delayed services, Platform Assistant Withholding Amount and Maintenance Cost Saving Amount are all defined.

The most discussed definition would be 'on-time running'. This is now defined as within 4:59 minutes instead of 5:59 minutes under Connex. However the Metro website has dual standards; 92% within 5:59 minutes (same as the old Connex standard) and 88% within 4:59 minutes, which depending on the number of trains between 4 and 5 minutes late is pretty close to being the same thing.

'Must Dos'

Page 50 lists performance requirements against what are called 'Year 5 benchmarks'. The two fixed ones are for 'reliability' and 'customer experience'. Further details of reliability standards, their quarterly review and various levels of non-compliance appear from page 76. Information on the 'customer experience' benchmark appear in an appendix but their general aim is to capture some of the 'customer service' facets not in previous franchise agreements.

Page 53 requires the formation of a Network Development Partnership to discuss issues, monitor performance and agree on a Strategic Operations Plan. Both directors of public transport (ie the Department) and franchisees can propose changes to the Master Timetable (more detail starting page 70).

Page 59 discusses load breaches (ie overcrowding). The train operator may receive load breach notices from the department but 6.1(b) states that the department is not obliged to issue them. Generally the department needs to approve reductions in carriage seating capacity. This is topical due to the trial of a reduced seating Comeng train and announcements that new trains will have fewer seats to carry more passengers and improve flow (hopefully reducing station dwell times).

Major events

The use of short (3 car) trains on some lines, especially on weekends with special events, has proved insufficient for passenger numbers. Connex responded by increasing 6-car running on the longer busier lines. Page 63 requires the franchisee to use full consists (if reasonably practicable) on all but quiet shuttles on the ends of some lines.

New Years Eve trains will be provided and will be free, as in previous years (page 66). Shutting down the ticketing system that evening may be required to allow updates (fares normally rise on January 1). As happened in some previous years but not others, the agreement entrenches free trains on Christmas Day (page 67).

Trains and major events almost go together in Melbourne. Melbourne's ability to run big events without hitch is a major part of the city's self-image, at least amongst state and city leaders. Train network failures during major events is regarded very seriously (more so than disruptions to regular commuter travel). Hence significant space is devoted to transport for major events, with notification and planning starting 18 months prior (Page 67).


Who determines what's in the timetable? Part 7 (Page 70) discusses this. The Director of Public Transport (ie the Department) can specify requirements in the form of numbers of added or deleted services by time band and even their approximate times. However timetablers are franchisee employees and it is these who shedule the service (noting the need to find train paths, trains and drivers and possibly juggling other services to form and accommodate them). The train operator can also initiate Master Timetable changes but must put proposals through the Network Partnership process and secure the Director's approval.

Provision is made for a Daily Timetable that is different to the Master Timetable to sometimes operate. These may be for planned occupations (required due to track maintenance), for safety reasons, special events or disruptions.

Planned and unplanned disruptions

Service disruptions have risen to prominence as patronage gains made the network more fragile. These are either planned or unplanned, with, as would be expected, tougher requirements for 'planned disruptions' eg buses replacing trains due to trackwork. Page 78 specifies requirements for replacement transport, with the standard being 'reasonable endeavours' and passengers being transported to the end of their 'intended journeys'.

What happens if running is persistently not to the timetable? Page 76 refers to three escalating thresholds: 'call in', 'breach' and 'termination' with judgement made every quarter. The standards have been set that the 'breach' or 'termination' levels require extremely poor performance to be triggered. As has been the case since 2004, these sorts of figures are averaged network-wide, so lines can suffer periods of severe underperformance (eg Stony Point) but this in itself is insufficient to trigger these sanctions if other lines are performing to standard.

Disruptions are sometimes not entirely within the operator's control. Page 79 lists circumstances that if the Director (DoT) agrees then the operator need not be called in, given a breach or terminated. Examples include disruptions due to 'force majeure', 'excluded rolling stock repair' (I'm thinking Comeng air conditioners here) or major projects.

Shuttles and connectivity

Some interesting comments on page 82, which deal with other operators' connecting services and shuttles. This explicitly mentions the Stony Point train and the ferry service to Cowes and French Island. Here there is duty ('reasonable endeavour') to consistently achieve connections.

That same page also requires consultation and co-operation with bus operators regarding facilities and information. However this section is both brief and scrappy; there is no similar requirement to co-ordinate with tram services and specific measures that would assist passengers, such as requiring the display and stocking of bus timetables at stations are omitted.

Clause 7.18 discusses shuttles, such as those that operate between Williamstown and Newport, or Alamein and Camberwell. I couldn't understand this paragraph. The first part requires both timetabled and actual co-ordination. However to my mind this is contradicted by the second part which does not even require the shuttle to be delayed.


Timetables used to be hosted on both the Connex and Metlink websites, with different formats in use. Metro now links to its timetables on the Metlink site. However as real time information is only provided on the Metro site, Metlink cannot yet be regarded as a single source for service information (although it can be for timetables).

Page 83 of the agreement deals with this. While the operator can provide real-time information direct to passengers, it must also provide it to Metlink, apparently with the intention that Metlink will also carry live information.

A very unusual service improvement

Page 84 contains an obscure service improvement that as far as I know has gone unpublicised. On Good Friday and Christmas Day trains have always run a Sunday timetable, with a Saturday schedule applying on other public holidays. Since Sunday train services were upgraded about 10 years ago, their main difference compared to Saturday schedules was that first services were 2-3 hours later.

7.21a of the agreement says that Christmas Day and Good Friday services must run to the master timetable for Sunday except that services must be provided as per the weekday timetable until the Sunday timetable kicks in. If this is correct, we have the anomaly of early morning services as frequently as 10-20 minutes, then every 30-40 minutes around 8am and then back to 20 minutes after about 11am. Similar changes also apply if Australia Day and ANZAC Day fall on a Sunday, though at least in the latter case there may well be higher patronage, depending on the timing for early services.

Extra money will need to be found for drivers to run frequent trains in the early hours of Good Friday and Christmas Day that few passengers will use. I am not convinced that this necessarily represents the wisest use of resources given that other service improvements (eg daytime frequencies extended to 8-9pm, consistent Sunday evening train frequencies and/or earlier trains on Sunday mornings) would all deliver better patronage gains.

Passengers and staffing

Passengers get their own section (p85). This relates to the publication of a Customer Service Charter in specified languages and formats, a compensation code, refund policy, complaints process, DDA compliance, an ill passenger protocol and lost property.

Crowd Management is a major new area. The Franchisee must have a Crowd Management Plan and employ more platform assistants at inner-city stations. Also new are surveys and quarterly monitoring of customer satisfaction (note that quarterly is consistent with Track Record reports). Big drops must be explained.

Increased staffing has been promised. These include 22 staffed stations (these will be host). The Franchise agreement also specifies that there will be a minimum of 350 Authorised Officers (page 95).

Fares and ticketing

Fares are set by the Department (and approved by the State Government). Contrary to what some claim in the letters pages the operator does not set fares. Hence the fares and ticketing section of the contract is brief and requires working within the fares structure, current and new ticketing systems and an obligation to counter fare evasion.


Section 11 deals with interoperator relationships. It is hard going. But there are some items of interest, such as safety, branding obligations, track access for heritage rail groups, operator accreditation and more. 12 to 14 are financial and administrative aspects.

Electricity procurement is the topic of Section 15. This came up in the Parliamentary Inquiry into train services. An important issue is security of supply, especially on hot days when loads are high.

Rulling stock and availability

This post is more than long enough and few will have read this far. But the contract gets no less important. Part III deals with rolling stock. Very topical since last summer's disruptions were exacerbated by inadequate air conditioning on Comeng trains. 'Faulty trains' are at least a partially preventable cause of service cancellations. Topics covered in this portion include repair, renewal and peak availability. Peak availability requires improved performance over time - 92% at contract commencement and 94% in 24 months (page 174). Low availability constitutes a 'call-in' event. The current Master Timetable requires 145 trains, with possible variations when new timetables are introduced.


What happens if the operator doesn't perform? Read Part IV for this. The first level is a 'call-in', ie a 'please explain' for which a remedial plan may be required. Next is a 'franchisee breach'. For this a 'cure plan' must be presented and the Director may impose a penalty. Finally there is termination. The department may use 'step in' powers for terminations or severe breaches. These appear to be 'reserve powers', only to be used sparingly and in exceptional circumstances.

Annexures including loading and frequency standards

The second part of the franchise document contains the annexures. These contain the more detailed standards, formulas and methods. Still it's worth a look for the passenger weightings (can compare relative patronage of lines) and frequency standards (termed 'maximum delay minutes' - Schedule 7). These are low 'minimum standards' that in some cases are both non-clockface (eg 25 or 40 minutes) and represent less service than currently runs.

Against this should be compared Victorian Transport Plan and other statements about moving to a 'metro-style service'. If the agreement fully reflected this it could have defined a core network across which a high minimum service frequency (say every 10 minutes) would apply after a program of upgraded services over several years. If we take the authorities at their word, we can only assume that any plans for service improvement will be contained in other (more easily revised?) documents and the low minimum standards have been inserted in the franchise agreement to give the franchisee and the Department significant 'wriggle room'.


Overall these contracts are a difficult but rewarding read that will inform the reader of the broader operating context for Melbourne's trains. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

Rail staff worked around the clock as Melbourne rebranded its rail system from Connex to Metro. Trains got programmed with the new announcements on Saturday night. Sunday night and early Monday morning saw old logos covered, new posters posted and even an information centre reclad. Metro managers enthusiastically rode their first train (the 4:17am from Frankston) studying passenger boardings along the way.

The previous operator, Connex, exited with little fanfare; few partied like it was 1999. That is except for staff and enthusiasts who held internal functions or rode final trains to mark the operator's ten years in Melbourne.

Below are some photos from yesterday and today.


11:17pm: The last Connex service from Frankston at Chelsea


5:30am: Remodelled Flinders St Station information centre

5:35am: Metro posters

6:30am: Connex banner has just been lowered, Metro banner raised

6:35am: half Connex, half Metro

7:00am: Remodelled Flinders St Station information centre - almost ready for business

7:30am: Metro both sides


Train Franchising Contracts

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our last Sunday-only route - the end of the 769

One requirement of a legible transport network are routes that are the same seven days a week.

Cities with less developed or patronised public transport (eg Canberra) often break this rule. In such places weekend and evening routes are combined loop services that cover the same area as two or more straighter weekday routes. Such routes may be introduced to save money as they allow a given frequency to be maintained with fewer buses. Unfortunately their reduced directness can slow travel and the extra routes and numbers can confuse passengers.

In contrast, Melbourne has generally avoided seperate weekend routes and route numbers. Instead when Sunday service was introduced it was largely provided through improved existing routes instead of new Sunday-only routes. This makes for a more legible service.

There were however two recent exceptions.

The first was Dysons Route 569. This ran from Greensborough to Epping Plaza, and operated in place of Route 566 to Lalor on Sundays. It ceased when 566 gained Sunday running on 4 June 2007.

Then there's Route 769. This served Frankston, Karingal, and initially Langwarrin. It commenced on 7 March 1999 and replaced routes 770/771 (Karingal area) and 790/791 (Langwarrin area) on Sundays and public holidays.

Route 769 changed on 30 March 2003 when Sunday service commenced on Route 791. 791 provided the Langwarrin service so 769 was pulled back to Karingal and extended north to Dalpura Circuit. Hence its function became strictly a Sunday and holiday-only substitute for routes 770 and 771, which operated Monday to Saturday only.

The final Route 769 departed Frankston at 5:05pm this afternoon with 15 passengers on board. Most had alighted by Centro Karingal with only a few staying on until the terminus in Dalpura Circuit (see picture). After a brief pause the bus returned without fanfare to Frankston via Centro Karingal, arriving at 5:47pm. A final wave from the driver drew this route to an end, with a new 7-day timetable for routes 770 and 771 commencing tomorrow.

A few metres away at Frankston Station, Connex, itself on its last day as Melbourne's train operator, serendipitously and apparently unknowingly saluted the 769's end. For, waiting at Platform 1, was a consist containg carriage number M769. This formed the next city-bound train, which departed at 5:52pm. So at least two passengers made the connection between the final bus route 769 and carriage M769.

What was 769's significance? Introduced at a time when very few Melbourne buses ran on Sundays, it demonstrated a demand existed for Sunday travel. Even though it only ran every two hours it showed that if a service is there people will use it. It may not be too much to say that its success paved the way for later more significant Sunday bus service improvements. However in 2009 the route had served its purpose and it was only fit that it was replaced by Sunday services on the regular routes in the area.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A frequent service map for Melbourne's south-east

As a fan of Adelaide's Go Zone concept, I've been following its application in other cities, eg Jarrett Walker's frequent network discussions on Human Transit.

Here is my attempt at a similar map for Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs. This area was chosen due to its concentration of major trip generators (often off the rail network) and the number of high-service bus routes (including SmartBus routes).

Unlike other maps, I vary the lines to reflect the service level on each route (or related group). A continuous line indicates a wide span, whereas a broken line operates for less of the day (and/or fewer days of the week). Line thickness reflects service frequency; thick lines reflect a service that meets my criteria for a frequent service.

Shown on the map are some routes that by themselves do not meet the criteria of being a frequent service. However where these overlap other routes to provide a high combined service I decided to show them along the common sections only. I believe this is useful for passengers unsure of whether to board that bus or not.

This map is is intended to supplement rather than replace existing information, particularly at interchanges. There will still need to be maps for individual routes, preferably showing major trip generators along them. Equally critically, alighting passengers still need high-quality geographically-based maps to guide them to their destinations (something often missed). Nevertheless, I think this schematic style successfully simplifies what is a complex network dominated by a large numbers of less frequent routes.

Comments would be appreciated.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

System Review: Hobart Metro - Part 2

Hobart's bus routes and services were discussed in Part 1. This time we look at the Greencard smartcard ticketing system, which has recently started in Hobart after earlier commencement in regional cities. This is particuarly topical for Melbourne as we are introducing our own smartcard ticketing, due to start later this year.

I ordered a Greencard through the Metro website last month. Like Perth (but unlike Victoria which currently has a seperate website for myki), smartcard ticketing is an integral part of the main operator or transport agency website.

This went smoothly except for the question which asked the customer to nominate a default trip, which is the travel they most regularly make. As a visitor, I had no regular travel patterns so couldn't easily answer that question. I can't remember whether I ended up leaving that section blank or nominated the shortest trip as a default. Greencard's FAQ states that passengers making other than the default trip must tell the bus driver before touching on so he can adjust the fare accordingly.

The requirement to nominate a default trip (and advise the driver if different) is the single biggest difference between Hobart's Greencard and other systems such as Perth's SmartRider and Victoria's Myki. The latter two are genuine smartcard systems that require the passenger to tag off so that they can automatically calculate the fare. Instead of being a genuine smartcard, Greencard is more like an 'electronic purse' that relies on passengers to tell the driver if their fare will vary from the default. However this means that unlike SmartRider or Myki, Greencard passengers do not need to tag off at the end of each trip. One wonders about the potential for fraud - ie passengers making longer trips boarding with a Greencard set up for a shorter fare and not telling the driver.

Greencard arrived in the post a couple of weeks later. Its covering letter explained how to add credit (on the bus, at agents or online - allow 2 days for the latter) and create an online account (similar to registering a SmartRider or Myki). It also stated that the nominated default trip had been programmed. The card was free but had no credit loaded.

On arrival in Hobart the first job was to top up the card. I did this at the Metro Shop inside the GPO. Unlike Melbourne's Myki, with a $1 minimum top-up, Greencard requires $5 minimum. Happily this was not too much more than the off-peak daily fare ((4.50) as I didn't need use for more than a day. As stressed to me at the shop, those staying longer can top up with a larger amount for an extra 25% credit (eg $20 buys $25 worth of credit).

The first boarding was not successful. Although the driver could see I had $5.00 on the card (added about five minutes before), the fare could not be deducted so he waved me on. This had been his third case whe he'd seen this happen.

This brings us to another difference between Greencard and SmartRider/Myki. Buses in Perth and Melbourne have multiple touch points near both front and rear doors. With Greencard buses only have a single touch point on the driver's console (see below).

The consequence of this is that boarding passengers must form a single file past the driver, and those with a ticket must queue behind cash passengers. The result is slower boarding than with other systems, that as a minimum have a validator or reader on the right of the front door, and often readers elsewhere in the bus as well.

Greencard operated successfully on all subsequent bus trips. I saw the remaining balance on the validator's display fall as my fare changed from a single to a daily.

How many passengers use Greencard? My guess is that a quarter or less used it. However all my travel was during off-peak times, where most passengers were youth or pensioners. Greencard penetration may well be higher during peak school and work commute times.

How is Greencard promoted? Some buses carry all-over Greencard advertising, as pictured. There is also prominent mention on the Metro website and the Metro shop has a brochure explaining Greencard.

To conclude, Greencard is as bare-bones as a contactless RFID-based ticketing system can get. The manual 'tell driver' method of fare calculation means that it is not a genuine automated smartcard. The lack of card readers away from the driver is another short-cut that cannot deliver the full reduction in bus boarding times that automated ticketing can bring. However my experience is that Greencard (mostly) works, and it may be adequate for a small city's bus network.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

System review: Hobart Metro - Part 1

I've been spending much of the past week in Hobart and, while time was limited, rode the buses for half a day. Here's some observations about the city and its bus network, called Metro.

1. The city

Hobart is a hilly city, with settlement in long and narrow strips along both banks of the Derwent River. Distinguising features that affect the transit network include (i) one-way streets in the CBD, (ii) the limited number of east-west river crossings and (iii) often due to topography, a limited permeable grid street layout. Hobart's population is roughly 200 000, ie a little smaller than Geelong. Hobart has very good roads largely built with federal government funding.

2. Network coverage

Metro buses cover most built up areas, with this branding applying to urban bus systems in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. There are however some exceptions, with Metro operating far out into the country side and regional operators serving some trips that would normally be regarded as metropolitan. More later.

Metro routes offered are a mix of regular services, express routes (notably to far northern suburbs such as Bridgewater) and weekday shopper trips. Some of the latter operate as 'Doorstopper' services, for which an extra fare is required for off-route diversions (similar to Melbourne's Telebus).

3. Service spans

7-day running is provided in most areas but there are also many weekday-only shopper and school routes. Major routes arrive in the city before 7am Monday to Friday, with first arrivals after about 8am on Saturday and after about 10am on Sunday. Last services from the city finish around 10pm Monday to Thursday, with a later finish on Friday and Saturday night. In common with the the smaller capital cities Sunday service is essentially daytime only.

4. Service frequency

As a rough average for a local route, this would be about half-hourly on weekdays, hourly on Saturdays and every two hours on Sunday. Monday to Thursday evening frequencies are about every two hours, with extra service on Friday and Saturday nights.

5. Fringe area legibility

A weak point of some transit systems is information, especially where there are multiple operators. Some country areas can be in the 'metro' system (with Metro format route numbers and fares) while other destinations nearer the CBD may be served by regional coaches only.

An example of this fragmentation is that Metro operate both Channel and Bothwell services feature on the Metro website despite their considerable distance from the CBD (these are considered 'non-urban' services). Conversely the Cambridge Homemaker Centre (near Hobart Airport) has urban-type travel needs but receives a limited country service to Richmond. Not being a Metro service details need to be looked up on the Tassielink site and attracts country fares. Redline and O'Driscoll are other operators that serve Hobart fringe areas.

This is much like Victoria before Viclink/Metlink started. Ten years ago there was limited fare integration, no single comprehensive timetable website, no journey planner, and fragmented or sketchy information. There are however signs of progress; a brochure dated September 2009 advises that Metro non-urban routes will move to a zonal fare system with free transfers to Metro services.

6. Identification of frequent service corridors

Hobart has a number of frequent service routes, with buses every 15 minutes or better on weekdays. As far as I can tell, these apply on the following groups of routes:

* Hobart - Glenorchy
* Hobart - Rosny Park - Shoreline Central
* Hobart - University of Tasmania (with some gaps)
* Hobart - Kingston (with some gaps)

In some cases the frequent service applies along a common corridor (eg Hobart - Rosny Park) but in others services have common origins and major intermediate stops (eg Hobart - Kingston) but fan out in between.

The coverage of this 'frequent service network' is one of Metro's strengths and the main difference between the transit networks of Hobart and Geelong.

Steps Metro has taken to develop and promote its high-service network include:

* Service scheduling: Routes have clockface timetables. The timetables for related routes are meshed to provide an even (or at least frequent) combined headway over the common section of route.

* Interchanges: Routes that form part of the frequent combined service depart from the same stop at interchanges. Departure times are given in composite form to emphasise the frequent service offered.

* Timetables: In some cases simplified timtables showing only the high frequency portion of the route are printed (eg Glenorchy - Hobart). In newer cases (eg Hobart - Shoreline Central) the fact that it's a high frequency service is emphasised on the cover - both in words and the letters 'HF' where the timetable number would normally be.

The above represents a partial development of the high-frequency concept compared to Adelaide's 'Go Zones' where the concept is well established and promoted. Examples where Hobart could develop further include signage at stops, identification on maps (due in part to the lack of maps at all), limited promotion on the Metro website, more consistent weekend and evening service levels and improved printed timetables.

7. Interchanges

These get a thumbs up. Hobart CBD, Rosny Park and Glenorchy all have 'transit malls' in the heart of local shopping precincts.

Timetables there are well maintained and there wasn't much vandalism.

Another appealing feature of Metro interchanges is that at every stop there is a clear map showing the location of every other stop in the interchange, along with the route numbers and destinations served. This saves transferring passengers from having to walk all over an interchange to find the stop if they want to change to another bus route.

This shows that Metro understands the following:

* bus to bus interchange is important
* alighting passengers have information needs as much as boarding passengers
* passenger information needs at interchanges are more complex than regular bus stops so the information at them deserves extra effort

I also liked the location of stops within the interchanges visited, especially for related routes that form a turn-up-and-go frequent corridor to a major destination. For instance at Rosny Park you just need to wait at one place for all the direct services to Hobart, and it's never very long until a suitable service arrives.

Metro's parsimony with route maps has been noted elsewhere and applies equally to interchanges where area maps would be desirable (such as done in Perth). However precint maps are sometimes provided, as with this example from Rosny Park.

8. Signage

The typical Metro stop has a flag showing the stop number only. This is opposite to Melbourne, where we use this space to list route numbers and destinations instead. While the Melbourne approach is more expensive to produce and maintain, I have no doubt as to which is more informative for the passenger.

A substantial minority of stops have timetables but none seem to have maps. As an spacial navigator, I found this disconcerting at stops, interchanges and in some printed timetables.

9. Printed timetables

A bit of a dogs' breakfast at the moment. It looks as if Metro is part way through revising their format and I happened to visit when they were half way through the change.

As an example the Glenorchy frequent service timetable (24/9/2007) is a printed A3 sheet with no map. Glenorchy local timetables are in A5 format and maps are sometimes hard to read due to their lack of colour and the number of routes shown.

In contrast southern and eastern services are a conventional coloured DL-sized format with much improved geographically-based maps (though with less detail than Sydney or Perth timetables). Changes in 2009 include a Perth-style numbering of timetables by region (eg S1, S2 etc), and in some cases but not others, listing route numbers on the front cover.

10. Customer service

Much like Melbourne's Met Shop, Metro operates a retail outlet inside a major civic building, in this case the General Post Office. This contains ticket sales and Green Card top-up facilities, along with self-serve timetables for Metro and Tassielink routes.

11. Patronage

Buses travelled on seemed reasonably well used. As would be expected around noon on a weekday, most passengers were either old or young, with working age almost absent.


For an Australian city of its size, Metro Hobart offers a relatively high level of service. In Australia/NZ it would be superior to Geelong and Darwin, about on a par with Canberra and inferior to Christchurch (which has 'big city' service levels).

While Hobart is not growing as rapidly as other Australian capitals, Metro seems to be moving from a 'small town' transit system to one suitable for a larger city. Evidence of this can be seen by its new timetable format (with maps), the steps taken towards a frequent service network and its early adoption of a basic form of smartcard ticketing. The 'small town' features we currently see, eg lack of maps at interchanges, a reluctance to use route numbers in some places and poor service integration in fringe areas will hopefully disappear in due course.

Routes taken

The following are recommended as a good sample of Hobart services. These form an anticlockwise circuit around both bridges. You need to be in the city shortly after 10am to make all connections as 682 and 694G run infrequently.

Airporter: Airport - City Airport shuttle
615: City - Camelot Park One of the Rosny Park high frequency constituent routes. With river views.
615: Camelot Park - Rosny Park see above
682: Rosny Park - Lindisfarne Weekday shopper service
682: Lindisfarne - Rosny Park see above
694G: Rosny Park - Risdon Vale - Glenorchy Interesting route up east shore and over Bowen Bridge.
180: Glenorchy - Hobart Circuitous route covering the older part of Moonah and West Hobart

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Scramble Crossings: Friend or foe for passenger interchange?

London got a new pedestrian crossing earlier this week. Instead of waiting twice when a diagonal crossing is desired, the new 'scramble crossing' clears all roads of vehicles during the walk cycle. This allows pedestrians to cross diagonally on a single 'green man' and in turn increases road space available exclusively for both cars and pedestrians.

London was by no means the first; busy crossings in Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (to name a few places) had them before. Having all cars stopped while the entire intersection fills with pedestrians is a striking sight compared to existing crossings where cars are always moving somewhere and pedestrians are confined to narrow lines. Instead of having to wait for two red men, diagonal crossers only need to wait for one. And they're safer. So the idea has allure and may have applicability in Melbourne CBD.

The BBC report missed mentioning any possible downsides of scramble or 'barn dance' crossings. Their cycles can be longer so you may wait more. The safety gains may be negated by increasing impulsive crossing.

Although the proportion of people who cross straight versus those who need to cross diagonal depends on trip generators around the intersection, my own observations of Perth show that most pedestrians are not making a diagonal crossing. While this comment is subject to what changes are made to cycle times, changing from a conventional crossing to a scramble crossing disadvantages those crossing straight, ie the majority.

A trend in Melbourne in the last ten years has been reduced direct access to city stations. A remodelling of Melbourne Central reduced direct access from Swanston Street while the reconstruction of Spencer Street/Southern Cross Station closed the subway under Spencer Street.

Increased waiting and access time increases end-to-end trip times, as shown on the table below:

The difference between the two lines is that the first trip takes longer as passenges need to cross a road to get to a tram stop. In the second example they do not; the tram stop is directly outside the station. A zebra crossing is near enough to a seamless crossing but a signalised pedestrian crossing, especially one with long cycles, is not.

For the purpose of examining end-to-end transit times, it may be useful to regard a road crossing just like a short but frequent bus or tram service. After all familiar transit planning concepts like as span, frequency, reliability, forced transfers, DDA access and overall service levels all equally apply to pedestrian crossings.

For example, a CBD traffic light crossing may have the following service characteristics:

Service Span: 24 hours
Frequency: 120 seconds*
Max Wait time to walking/transit time ratio: 120 seconds/20 seconds (ie equivalent service level to an hourly bus route for a 10 min trip)
Reliability: 100% (you will always get a green man within the advertised frequency)
Forced transfers: Present for diagonal crossings on non-scramble crossings

(*) This represents the maximum frequency, not the average frequency. 120 seconds is clearly 'turn up and go' so there are no timetables for pedestrian crossings. Given that we are dealing with tranfers to scheduled services, we must always use the maximum wait figure to guarantee a 'connection', even if the average will be less.

What about other types of crossings?

A zebra crossing is the 'highest and best' form of pedestrian access. This is because its frequency is effectively infinite since you have right of way when you step on it (after previous cars have gone). While there is a forced transfer (you can't go diagonally through an intersection) in practice this doesn't matter as the frequency is effectively infinite. The same is true for a quiet unsignalised street as the delay caused by one or two passing bicycles or cars is neligible.

Conversely a busy road near a roundabout will have a constant stream of traffic. There is no minimum 'service frequency' for pedestrians - this is set by traffic speed, traffic volume, and the risks they are willing to take. Some times there may be a lucky break in the traffic, other times one may walk to the nearest traffic light, or simply give up. Hence both service span and reliability are both undefined, with service level being lowest during busy traffic times (up to a point - if traffic slows to a crawl this may aid pedestrian access).

In this extreme example the overall level of service provided is like an unreliable bus or train that does not reliably feed passengers to the real bus that picks up on the other side of the road. In other cases, although direct walking time to a bus stop might be 5 minutes, passengers may need to double or triple this to increase the likelihood (but never an assurance) of finding a gap in the traffic. This of course increases end-to-end travel times and reduces both overall speed and reliability.

Let's extend our service level parallel to scramble crossings. Being a traffic light type crossing their service characteristics are like those mentioned above. But there is a parallel with bus network design that I wish to tease out further.

Consider a signalised crossroads with four corners. From any one corner you may wish to go to any one of the three others.

With a conventional intersection if you want to cross diagonally you need to wait, cross one road, wait again and cross another. The extra waiting is effectively a forced interchange if we continue the transit system analogy. You didn't want to go to the intermediate spot, but the signals and traffic require you to.

In contrast, if it was a scramble crossing, you can go straight to the corner you want. There is no forced transfer via an unwanted corner and the trip is more direct.

But this comes at the expense of frequency or cycle length. Just like with buses. For a given route kilometres budget you can either have multiple infrequent routes that run to each of your preferred destinations, or you have one frequent service from which you will need to change (to other frequent services) for some trips. The infrequent option is inflexible and doesn't suit many people's needs, although those who it does satisfy get a direct trip. On the other hand the frequent model provides an attractive service for most people to most places, but at the cost of transferring.

The analogy is only partial since while scramble crossings may result in reduced frequency through longer cycles, the level is still at 'turn up and go' levels. This is unlike a bus system where the choice might be between 60 minutes for the direct service network or 15 minutes for a transfer hub based network. Still, the 60 minute approach is roughly akin to a scramble stop on a long cycle (but where you can go anywhere on the 'green man'), while the frequent service approach would be like zebra crossings or short-cycle lights where it's one at a time but the wait for each is short.

For best public transport interchange, it is essential that the act of transferring from train to bus not be regarded as a trip in itself (with its own 'forced transfer' disincentive). This requires direct 'infinite frequency' pedestrian access with a platform to stop transfer time of (say) thirty seconds rather than two minutes or more. Such 100% reliability access could be provided by a stop directly outside the station, a zebra crossing or buses that enter a train platform or Perth-style overhead ramp connected by escalator.

How does this answer the original question about the appropriateness of scramble crossings at interchange points? The answer is that, as with good transit networks, frequency is key. Scramble crossings are good if their cycle times are not significantly lengthened. But if offered the choice between shorter cycle times and scramble crossings, the importance of frequency makes the former look more attractive.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Track reconstruction works at St Kilda

Luna Park's tram terminus has been reconstructed these last few days with buses replacing trams in the area. Below are pictures of the works, taken last night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A look at Myki: currently under test in Melbourne

This video shows a station ticket machine being used to add value to a card, check the remaining balance and examine trip history. Also shown is validation on board a tram and the differences between touching on, touching off and an attempt to use an expired ticket.

Already installed on regional city buses, Myki will undego pilot testing before it becomes available to Melbourne train, tram and bus commuters. Until then Myki tickets are not valid for use in Melbourne and passengers require a valid Metcard to travel.

Also note that what you see here is a system under test and changes may be made by the time Myki is released for public use in Melbourne (expected to be later this year).

Further information: www.myki.com.au & Victorian Public Transport Ticketing

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The search for Melbourne's best railway line

Supposing you were moving to Melbourne and planned to commute to the CBD area by train. You had no pre-conceived suburb preferences and based your location choice soley on train service quality. Which train-served suburb or area would you pick?

The following are some key measures of service quality:

* Service frequency, both peak and off-peak. Can you 'turn up and go'?
* Service delivery. How common is it for trains to be cancelled?
* Service reliability. Do trains usually run on time?
* Comfort of travel. Are trains free of overcrowding?

Statistics on all the above are available from the following sources:

Timetables reveal service frequency. Delivery and reliability statistics are reported each month. The twelve month average is most useful here. Train loading figures are collected by the Department of Transport.

A look through these indicate significant variations between lines for frequency, reliability and comfort/crowding. Variations were fewer for service delivery, with almost all lines having around 99 percent of trains running. For this reason only frequency, reliability and comfort are needed for this survey.

An A to E scale is used to allow easier comparison. These are as follows:


A = 3 to 10 minutes
B = 11 to 15 minutes
C = 16 to 20 minutes
D = 21 to 30 minutes
E = >31 minutes


A = 96 - 100%*
B = 92 - 96 %*
C = 88 - 92%
D = 84 - 88%
E = less than 84%

(*) Exceeds compensation threshold.


A = not indicated in DoT load chart
C = feature moderately in DoT load chart
E = feature prominently in DoT load chart

Line by line comparisons are tabulated below. Peak frequency figures are for am services from the terminus unless otherwise indicated. This is based on maximum intervals and service is usually higher at stations identified (+). Ratings are given in order of peak frequency/ offpeak frequency/ punctuality/ comfort.

Werribee (Werribee): C+/B+/C/C
Werribee (Altona): C/C/C/C
Williamstown (Williamstown): C/C/B/B
Sydenham (Watergardens): B+/C/B/E
Craigieburn (Craigieburn): C+/C/C/C
Upfield (Upfield): C/C/B/A

Epping (Epping): B+/C/B/C
Hurstbridge (Hurstbridge): E+/E/C/C
Hurstbridge (Greensborough): B+/C/C/C

Belgrave (Belgrave): C+/D/C/B
Lilydale (Lilydale): C+/D/B/B
Belgrave/Lilydale (Ringwood): A+/B/B/B
Belgrave/Lilydale (Auburn): A+/B/B/B
Alamein (Alamein): D+/B/A/A
Glen Waverley (Glen Waverley): B+/B/B/A

Pakenham (Pakenham): D+/D/E/E
Cranbourne (Cranbourne): C+/D/D/C
Pakenham/Cranbourne (Clayton): A+/B/C/D
Frankston (Frankston): B+/B/E/C
Frankston (Glenhuntly): C+/B/E/C
Sandringham (Sandringham): B+/B/B/A

The winner is:

The Glen Waverley line has good peak and interpeak service frequencies and high reliability without the crowding of some other lines. Parts of other lines score higher on some individual items but Glen Waverley presents the best overall package for the commuter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Customer service counters at city stations

In two months or less Victoria will have an (almost) statewide ticketing system based on durable Myki smartcards and short-term cardboard tickets. Ticket machines will dispense tickets for both metropolitan and country trips and staff will be able to sell tickets to any destination. Smartcard users on non-reserved services will not need to visit a booking office at all.

This stands to change the way customer service is delivered, especially at the larger stations with multiple ticket offices. We may end up with fewer locations that do more as the distinction between V/Line and metropolitan blurs.

For posterity, I though it would be worthwhile to document counter service at the CBD's second and third busiest stations immediately before Myki commences. Approximate usage is given, but this is a rough guide only and some (like luggage for long distance services) may be very 'peaky'.

Melbourne Central

A CBD station served by suburban trains that operate via the City Loop (ie most of them). A significant mid-city hub underneath a shopping centre.

Main entrance to platforms (well-used)

Here you see a full-service metropolitan train counter and a limited-service counter for V/Line (ie country services). The latter's opening hours are limited (closing during the pm peak) and not all payment methods are accepted.

Access from Swanston Street and the City Loop's midday reversal both work against the V/Line booth at this location. For most of its opening hours there are no direct trains to Southern Cross and passengers must join their train at North Melbourne. This makes either Flinders Street or Southern Cross more suitable locations than Melbourne Central for starting a V/Line journey.

Southern Cross

The city's newest station building served by nearly all of Victoria's suburban, country and interstate trains. Located next to the growing Docklands precinct and sees heavy use during sporting events.

Collins Street end

Metropolitan Tickets (well-used)

Regional Tickets (currently busy with long queues at popular times)

Information (well-used)

Myki (currently quiet but likely to become much busier)

Bourke Street end

Metropolitan Tickets (well-used)

Regional Tickets (quieter and well worth the walk from Collins St)

Luggage (generally quiet)

I will not speculate on what will happen when Myki is introduced and more of the routine purchases are done by machine or automatically. At a large multi-level site like Southern Cross there is a trade-off between the number of service locations, efficiency (expressed in customer waiting time and staffing) and fast, convenient access to a service desk.

A smaller number of service locations may increase average walking times but reduce waiting times and their variability. For instance two differently located booths might each have a window open but one might be quiet and the other busy. In contrast one booth with two windows open is more efficient as it reduces variability in waiting times. Walking time may be longer but the waiting time saved may exceed that during busy periods. Rostering is also easier for a single location and more staff can be more readily be put on (in busy times three people may be justified). However care nees to be taken that the number of windows open is as near as possible to staff present to speed service.